Thank you for subscribing to my E-newsletter. I am honored to serve the 36th Senatorial District and look forward to working with you toward building a stronger Pennsylvania. This E-newsletter serves to keep you updated on what is happening throughout Lancaster County and what I am doing as your State Senator in Harrisburg – I hope that you find it helpful! Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please DO NOT reply to this email; instead, please feel free to contact me here.
In this Update:
Senate Sends Bill Protecting Right to Bear Arms to Governor
Legislation to ensure Pennsylvanians’ Second Amendment rights are protected statewide was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor.
While state law already prohibits municipalities from enacting their own gun laws, some have chosen to break that law.
House Bill 979 would deter local implementation of illegal ordinances by holding offending jurisdictions financially responsible for attorney fees and costs, as well as any lost income, for a person who successfully challenges such an ordinance.
The measure is similar to legislation I co-sponsored that passed the Senate in November.
Firearm ownership is a Constitutional right that should not be subject to infringement or questioning. Gov. Tom Wolf should heed the provisions of the constitutions of both the United States and Pennsylvania and sign House Bill 979.
PA’s Business Climate Needs Work
While businesses everywhere took a hit because of the pandemic, Pennsylvania had challenges even before that. We aren’t nearly as hospitable to employers as we should be, as evidenced by our ranking as the 22nd state in the country for business climate by Site Selection, a trade magazine that is the source of conventional wisdom for CEOs seeking places to expand.
While Gov. Tom Wolf’s arbitrary pandemic response obviously hurt businesses, pre-pandemic manufacturing figures showed Pennsylvania was losing jobs while other states were gaining them. Of course, the loss and growth isn’t limited simply to manufacturing. Rather, adjacent industries needed to sustain the new manufacturing jobs, such as hotels and restaurants, are impacted, as well.
We’ve seen it in Beaver County with the Shell ethane “cracker” plant, as the local economy benefitted significantly from the 8,500 new family-sustaining jobs the plant boasted pre-pandemic. In just a decade, the area gained more than seven times the number of hotels to address the workers’ housing needs, and local restaurants had their best years on record. The influx of capital undoubtedly had a very positive broader economic impact.
By addressing the uncertainty and even outright hostility employers face in the Commonwealth, we can attract businesses that are otherwise setting up shop elsewhere.
Senate Committee Reviews My Small Business Assistance Bills
In defense of small businesses that were hurt by Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 business closures, I sponsored legislation that would provide them much-needed support. While we may feel like we’re finally transitioning out of the worst of the pandemic, it will take the small businesses that drive our local economy and provide our communities with jobs much longer.
Last week, I testified before the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee in support of Senate Bill 983, which would offer no-interest loans to employers that were shut down by Gov. Wolf’s orders. The temporary program would be funded through a long-term bond, of which rates are at record lows.
At the hearing, I also spoke in favor of another bill I sponsored. Senate Bill 984 would create a temporary business improvement tax credit program that would give thriving businesses the opportunity to donate to struggling small businesses. In return, that employer would receive a tax credit worth 50% of the donation from their state taxes.
Learn more about the feedback the bills received from the committee and other testifiers here.
These bills are part of a larger effort I’ve made to prioritize PA small businesses. Read more here about the initiative.
Wolf Uses Executive Order to Raise Minimum Wage
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf continued yet again to govern via executive order instead of through consensus. This time, he raised the minimum wage for all Commonwealth agencies.
Regardless of what you believe the impact of raising the minimum wage would be on our families and communities, a unilateral decision to mandate an ongoing increase is the wrong decision. The governor should be working with the General Assembly, especially when there’s a direct financial impact on taxpayers. Now, we will have to work even harder to block tax increases while Gov. Wolf recklessly raises costs on his own.
Gov. Wolf issued more than 50 executive orders during his time in office compared to an average of just 16 from the previous four administrations. What’s worse is only two of Wolf’s orders were related to the pandemic, despite his claim that the significant increase was simply his tactic to control COVID-19.
Using executive orders to circumvent the will of the people gives far too much power to one person, regardless of his or her party. Learn more about my proposals to address this problem.
Continuing the Revitalization in the Borough of Columbia
I recently celebrated the kick-off of a project to rehabilitate and renovate two historic, blighted buildings that were once hotels in the Borough of Columbia. The $10 million investment will create 37 market rate apartments and two commercial storefronts without any grants or government funding. It is a wonderful example of how the free market can breathe new life into our communities and the local economy.
Do You Support Abortion Funding in PA?
As your State Senator, I am always focused on learning about the priorities of the people who live in the 36th District. Those perspectives guide how I vote on legislation that has the potential to impact how we live our daily lives. Taking an active role in your government helps it serve you as effectively as possible, and it doesn’t need to take much of your time.
For example, I invite you to take a one-question survey about abortion and abortion funding in Pennsylvania on my website. As you likely know, the topic has been a point of conversation in Harrisburg lately.
Please click here to submit your feedback.
Schools Have New Tool to Ease Substitute Teacher Shortage
The General Assembly recently passed Act 91 to help schools find substitute teachers to fill critical staffing shortages caused by the pandemic. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released guidelines for schools to follow in taking advantage of the law.
Act 91 provides additional pathways for quality individuals to pursue and complete certifications and enter the educator workforce. Specifically, the law creates a new Classroom Monitor Permit for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. A classroom monitor may be employed to provide coverage and deliver preplanned assignments in classrooms. A classroom monitor may not plan lessons or create or grade student work.
An individual receiving a Classroom Monitor Permit must satisfy the following requirements as outlined in Act 91:
Additional consideration should be taken when determining if a classroom monitor should work with students with disabilities. Schools can find more information and resources about the changes under Act 91 on the department’s Certification Services website.
Grants Available for Community Learning Centers
Organizations may now submit their intent to apply for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program, which provides funding to support community learning centers that provide academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families.
Eligible organizations include public school districts, charter schools, private schools, nonprofit agencies, city or county government agencies, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, for-profit corporations and others.
Programs must take place during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session to help students attending high-poverty and low-performing schools to meet state and local standards in core academic subjects. Centers must also offer students a broad array of activities that can complement their regular academic programs and literacy and other educational services to their families. How to apply.
Help for Students to Acquire Skills in High Demand by Employers
Financial assistance is available to help students learn skills in high demand by today’s employers in energy, health, advanced materials and diversified manufacturing, and agriculture and food production.
The PA Targeted Industry Program, created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2012, provides need-based awards up to $5,000. Approved veteran applicants may receive up to 100% of the student’s total educational costs or the max award, whichever is less. Awards can be used to cover tuition, books, fees, supplies and a $4,000 living expense allowance.
Students must have received a high school diploma, GED or recognized homeschool certificate. Students who have completed a bachelor’s or graduate degree are still eligible to apply for assistance. Information and Applications
Senate Committee Activity is Streamed and Stored Online
Last year, the Senate held nearly 330 public meetings and hearings that were streamed live from the Capitol and locations across Pennsylvania. You can find them all, plus 2022’s committee activity, here.
The Senate’s 23 standing committees, ranging from Aging and Youth to Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness, are where legislation is vetted, debated and, if necessary, altered before being considered by the full Senate. Committee hearings bring citizens, experts and other interested parties together for public presentations on various topics.
Now Online: 2022 Trout Stocking Schedule
The 2022 adult trout stocking schedule is now available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The trout stocking schedule is searchable by county, lists the waterways in alphabetical order, and indicates stocking dates, meeting locations for volunteers and the species of trout that will be stocked.
In 2022, Pennsylvania will return to a single, statewide Opening Day of Trout Season on the first Saturday in April, which is April 2. A single, statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day will take place on Saturday, March 26. Under this change, which will result in a longer regular season for trout statewide, the practice of holding a separate regional opening day and mentored youth day for Pennsylvania’s 18 southeastern counties will no longer occur.
To accommodate the earlier statewide trout season, preseason trout stocking operations are set to begin the week of Feb. 21.