Sen. Aument Hosting Food Drive for Hunger Action Month

To combat food insecurity in Pennsylvania, charitable donations will be accepted at Aument’s district office in Lititz through the end of September

(HARRISBURG) – The nation’s largest charitable food organization, Feeding America, recognizes each September as Hunger Action Month in communities across the country. Pennsylvania’s chapter of the organization also strives to bring attention to the cause of fighting hunger during this month right here in the Commonwealth. 

According to Feeding Pennsylvania, nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians – or one in nine – are struggling with hunger; and of that population, 500,000 are children. Making matters more difficult, the charitable food network across the Commonwealth has seen an unprecedented rise in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the economic downturn and historic inflation now affecting every Pennsylvanian. 

Hunger touches all corners of the Commonwealth and exists in every community, whether we see it or not. Our local food banks, which serve all 67 counties by distributing more than 164 million pounds of food, remain in constant need of our help. 

At the state Capitol for the last 12 years, each spring through the fall, a 1,000-square-foot Capitol Hunger Garden has been producing hundreds of pounds of fresh produce that is donated to Harrisburg’s Downtown Daily Bread. Those donations are used in the organization’s kitchen to provide healthy meals to vulnerable residents in the Harrisburg area. Last year, 849 pounds of produce was harvested from the garden, and we’re hoping for a similar bounty by the time the growing season ends this year. 

But much more can be done. By recognizing the month of September as Hunger Action Month, we’re highlighting the need for citizens and businesses to donate both time and resources to assist food banks in their mission to ensure no family suffers from food insecurity. 

I’m asking for everyone who is able to donate what non-perishable items they can to their local food banks. Lancaster County residents can find a food bank near them here.

Additionally, my legislative district office located at 301 E. Main Street in Lititz is collecting donations from anyone who wishes to give. Those collections will then be given to local food banks in our communities at the end of the month, with the donation period running now through Sept. 30. 

Times are tough for Pennsylvanians, and between the lingering impact of the pandemic and the devastating effects of inflation, it’s not getting easier – particularly as we approach the winter months. This reinforces the need to continue to support charitable food organizations who are best equipped to address food insecurity and hunger at the local level.  

I am thankful for those who have supported and continue to support efforts to eliminate hunger by donating food, money, and volunteer work, and I encourage everyone to do what they can to help families in need.

Learn more about Feeding Pennsylvania and their mission at https://www.feedingpa.org/.

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) tours Blessings of Hope, a nonprofit food dissemination center in Leola, PA, in February 2020 with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R).

Hunger Action Month Food Drive Flyer (PDF)

CONTACT:  Stephanie Applegate

Funding to Create Redevelopment Opportunity in Columbia Borough, Aument Says

LANCASTER – Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) announced that the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) awarded a $3.3 million grant and a $5 million low-interest loan to develop the McGinness Innovation Park in Columbia Borough, which will generate more than 110 new jobs in the community.

The funding will be used to develop a 38-acre site previously used as a private airport into the largest urban redevelopment opportunity in Lancaster County. The McGinness Innovation Park will be a state-of-the-art business/technology park that could be the center for unmanned aerial technology. It could also be used for up to 550,000 square feet of commercial/industrial buildings and generate 114 new jobs.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Lancaster County that wouldn’t have been possible without the CFA grant and loan, which is the second largest awarded statewide this cycle,” Aument said. “The community and the leaders here have created great momentum to revitalize and repurpose areas to become more attractive to prospective businesses and residents. In awarding this grant, the state has shown that it believes in the success of this project and the ability of local leaders and entrepreneurs to boost Columbia’s economy and bring opportunity to our region.”

Funds will be used for engineering, permitting, remediation, excavation, stormwater facilities, sidewalks and streets, installation of water/sewer and landscaping.

The project was funded by the CFA, which is an independent agency of the Department of Community and Economic Development that administers many of Pennsylvania’s economic development and community improvement programs.

CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

 

Senate Confirms Two Candidates to Court of Common Pleas, Lancaster County

Shawn Long and Karen Mansfield received a favorable vote by the Pennsylvania Senate 

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate confirmed two candidates, Shawn Long and Karen Mansfield, to serve as judges on the Court of Common Pleas, Lancaster County according to Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13).

Vacancies on the Court of Common Pleas are filled by candidates who are first nominated by the Governor, confirmed by the Senate, and then finally appointed to their post by the Governor.

As a private practice attorney specializing in bankruptcy cases, Shawn Long has described himself as a “compassionate conservative” who believes in judicial restraint. Before becoming a lawyer, Shawn served six years in the United States Marine Corps, followed by four years as a counselor in the juvenile justice system.

“Shawn Long is an exceptional candidate with diverse legal experience and an impressive record of service to his community and country through his time in the United States Marine Corps,” said Aument. “I was proud to support his nomination and look forward to him serving with honor and distinction on the Court of Common Pleas.”

Karen Mansfield has a long history of public service from assistant public defender in York County to assistant prosecutor in Blair County to her most recent post at the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office where she’s served as Assistant District Attorney since 2005. She has also emphasized the importance of judicial restraint throughout her confirmation process.

“Karen has dedicated her life to the positive upbringing and protection of our children through her work with the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit within the District Attorney’s office,” said Martin. “Not only does Karen have the right work experience, but she also has the appropriate temperament to be a judge, and I was pleased to support her during this confirmation process.”

Both candidates must now be finally appointed by Governor Wolf to their new posts.

CONTACT:         Stephanie Applegate (Senator Aument)

                            Terry Trego (Senator Martin)

 

Senate Passes 2022-23 State Budget that Cuts Taxes, Funds Vital Programs, & Positions Pennsylvanians for Future Success

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a $45.2 billion General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23 that meets the needs of Pennsylvanians today while protecting taxpayers in the future, according to Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36), who voted for the measure.

Senate Bill 1100 now goes to the governor’s desk for enactment into law.

The $45.2 billion budget, which also includes federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, represents a 2.9% increase over the previous year’s spending – and $500 million less than Gov. Tom Wolf’s original budget request.

The budget agreement does not include any broad-based tax increases and is structured in a way to minimize the risk of tax increases in the years ahead.

In fact, the budget actually includes a version of a proposal introduced by Sen. Aument to cut the Corporate Net Income (CNI) tax rate from 9.99% to 8.99% and creates a phased reduction to 4.99% by 2031, moves designed to attract employers and residents to Pennsylvania. To better prepare Pennsylvania students to fill these job openings, the budget also included another Aument proposal that would establish a commission to redesign the state’s education system with the needs of these rising industries in mind.

“Positioning Pennsylvanians for growth, upward economic mobility and competitiveness through forward-thinking public policies has long been a priority of mine,” said Aument. “Lowering our Corporate Net Income Tax will bring more high-quality jobs to our state, raise worker wages, elevate home values, and increase economic opportunity for Pennsylvanians in every class, sector, and corner of the Commonwealth. Likewise, redesigning our education system to align the skills taught in our schools with the future needs of our job market will enable Pennsylvania students to go on to enjoy fulfilling work, stable incomes and lifelong careers.”

As important as the economic boost provided by this plan, which will have a projected ending balance of $3.6 billion, the 2022-23 budget includes a $2.1 billion transfer to the Rainy Day Fund, bringing the total balance to nearly $5 billion.

These fiscally responsible steps are critical because many economic indicators are showing a risk of a recession on the horizon. Most recently, Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office estimated a 60% chance of economic stagnation or a “growth recession” happening, and a 30% chance of a recession.

“Every year Senate Republicans fight to put Pennsylvanians first in our state budgets by ensuring the services they rely on can continue without adding to their economic troubles with a tax hike or onerous regulations,” said Aument. “This year is no different – we’ve held the line and prevented tax increases; we’ve increased funding for programs to help our most vulnerable residents during this period of historic inflation; we’ve protected our state from potential future economic downturns by adding money to our Rainy Day fund; and we’ve invested in the future of our Commonwealth and its residents by rejecting inflationary policies and band-aid solutions that don’t target the root causes of the economic troubles facing Pennsylvanians. In short, this budget plan will give Pennsylvanians relief today and it will position them for success for generations to come.”

The budget includes a $525 million increase for Basic Education Funding, $225 million to provide additional support for the state’s 100 poorest school districts, a $100 million increase for Special Education funding, an additional $60 million for Pre-K Counts and $19 million more for Head Start Supplemental Assistance.

It also includes an additional $125 million in Education Improvement Tax Credits to expand school choice for families and ensure more students can learn in the educational environment that best suits their needs. Higher education receives a funding boost as well. Both policies have been priorities supported by Aument throughout his time in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Increased funding is also dedicated in this year’s budget to ensure our schools are safe and secure: $100 million is appropriated for the Ready to Learn Block Grant program to address school-based mental health; and $100 million in funding is directed to a new General Fund appropriation for School Safety and Security to address physical safety and security at schools.

“School districts and communities must have the resources necessary to offer adequate mental health services to their students, especially during the aftermath of negative unintended consequences stemming from the COVID-19 shutdowns and school closures that have only worsened student instances of mental health crises around the country,” said Aument, who called for increased mental health resources in this state budget following the tragic school shooting in Ulvade, Texas earlier this year. “In addition to the $100 million to address school-based mental health programs, an additional $100 million of ARPA funds will support mental health services in the broader community through programs administered by the Department of Human Services.”

Citing continuing concerns of violence both statewide and nationally Violence, legislators also devoted a total of $260 million in ARPA funds to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s efforts to keep our state’s residents safe. Of that $260 million, $135 million is dedicated to supporting local law enforcement, $75 million to violence intervention and prevention efforts, and $50 million to gun violence investigation and prevention.

Building on our efforts last year to help address the serious financial challenges of our nursing homes and long-term care providers, this budget includes $150 million for costs related to nursing home staffing, $250 million in ARPA funding for long-term living programs and $20 million for supplementary payments to personal care homes.

This budget also makes targeted investments in programs that will make a difference in the lives of millions of state residents, including programs to address the “child care cliff” when working individuals and families lose access to benefits due to increases in income. A total of $25 million will provide a sliding scale copayment for working individuals and families making between 235% and 300% of the federal poverty income limits. Another $90 million in ARPA funding will be used to pay for recruiting and retention bonuses for child care staff.

With inflation driving up the cost of everything, including housing, both owned and rented, this budget directs $540 million in ARPA funding to help our most vulnerable and low-income residents by funding affordable housing construction programs, offering additional home repair assistance and bolstering the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

Finally, the spending plan makes critical investments to promote the health and stability of our food supply, including a $32 million funding increase to fight avian influenza, a priority of Sen. Aument and other Lancaster County legislators concerned about an outbreak in the area earlier this year.

CONTACT:  Stephanie Applegate

Martin, Aument Bills to Limit Sexual Content in PA Schools Pass Senate

The bills would reaffirm parents’ rights to decide the educational upbringing of their children without unreasonable government interference in the classroom 

HARRISBURG – Two bills sponsored by Sens. Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36) intended to increase transparency and empower parents by addressing discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in Pennsylvania schools were passed by the Senate earlier today. The first proposal (Senate Bill 1277) would require schools to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum and materials and notify parents that their child’s coursework includes such content. The second proposal (Senate Bill 1278) would prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students, consistent with the timeline for when the existing academic standards on general sex education begins in sixth grade.

The proposals are in response to concerns both senators have received from parents that age-inappropriate conversations about these sensitive topics are occurring prematurely and without parental knowledge in elementary school classrooms around the state.

“A school district in Chester County instructing elementary school teachers to withhold information from parents about children questioning their gender; a teacher reporting that a Philadelphia school was permitting volunteers to talk to elementary school students about LGBTQ issues without parental knowledge; and mothers of first grade students in Allegheny County suing their school district for teaching about gender dysphoria without parental knowledge or consent – these are just a small sample of the dozens of complaints we’ve received from concerned parents around the Commonwealth,” said Sens. Martin and Aument. “While we may not agree on what moral, ideological, and religious values to teach or not to teach our children, we can certainly agree that it should be up to the parent to decide – not the government.”

Under Senate Bill 1277, parents would have the opportunity to review learning materials and the power to opt their children out of that coursework or prevent their child from viewing that particular book from the library.  If the parent decides to opt their child out of coursework, the child will be provided with a non-explicit alternative.

“Parents should know what their children are being exposed to in school, period,” the senators said. “And beyond that, they should have the opportunity to opt their child out of exposure to certain explicit curriculum and be provided with alternative options by the school. At the end of the day, parents – not the government – should have final say in how their children are educated.”

For some examples of sexually explicit content found in Pennsylvania school libraries and curriculum, readers can, at their own discretion, review the dedicated webpage here which contains blurred copies of the original materials.

In addition to prohibiting classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, Senate Bill 1278 would also:

  • Prohibit a school from withholding information from parents in accordance with existing state and federal laws.
  • Increase transparency by requiring public schools to develop a policy for notifying parents when there is a change to a student’s services or monitoring.
  • Protect students in the LGBTQ community by providing critical exemptions if it can be reasonably demonstrated that parental notification would result in abuse or abandonment of a minor.

The senators were also careful to clarify that Senate Bill 1278 would not ban all discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in school settings. Likewise, it would not prohibit teachers from having conversations or offering support services to students who are personally facing issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity and wish to address those issues with a school employee. Rather, the stated goal of the bill is to improve transparency and ensure parents have the opportunity to participate in making decisions about their own child’s education.

“It’s important to note that Senate Bill 1278 does nothing to prohibit organic, student-initiated discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity for any age group,” said both senators. “Our goal is certainly not to ostracize, demonize, or harm LGBTQ students in any way; rather, we want to find a fair solution that honors the very real concerns of parents that these sensitive topics are consistently being taught without their consent or knowledge to elementary school students.”

“To suggest that prohibiting formal curriculum on sexual orientation and gender identity for young students without impacting any student-initiated discussions would somehow ‘cause an uptick in suicides’ is an extreme leap from alarmist opponents who seem to be determined to teach elementary school children about explicit and sexual topics behind their parents’ backs,” added the senators. “Schools should be nurturing and supportive environments for all students – this bill won’t change that.”

For further clarification about what Senate Bill 1278 does and does not do, examples of situations that concerned parents have reported from classrooms around the state, and other important information, please review the dedicated webpage here.

Both bills will now be referred to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sens. Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36) discuss their bills to limit exposure of sexually explicit content in Pennsylvania schools during a meeting of the Senate Education Committee.

VIDEO:
Sen. Aument floor remarks on Senate Bill 1277

Sen. Martin floor remarks on Senate Bill 1277

Sen. Martin floor remarks on Senate Bill 1278

CONTACT:

Stephanie Applegate 717-787-4420 (Senator Aument)

Terry Trego 717 787-6535 (Senator Martin)

Martin, Aument Bills to Limit Sexual Content in PA Schools Pass Senate Education Committee

The bills would reaffirm parents’ rights to decide the educational upbringing of their children without unreasonable government interference in the classroom 

HARRISBURG – Two bills sponsored by Sens. Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36) intended to address discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in Pennsylvania schools advanced out of the Senate Education Committee today. The first proposal (Senate Bill 1277) would require schools to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum and materials and notify parents that their child’s coursework includes such content. The second proposal (Senate Bill 1278) would prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students, consistent with the timeline for when the existing academic standards on general sex education begins in sixth grade.

The proposals are in response to concerns both senators have received from parents that age-inappropriate conversations about these sensitive topics are occurring prematurely and without parental knowledge in elementary school classrooms around the state.

“A school district in Chester County instructing elementary school teachers to withhold information from parents about children questioning their gender; a teacher reporting that a Philadelphia school was permitting volunteers to talk to elementary school students about LGBTQ issues without parental knowledge; and mothers of first grade students in Allegheny County suing their school district for teaching about gender dysphoria without parental knowledge or consent – these are just a small sample of the dozens of complaints we’ve received from concerned parents around the Commonwealth,” said Sens. Martin and Aument. “While we may not agree on what moral, ideological, and religious values to teach or not to teach our children, we can certainly agree that it should be up to the parent to decide – not the government.”

Under Senate Bill 1277, parents would have the opportunity to review learning materials and the power to opt their children out of that coursework or prevent their child from viewing that particular book from the library.  If the parent decides to opt their child out of coursework, the child will be provided with a non-explicit alternative.

“Parents should know what their children are being exposed to in school, period,” said Aument. “And beyond that, they should have the opportunity to opt their child out of exposure to certain explicit curriculum and be provided with alternative options by the school. At the end of the day, parents – not the government – should have final say in how their children are educated.”

In addition to prohibiting classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, Senate Bill 1278 would also:

  • Prohibit a school from withholding information from parents in accordance with existing state and federal laws.
  • Increase transparency by requiring public schools to develop a policy for notifying parents when there is a change to a student’s services or monitoring.
  • Protect students in the LGBTQ community by providing critical exemptions if it can be reasonably demonstrated that parental notification would result in abuse or abandonment of a minor.

The senators were also careful to clarify that Senate Bill 1278 would not ban all discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in school settings. Likewise, it would not prohibit teachers from having conversations or offering support services to students who are personally facing issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity and wish to address those issues with a school employee. Rather, the stated goal of the bill is to improve transparency and ensure parents have the opportunity to participate in making decisions about their own child’s education.

“It’s important to note that Senate Bill 1278 does nothing to prohibit organic, student-initiated discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity for any age group,” said both senators. “Our goal is certainly not to ostracize, demonize, or harm LGBTQ students in any way; rather, we want to find a fair solution that honors the very real concerns of parents that these sensitive topics are consistently being taught without their consent or knowledge to elementary school students.”

“To suggest that prohibiting formal curriculum on sexual orientation and gender identity for young students without impacting any student-initiated discussions would somehow ‘cause an uptick in suicides’ is an extreme leap from alarmist opponents who seem to be determined to teach elementary school children about explicit and sexual topics behind their parents’ backs,” added the senators. “Schools should be nurturing and supportive environments for all students – this bill won’t change that.”

For further clarification about what Senate Bill 1278 does and does not do, examples of situations that concerned parents have reported from classrooms around the state, and other important information, please review the dedicated webpage here.

Both bills will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

Sens. Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36) discuss their bills to limit exposure of sexually explicit content in Pennsylvania schools during a meeting of the Senate Education Committee.

 VIDEO:

Sen. Ryan Aument closing remarks on SB1277

Sen. Scott Martin closing remarks on SB1278

CONTACT:          

Stephanie Applegate 717-787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego 717 787-6535 (Senator Martin)

 

Martin, Aument Propose Bill to Empower PA Families in Education

The bill would protect parents’ rights to decide when, where, and how to discuss issues of gender identity & sexual orientation with their young children 

HARRISBURG – Sens. Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36) announced their intent today to introduce a bill to address discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in Pennsylvania schools. The proposal is in response to concerns both senators have received from parents that age-inappropriate conversations about these sensitive topics are occurring prematurely and without parental knowledge in elementary school classrooms around the state.

“Some of these discussions that concerned parents have brought to our attention are formal and led by the teacher, while others are organic and initiated by students,” said both senators. “But many of these discussions are occurring without the knowledge or consent of the parents, and we believe this is wrong. Parents have a fundamental right to decide the educational, moral, ideological, and religious upbringing of their children without unreasonable government interference in the classroom undermining that right.”

Recognizing that their proposal would likely garner interest from parents and stakeholders across the Commonwealth, the senators published a webpage to answer questions about the language of the bill and dispel any myths or misunderstandings about its intent. According to the webpage and the cosponsor memo for the proposal would, among other things:

  • Prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, consistent with the timeline for when the existing academic standards on general sex education begins in sixth grade.
  • Require adherence to existing state standards of age-appropriate content for any discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation that occur in grades 6-12.
  • Prohibit a school from withholding information from parents in accordance with existing state and federal laws.
  • Increase transparency by requiring public schools to develop a policy for notifying parents when there is a change to a student’s services or monitoring.
  • Protect students in the LGBTQ community by providing critical exemptions if it can be reasonably demonstrated that parental notification would result in abuse or abandonment of a minor.

The senators were also careful to clarify that their bill would not ban all discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in school settings. Likewise, it would not prohibit teachers from having conversations or offering support services to students who are personally facing issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity and wish to address those issues with a school employee. Rather, the stated goal of the bill is to improve transparency and ensure parents have the opportunity to participate in making decisions about their own child’s education.

“While we recognize that safe, structured discussions about these topics are foundational to students of a mature age in the LGBTQ community, we also recognize that it is unlikely that all parents in a single school district will be able to reach a consensus on how and when to have these pivotal discussions with their young children,” said both senators. “We must work to find solutions that empower parents to educate their own children on these sensitive topics at their own pace without having their hand forced by the public school system. We believe our bill appropriately balances the needs of parents, children, and members of the LGBTQ community.”

“At the end of the day, we all have a vested interest in making sure our children are safe and grow to be happy and healthy,” they continued. “Therefore, we must all work together to find fair solutions that accommodate the needs of parents and children from different backgrounds.”

The senators plan to have language for the bill (Senate Bill 1278) introduced in the near future.

WEBPAGE: Empowering Families in Education Act

CONTACT:         

Stephanie Applegate 717-787-4420 (Senator Aument)

Terry Trego 717 787-6535 (Senator Martin)

Aument Advocates for Cutting Taxes, Creating Jobs, & Protecting Communities in 2022-23 Budget

Rejecting one-time fixes proposed by Democrats, Aument’s priorities include policies that permanently position PA to succeed

HARRISBURG – As the effort to pass the 2022-23 state budget is now in full swing, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) announced his budget priorities. His goals focus on increasing economic opportunity for Pennsylvanians, improving public safety, and positioning students for success in their future careers.

To increase economic opportunity and address the devastating effects of inflation on families, Aument will advocate for a reduction in both the Personal Income Tax (PIT) and Corporate Net Income (CNI) Tax.

Senate Bill 771, his legislation to gradually reduce the state’s CNI tax to attract new employers and promote economic growth, already received support from the Senate Finance Committee. In an effort to make Pennsylvania’s rate more competitive with neighboring states, the bill would reduce the CNI tax from its current rate of 9.99% to 6.99% by 2024. The rate could then be further reduced only if it meets or exceeds the revenue projections for 2024 at the 9.99% rate.

“Together, a reduction in both the PIT and CNI taxes would help every Pennsylvania taxpayer at a time when they have been beaten down by inflation and the rising costs of necessities like food and gas,” Aument said. “We must reject reckless, inflationary fiscal policies like those of President Joe Biden that have created such significant financial strain, and instead focus on policies that will position Pennsylvanians for economic success and upward mobility for generations to come. Band aid solutions – like Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to give a one-time check to every household with an income of less than $80,000 – won’t cut it.”

Improving public safety is another important initiative for Aument, who will focus on advancing reforms to boost police officer recruitment and retention by increasing funding for new Pennsylvania State Police classes and making a career in law enforcement eligible for an existing scholarship.

Aument is also working to improve public safety by advocating for increased mental health funding in Pennsylvania schools and communities.

Finally, Aument is pushing for an initiative that would strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy by preparing students for in-demand, family-sustaining careers. A bill Aument sponsored would redesign the state’s education system to better prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, especially in sectors that are vulnerable to job losses due to automation.

Aument also believes the General Assembly should reengage the Higher Education Funding Commission to continue its work in improving how the state funds institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth.

“While I work to advance these important initiatives this budget season, I will continue to push for fiscal responsibility and work to block any new taxes that would only serve to burden our residents at a time when they can least afford it. I will continue to focus on policies that promote growth, create family-sustaining jobs, and expand economic opportunity for all Pennsylvanians,” Aument said.

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) speaks with reporters in the State Capitol following Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal in February 2022.

CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

Op-Ed: Defunding the Police Won’t Protect Our Communities

Driven by spikes in aggravated assaults and homicides, Pennsylvania has the highest violent crime rate of any state in the Northeast, which climbed 27.1% from 2019 to 2020, according to FBI data. No other state reported a greater year-over-year increase in violence for that same period.

Local police chiefs, prosecutors, human trafficking victim advocates, and key community groups confirmed at a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing in East Hempfield Township last week that this alarming statewide trend is happening right here in Lancaster County, too.

Gathering for the second in a series of statewide hearings on crime and public safety, testifiers from local police departments, the Lancaster District Attorney’s office, SecondChance PA, NorthStar Initiative (NSI), and more delivered testimony to the committee about the disturbing increase in criminal activity they’re seeing in their communities.

Increased juvenile crime rates, unrelenting opioid and mental health related crimes, and a disturbing concentration of incidents of human trafficking are happening in the midst of an extreme hiring crisis that’s leaving police departments understaffed and without the resources they need to keep our communities safe.

According to NSI, a local organization that supports women who are survivors of domestic sex trafficking, the major highways that run through our county coupled with a bustling tourism industry with multiple hotels along those highways make our area susceptible to this heinous crime.

Even more distressing, fifteen is the average age of a trafficking victim, and 46 percent of NSI’s survivors are trafficked by a member of their own family.

To create a proactive approach to combatting human trafficking, local leaders formed the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force earlier this year. The Task Force operates across jurisdictional boundaries to coordinate resources and conduct comprehensive undercover operations using a victim-centered approach. Recently, they arrested fourteen traffickers in a single sting.

While the success of the Task Force is certainly something to be celebrated, it’s important to remember that human trafficking often leads to other criminal activity such as gang violence, drug trafficking operations, organized criminal empires, and more. With local crime rates rising and a hiring crisis that’s worsening by the day, our officers need all the help they can get.

Chief Lisa Layden from the West Hempfield Township Police Department testified that the candidate pool for prospective officers has decreased by approximately 80 to 90 percent in the last 30 years.  An increasingly negative image of policing among younger generations fueled by biased media coverage and anti-police activists has made attracting exceptional officer candidates a nightmare that will only worsen as the state faces a looming wave of senior officer retirements.

And yet, at a time when heinous crimes are increasing at an alarming rate and recruitment and retention of high-quality police officers is at an all-time low, interest groups continue to call to defund the police. I think these disturbing statistics tell us that we need to be doing the exact opposite; we should be investing in programs that help to keep our communities safe, not stripping police departments of the limited resources they have now.

Testifiers at the hearing told us that the lack of support our police officers experienced in the last few years is taking a toll. Officers are hesitant and even afraid to fully engage in policing as many feel they do not have the public’s trust and respect. When forced to make split-second decisions, there is more doubt than ever before, and that can cost lives.

Make no mistake, the popularity of anti-police rhetoric is hurting victims of violent crimes by weakening the resources available to stop criminals.

Certainly, there are legislative solutions to the hiring crisis, and with input from local police chiefs and stakeholders, proposals to reverse this trend are in the works. But even the best, well-crafted piece of legislation can’t change culture. And unfortunately, the “Defund the Police” movement and the accompanying anti-police rhetoric that paints all cops as belonging to a racist, law-skirting, good-ole-boys club has become ingrained in our culture, particularly among younger generations. And it is only fanning the flames of an already diminishing officer complement.

At the end of the day, we all share the same desire to feel safe in our homes and communities; to protect our families and loved ones from becoming victims of violent crimes like assault, rape, and human trafficking. A strong police force that is well trained, compassionate, and able to respond swiftly and appropriately in high-stress situations can help us achieve that goal. I intend to continue fighting to ensure that law enforcement officers get the support and resources they need to safely protect Pennsylvanians.

MEDIA ADVISORY – Senate Majority Policy Committee Chair Announces Lancaster County Crime and Public Safety Hearing

(HARRISBURG) – Senate Majority Policy Committee Chair Mario Scavello (R-40) announced the Majority Policy Committee will hold the second in a series of statewide hearings on crime and public safety at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 2 at the East Hempfield Township Building.

The goal of these hearings is to better understand what is driving the increase in crime in local communities across the Commonwealth, as well as discuss tools to assist the law enforcement community and other stakeholders.

WHO:  Senate Majority Policy Committee 

WHAT:  Crime and Public Safety Hearing

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. 

WHERE:

East Hempfield Township Building
1700 Nissley Road
Landisville, PA 17538

Livestream
Senate Republican Caucus website
Senate Republican Caucus Facebook page
Senate Majority Policy Committee

MEDIA CONTACT

Erica Clayton Wright
ewright@pasen.gov
412-334-4856