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On April 25, the Senate Agriculture &
Rural Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the
Governor’s lease-leaseback proposal for the PA Farm Show Complex.
Click here to watch.
Senate Approves Real ID Compliance Bill
Earlier this month, I voted for and the
Senate approved legislation to address Pennsylvania’s widely-reported compliance
issues with federal Real ID Act of 2005.
Senate Bill 133 would repeal the Pennsylvania Real ID Non-Participation Act
of 2012 and direct PennDOT to take steps to bring Pennsylvania into compliance
with federal mandate
The bill was introduced in response to the
2016 directive from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stating that
Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and identification cards would no longer be a
valid form of identification when boarding domestic flights in the US starting
in January 2018. After that announcement, I and my colleagues immediately began
to address the outstanding issues that, if left unaddressed, would have required
Pennsylvania residents to have a passport in order to board a domestic flight or
enter a federal building.
Senate Bill 133 now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives.
I was recently in Enon Valley for the Battery B
Memorial Highway dedication. My legislation signed into law last year
designated a section of Rt. 551 & 108 as the Battery B Memorial Highway.
Legislature Approves Unemployment Compensation Funding Bill
Legislation has been signed into law to provide the
Commonwealth’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) system with emergency funding to
address ongoing call-center deficiencies.
To adequately explain why the UC system is
in the dire situation that it is in today would take far too long here in this
newsletter, so I will keep things short. Mismanagement of funds at the
Department of Labor & Industry had forced the administration to use a separate
funding source—earmarked for technological upgrades to the claims system—in
order to keep the UC Call Centers staffed and operating. When the money ran out,
the Administration requested another appropriation to keep the call centers
open. I and my colleagues in the Senate demanded accountability and answers to
how this money was spent; unfortunately, the answers provided by the
Administration were not satisfactory and call centers were
temporarily-shuttered. If you’ve had to speak to someone on the phone at a UC
Service Center in the past six months, I’m sure you’re well aware of the effects
of the decision to shut down these call centers.
Click here for a more detailed briefing on the situation as provided by the
Senate Bill 250 (now Act 1 of 2017) provides up to $15 million in additional
funding, requires monthly reports on expenditures, and also requires Labor and
Industry to submit a report explaining how they will avert a similar situation
from ever happening again. I voted for Senate Bill 250 and will be keeping a
close eye on the progress made by the department in order to ensure this
situation does not ever repeat.
Pitt Day at the Capitol was a great opportunity to meet
with students, both undergrad and graduate. It was nice to meet Shawn Eagle of
Harmony Borough, graduate student at the
Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences—the #1 ranked Physical
Therapy school in the nation!
Senate Holds Hearings on Proposed Consolidation of the Depts. of Aging, Drug
& Alcohol, Health, and Human Services
One of the most novel components of this
year’s budget discussions—and something that I’ve heard from many constituents
about—is the Governor’s proposal to consolidate the Departments of Aging, Drug &
Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services into one agency. The Administration
expects this consolidation to save more than $90 million annually.
I’ve heard from many constituents concerned
that a consolidation of this many agencies—with very different priorities and
mission statements—will water-down the focus and impact of the individual
programs that affect them. In response to these concerns heard statewide, the
Senate has so-far conducted two hearing on these proposals and gathered
testimony from government officials and nonprofits that are most impacted by
such a consolidation.
A third hearing is planned for today at the University of Pittsburgh.
I support eliminating government waste and
bureaucratic duplication, and I do believe we can save considerable amounts of
overhead costs by combining these agencies when it makes sense to do so. On the
other hand, I do not support cutting any sort of programs that are important to
my constituents in Beaver, Lawrence, and Butler Counties. These hearings are a
great resource for anyone looking to learn more about this process. I encourage
my constituents to let me know where they stand on this issue as we move
Click here to watch the most recent hearing from April 13th at the Reading
Hospital Conference Center.
Click here to watch the first hearing held on March 23 in the Capitol.
It was great to meet with “Mariah’s Movers” at the
Capitol to discuss Juvenile Arthritis research.
Tax Amnesty Runs Through June 19
Act 84 of 2016 authorized the Pennsylvania
Department of Revenue to administer a PA Tax Amnesty program from April 21, 2017
to June 19, 2017.
During the 60-day timeframe, the department
will waive all penalties and half of the interest for anyone who participates in
the Tax Amnesty program.
Individuals, businesses and other entities
with state tax delinquencies as of December 31, 2015, are generally eligible to
participate in the Tax Amnesty program. Individuals, businesses and other
entities that participated in 2010 Tax Amnesty program are ineligible to
participate in the 2017 Tax Amnesty program.
Click here for more information about the program and how to participate.
Had a great discussion with Westminster College
President, Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson, about the exciting future planned for
Blight Removal Funds Approved for Lawrence County
It was recently announced that the Lawrence County
Department of Planning and Community Development will received $100,000 in
funding to be used for the demolition and site preparation of seventeen vacant
and blighted properties throughout the county. These funds are provided by the
Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Program (PHARE).
This funding was made possible by Act 58 of 2015, a companion to my legislation—Senate
Bill 566—which designated a share of the Realty Transfer Tax into the PHARE
Program to help local governments mitigate blight.
School Food Service Equipment Grants Awarded
Two Food Service Equipment Grants have been awarded to
schools in the 47th Senate District.
Congratulations to Freedom Area Elementary School,
recipients of a $16,427 grant, and the Lawrence County Area Vocational &
Technical School, recipients of a $22,072 grant.
These grants assist School Food Authorities to purchase equipment to serve
healthier meals, with emphasis on fruits and vegetables, and improve food
The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs is hosting a
series of town halls for VA issues. On May 16th, a town hall will be
hosted in Baden. See flier for more info.
Free Assistance for Veterans Applying for Benefits
Veterans, active military and their dependents should never
pay for help to apply for benefits, according to the Department of Military and
Veterans Affairs. There is plenty of free assistance from accredited veteran
service officers through credible organizations such as the Department of
Military and Veterans Affairs, county veteran’s affairs offices, American
Legion, VFW, Disabled American Veterans, and many more.
Click here to learn more.
There will be a FREE Vision Screening & new eyeglasses clinic on May
23 at the Beaver County Association for the Blind. See flier for
more information and how to register.
Experience Pennsylvania History by Visiting State Parks
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources encourages all
to experience Pennsylvania’s history through our state parks this spring.
Beginning in 1893, with one exceptionally notable
site—Valley Forge—Pennsylvania laid the ground work for reforestation,
conservation, and commemorating key
historic events. The
parks system’s focus on historic preservation expanded to ensuring every
Pennsylvania could access
a state park within 25 miles of home. From 45 state parks and 5 historical
parks in 1955, the system grew to 87 state parks by 1970.
Today, Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s largest state
park systems with 120 outdoor recreational areas and over 291,700 acres of
Facilities and resources include over 7,000 family campsites, 286 cabins,
nearly 30,000 picnic tables, 56 major recreational lakes, 10 marinas, 61 beaches
for swimming, 17 swimming pools, over 1,000 miles of trails and much more.
online reservations or call toll-free 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), 7 a.m. to
5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
ABLE Savings Program
Pennsylvania residents can now sign up for the Pennsylvania
Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Savings Program, which provides
tax-exempt accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families.
Modeled after college savings accounts, ABLE accounts allow individuals with
qualifying disabilities and their families to save for a wide range of
disability-related expenses tax-free and provides investment options to
encourage saving private funds to support health, independence and quality of
Click here for more information.
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