Senator Laughlin E-Newsletter

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities during the Session Week of April 6, 2021.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the page.  If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the “contact” button.  Please do not “reply” directly to this e-mail.


Dan Laughlin

Committee Examines the ‘State of the Chesapeake Bay’

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee held an informational briefing on Tuesday to examine the state of the Chesapeake Bay. Presenters included:  Ann Swanson, Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Commission; Marel King, Pennsylvania Director, Chesapeake Bay Commission; and Jill Whitcomb, Director, Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Department of Environmental Protection.

Video of the hearing. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Committee held three days of public hearings, Tuesday, April 6, through Thursday, April 8, on the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget running.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

State Related Universities

4/6/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: State-Related Universities

Paying for college is a huge challenge for families. During the hearing on state-related universities, I asked Penn State President Eric Barron what his school was doing to make higher education more affordable.

This was a recurring theme during the hearing as several other committee members also questioned the leaders of Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Lincoln University on their institution’s efforts to contain costs and lower the financial burden for students.

Video of the hearing.

Department of Military & Veterans Affairs

4/6/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Military & Veterans Affairs

During the budget hearing with the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, I asked about efforts to address and care for homeless and at-risk veterans and the steps being taken to recruit and keep nurses.

Responding to questions from other committee members about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on DMVA’s core missions, Acting Adjutant General (Maj. Gen.) Mark Schindler said the National Guard has adapted, maintained staffing levels, and is continuing to fulfill its mission to the Commonwealth and nation. COVID-19 severely impacted the state’s six veterans’ homes and the Department’s role in addressing the pandemic is being reviewed. MG Schindler said DMVA plans to expand its outreach efforts for veterans and improve the coordination of the various programs that serve their needs.

Video of the hearing.


4/6/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Treasury

During the budget hearing with the Treasury Department, I raised concerns about the lack of retirement savings of Pennsylvanians and voiced support for a new Keystone Saves program to address this problem.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity provided an update on the state’s financial condition and the status of programs under the Department’s purview, including Unclaimed Property, Keystone Scholars, PA ABLE and PA 529. Thanks to the fiscally responsible budgeting advocated by Senate Republicans over the past decade, Treasurer Garrity said that the state should not have a need for short-term borrowing to meet its financial obligations.

Video of the hearing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB)

4/7/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Liquor Control Board

During the hearing, I asked PLCB Chairman Tim Holden why the board is requesting such a large increase to purchase more inventory and large rises in freight charges.

Committee members raised concerns about the PLCB’s effectiveness issues with its e-commerce system and stressed the need for better customer convenience. Questions were also the decision-making process regarding the products sold in state stores and how the PLCB increased profitability during the pandemic and if that profitability can continue in the future.

Video of the hearing.

Attorney General

4/7/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Attorney General

The budget hearing gave me the opportunity to question Attorney General Josh Shapiro about any investigation into the advertising failures that negatively impacted the ability of some survivors of child sex abuse to sue their abusers as well as the costs associated with prosecuting those who use cannabis recreationally.

 The Attorney General also highlighted the role of the office in amending the state’s Constitution, saying the office writes a long-form explanation of the ballot question also known as the “plain-English statement.” He said the office also reviews the actual ballot questions prior to publication, approving them for “form and legality.” 

Committee members pressed the Attorney General on why his office’s budget submission exceeded the funding request from the Governor’s proposal. He indicated the office’s request is a “cost-to-carry” budget that supports drug enforcement efforts, defends state laws and the constitution in court, administers the Safe2Say program and more.

Video of the hearing.

Auditor General

4/7/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Auditor General

I asked Auditor General Timothy DeFoor for an update on the ongoing audit of the governor’s waiver process for business shutdowns during the pandemic.

The Auditor General said grant programs and unemployment programs were major targets for fraud during the pandemic with an estimate of potentially 20 percent of claims for those programs are suspected to be fraudulent. The Auditor General was urged to take a closer look at how his office could perform existing audits more efficiently, including reforming statutorily required audits and undertaking equipment upgrades.

Video of the hearing.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Department of Labor & Industry

Many members pressed Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier to complete Unemployment Compensation computer system upgrades, for which the General Assembly has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars. The continued reliance on 40-year-old computers severely hampered the ability of jobless workers to access assistance during the administration’s business closures.

Efforts to align Pennsylvania workforce development with existing employer needs was the topic of several discussions. Members urged the Department to do more to connect jobseekers with the many good-paying jobs that are going unfilled.

Video of the hearing.

Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding elaborated on the Department’s dog license fee increase request and provided an update on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program.

Senators questioned the Secretary about the impact of the pandemic, including Departmental closures of restaurants and on the financial stability of the Pennsylvania Farm Show, including the use limitations caused by the storage of PPE at the site. He expressed optimism that Pennsylvania’s fairs will rebound this year — with limitations on grandstand capacity. The Secretary also discussed efforts to help Pennsylvania’s distressed dairy farms and detailed the reimbursement program for dairy farmers who were forced to dump their products during the pandemic.

Citing the Governor’s proposed expansion of solar power, Senators expressed concerns that broad installation of solar panels could impact forest and farmland preservation.

Video of the hearing.

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