HARRISBURG - Before the end of the year, hospitals in Pennsylvania will be required to test newborns for certain rare disorders where early detection could help save lives.
Gov. Corbett on Wednesday signed a bill to expand newborn screenings to include six disorders.
"We owe these children and their families a fighting chance," Corbett said at a news conference in the Capitol.
The bill signing came amid a busy end-of-session legislative schedule.
The General Assembly sent to Corbett's desk a child-protection bill that would prevent school employees in Pennsylvania who have been caught having sexual relationships with students from being hired by another school.
The bill would require an employment-history review before offering an applicant a position involving direct contact with children.
In House action, a bill limiting free-speech rights of felons won approval and heads to the Senate. The bill was drafted two weeks ago in response to news that convicted Philadelphia cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was to give a commencement address via audio recording at a Vermont college.
The Senate approved two bills over the objections of environmental groups.
One would eliminate the requirement that developers leave a 150-foot buffer along "high quality" streams. That bill goes to the House.
A second bill would allow either chamber to veto any greenhouse gas emission reduction plan required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Still awaiting consideration in the Senate is a highly controversial bill that passed the House to give standing to the National Rifle Association and other groups to sue municipalities - like Philadelphia, Abington, Norristown, and two dozen others - that have enacted local gun laws.
An eleventh-hour effort to bar deduction of union dues from government paychecks failed in the Senate.
Both chambers were set to adjourn Wednesday until January, but with a raft of bills moving through the pipeline, the Senate added another voting day Thursday.
The bill signed by Corbett would bring to 35 the number of genetic conditions for which newborns receive screening in Pennsylvania.
The law, which takes effect in 60 days, requires hospitals to add certain lysosomal storage disorders to the list of diseases for which a newborn is screened. Health-care providers will now test for Globoid cell leukodystrophy (Krabbe disease), Fabry, Pompe, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher, and Hurler Syndrome.
Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) was the lead sponsor of the so-called "Hannah's Law," which honors Hannah Ginion of Bucks County, a 20-month-old diagnosed with Krabbe disease - an inherited degenerative disease that destroys nerve cells.
Hannah's mother, Vicki Pizzullo, said her daughter was a healthy newborn but began to deteriorate at four months, and shortly afterward, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found abnormalities in her brain. When she was 5 months old - too late for a cord blood transplant that might have slowed or stopped the disease's progression - doctors diagnosed Hannah with Krabbe disease and estimated she would live no more than two years.
Hannah is on round-the-clock oxygen and cannot swallow on her own. She has lost her sight and suffers from seizures and pain, Pizzullo said.
At a time when most parents are preparing for a child's second birthday, Pizzullo said, she may be preparing for her daughter's funeral.
The newborn screening test for Krabbe costs $8.