SB983 – Out of House Human Services Committee

I was not adequately prepared for the level of stress and frustration that accompanied today’s proceedings.

We knew that the Department of Health had been “shopping around” their amendments and we had heard a rumor that Rep. Cruz was going to offer them at today’s committee meeting.

We knew what the amendments said (we saw them last Friday, as the DOH is continuing to be incredibly late with everything), and we knew that none of the stakeholders approved of them. They seem to have intentionally waited so that no discussion could occur.

So when Cruz introduced both amendments today (after first stating that he felt the bill should be tabled until stakeholders could be brought in for discussion – hello, we’ve been discussing it for MONTHS with all the stakeholders, except DOH who refused to respond) and they failed, I was relieved. At first.

Then it came up for a vote, and with one exception, it passed along party lines.

I was stunned for two main reasons: first, when did Newborn Screening become partisan? Second, many of these members (or their staff) had told me that they supported it!

Even worse, Rep. Cruz – who is the author of our previous two bills AND the author of Hannah’s Law (Act 148 of 2014) which made Krabbe mandatory (though it still hasn’t been implemented) – voted NO today. He voted no.

Today I experienced partisanship from the party which had embraced our bill when it was HB730 and introduced by one of their own. Today they rejected it. I have now experienced this from both parties, and it only deepens my hatred for partisanship. Bills should stand on their merit, period.

The results today tell me two things: DOH has been talking to members and not telling the truth/spinning things to win them over (and I know this from things I’ve heard). Two, Cruz seems to be upset that we went to the Senate to get this accomplished. And I get that, which is why I tried repeatedly to talk to him about the Senate bill before even introducing it.

The Pennsylvania legislature is complex and it sometimes requires going along with the game. Cruz is in the minority party. I was told that his bill (HB730) would never go to the floor. I was advised to approach my Senator about introducing a companion bill in the majority party, and so I did. I’m playing their game, and it’s clearly working because we’ve never gotten this far!

Today the bill was on the floor for “first consideration.” Now we must pray that they will have it up for “second consideration” tomorrow (Wednesday) and that it will not be amended if DOH/Cruz try to amend the bill again.

Then the BIG prayer becomes that they will indeed return for additional session days in November so that a floor vote can happen. Otherwise, it’s dead and we have to start over.

Tonight, I celebrate this progress. I am grateful for the people to whom the Lord has led me in the last four years, people who made this happen or advised me of what I needed to do to make this happen. It wouldn’t have come so far without their help!

It will be deeply disappointing if we have to start over again in January; but, the lessons learned and relationships formed have been invaluable. We will start fresh with a bill that is approved by all stakeholders and have more time to encourage DOH to join the conversation.

But until then, we hope for passage in November.

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