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State capitol round-up

A weekly summary of important events on Capitol Hill

State Supreme Court rules changes will benefit patients, doctors
Pennsylvania took another major step forward in its effort to end the medical malpractice insurance crisis and preserve patient access to quality health care when the state Supreme Court adopted two new House-endorsed rules governing malpractice lawsuits. The first rule incorporates a law approved by the General Assembly late last year requiring all medical malpractice cases to be brought in the county in which the alleged malpractice act took place.
The second new rule requires all medical malpractice lawsuits to include a “certificate of merit” from a medical professional certifying that the medical treatment fell outside acceptable professional standards. Ironically, it was this rule that was struck down in 1996 when it was in legislative form.
Lawmakers introduce remedy to Health Care crisis
Continuing their work to resolve the Commonwealth’s looming health care crisis, Bucks County’s delegation of state House members – led by Reps. Chuck McIlhinney (R-143) and Kathy Watson (R-144) – have introduced a legal reform amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Specifically, the amendment allows the Legislature to impose caps on the amount of money juries can award for non-economic damages, or so-called “pain and suffering,” in civil lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases. Currently, the state constitution specifies that only the court system can set caps on jury awards, something it has yet to do.
Smith wants hearings on Fish, Game Commissions
The House Game and Fisheries Committee will conduct a study on the feasibility of merging the state Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission under a new resolution sponsored by Rep. Bruce Smith (R-92). The two agencies are currently experiencing financial difficulties and Smith believes they may both seek increases in license fees or continue to dip into reserves when they make their annual budget presentations to the committee in the final days of January and early February. Hearings on the issue were last held in 1989, and at that time sportsmen and anglers did not want a change. Pennsylvania is the last state in the nation to have hunting, trapping, fishing and recreational boating regulated by more than one commission.