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 Republicans Introduce Bill to Eliminate Election Drop Boxes Citing Evidence of Misuse
Senate Republicans have introduced a proposal that will require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. The proposal, Senate Bill 1200, is part of continuing efforts to increase the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election system.
Drop boxes were first used in Pennsylvania when they were written into law by the courts, without authorization from the Legislature, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What the courts claimed was meant to be a temporary solution during the pandemic is now a permanent issue wrought with consequences, including a lack of proper guidelines or security measures to govern the use of these drop boxes.
Since the introduction of drop boxes in 2020, there have been numerous examples from around the state proving they breed misuse (click here to view examples).
Ballot harvesting – the act of depositing anyone’s ballot that isn’t your own into a drop box without written permission – is a crime punishable by a third-degree misdemeanor, and conviction can result in a fine not exceeding $2,500, or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both under current law. Intentional or unintentional, misusing these drop boxes is a crime – period.
Restoring security, transparency, and consistency in our election process will help Pennsylvanians regain trust in results and in the system.
My Bill to Clean Up Voter Registration Records Advances
Senator Aument speaks before the Senate State Government Committee in favor of his bill to require regular audits of voter registration data.
The Senate State Government Committee advanced a proposal I sponsored that will help reconcile any errors, duplicate files, or irregularities within Pennsylvania’s voter registration records and institute policies to ensure the accuracy of voter registration records moving forward. I introduced the bill as part of my continuing efforts to increase the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election system.
Senate Bill 1018 will incorporate into statute the recommendations made by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in his 2019 audit report of the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE). SURE is the system the Department of State uses to maintain a complete list of all registered voters in the Commonwealth.
My bill will prohibit the Department of State, PennDOT, and counties from withholding information necessary to conduct a full and comprehensive audit, and it will require an independent audit of the SURE system be conducted annually.
Read more about the bill, which now moves to the full Senate for consideration, here.
State Court Blocks Gov. Wolf’s $781 Million Carbon Tax Pending Further Order
In a win for Pennsylvania consumers and workers, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court this week ruled Gov. Tom Wolf’s $781 million carbon tax could not take effect pending a full order from the court.
The ruling came a day after Republicans stood united in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of the resolution that disapproves of Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The effort came up one vote short when Democrats voted against the state’s economic interests in favor of a policy that will spike residential electricity bills 30% and kill 22,000 jobs.
Just last week, impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) concluded RGGI could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers above the administration’s own year-old projections for the program. The IFO also warned members “those costs would be pushed through to final customers.”
As for environmental benefits, multiple independent reports show emissions from Pennsylvania’s power sector declined at a comparable rate to the other 10 RGGI states over the last decade.
The Wolf Administration is attempting to enter this pact through the regulatory process without the approval of the legislature. Every other participating state entered RGGI through the legislative process – not unilateral executive action. A bipartisan majority of legislators has consistently voted against RGGI when the issue has been brought to the floor for a vote.
Politicizing the Teacher Shortage is Wrong and It Only Hurts Our Children
Pennsylvania has a teacher shortage that – if left unaddressed – will force our children to contend with overcrowded classrooms, impersonal instruction, less access to courses and programs they’re offered now, and less time for our most vulnerable students to receive help.
I sponsored a bill to help get more highly-qualified teachers into Pennsylvania classrooms, but some have misinterpreted or been intentionally dishonest about the plain language of the bil and the intent behind its introduction.
To be clear, the bill DOES NOT:
Senate Bill 99 will help fill the vacancies at our local Lancaster County schools, as well as schools across the state, with highly qualified candidates through programs that help attract more students into the teaching profession. Any narrative that suggests this bill is anything more than that is simply not true.
Click here for more information about what the bill does and does not do.
Senate Committee Passes My Bill and Others in Crime Package
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced five bills, including one I co-prime sponsored with Sen. Lisa Baker to modernize the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act.
The program provides confidentiality to those making the courageous decision to leave an abusive relationship. Survivors are given a legal, substitute mailing address they can use whenever their residential, work, or school address is required. All first class, certified, and registered mail is received at this alternate location and then forwarded to the survivor’s address, free of charge.
Senate Bill 1179 would allow applications and supporting documents to be filed electronically and expand the eligibility list to include victims of child abduction or human trafficking.
Other bills that the committee passed this week include:
The bills now move to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Votes to Expand Sexual Assault Law to Cover Crimes Against Care-Dependent Pennsylvanians
The Senate voted to expand the law against institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care-dependent individuals, closing a loophole that allows perpetrators to escape punishment.
Current law against sexual assault applies to institutions such as prisons, schools and law enforcement. It is premised on the fact that truly consensual sexual acts are not possible where someone is in a position of power over another.
Passage of Senate Bill 704 recognizes the same power disparity exists between caretakers and those in their care. Such individuals face additional challenges to reporting sexual abuse due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles.
Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault eliminates the loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim the victim consented. Senate Bill 704 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault is just the latest action taken by the General Assembly to stand together against this vile crime.
In recent years, lawmakers enacted measures strengthening the rights of sexual assault survivors and bolstering their ability to obtain justice.
Need help? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider.
Grants Available to Help Drug and Alcohol Recovery Houses
Effective treatment for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder is essential for healthy communities. State grants are available to help recovery houses with facility upgrades to comply with federal, state, and local laws and receive a state license.
Grants up to $50,000 for a 12-month period beginning July 1 will be awarded to eligible applicants for health and safety upgrades including demolition, debris removal, rehabilitation improvements, environmental remediation costs, and construction and inspections to comply with state regulations.
Applicants must meet several qualifications to be eligible. More information is available here.
Best Wishes to Local Police Officer in Retirement
Cpl. James Gardill of the West Hempfield Township Police Department recently retired after more than 32 years of service to the community. During his career, he received numerous awards and accolades, including the department’s Life Saving Award in 2010 and 2020, as well as the Officer of the Year award in 2020. He also served as the Lancaster County DUI coordinator for the Center for Traffic Safety for more than a decade.
Gardill served the community with distinction, and I appreciated the opportunity to thank and wish him well in retirement.
Constituents Visit the Capitol
Lancaster County farmers are not only the backbone of our local economy, but they also put delicious, locally grown, and healthy food on our tables. It was a pleasure talking with some Lancaster County farmers at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau lunch.
Students from East Petersburg Elementary School visited the State Capitol to tour the building and learn about state government. State Rep. Mindy Fee and I were pleased to meet the students and show them around.
I enjoyed meeting with Donegal High School grad and current Penn State student Mitchell Scordo at our State Capitol. I last met Mitchell when he participated in my Senator for a Day Program back in 2018.
It was great to meet and talk with students who were visiting the State Capitol from Dayspring Christian Academy in Mountville. The students were there to tour the historic building and meet their local representatives.