In this update:
Legislation Preparing Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs Approved by Senate
The Senate approved legislation to improve workforce development initiatives and better prepare Pennsylvania students for jobs that will be in demand after they graduate.
House Bill 723 would bring state law in compliance with the federal requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by updating state and local workforce development board membership requirements and making other changes. The state and federal acts work in concert to help train individuals for family sustaining jobs.
This bill also requires the state Department of Labor and Industry to collect data on emerging and projected future employment sectors in Pennsylvania and send it to educational institutions. Schools would be required to use the information to develop career education programs and for providing career guidance to students. The amended bill will return to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Acts to Reduce PA Lyme Disease Cases
With Pennsylvania leading the nation in the incidence of Lyme disease, the Senate approved legislation to require insurance coverage for testing and treatment, and raise awareness of tickborne diseases.
Senate Bill 1188 also requires the Department of Health to work with the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg University to develop an electronic database to better track possible cases and provide access to the latest research. The measure will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Early diagnosis is crucial to preventing the persistent symptoms of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Left untreated or improperly treated, Lyme disease can lead to debilitating symptoms, which include fevers, arthritis, joint aches and more. If treated within the first 30 days, 10% or fewer patients will progress to severe symptoms.
Bill to Curb Welfare Abuse Passed by Senate
A bill to halt wasteful spending in the Medical Assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1124 requires the Department of Human Services to check death certificates with the Bureau of Vital Statistics so that the payments can be halted immediately when a recipient’s death is recorded.
An audit by former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services paid benefits to 2,324 dead people. In one case, $800 in benefits intended for a woman who passed away was used by another individual for a shopping spree.
House Approves Laughlin’s Child-Care Facility Smoke Alarm Legislation
The state House of Representatives this past week approved my Senate Bill 563 to improve safety in state-regulated child-care facilities, a measure I introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie in 2019.
Many of the bills introduced in the General Assembly are in response to real life events that take place in our hometowns and local communities. Tragically, in this case, I introduced this legislation because of a Aug. 11, 2019 child-care facility fire that claimed the lives of La’Myhia Jones, 8; Luther Jones Jr., 6; Ava Jones, 4; Dalvin Pacley, 2; and Jaydan Augustyniak, age 9 months.
What made this horrific incident even more tragic was the fact that these young lives may have been saved if the home had been properly equipped with smoke detectors. As it turned out, only one smoke detector was found in the home and it was in the attic.
To help avoid another such tragedy, SB 563 amends the state Fire and Panic Act to designate the locations where smoke alarms must be installed in child-care facilities and require the alarms be interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
This bill will not restore the lives that were tragically lost, nor will it ease the pain those grieving families endured. However, it is government’s responsibility to learn from these tragic cases and to act to prevent them from ever occurring again in the future.
Since the House amended the bill, SB 563 returns to the Senate for consideration.
Senate Approves Laughlin Scooter Legislation
This past week, the state Senate approved my legislation seeking to ensure electric low-speed scooters are properly regulated within Pennsylvania’s vehicle code.
Low-speed scooters are part of the next generation of transportation, and Senate Bill 892 would create a pilot program to take the next step toward expanding their use in Pennsylvania.
Electric low-speed scooters are small electric- or human-powered vehicles with two or three wheels, handlebars and a floorboard that can be stood upon while riding. They weigh less than 100 pounds and go no more than 15 miles per hour on level ground.
The scooters provide innovative, flexible and low-cost transportation to tens of millions of riders across the country. They help relieve traffic congestion, pollution and stress by reducing car trips and increasing access to public transit.
SB 892 would, generally, allow certain municipalities to designate where low-speed scooters could be used, though they would be prohibited on any roadways with a posted speed limit of at least 35 miles per hour. The scooters would be limited to operating on specified roadways, pedalcycle lanes or pedalcycle paths at a speed no greater than 15 miles per hour.
This bill will prevent Pennsylvania from falling further behind other places that have already embraced low-speed scooters. I thank my Senate colleagues for approving the measure, and I urge the House of Representatives to consider this legislation.
How Should We Use PA’s Budget Surplus?
It’s late June, which means in Harrisburg my colleagues and I are working on getting a state budget completed by the end of the month.
This year, the state’s fiscal year will end with a revenue surplus, and I’d like to hear from you about what we should do with that money.
You can find and respond to the legislative survey question here.
Welcoming Members of Keystone Boys State to Harrisburg
On Tuesday this past week, I welcomed Michael Grychowski, Mason Bruce, and Matthew Widomski to my Harrisburg office.
All three gentlemen are from Erie and part of Keystone Boys State (KBS). KBS is a week-long summer experience organized by the American Legion that focuses on civics and leadership development.
Thanks for stopping by Michael, Mason, and Matthew – it was great to meet you!
Regional Transportation Projects Open to Review
Pennsylvanians have until June 30 to participate in a comment period on the draft 2023 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
The draft 2023 STIP reflects the first four years of the 12-Year Program. It lists prioritized projects identified for federal, state, local and private funding in each federal fiscal year between 2023 and 2027.
The draft 2023 STIP can be viewed on the Talk PA Transportation website. Citizens can view projects by county and comment by filling out the online comment form or emailing RA-PennDOTSTC@pa.gov. You can also call PennDOT at 717-783-2262 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Older Mobile Phone Services Shutting Down
Mobile carriers are shutting down 3G and other older services to make room for 5G and other more advanced network services.
The Federal Communications Commission says T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS and Sprint 4G LTE services will be shut down by the end of June and Verizon’s 3G by Dec. 31.
If your device uses the 3G wireless spectrum, you will not be able to make 911 calls on the device after the 3G phase out occurs. In addition to older mobile devices, some home security systems, life/medical alert systems, vehicle SOS services, and other tablets that rely on 3G are also impacted. More information and help can be found here.
Meeting With the Western PA Conservancy at Lake Pleasant
Last week, I met with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy at the Lake Pleasant Conservation Area to get a firsthand look at some of the work being done on the site.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has invested decades in protecting the Lake Pleasant Conservation Area. Forming part of the headwaters of French Creek, Lake Pleasant is considered a fine example of a natural, glacially-formed inland lake in Northwest Pennsylvania. The lake is recharged primarily by groundwater traveling through glacial sediments containing large amounts of limestone. This natural filtration helps maintain water quality and provides habitat features for rare and unique plant communities.
It is a beautiful resource for our community, and I look forward to continuing to work with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to help maintain and improve Pennsylvania’s natural magnificence.
National Dairy Month and PA Dairy Farmers
Pennsylvania is second only to Wisconsin in the number of dairy farms in America, with 5,200 throughout the state.
The commonwealth’s 474,000 cows produce more than 10 billion pounds of milk annually. Pennsylvania dairy production is critical to our commonwealth and nation, and keeping it strong is a top priority.
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