In this Update:
Honoring Those Who Gave All this Memorial Day
I hope you will join me in taking time this weekend to remember our fellow citizens who gave their lives for our nation. Even with everything that has occurred throughout the last year, we can say we live in the greatest nation on earth. Our independence was hard-won, and defended by those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Let us never forget what they did for us.
Aument Introduces Bill to Suspend & Fix No-Excuse Mail-In Ballots
To address the procedural issues voters experienced in the two most recent elections since no-excuse mail-in ballots were introduced in Pennsylvania, I circulated a cosponsor memo for legislation that would suspend the use of no-excuse mail-in ballots until spring 2023 or until elected leaders make necessary adjustments to Act 77 of 2019.
Long before the 2020 general election and the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers have continually heard concerns from voters and election officials alike and leaders on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged issues that necessitate a change in the law.
We must fix these inadequacies, because regardless of your party affiliation or political beliefs, the bottom line is that all Americans absolutely must have faith in our elections and any action that we as elected officials can take to restore that confidence is appropriate.
Every legal voter should have the opportunity to cast their ballot without the fear that their vote will be disregarded, mishandled, lost, or manipulated.
Learn more about the proposal here.
A Collaborative Task Force Should Be the Standard During Future Emergencies
Thank you to everyone who participated in my April 15 e-newsletter survey question, the results of which are above.
In the primary election earlier this month, Pennsylvania voters approved two constitutional amendments that will improve the way the state responds to emergencies by restoring the necessary checks and balances that are foundational to our form of democracy and clearing the way for true bipartisan cooperation to occur.
Now that the people of Pennsylvania have spoken, many are wondering what happens next.
Lawmakers must begin the steps to adopt a better way to handle emergencies that ensures accountability and collaboration across all branches and levels of government.
Due to the proven success of the Joint COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, Senator John Yudichak (I-14) and I introduced legislation that would bring more collaboration and transparency to the process of responding to emergencies by automatically creating a special bipartisan task force to work with the governor whenever an emergency is declared to determine the best way to handle problems that arise.
You can learn more about the bill here.
Senator Aument Speaks About Economic Opportunity at Lancaster Chamber Events in Marietta & Ephrata
I appreciated the opportunity to discuss policies that we must prioritize if we are to get Pennsylvanians back to work, create new jobs, and expand economic opportunity for all with Lancaster Chamber members this past week in Marietta and Ephrata.
One of those priorities must be the reduction of Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax (CNI). I intend to introduce legislation very soon that would establish a performance-based CNI reduction. Learn more about this proposal here.
We also discussed the Prioritize PA: Small Businesses initiative I’ve joined with my colleagues Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28), and Judy Ward (R-30), as well as my Small Business Assistance Package. Both are intended to revitalize our once-thriving small business community in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Finally, I shared information about two proposals I recently reintroduced to ease the strain of the student loan debt crisis on current students and graduates by allowing borrowers to repay onerous student loans through the use of Income Share Agreements (ISAs). This approach emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility while also ensuring that taxpayers are not on the hook to repay a debt that isn’t theirs.
Senate Approves Regulatory Reform Measures to Spur Job Creation
With Pennsylvania’s employment rate lagging behind those of other states emerging from the pandemic, the Senate approved several bills this week to rein in job-stifling regulations.
The bills increase legislative oversight of a process too often influenced by unelected bureaucrats, adding special scrutiny for the costliest proposed regulations.
The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Measures Aimed at Improving Broadband Access Approved
The Senate approved two measures aimed at bringing high-speed broadband service to more areas of Pennsylvania.
One bill would remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment for landline telecommunications providers. The legislation would require the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to waive certain regulations, review regulations every three years and eliminate those that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.
A second measure would fund access to broadband by using revenue from renting excess wireless capacity on towers, land, and assets owned by the Commonwealth. The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Reminder: Changes Coming to Unemployment Compensation System Next Week
The state’s Unemployment Compensation system will complete a major upgrade next week that will require changes in the way that claimants will file for benefits. It is critical for claimants to understand the timeline and new process to file for benefits to avoid any interruption in payments.
The Unemployment Compensation system will be offline from May 30 through June 7 to allow data to be moved from the old system to the new one. No new claims will be processed during this time, and some services will not be accessible during this time. Claimants who are eligible to file a bi-weekly claim from June 3-7 can file May 30 through June 2.
Beginning on June 8, claimants must file for benefits and initial claims at benefits.uc.pa.gov following the same schedule as before. There will no longer be paper forms available; claimants will be required to create a Keystone ID to log into the new UC system. Claimants will still be able to file by phone starting June 10.
More information is available on the Department of Labor and Industry’s FAQ page.
Work Search Requirement for Unemployment Benefits to Resume
The Department of Labor and Industry announced that work search requirements for individuals receiving unemployment benefits will restart the week of July 11, with individuals to begin certifying on July 18 that they have looked for work during the previous week.
As pandemic business closures rocked the job market last year, the department suspended the requirement that claimants actively search for work and register with the PA CareerLink database. In January, without legislative approval or input, the department then extended the suspension indefinitely.
With the pandemic easing and employers desperate for workers, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved legislation to reinstate the job search and CareerLink requirements earlier. The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.
Rising Warwick Senior Marc Class Shadows Senator Aument at PA Capitol
It was a pleasure to host Marc Class, a rising senior at Warwick High School, at the PA Capitol earlier this week as my shadow for the day. Marc plays varsity tennis and golf, is a member of multiple clubs and organizations, including the Interact Club, Civics Club, Link Crew, Global Social Problems Club, and is also Vice President of the class of 2021. He currently works as a crew member and tunnel operator at a local car wash.
Marc has always had an interest in politics and wanted to learn more about what a typical day for a Pennsylvania State Senator is like. He accompanied me to important advocacy meetings with constituents and stakeholders, observed committee meetings, met my staff, and saw the legislative process in action.
After graduation, Marc intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance and then a master’s degree in Business Administration. Best of luck to Marc Class in his senior year at Warwick High School!
First 2021 “Fish for Free Day” is May 30
Pennsylvania’s Fish for Free Days are scheduled for May 30 and July 4 this year. They allow residents and non-residents to fish on PA waterways with no fishing license, trout/salmon permit or Lake Erie permit required. All other fishing regulations still apply.
It’s a great opportunity for families to try their hand at a new outdoor activity. Learn about where to borrow fishing tackle, where the best fishing waters are, and more, here.
Tips for Safe Boating
This is National Safe Boating Week, time for some friendly reminders on how to have fun on the water this summer: wear a lifejacket, check the weather forecast, let someone know you’re heading out, and don’t drink and boat.
You can find everything you need to know about boating in PA, including boat titling/registering, boating basics, regulations, safety courses and more here.
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