Appropriations Approves Bill Ending Benefits for Illegal Aliens

Panel Approves Strengthening Reporting Requirement of Personal Data Breaches

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved legislation barring illegal aliens living in Pennsylvania from receiving public benefits, such as Medicaid, welfare assistance, and in-state college tuition, according to Committee Chairman Senator Jake Corman (R-34).

The Committee also approved legislation requiring state agencies to notify the public within one week of data breaches involving personal information, according to Senator Corman.

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) will require anyone receiving public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are legal residents. In addition, individuals would be required to sign an affidavit stating they are a United States citizen, or an alien lawfully residing in this country.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates the annual costs of illegal immigration amount to about $36 billion nationwide. In Pennsylvania, which has more than 100,000 illegal aliens, the current estimated cost is $285 million. That cost, if unchecked, is expected to grow to $812 million by the year 2020.

Senate Bill 155, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9), was drafted in the aftermath of three separate thefts of state-owned computers containing personal information in the last half of 2007.

In the first two thefts, computers containing the personal information of about 375,000 individuals were stolen from Department of Public Welfare offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. In the third incident, a laptop computer issued to a Department of Aging employee was stolen from a private residence. That computer contained the personal information of more than 20,000 individuals. Current law requires public notification of such incidents “without unreasonable delay.” Senate Bill 155 places a specific one-week notification requirement for breaches involving state agencies.

The Appropriations Committee also approved legislation to improve computer security by preventing Spyware, a tool used by cyber identity thieves to obtain personal information. Senate Bill 123, introduced by Senator John Gordner (R-27), would make it a crime to distribute Spyware to a computer without the user’s consent or knowledge. Spyware is a term for a computer program that gathers information through the user’s Internet connection and transmits it to a third party. This information, which includes passwords and personal identification numbers, can be used to commit fraud.

Also approved by the Appropriations Committee was Senate Bill 142, a measure introduced by Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-6) authorizing the 27 licensing boards and commissions within the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) to require anyone found to be in violation of a licensing act or regulation to pay the costs associated with investigating the violation. The bill also increases the maximum civil penalty that a licensing board or commission can impose from $1,000 to $10,000.