Senate Republicans Elect Leadership Team for New Legislative Session

HARRISBURG — Senate Republicans today elected their leadership team for the 2023-24 legislative session.

Sen. Kim Ward (R-39) has been elected to serve as interim Senate President Pro Tempore from Dec. 1 until Jan. 2. On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the Senate will vote for a President Pro Tempore to serve for the new two-year legislative session. She becomes the first woman to hold the position, the third-highest post in Pennsylvania government. She previously served as Senate Majority Leader.

The President Pro Tempore is responsible for appointing the chairpersons and members of the 22 standing committees of the Senate and serves as an ex-officio member of all committees. She presides over the Senate floor when the Lieutenant Governor is unavailable and fills the position of Lieutenant Governor if the office becomes vacant. The office also refers bills and resolutions to the appropriate Senate committees for consideration.

Sen. Joe Pittman (R-41) will serve as Senate Majority Leader. His duties include overseeing the legislative agenda, developing policies and strategies for the Senate Republican Caucus, and playing a key role in floor debates. He also has a major role in negotiating issues with the Administration and House of Representatives and in coordinating action on the Senate floor. Pittman previously chaired the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.

“To all members of the Senate, Democrat and Republican, I look forward to working with you to chart a path forward that requires us to selflessly work together advocating for all Pennsylvanians and their families by putting the principles and respect for this institution and our Commonwealth above all,” Ward said. “Together we have done big things for Pennsylvania, and they should be acknowledged in the bipartisan manner in which they were achieved. It is proof we can be diverse and unified at the same time and a kind reminder of the work we must continue to do on behalf of our Commonwealth its citizens.”

“To serve as the majority leader of the Senate Republican Caucus in the upcoming session will be a great honor,” Pittman said. “I am flattered to have the support of my colleagues and am committed to advancing a positive, pro-growth agenda for the citizens of this entire Commonwealth. The constituents of the 41st Senatorial District who have elected me to represent them as their senator will always be my top priority and focus, and I will use my voice to represent them and their interests.”

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) was elected Majority Whip. The duties include acting as assistant floor leader, working to gain support for legislation and ensuring that Republican policies and strategies are maintained through the cooperative efforts of the majority caucus.

Sen. Scott Martin (R-13) will chair the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee reviews all legislation for its fiscal impact and plays a crucial role in negotiating and developing the state budget. Each year, the panel holds a series of public hearings with leaders of state departments and agencies to study the governor’s budget proposal and ensure taxpayer dollars are being utilized properly.

Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) will serve as Majority Caucus Chair for the 2023-24 legislative session. The chair presides over Republican caucus meetings to discuss bills and amendments and to develop caucus strategy.

Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-46) was elected Senate Majority Caucus Secretary to oversee all executive nominations submitted to the Senate for confirmation. She will coordinate the review of the background and experience of nominees and ensure that proper documentation is submitted.

 

CONTACTS:  Erica Clayton Wright  (Sen. Ward)

                         Jeremy Dias (Sen. Pittman)

Aument Bill Allowing Audits of Medicaid Prescription Subcontracts Advances

Bill to increase state contract transparency unanimously passes Senate committee

(HARRISBURG) – Sen. Ryan Aument’s (R-36) bill allowing for a full-scale audit of subcontracts with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in Medicaid unanimously passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today.

Almost 90% of Pennsylvania Medicaid patients are served by managed-care companies that contract with the state. In turn, those companies contract with PBMs for their pharmacy programs to decide which drugs will be covered and how much to reimburse the pharmacies that fill the prescriptions.

“Because contracts between managed-care companies and PBMs are not signed directly with the state and are instead subcontracts, there is no provision requiring they be made available for anyone to review – including the Department of the Auditor General. Therefore, it is impossible to know how the money is being spent,” Aument said. “Taxpayers deserve to know where their money goes.”

According to the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania taxpayers paid nearly $3 billion to PBMs for Medicaid enrollees in 2017. In recent years, audits in other states have found PBMs were grossly overcharging their states’ Medicaid programs. As a result, one PBM, Centene, has already settled with nearly a dozen states for $475 million and more states have vowed to conduct their own investigations.

“The skyrocketing cost of prescriptions and life-saving medications has only been exacerbated by the historic inflation brought on by the reckless fiscal policies handed down from the federal government. By shining a light on the reimbursement process used in our Medicaid programs, we can better scrutinize how these taxpayer dollars are spent and work to reduce the overall cost of prescriptions for Pennsylvania residents,” added Aument.

Senate Bill 917 will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

Outrage Was Reasonable in the Case of Drag Show at Local High School

By Sen. Ryan P. Aument (R-36)

Reasonable people agree that school is not the appropriate place for a sexually charged performance by professional adult dancers. Optional or not, drag shows were never meant for children.

In a sign of the times, I honestly am shocked that this even needs to be said. Yet, the LNP Editorial Board bent over backwards in a recent editorial to defend the sexual performance put on at a local school without parental knowledge.

Contrary to LNP’s claims, opponents of what happened in Hempfield are not pushing to eliminate safe spaces for LGBTQ students. They aren’t arguing that already marginalized groups should “exist in the shadows.” And they aren’t saying that drag shows intended for an audience of consenting adults should be banned.

They’re saying that drag shows intended for an audience of school children is inappropriate and wrong. That is not unreasonable, nor is it partisan.

Reasonable people recognize that, historically and currently, not all drag performances are inherently sexual. However, the subject of this op-ed and the recent editorial by LNP’s Editorial Board (where they claimed that drag events in schools are “valuable”) is not all drag shows throughout history, but rather one specific drag show at a local high school that WAS sexual.

Reasonable people would also agree that adults dancing erotically in g-strings IS inherently sexual. So, while drag has its roots in Shakespeare and the world of vaudeville, as the Editorial Board pointed out, the show that was performed at Hempfield was wildly different than those performed by Shakespearean actors whose costumes covered every inch of their skin and whose performances were markedly less sensual than what occurred here.

Do supporters of Hempfield’s drag show really believe that the only “safe space” a school can provide to LGBTQ students is at drag show where adults perform sexual dances in “tight-fitting costumes?” Does the LNP Editorial Board really believe that the drag show performed at Hempfield High School wasn’t sexual in nature? If this performance was truly benign and age-appropriate, why not publish footage or photographs from the event in the newspaper and on LancasterOnline?

Unsurprisingly, while arguing in favor of drag shows for children in schools, LNP’s Editorial Board also wrote in opposition to a bill I sponsored (Senate Bill 1277) to allow parents to have the final say over what explicit materials their own child is exposed to in school curriculum and libraries.

It’s important to note that LNP has also not published uncensored or censored copies of the explicit images found in Lancaster County school curriculum and libraries that caused parents concern in the first place.

How could a reasonable person argue that explicit images in books and video footage from a drag show are appropriate for school-aged children when those same uncensored images / video footage cannot be published in a newspaper for adults?

Refusing to acknowledge the increase in explicit content being pushed on to children only feeds into the genuine fear of the oversexualization of children. Indeed, the main argument we heard against Senate Bill 1277 was that children are already seeing this type of content on their cell phones.  So, instead of working to protect children by limiting the content, opponents want to offer more of it and LNP appears to defend them.

The LNP editorial said, “There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding at work here — and little effort to try to understand.” I agree. But before LNP attempts to “educate” parents on why they shouldn’t be outraged over barely dressed dancers performing in a sexually suggestive manner for children, they should take their own advice to understand the real issue. Pushing sexual content on children is not just unnecessary, it’s wrong and parents are justified in their outrage.

At the end of the day, schools exist to educate children from all backgrounds and should teach students to be loving and accepting of every individual. Reasonable people can agree that this can be achieved without the use of sexually explicit materials and performances.

Aument Announces $600,000 in Grants to Improve Recreational Opportunities in the 36th District

LANCASTER – Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) announced that the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) awarded three grants totaling $600,000 that will benefit the 36th District by improving recreational opportunities and making watershed improvements.

“The grants will help to facilitate projects that would not have been possible so soon otherwise. By adding to the recreational opportunities of the district, these communities will become a better place to live and may even help to attract new residents to the area. We live in a beautiful part of the state, so providing more ways to enjoy the outdoors for people of all ages is absolutely a win,” Aument said.

Elizabethtown Borough received $300,000 to make watershed improvements along Conoy Creek within Hickory Lane Park. The project includes the removal of approximately 120,000 tons of sediment from the waterway. A stream channel will be relocated away from the edge of the valley bottom, and a new meandering channel will be established in the center of the valley. Vegetation will be planted, and wetland pockets will be established at storm outfalls with concentrated flow paths. Existing outfalls and eroded swales will be stabilized as a part of the restoration efforts. More than 1,800 feet of streambank will be restored to eliminate the current bank erosion and will significantly reduce sediment load in the Conoy Creek and the Chesapeake Bay.

Manheim Borough was awarded a $150,000 grant to make improvements to Manheim Veterans Memorial Park, including constructing a Veterans Memorial Plaza. The project consists of the installation of a gazebo, flag poles, a stone veneer seat wall for public reflection, walkways connecting with an existing park path, lighting fixtures, and landscaping. The park improvements will provide a venue for community events.

Finally, Pleasant View Communities received $150,000 to construct a five-foot wide, 5,000-foot walking trail. It will be a continuation of an existing walking trail that currently navigates the retirement community. The trail will be ADA accessible and also include the implementation of benches and appropriate signage. Both assets will be open for public use.

The projects were 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

To Curb Student Debt, Reduce College Costs

Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36)

Opponents of President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan are missing the mark on why it’s a bad idea.

Complaining that it is unfair to those who paid their loans, or to those who didn’t attend college, while correct, merely empowers the other side to slap back with a major dose of “whataboutism.”

What about those who don’t drive but pay road taxes? What about corporations who receive tax credits? What about these kids saddled with debt?

In a prime example of whataboutism, an emboldened Biden White House tweeted the names of Republican opponents who were forgiven pandemic relief loans that allowed them to meet payrolls.

This comparison only makes sense if you forget that businesses needed those loans to stay afloat and meet payrolls after the government forced them to close. This is much different than forgiving student loans and an insulting comparison to the many businesses who closed for good under the weight of government’s heavy hand.

The real fault with the president’s decision is that it adds, however incrementally, to inflation and does nothing to rein in college costs. In fact, it could end up increasing costs by giving schools and students the notion that, when it comes to bad economics, higher education is exempt from consequences.

For years university administrators have jacked up tuition to subsidize grandiose salaries for a burgeoning payroll of middle managers and educational bureaucrats who add nothing to undergraduate education. Good luck if you think loan forgiveness will encourage them to economize.

Lost are the days when higher education focused on in-demand skills and careers without the glitz of expansive campuses and high-end housing. College seems to have jumped from a purposeful educational challenge to a social experience where young adults pay top dollar with no assured career afterward.

If Joe Biden wants to slay the student debt dragon, he shouldn’t be feeding it.

Pennsylvania has made a start in that battle by consolidating its unreasonably priced state college system. But, at the same time, we continue to write huge subsidies for state-related schools, but without the promised lowered tuitions that were part of that bargain more than 50 years ago.

The reason state dollars represent a declining percentage of education funding isn’t because we haven’t kept contributing. It’s because they keep increasing their budgets, wracking students with tuition hikes to cover administrative extravagance. All the while, blue chip private schools amass endowments the size of some national budgets, raising the top line for tuition rates.

I don’t resent a young man or woman having their college debt forgiven. What I resent is that students yet to come will be marched into the same financial minefield. The only thing different is that we have carried off some of its wounded. The system is still broken.

When we lose sight of the purpose of higher education — the idea that it will produce productive citizens in a functioning democracy — we are funding a product, not a process. To paraphrase Thoreau, we are building our castles in the air, where they ought to be, but failing to put the foundations under them.

The reform of America’s system of higher education will require more than a one-time bailout that gives schools no incentive to lower their costs. We need a systemic restructuring that will take years to create. It’s not something that will be accomplished to meet a campaign promise in time for reelection.

Though any effort to solve this problem will be met with heavy resistance from Big Academia, it will be the right thing to do because young people will again live their dreams, not their debts. College will again be an education and not a transaction.

Op Ed: Corporate tax reform will make Pa. more competitive

Luke Bernstein, president and CEO of the PA Chamber, speaks at a PA Chamber press conference Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Lancaster city to laud the recent passage of a measure to reduce the state’s corporate net income tax. Pictured with him are state Sen. Ryan Aument, left, and state House Rep. Bryan Cutler

Thanks to bipartisan collaboration in the state Capitol that produced landmark tax reform legislation in July, Pennsylvania is set to embark upon a new path.

For decades, the commonwealth has languished as our uncompetitive tax climate drove investments and opportunities to other states. Despite all of the state’s wonderful attributes — prime location, world-class educational institutions, diverse geography, natural resources and strong work ethic — an unfavorable tax climate has held us back from reaching our full economic potential. But there is change on the horizon, thanks to a strong collaboration between the private sector and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to address Pennsylvania’s competitiveness and put the state on a positive trajectory.

Pennsylvania’s employer tax laws are set to undergo a major overhaul. This monumental tax reform package — which was enacted as part of the 2022-23 state budget agreement — takes a holistic, global approach to improving the state’s tax structure. With overarching goals of simplifying the tax code and making Pennsylvania more competitive with other states, there are elements that will benefit businesses of all sizes and increase opportunities for working families in the state.

One major component of the newly implemented tax reform addresses the state’s corporate net income tax rate, which at 9.99% is the second-highest rate in the country, behind only New Jersey, and serves as a barrier to growth. The tax reform package cuts the rate in half over the course of nine years — starting with a 10% reduction in 2023 to 8.99, with a 50% reduction to 4.99 by 2031. Based on current state corporate tax rates, once the law is fully implemented, Pennsylvania will go from imposing one of the highest corporate net income tax rates to having one of the 10 lowest in the country.

The benefits of that reduction go far beyond just improving the state’s business climate. Studies have shown that a decrease in the corporate tax rate leads to higher wages, increased home values, elevated gross domestic product and the creation of family-sustaining jobs. This long-needed reduction — which is the first change in the rate since 1995 — will give Pennsylvania’s economy a vigorous boost as we recover from this pandemic. For far too long, young professionals have left the state in search of better opportunities — often to states with policies more favorable to business formation and expansion. These professionals then start a family and invest in their communities, while their hometowns here languish. Pennsylvania now has a chance to reverse this trend by increasing economic activity in the state and affording graduates the chance to stay home or move back.

Small businesses in the commonwealth will also benefit from the tax reform package. Pennsylvania’s small businesses will now have the opportunity to defer state personal income tax liabilities through “like-kind exchanges” in which property is exchanged for similar property. That will provide employers with more resources to reinvest back in their businesses, stay competitive and create jobs. Previously, Pennsylvania was the only state in the country that did not offer this type of deferral.

An additional measure makes it easier for small business owners to buy equipment and invest into their businesses by allowing them to deduct the full purchase price of qualifying equipment, consistent with federal law. These changes will bring Pennsylvania in line with other states and federal tax law, and will level the playing field for entrepreneurs looking to start a business here.

The tax reform package was enacted at a critical juncture for our commonwealth, as economic headwinds forecast a challenging time ahead with continued rising interest rates, inflation and the potential for a recession. These reforms will provide relief for job creators, allowing for greater investment back into their businesses, employees and communities.

Tax reform isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s not even just a business issue. It’s a Pennsylvania issue. The competitiveness — or lack thereof — of a state’s tax climate has major ripple effects, impacting jobs, wages and opportunities within our local communities. And by working to improve the commonwealth’s overall competitiveness, we are working to build a stronger future for all Pennsylvanians — a future that embraces opportunity and growth.

The 2022 tax reform package is the first step in achieving this future. It is an example of the positive change that can happen when we work together for Pennsylvania. By putting partisan differences aside and encouraging cooperation between the private and public sectors, we are showing the world that Pennsylvania is open for business. It’s time to write a new chapter in Pennsylvania’s story.

Working together we can do just that.

State Sen. Ryan Aument is a Republican from West Hempfield Township and secretary of the state Senate Republican Caucus. State House Speaker Bryan Cutler is a Republican from Drumore Township. Luke Bernstein is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

PA Chamber, Business Leaders Applaud State Lawmakers, Wolf Administration for Improving PA’s Competitiveness With Bipartisan Tax Reform Package

The PA Chamber welcomed members of the Lancaster state legislative delegation, representatives from the Wolf administration and state and local business leaders today for a business roundtable and press conference at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce that focused on how Pennsylvania’s recently enacted state tax reform package will improve Pennsylvania’s competitiveness and chart a new course for the Commonwealth’s economy.

“We’re here as proof that with bipartisan collaboration and a strong partnership between the public and private sector, we can accomplish great things for the Commonwealth,” PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein said. “This tax reform package is an important first step in driving Pennsylvania’s competitiveness in a forward direction and showing the world that we’re open for business.  We thank the Wolf administration and the General Assembly for prioritizing these much-needed changes to the state’s tax structure.  Working Together for PA, we look forward to building on this momentum to help Pennsylvania realize its true economic potential.”

“These reforms to Pennsylvania’s tax code are a major step in making the Commonwealth more competitive, encouraging our businesses to expand, and bringing more investment and opportunity to the state,” said Heather Valudes, President and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber. “We know Lancaster County is a wonderful place to live – with a more competitive tax code, our region will also be an even better place to start a business. We are pleased to have worked with the Lancaster County legislative delegation, the governor’s office and state business leaders to make these much needed reforms a reality.”

The tax reform package – which was enacted as part of the 2022-23 budget agreement – includes a long overdue reduction to the state’s Corporate Net Income Tax rate from 9.99 percent to 4.99 percent – cutting it in half over the course of nine years.  Based on current state corporate tax rates, once the law is fully implemented, Pennsylvania will go from imposing one of the nation’s highest CNIT tax rates, to the 8th lowest in the country. 

Said Rep. Bryan Cutler, Speaker of the House (R-100), “It is more important than ever to make sure our job creators have an environment to thrive and push back on the impacts of inflation. As we heard from leaders in Lancaster County today, the steps this budget takes are just the beginning, and I look forward to continuing to work to turn the tide of inflation to help Pennsylvanians in all corners of the Commonwealth.”

“Improving our tax structure and business climate in Pennsylvania will have a ripple effect across every community and job sector by creating more high-paying jobs, enabling working class Pennsylvanians to experience earned success and upward mobility, and allowing our Commonwealth to compete nationally and globally for economic opportunity,” said Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36).

The benefits of a more competitive business tax code go far beyond improving the state’s business climate.  Studies have shown that decreasing the CNIT leads to increased GDP, higher wages and increased home values, all of which create family sustaining jobs and attract and retain new talent.

The tax package also includes relief for small businesses that the PA Chamber has long sought for its members, affording businesses the opportunity to defer personal income tax liabilities through “like-kind exchanges” of certain property. This provision allows employers to invest in the job-creating assets businesses need to stay competitive. Previously, Pennsylvania was the only state in the country that did not offer this type of deferral. An additional component of the package aligns the state Tax Code with federal tax law by allowing small businesses to deduct qualifying equipment purchases from personal income tax liabilities, just as federal tax law provides for under Section 179. This change makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and invest, which in turn promotes job growth.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we’re pleased that this tax reform package includes significant measures to incentivize investment by small businesses in the state,” said Lisa Riggs, President of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County. “Our team works hard every day to expand opportunity in our region, and these reforms give us a greater ability to make that happen. By putting Pennsylvania on track to be more competitive than other states in the region on tax policy, Lancaster County’s small businesses and entrepreneurs can focus on investing in their people, operations and communities.”    

These important updates to the state’s tax structure will improve Pennsylvania’s competitiveness by bringing the Commonwealth in line with other states and federal tax law and leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs looking to start a business here.

“Our goal with the Governor’s Action Team and the Department of Community and Economic Development is to champion new and expanded investment and opportunity in this state,” said Brent Vernon, Executive Director for the Governor’s Action Team. “We are proud to have worked with the PA Chamber and legislators on both sides of the aisle to accomplish these monumental changes and make Pennsylvania an even better place to do business. Our state is open for business, and we look forward to taking this message to entrepreneurs and business leaders across the country and around the world.”

VIDEO:  Full News Conference

Aument Applauds SCOTUS Ruling

HARRISBURG – Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion:

“I attended my first March for Life in Washington, D.C. in 1993 – 20 years after Roe v. Wade was decided. We’ve been waiting 49 years for this moment, where we the people can finally protect the unborn!

“Consider the 15-week law at issue in Dobbs. At 15 weeks an unborn baby can suck her thumb, has fully formed eyes, lips, nose, and mouth, and can feel excruciating pain. This SCOTUS decision finally gives power to the states and voters to advance human rights and protect vulnerable lives.

“But as we celebrate this good news, know that Pennsylvania’s State Supreme Court may be on the brink of making the same error that SCOTUS made in Roe v. Wade — taking away the power of the people to protect unborn children and setting abortion policy through the courts. A case before our state’s supreme court asks the justices to find a right to taxpayer funded abortion — and abortion itself — in Pennsylvania’s constitution. Such a ruling could even result in abortions after six months.

“That’s why I support Senate Bill 956, a proposed constitutional amendment that will allow the people through their elected representatives, rather than the courts, to set abortion policy.”

 

CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

Aument Bill to Attract More Employers and Residents to PA Passes Senate

Pro-growth policy to create family-sustaining jobs and expand economic opportunity for all Pennsylvanians advances

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) to incentivize more people and employers to move to Pennsylvania received bipartisan support from the Senate today.

Senate Bill 771 would gradually reduce the state’s Corporate Net Income (CNI) Tax from its current rate of 9.99% to 6.99% by 2024 to attract new employers and promote economic growth. The rate could then be further reduced only if it meets or exceeds the revenue projections for 2024 at the 9.99% rate.

After the results of the 2020 Census showed that Pennsylvania’s population growth has lagged behind most other states, Pennsylvania was stripped of yet another seat in Congress. This is a continuation of the Commonwealth losing at least one Congressional seat in all of the last 10 censuses, beginning in 1930.

“Not only is the state’s inability to retain residents or attract new ones costing us political influence in Washington, it also separates families as younger generations pursue jobs in other states with greater promise of upward mobility,” Aument said. “Reducing our state’s CNI tax would directly address our ongoing issues with outbound migration while also providing real, tangible benefits to Commonwealth residents.”

Research shows that in addition to creating better job opportunities and a more favorable business climate, lowering a state’s CNI tax rate:

  • Increases population by incentivizing more people to move here,
  • Elevates home values in local communities,
  • Raises workers’ wages, and
  • Does so without negatively impacting state revenue.

“My focus has always been on policies that will position Pennsylvanians for economic success and upward mobility for generations to come,” added Aument. “The benefits of a CNI tax cut will reach beyond the next few months and ensure Pennsylvania not only recovers from the financial hardships of this recession in the near term, but also thrives in the long term.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

WEBPAGE: CNI Reduction

CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

 

Sen. Aument Offers Prayers for Victims, Families of Texas School Shooting, Proposes Bill to Increase Access to Mental Health Resources

State Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) on the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate.

Aument vows to introduce bill to increase funding for schools & communities to improve access to mental health resources

(HARRISBURG) – In response to the tragic mass shooting in an Uvalde, Texas elementary school that left 19 children and 2 adults dead and many more wounded, State Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) released the following statement:

“In moments like these, it is sometimes hard to sufficiently express our feelings while respecting those so deeply impacted, and I felt like the first words that came to my mind were not adequate for the moment. After some prayer, time with family, and reflection on the horrific scene from Tuesday, I felt ready to share my thoughts.

“As the parent of two elementary school-aged children, I am horrified and deeply saddened by the news of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting. Every parent should be able to trust that their child will be safe within the walls of any public or private school in this country, but incidents like these rob us all of that sense of security. Like many parents, I hugged my children just a little tighter when I dropped them off at school this morning. I, along with every other American, mourn the tremendous loss of young life that occurred this week. My family and I will be praying for the families and loved ones of those impacted by this tragedy.

“Sadly, the profile of the 18-year-old who committed this heinous crime is not unfamiliar. He appears to have been a teenager from a broken home, bullied as a child, isolated and immersed in video games and virtual reality. Time and time again we see the consequences of a broken home, social alienation, and an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. Never has the role of family, faith-based institutions, and community been more important.

“The nationwide increase of these violent incidents is something we as a country and as elected officials cannot ignore. And, as I’ve long argued, it’s not an issue that will be resolved by partisan bickering, finger pointing, or divisive tactics. Corrosive rhetoric from those in power seeks only to divide us for personal political gain and is not productive in resolving any of the challenges that confront us as a society. Our success depends on our ability to listen, seek understanding, and work together. Far more unites us than divides us.

“One such area that I believe we can reach consensus on is increased access to mental health resources for school students. While I am proud of the recent action the Pennsylvania General Assembly has taken to provide grant funding to schools to improve security measures and hire additional counselors, create a school threat reporting and monitoring system, and require regular assessments of school security protocols and safety trainings for school personnel – we are still hearing from school districts and communities that it isn’t enough.

“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. If we are to provide meaningful support to students, school districts, and communities in an effort to prevent further tragedies, I believe we must increase funding specifically for mental health services in schools.

As I’ve said before, increasing access to vital mental health resources and highly qualified counselors to guide students through difficult moments will help target the root cause of this violence.

“At the end of the day, little else matters more to many of us than the overall wellbeing of our children. In moments like these where our sense of security is shaken by violence, I believe we must act on those solutions where consensus is possible. As such, I will be introducing a bill in the near future to accomplish this goal of increased funding to improve access to mental health resources in Pennsylvania schools and communities, and I will be advocating for its immediate inclusion in this year’s state budget.”

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Sen. Aument Op-Ed: School Safety

Sen. Aument Op-Ed: Hate Only Thrives Where We Let It

PA Senate GOP Webpage: Senate Moves to Improve School Safety & Provide Districts More Resources, Options

 

CONTACT:  Stephanie Applegate