By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

Barletta touts vote on bill that would roll back Dodd-Frank restrictions

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The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. (AP photo)

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta this week voted for legislation he says would end “too-big-to-fail,” taxpayer-funded bank bailouts, remove burdensome and duplicate regulations on small businesses, and relieve restrictions on community banks and credit unions that make it harder for people to buy cars, own homes and provide for their families.

The Republican-led House approved House Resolution 10 — the Financial CHOICE Act — which undoes much of former President Barack Obama’s landmark banking law created after the 2008 economic crisis that caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs and homes.

The proposed legislation repeals sections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and, Barletta says, replaces them with policies to protect consumers while promoting economic growth.

“Dodd-Frank created increased regulatory burdens that hit smaller financial institutions especially hard,” Barletta said. “By hamstringing local banks and credit unions, which lack the same resources and personnel as their larger counterparts, Dodd-Frank made it harder for people to get loans to start businesses, purchase homes and achieve the American dream.”

Barletta, R-Hazleton, said since Dodd-Frank became law, more than 500 Pennsylvania bank branches have closed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Financial CHOICE Act would reduce the deficit by $24.1 billion over 10 years and provide regulatory relief for community banks and credit unions. The CBO cautioned, however, that there was considerable uncertainty in its estimates because it was difficult to predict when a “systemically important” financial firm might fail, the New York Times has reported.

The bill has broad support among lending groups, including the Pennsylvania Credit Unions Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, and the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, as it gives their members more flexibility to provide loans to their neighbors, Barletta notes.

The bill is opposed by other groups including the Consumer Federation of America and the Council of Institutional Investors, which claims, among other things, that Act would severely undercut the Security and Exchange Commission’s ability to protect investors, police markets and foster capital formation.

The CFA argues that the Act is “a deregulatory wish-list from special interests that would endanger consumers by repealing many of the significant achievements in the Dodd-Frank Act and other critical laws designed to ensure consumers, investors, and honest market participants are appropriately protected from harm in the marketplace.”

Democrats say the Dodd-Frank law has meant financial security for millions of people and that undoing it would encourage the kind of risky lending practices that invite future economic shocks.

They also oppose efforts to sharply curtail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s power to pursue companies that it determines have participated in unfair or deceptive practices in their financial products and services. The bureau has returned $29 billion to 12 million consumers who were victims of deceptive marketing, discriminatory lending or other financial wrongdoing.

The House passed the bill 233-186. No Democratic lawmakers supported the measure; only one Republican opposed it. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Bill to expand drug education in schools has Wolf’s support

Gov. Tom Wolf this week voiced his support for House Bill 1190, which proposes a school-based substance abuse prevention and intervention program for all students in grades kindergarten through 12.

Wolf said the measures outlined in the bill will take the fight against heroin and opioid abuse to the next level – the classroom — where education plays a key role in prevention.

“I support this legislation because we know that even with the progress we have made in attacking the heroin and opioid crisis head on, we must do more – and education of our young people can lead them to make the smart decision to not use drugs now or for the rest of their lives,” Wolf said in a news release.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, factors that contribute to the emergence of substance abuse in children are multi-factorial. Behavioral, emotional and environmental factors that place children at risk for the development of substance abuse may be remediated through prevention and intervention programs that use “research-based, comprehensive, culturally relevant, social resistance skills training and normative education in an active school-based learning format.”

Experts agree that the younger a child starts to abuse and misuse controlled substances and prescription drugs, the higher the risks of serious health consequences, adult substance abuse and eventual addiction.

The bill would require the Department of Education to work with the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to provide guidance and recommendations designed to help school districts develop and implement research-based curriculum guidelines for an effective, age-appropriate, program of instruction in substance abuse prevention and intervention.

The legislation outlines that the program would include instruction in both controlled substance and prescription drug abuse and misuse, including illicit drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine; and opioids.

Currently, school districts in Pennsylvania are required to provide age-appropriate information about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for students in grades 3, 6, 9 and 12. House Bill 1190 would mandate instruction in all grades and would expand the scope of K-12 education regarding substance use and abuse in the commonwealth.

School districts would be required to integrate instruction in substance abuse prevention into their health courses or, if health is not offered in a specific grade, in any other appropriate curriculum required by the state Board of Education.

Wolf has made fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic a priority. In addition to support of House Bill 1190, the governor’s other legislative priorities that were passed by the General Assembly include:

• Strengthening the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program so that doctors are required and able to check the system each time they prescribe opioids.

• Better preparing doctors and physicians for prescribing opioids and pain management drugs improving medical school and continuing education curricula on opioids.

• Limiting the number of opioids a patient can receive at emergency rooms to a seven-day supply with no refills.

Wolf said Pennsylvania loses 13 people a day to heroin and opioid overdoses. And although the state has equipped first responders — including law enforcement and state park rangers — with the life-saving opioid antidote Naloxone and has even helped school nurses obtain naloxone, equipping schools at no cost, “it’s time to do more,” he said.

“Battling the epidemic at the front lines is vitally important, but it’s equally important that we do everything we can to stop the epidemic from spreading by educating all Pennsylvanians, but especially our school-age children, to the dangers of drug use,” Wolf said.

Cartwright’s energy efficiency bill passes committee

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s legislation to encourage energy efficiency unanimously passed the House Committee on Energy and Commerce this week.

The bipartisan Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act — House Resolution 627 — provides a coordinating structure to help schools better navigate available federal programs and financing options for energy efficiency improvements to their facilities.

First introduced in the 113th Congress, the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act unanimously passed the House in 2014 and 2016.

“I’m happy my colleagues are once again prioritizing this important legislation,” Cartwright, D-Moosic, said. “This bill promotes strategic and cost-saving investment while improving our schools and protecting the environment.”

According to Energy Star, America’s schools spend $7.5 billion per year on energy costs, making energy an enormous part of schools’ operating budgets, second only to personnel costs.

The Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act would establish a clearinghouse through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The clearinghouse would publish information on federal programs and financing tools that may be used to develop energy efficiency, distributed generation, and energy retrofitting projects for schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. (AP photo) Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. (AP photo)

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.