Senator Laughlin E-Newsletter

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Voters to Consider Constitutional Amendments on May 18

5/11/21 - May 18th

In January, the Senate approved Senate Bill 2, legislation that placed two proposed constitutional amendments on the May 18 Primary Election ballot.

Under ballot question #1, a disaster emergency declaration could be terminated or extended by Legislative approval of a concurrent resolution, which does not need to be presented to the Governor for his signature.

Ballot question #2 would limit disaster declarations to no more than 21 days unless approved by the General Assembly. Currently, a Governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the Governor indefinitely. Read More

Senate Approves Banking Fund Legislation

051021- Senate Bill 432

The Senate approved legislation I introduced that will strengthen the independence of the state Banking Fund and ensure a strong banking system in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 432, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, changes the Banking Fund into a trust fund. 

State-chartered banks and credit unions pay bi-annual assessments to the Department of Banking & Securities for the administration of the Department, for the regulation and oversight of the banking industry in Pennsylvania and also to establish a reserve as is needed for the Department to be accredited as a financial regulatory agency.

In 2018 and 2019, a total of more than $42 million was siphoned from the Banking Fund to augment the state General Fund and the budgets of the Departments of Conservation & Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.

These types of transfers threaten the state charter. In today’s climate, we need to ensure our banking industry thrives.  They are influential in helping families get back on their feet, which is key to economic recovery and further development.

Click for audio of my comments on the bill.

Senate Approves Plan to Offer Additional Year of Education Due to COVID-19

Parents would have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to the learning disruptions created by COVID-19 under a bill approved by the Senate this week.

In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teachers. Senate Bill 664 would give parents the option to make that decision for the 2021-22 school year since they are in the best position to gauge their child’s development and educational needs after students have spent much of the past year learning at home.

It would also allow parents to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year, preventing students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21.

Senate Acts to Preserve Prescription Drug Assistance for Seniors

The Senate adopted a plan that will allow thousands of older Pennsylvanians to retain eligibility for prescription drug assistance.

PACE and PACENET are the state’s prescription drug assistance programs that provide life-sustaining medications to 257,000 seniors. Eligibility for the programs are based on income. The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2021 is estimated to result in almost 5,100 PACE and PACENET cardholders exceeding the income eligibility limits, meaning those seniors will lose their benefits.

Senate Bill 323 extends the current moratorium on increases in income due to a Social Security COLA for PACE and PACENET enrollees for two additional years until Dec. 31, 2023, benefitting 17,800 seniors.

Measure to Boost Donations for Breast Cancer Research Passed by Senate

The Senate approved legislation that would allow individuals renewing vehicle registrations or driver’s licenses to include an optional $5 donation to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. 

An estimated 2,000 women in Pennsylvania and 42,170 women nationwide will die from breast cancer this year, and one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

The Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition has been leading the fight against breast cancer since 1993. Throughout the years, PBCC has spent more than 1,500 hours on patient advocacy and contributed more than $4.5 million to breast cancer researchers in Pennsylvania. 

PA Set to Transition to New Unemployment Compensation System

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Unemployment Compensation system is finally ready to move on from outdated technology and will transition to a new system May 30-June 7, with the new system going live June 8.

The system will be offline for several days during next month’s transition from an outdated, 40-year-old system to a modern software solution, but department officials say the planned timeline has been positioned to allow most individuals to file their biweekly claims as scheduled.

Find out about disruptions this will cause, and access user guides and virtual workshops, here.

No Answers from Administration on Data Breach Affecting 72,000

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee convened a public hearing Tuesday to seek answers about a massive data breach of personal health data impacting more than 72,000 Pennsylvanians.

After initially agreeing to testify, Department of Health public officials said they would not testify nor answer questions from members. The committee also invited the third-party vendor that was awarded the $22.9 million state contract for COVID-19 contact tracing, but the company did not participate.

The committee conducted the hearing to read questions into the record and announced it will evaluate all legal options to get answers for impacted citizens.

Taking Time to Honor our Police Officers

National Police Week runs through Saturday, but recognizing the risk police officers face is a year-round obligation.

Citizens elect lawmakers to pass laws, and society needs police officers to enforce them. It’s a dangerous, often thankless job that has to be done, and it takes a special kind of person to step into that role. Please join me in thanking our local police for vital service they provide to our communities.

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