The Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 48 by a 41-6 vote.  This bill makes numerous changes to the Liquor Code concerning eligible entities, public venues, and hotel licenses.

Under this legislation, restaurant owners who hold sacramental wine licenses would be authorized to sell sacramental wine for consumption on the premises. Also, patrons who have purchased, but only partially drank a bottle of wine purchased on the premises would be allowed to take the bottle with them.

The definition for “performing arts facilities” would also be amended.  To be considered under this definition, the seating capacity would be lowered from 500 to 250 people.

The bill would amend the definition of “eligible entity” to allow some Rotary clubs and nonprofit organizations to obtain special occasion liquor permits if their purpose is to promote mushrooms. The legislation would also include visitor centers under the definition of “public venue.”

Lastly, the bill would also allow hotel licensees exempted from the bedroom requirement to use all areas of the hotel as either storage areas or licensed serving areas.

The bill is now in the House Rules Committee.

The Senate approved House Bill 1641 unanimously. The measure would establish the Circulating Nurse Act, which would require a registered nurse to be the circulating nurse in an operating room for the safety of the patient.

A circulating nurse is a type of surgical nurse who circulates in the operating room to monitor the procedure. He or she acts as a patient advocate, ensuring that the conditions in the operating room remain safe and sterile.

The nurse must be licensed in the Commonwealth and qualified by training and experience in operating room nursing. The circulating nurse would be present during all surgical procedures performed in an operating room for the duration of the procedure when general anesthesia or deep sedation is used. The nurse would be focused completely on the patient and would be trained to recognize signs of distress in patients under sedation and to act accordingly. The circulating nurse would direct nursing care and coordinate activities of the surgical team for the patient’s benefit.

While many Pennsylvania hospitals have a circulating nurse, it is currently not required.

The measure now goes to the governor for approval.

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would offer guidelines for alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders.

Under Senate Bill 1145, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing would consider non-violent offenders’ risk of re-offending and treatment needs when it lays out guidelines for assigning them to community-based facilities rather than state prisons.

The bill is now in the House.

By a 26-21 vote, the Senate approved legislation that would allow non-violent offenders with short minimum sentences to serve their time in community corrections centers.

Under Senate Bill 1161, if an inmate is within 18 months of completing his minimum sentence, the inmate may be transferred to and confined in a prerelease center. While confined in the prerelease center, the inmate may complete any prescribed programming consistent with the inmate’s prerelease plan, such as job training and educational opportunities.

Also, if an inmate’s minimum term of imprisonment is expiring and the primary reason for not paroling the inmate is the inmate’s inability to access and complete prescribed programming within the correctional institution, the inmate would be released on parole with the condition that the inmate complete the prescribed programming while on parole. This provision would not apply to violent offenders.

The bill is now in the House.

By a 45-2 vote, the Senate approved legislation that would provide punishment alternatives for technical parole violators.

Under Senate Bill 1275, parolees would be held accountable for a technical parole violation while avoiding the cost of recommitting the parolee to prison.

Technical parole violations are noncriminal acts such as missing a mandatory meeting.

A tiered sanctioning process would be developed that divides violations into high, medium and low range violations.  An example of a high range violation is assaultive behavior; a medium range violation is the possession of unauthorized contraband; and a low range violation is the failure to pay supervision fees.

The tiered sanctioning process would also include high, medium and low sanction ranges.  An example of a high sanction is shock incarceration; a medium sanction is electronic monitoring; and a low sanction is increased reporting requirements.

The bill is now in the House.

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