In this Update:
Work Continues on 2021-22 State Budget
Work continued this week on finalizing a state budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a huge spending plan with a massive increase in the personal income tax. A majority of lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives rejected the plan.
Look for a report on the new budget in next week’s e-newsletter.
In Person Veterans Assistance Office Hours Resume in July
Veterans Assistance office hours will once again be offered IN PERSON at both of my district offices beginning in July. During the pandemic, this service was still available but only by phone.
Going forward, we will return to in person appointments with an American Legion Service Officer. For many years I have partnered with the American Legion to assist veterans through this program right in my office.
Once a month, an American Legion Service Officer comes to each of my district offices to assist veterans with any issues they are having. These include but are not limited to compensation and pension claims, education benefits, burial and survivor benefits and help enrolling in the VA health system amongst others.
If you would like to setup an appointment for yourself or another veteran please call the office location that is most convenient for you.
Pen Argyl (Northampton County)
Appointments are available beginning on July 21st and then on the third Wednesday of each month thereafter between the hours of 10am and 2:30pm. For an in person appointment at my Pen Argyl office with the American Legion Service Officer please call 610-863-1200
Scotrun (Monroe County)
Appointments are available beginning on July 13th and then on the second Tuesday of each month thereafter between the hours of 10am and 2:30pm. For an in person appointment at my Scotrun office with the American Legion Service Officer appointments please call 570-620-4326
Senate Passes Plan for Voter Verification Constitutional Amendment
The Senate this week approved a plan to allow voters to decide if the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to require identification each time a voter casts a ballot.
Currently, voters are required to show identification only the first time they vote at a polling place. The proposed constitutional amendment asks voters to decide if some form of verification should be required every time a ballot is cast, including when voting by mail.
A recent poll by Franklin & Marshall College found 74% of Pennsylvanians favored requirements that all voters show a photo ID and only 25% opposed. Nationally, that number climbs to 80% in support of some sort of identification to vote and drops to 18% opposed, according to a Monmouth University poll.
With Gov. Tom Wolf’s refusal to consider legislation that asks voters to provide verification every time they vote, the Senate passed a bill to place the issue on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment so voters can decide. Unlike a piece of legislation, constitutional amendments do not need the governor’s approval.
Senate Sends Bill to Rein in Health Secretary’s Power, Ban Vaccine Passports to Governor’s Desk
The Senate gave final approval of legislation that prevents the excess use of power by the state Secretary of Health and prohibits vaccine passport requirements while ensuring the protection of public health.
The measure prohibits the Secretary of Health from mandating those who have not been exposed or in close contact with the exposed to wear a mask, stay at home or be socially distant. It also prevents the secretary from using the same laws to force business closures.
It also prohibits the state, as well as counties, municipalities, school districts and colleges that are subsidized by state taxpayers from requiring proof of vaccination. The measure will now go to Gov. Wolf’s desk. He will have 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
Bill to Expand Senior Access to Prescription Drugs Approved by Senate
Legislation to expand senior access to prescription drugs received Senate approval and was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The anticipated savings from enrolling eligible PACENET individuals in Medicare Part D plans will provide enough savings to cover the cost of the income expansion.
Measure Offering Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19 Goes to the Governor
Parents would have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to learning disruptions caused by COVID-19 under a bill approved by the Senate and sent to the governor.
In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teacher. The bill would only apply to the 2021-22 school year to address learning gaps related to the pandemic.
Senate Bill 664 would also give parents the option to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year due to COVID-19. This provision would prevent students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21 after missing out on much of the specialized attention they need due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Gov. Wolf will have 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
Senate Votes to Permit Local Police Radar for Traffic Safety
The Senate approved and sent to the House of Representatives my legislation permitting municipal police in Pennsylvania to use radar for speed limit enforcement.
Speeding is the leading contributor to fatal crashes after DUI and 30% of fatal speeding crashes occur on local roads. Pennsylvania is the only state that prohibits municipal police from using radar to enforce speed limits.
Here in the 40th Senate District, we’ve seen at least 15 pedestrian deaths over the past 20 years where speed was a factor, and just one is too many. This legislation will save lives.
The new enforcement tool would come with several restrictions:
Technical Difficulties – Please Bear with Us
We are still experiencing significant technical difficulties with the phones in my Scotrun office. Calls made to my Scotrun office at 570-620-4326 are all being forwarded to my Pen Argyl office at this time (610-863-1200).
We are working with our phone company to have this issue resolved asap.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as my staff does their best to serve you while dealing at the same time with these technical limitations. Your patience and understanding is appreciated!
Around the 40th District
I recently joined PA State Rep. Ann Flood at her district office to congratulate the newest Eagle Scout in the 40th District, Joseph Burke. The son of Jonathan and Christine, I commend Joseph on persevering and achieving the rank even in the face of COVID. For his Eagle Scout project he renovated the Lower Nazareth Elementary School Courtyard. This included landscaping the grounds and installing benches and completing lattice work. Congratulations Joseph and best of luck in all of your future endeavors!
It was wonderful to see everyone that came out to the ATC Trail to Town Family Jamboree on Saturday afternoon at Wind Gap Park. After a year off due to COVID-19, it was wonderful to once again partner with Wind Gap Borough to hold this event packed with fun for the entire family! As part of the event this year over 100 Boy Scouts from Troop 41 camped out in the park over 3 days to earn a special merit badge. The weather was absolutely perfect and I always enjoy speaking with constituents during these events.
Last week, I attended an open house and ribbon cutting event for A Clean Slate Recovery Center in Bangor. A Clean Slate’s mission is to provide a safe & sober environment for recovering individuals & to provide resources to Slate Belt & surrounding communities. Northampton County Drug and Alcohol has partnered with Recovery Revolution, Inc. to open the new center. A Clean Slate will be providing a safe, sober and supportive place for individuals to come and will also be hosting and promoting sober events in the community and at the center. Thank you to Northampton County and A Clean Slate for your commitment to those battling addition in the Slate Belt. I wish them much success in their mission!
On Thursday of last week, I joined representatives from The Greater Bath Area Chamber of Commerce, PA State Rep. Ann Flood and multiple Bath Borough officials to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Stephani Insurance Services. The business community in Bath continues to grow and it was wonderful to welcome another new business! Stephani Insurance Services is a full service agency offering all types of insurance products.
Roughly a month ago, a member of my staff attended the Grand Opening celebration and ribbon cutting for Mattie’s Strudel Haus in Bath Borough. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as the Senate was in session that day and I was in Harrisburg. I stopped by this past week for a surprise visit while in the area. Trust me, if you are in the mood for traditional, hand-made, authentic Hungarian strudel you need to stop by! You will not be sorry!
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