For '13, new Pa. laws tackle social issues

Posted: December 28, 2012

HARRISBURG - New Pennsylvania laws that take effect in the coming days toughen penalties for underage drinking, mandate training for school workers on how to recognize and report child abuse, and require more humane methods of putting down animals.

Others increase worker and employee contributions to the state's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund; require contractors on public-works projects to make sure through the federal E-Verify system that their employees are legal residents; and simplify voting rules for servicemen and women and others living overseas.

Under the new law on underage drinking, the maximum fine for someone under 18 caught drinking goes from $300 to $500, and the maximum is $1,000 on second offenses.

Certain school employees must be trained on how to recognize the warning signs of child abuse, on the legal reporting obligations, and on what are considered appropriate relationships with children. They must get at least three hours of training every five years.

Some provisions of the animal euthanasia law soon take effect, while others will be phased in. The new law prohibits the use of carbon monoxide gas and drowning, among other methods, at animal shelters, and makes it easier for shelters to obtain drugs for more humane methods. Animal advocates say the animals are often old, young, sick, or hurt, and not good candidates for safe and painless gas chamber euthanasia.

Beginning in January, workers and their employers will see an increase in their contributions to the unemployment trust fund, which will be used to make bond payments on borrowing to eliminate the state's recession-driven debt to the federal government. New restrictions on the fund also go into effect, including a cap on maximum weekly benefits that will remain in place until the fund becomes solvent, estimated to occur in 2017.

Revised regulations for farm vehicles go into place. And a law that took effect Monday expands some games of chance. The law allows new games for fund-raisers by fire companies and other nonprofits, including 50/50 drawings, and includes new rules and regulations.

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