Capitol Roundup: Yudichak, task force discuss legislative recommendations on lead exposure

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, and legislative members of the Task Force on Lead Exposure held a press conference last week to discuss the legislative recommendations that were part of ‘Lead Exposure Risks and Response in Pennsylvania: Report of the Advisory Committee and Task Force on Lead Exposure.’

The legislative members of the task force included Senators Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, Judy Schwank, D-Berks, Pat Stefano, R-Fayette/Somerset/Westmoreland, and Gene Yaw, R-Bradford/Lycoming/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Union.

“The members of the Advisory Committee and Task Force on Lead Exposure, created by Senate Resolution 33, have worked tirelessly to analyze the public health threat of lead exposure and their report underscores that lead exposure is an issue in every Pennsylvania county,” Yudichak said. “We come together in the spirit of bipartisanship, to advance the legislative policy recommendations put forth by the Joint State Government Commission that will better protect Pennsylvania children from the risks of lead exposure and lead poisoning.”

The advisory committee and task force made the following recommendations, several of which are being addressed through legislation announced at the press conference:

• Require universal blood screenings for children.

• Mandate inspections/certifications of child-care facilities with vulnerable populations.

• Ensure safe housing is available to families through a residential rental property certification program.

• Establish a statewide rental housing registry.

• Establish a lead abatement grant program to assist property owners in conducting lead abatement.

• Establish an inter-agency council to coordinate implementation of lead prevention programs and policies among the relevant state agencies.

• Require all school drinking water systems to be inspected and certified.

• Clarify plumbing system lead ban.

• Permit municipal authorities operating public drinking water system to replace lateral lead service lines.

• Require lead service line replacements and restrict partial lead water service line replacements.

• Adopt the Uniform Property Maintenance Code.

• Provide guidance on private well construction.

Baker and Yudichak have introduced Senate Bill 312, which would require universal blood testing for children. Senate Bill 312 has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“We have known for a while now how debilitating lead exposure is to the health and development of children, Baker said. “Recent revelations of lead tainted water in schools and homes have raised additional alarms. There is an obligation to have every child tested, in order to find out who has been affected, to monitor and treat those who have, and to locate the source of contamination so preventative measures can be taken.”

Schwank has introduced Senate Bill 39, which will require lead testing at child daycare programs. The bill requires the Department of Human Services to include lead testing of water, paint, soil and dust in the licensing process for child daycare programs. Senate Bill 39 has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Yaw will introduce legislation that requires all school drinking water systems to be tested for lead contamination.

Fontana plans to introduce a bill that will establish a statewide rental housing registry.

Stefano will be introducing legislation that clarifies the plumbing system lead ban.

Wolf: $15 minimum wage

is a vital issue for women

Gov. Tom Wolf this week said a $15 minimum wage would boost pay for 1.2 million working women, many of whom are working mothers already dealing with the gender pay gap.

“A $15 minimum wage is a women’s issue and it is vital for families,” Wolf said. “Sixty percent of the workers who would get a raise are women, who are already paid less than men for the same work. These are hardworking women, often mothers, in demanding jobs to support themselves and their families.

Wolf said raising the minimum wage to $15 is a step toward closing the gender pay gap. He said the 2 million low-wage workers in Pennsylvania — women and men — have waited long enough.

Of the more than 2 million workers benefiting from a $15 wage floor:

• 1.2 million, 61 percent, are women.

• 487,000, 24 percent, are parents.

• 1 million, 54 percent, have a family income under $50,000.

• 1.1 million, 55 percent, work full time of 35 or more hours per week.

The governor’s proposal to raise the wage to $12 per hour on July 1 and $15 per hour by 2025 has been introduced by Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione as SB 12 and Rep. Patty Kim as HB-1215. The proposal is supported by 38 Pennsylvania economists and nearly 70 percent of Pennsylvanians according to recent polls.

Putting more money in the pockets of workers will inject $9.5 billion into local economies and boost consumer spending in their communities. Raising the wage also reduces state costs as 70,000 adults work their way off Medicaid within two years, saving taxpayers over $150 million.

The commonwealth’s outdated minimum wage is $7.25, the lowest allowed by federal law. By trailing our neighbors, Pennsylvania workers earn less for the same work than those in West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and all surrounding states.

DOH: Arthritis leading cause

of chronic pain and disability

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is encouraging all Pennsylvanians to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of arthritis and the steps they can take to prevent it.

“Nearly 30 percent of Pennsylvanians have some form of arthritis, which is the leading common cause of disability in the United States,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “Nearly 55 percent of all seniors age 65 and older, and nearly 33 percent of all women, have been told they have some form of arthritis. Knowing the risk factors related to arthritis and the steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it, are essential to staying healthy and living pain-free.”

There are many different types of arthritis that can affect individuals, including osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis, which affects children.

In addition, there are a number of risk factors attributed to arthritis. Some of these can be controlled, while others cannot. Your weight, joint injuries, certain infections and where you work are all controllable risk factors that can prevent arthritis from developing.

Certain occupations that require heavy physical activity or repetitive motion, such as factory work, farming, and construction, may increase your risk for getting arthritis.

The risk factors you can’t control are age, gender and family history. As you age, the risk of developing arthritis increases. Additionally, women are more likely to develop arthritis than men, and if arthritis is common in your family, you are more likely to develop the condition.

Arthritis can attack nearly any joint in the body. It can start in the hands, knees or shoulder and cause the joint to become sore, hard to move and possibly swollen.

You might have some form of arthritis if you have:

• Lasting joint pain.

• Joint swelling or stiffness.

• Warmth and redness in a joint.

• Tenderness or pain when touching a joint.

• Problems using or moving a joint normally.

If you have symptoms of arthritis, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible — don’t wait.

Gov. Wolf proclaims May 23

‘1-4-3 Day’ to honor Fred Rogers

Gov. Tom Wolf has proclaimed May 23 as “1-4-3 Day” in Pennsylvania in honor of Fred Rogers’ favorite number and has issued a challenge to all Pennsylvanians to show neighbors more kindness to one another.

“I am proclaiming the 143rd day of the year as ‘1-4-3 Day’ to encourage acts of kindness and honor Fred Rogers, who served as an inspiration to millions of Pennsylvanians and people around the world,” said Gov. Wolf. “We know Pennsylvanians are grateful for and do good deeds for their neighbors every day. It’s one aspect that makes our commonwealth such a great place to live, work and to visit. 1-4-3 Day is a recognition and celebration of those collective efforts, and we hope it inspires even more acts of kindness.”

Pennsylvania native Fred Rogers, best known as Mister Rogers, regularly used 1-4-3 as a way of saying I-Love-You throughout his life and on his beloved television series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. His reference was to the number of letters in each word: 1-4-3. May 23 is the 143rd day of the year.

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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.