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 Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes and Private Funding of Election Operations
The Senate voted this week to safeguard the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections by approving two bills that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban private money to fund election operations. The measures were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
No More Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes
Senate Bill 1200 would 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.
Drop boxes were permitted by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in 2020, despite the fact that they were never authorized or intended by the General Assembly through the legislative process. Since that time, numerous examples of drop boxes being misused have been discovered throughout the state, including:
Eliminating unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are more than 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots.
Simply put – if we are to have free, fair, and secure elections throughout the Commonwealth, drop boxes must be eliminated.
Read more here.
Keep Outside Money Away from PA Election Process
Senate Bill 982 would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania.
The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election. Correspondence between CTCL officials, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that funding was intentionally directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.
Democrat-leaning counties were selectively invited to apply for the grants before Republican-leaning counties were even made aware of the funding. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election, while other counties received significantly less.
For example, Philadelphia received $8.83 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020. On the other side of the state, Venango County, with a Republican voter registration advantage, received only $.64 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.
It was never the intent of the legislature to establish rogue election facilities on public street corners with pop-up tents, or in cars, trucks, and vans and without Board of Elections oversight while allowing outside third party entities to pay for them in areas of their choice.
The steps the Senate took with SB 1200 and SB 982 are a significant step towards ensuring the vote of Pennsylvanians is secure.
Senate Boosts Crime Victim Protection and Support
The Senate approved a package of bills aiding crime victims by providing stronger protections, increasing support and improving access to services. I was pleased to work with my colleague, Senator Lisa Baker, on Senate Bill 1179, a proposal that extends the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act to give victims of child abduction and human trafficking access to substitute mailing addresses and allows applications for address confidentiality to be submitted electronically. It’s already incredibly difficult for victims of sexual and domestic violence to get to a place of safety and freedom, so our bill seeks to make that process simpler so victims can focus on healing and rebuilding their lives.
Other bills in the package included:
Senate Bill 118 expands Megan’s Law to require offenders convicted of any sex trafficking-related offenses to register.
Senate Bill 1040 requires law enforcement to make reasonable efforts to ensure a murder victim’s family has been notified before releasing the victim’s identity to the public and media.
Senate Bill 1172 expands access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to better provide quality care for victims. SANEs have specialized training in trauma and forensic nursing and are vital to a complete care system for survivors of sexual assault.
The bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration. Read more here.
Pennsylvania’s Teacher Shortage Needs Our Attention
Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage is too dire to ignore any longer without students facing consequences like overcrowded classrooms, impersonal instruction, and less access to courses and programs they’re offered now.
Statewide, the number of newly certified teachers has dropped by 63%. Lancaster County school administrators have said that the applicant pool is significantly less than it used to be and that some positions have remained unfilled all year.
We can all agree that our students deserve better, which is why I sponsored a bill to help get more highly-qualified teachers into Pennsylvania classrooms, including at our local Lancaster County schools.
Unfortunately, some have misinterpreted or been intentionally dishonest about the plain language of the bill and the intent behind its introduction.
To be clear, the bill DOES NOT:
I have strongly and consistently opposed diversity mandates, and as such, Senate Bill 99 absolutely does not implement them.
Click here for more information about what the bill does and does not do.
Fairness in Women’s Sports Act Passes Senate Committee
The Senate advanced a measure to establish the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, and I was pleased to vote in favor of its passage.
Senate Bill 1191 would prohibit students of the male sex, which the bill defines as the biological distinction between male and female based on reproductive biology and genetic make-up, from participating in athletic teams or sports that are designed for women or girls.
The bill would also prohibit a government entity or licensing, accrediting or athletic organization from entertaining a complaint, opening an investigation or taking adverse action against a school entity or public institution of higher education for maintaining separate teams or sports for students of the female sex.
Having received support from the Senate Education Committee, the bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
My Bill to Create Employment Opportunities, Attract Employers Advances
My bill to attract new employers and promote economic growth in the Commonwealth by gradually reducing the state’s corporate net income (CNI) tax rate using a performance-based mechanism unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee this week.
Senate Bill 771 would incrementally 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.
This performance-based mechanism only reduces the CNI tax to its lowest rate if the benefits equal or outweigh the costs of cutting the tax. Otherwise, the tax will not be further cut.
Lowering the CNI tax rate would make Pennsylvania attractive to businesses and families when compared to other states. New York’s and West Virginia’s CNI is 6.5%, and Virginia’s CNI is 6%. Currently, only New Jersey has a higher rate than Pennsylvania.
It is my hope that making Pennsylvania more economically competitive by lowering our CNI rate will benefit working class families, reverse our stagnant population growth, and ensure that Pennsylvania is an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family for generations to come.
Senate Bill 771 now advances to the full Senate for consideration. Read more about how reducing Pennsylvania’s CNI tax could benefit YOU here.
Legislation to Aid Rural Remote Working Passes Senate
Legislation to help more rural Pennsylvania communities establish remote workplace facilities was approved by the Senate. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 962 would create the Rural Co-Working and Innovation Centers Grant Program within the Department of Community and Economic Development to help rural communities create facilities equipped with high-speed broadband, furniture, and security systems for teleworkers.
According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 48 out of 67 counties and 1,592 municipalities are rural and could benefit from this program.
Senate Approves Measure to Encourage Responsible Solar Development, Protect Property Owners
The Senate approved a proposal that would establish decommissioning and financial requirements for solar generation projects going out of service and offer better protections for landowners.
Senate Bill 284 includes a graduated, phase-in process for financial assurances, setting up five-year benchmarks using third-party professional engineers to assess and calculate fair market value of the project and costs to decommission it.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter