Civil Justice Legislative Update July 14, 2017

Pennsylvania has a budget, but not enough revenue to fund it!

Since we last updated you, the budget was passed without raising the additional  revenue needed to balance it, and PCCJR members actions leaped into action to prevent a False Claims Act from becoming a potential moneymaker to help fill the budget gap. Your calls and messages sent a strong signal to lawmakers about the high costs and potential harm such a measure would have on companies doing business with the Commonwealth. More about the fruits of your efforts below!


Budget Standstill

The June 30 state budget deadline has come and gone. A $30 billion spending plan passed. However the Governor and the House and Senate members have yet to agree on how they are going to pay for it.

The governor let the spending plan become law this week without his signature. But, without the revenue, as one news report put it, the Commonwealth is “in a sort of constitutional no-man’s-land.”

There is even less consensus on how the two Chambers will approach resolving the need for a spending plan.  As we write this, the Chambers are both on a “six-hour call,” in which the leaders could bring the legislators back to Harrisburg at any time.  At the moment, however negotiations are quiet.  There are some rumors that the Senate could be back in as early as next week, but all is subject to change.

Within the fluidity of the budget process, PCCJR will remain vigilant throughout the summer to ensure any legislative actions related to fairness and improvements in our court system have our input.


PCCJR Members Help Block False Claims Legislation  

Despite the lack of action on the budget, we have had tremendous action on the part of our members that stopped the proposed False Claims Act!  In response to a recent PCCJR Action Alert, leadership in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and individual House members heard from you about your opposition to the False Claims amendment filed to SB 527.  As a result, the sponsor of the amendment withdrew it before a vote was taken.  It is possible, however, that a False Claims measure could be offered when the legislature moves to enact a bill to fully fund the 2017-2018 budget.  The PCCJR is watching developments closely and will let you know right away if your help is needed again!

For some legislators, a False Claims Act might sound promising as a way to generate new revenue for the Commonwealth.  But, as we detailed in a recent report, it has harmful provisions that would be a bonanza for plaintiffs attorneys and would encourage lawsuits where fraud doesn’t even have to be proven! Many thanks to all of you who took action!  Your engagement worked!


House Passes Civil Immunity for Vehicle Rescues – HB 1152

HB 1152, which provides civil immunity for any damage to a car resulting from entering the car by force to rescue an occupant passed the House unanimously and now goes to the Senate.

The bill does place several conditions on the grant of immunity.  A person must determine that the vehicle is locked and no other reasonable method exists for the occupant to exit the vehicle, there must be a belief that the occupant is in imminent danger of suffering harm, law enforcement, the fire department or 911 has been contacted, and the rescuer does not use more force than necessary to enter and remove the occupant.  The rescuer must also leave a note with contact information, why forced entry was used and also must remain with the rescued individual until emergency responders arrive.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT.  Tribune Review Editorial Calls for Medical Malpractice Tort Reform

The Pittsburgh Tribune review wrote an editorial this week calling medical malpractice tort reform a “remedy for fairness.”

The piece features the recent passage of The Protecting Access to Care Act in the U.S. House, which caps noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000. Be sure to read the full piece here and consider sharing it along with information about PCCJR’s mission!

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