In this Update:
Transparency: Senate Expenses to be Posted Online Beginning Sept. 1
The Pennsylvania Senate has developed a new reporting system to make all Senate expenses available to the public online beginning on Sept. 1.
The information will include all office leases, per diems, reimbursements for meals and lodging, supplies, mileage, office maintenance and much more. The information will be available on a new webpage, which will be updated monthly by the Chief Clerk and will apply to all Senate offices — Republican, Democrat, Independent and institutional.
The Senate’s new expense transparency system will build on existing good government measures in state government, including:
Aument Focuses Legislative Efforts on Economic Competitiveness
Pennsylvania needs a two-pronged approach to boost prosperity for working-class families across the Commonwealth – we must reform our education system while simultaneously exploring forward-thinking economic reforms. Once we implement policies to better prepare our students to meet the demands of the current and future job market, we must ensure that those job openings are here in Pennsylvania and not in competing states. Therefore, we must also incentivize employers offering high-quality, well-paying careers to establish themselves in our state while at the same time preparing our children to fill those jobs.
This is how we make Pennsylvania more economically competitive, not just nationally, but internationally as well. My focus in Harrisburg has been on doing just that – creating a legislative agenda to increase Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness.
By focusing my legislative efforts on increasing Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness through a multi-faceted approach that includes lowering our CNI tax rate, redesigning our education system and creating a long-term vision for education, addressing the student loan debt crisis, and reforming the state’s role in higher education funding, I hope that we can build a stronger Pennsylvania where entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic opportunity can thrive – a Pennsylvania where each and every resident has the opportunity to experience earned success and upward economic mobility.
Learn more about my proposals to accomplish each of these goals by clicking on the corresponding links in the previous paragraph or visiting my website at www.senatoraument.com.
Hearing Examines COVID-19 Policies for the 2021-22 School Year
With the start of the new school year approaching, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on COVID-19 policies and guidance for Pennsylvania schools.
The committee questioned Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, Education Secretary Noe Ortega and Acting Deputy Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Sherri Smith. Committee members questioned the constitutional authority for school districts to impose pandemic-related mandates on students without an emergency declaration.
You can view the hearing and read testimony here.
Pennsylvania’s Education System Should Teach the Skills Students Will Need to Succeed in the Future Job Market
A redesign of Pennsylvania’s education system is long overdue. While we have much to be proud of here in Pennsylvania, we also have a lot of room for progress.
Our education system was designed for a bygone era and is no longer adequately preparing students well for today, let alone tomorrow. Our system is simply outdated and no longer serving students well – or teachers, administrators, and parents, for that matter.
Fixing the problem will require restructuring this antiquated system with a more resilient, adaptable, and future-ready approach. In short, we need a long-term vision for education.
We need a more forward-thinking approach; we need to better align the skills our children learn in school with the needs of the current and future job market; we need to address the student loan debt crisis instead of continuing to ignore it and hoping it goes away; we need to control costs and make higher education more affordable and accessible; and we need to tackle these issues from every angle to ensure that we are reforming our system in a holistic way that will enable our students to go on to enjoy fulfilling work, stable incomes, and lifelong careers.
Learn more about my proposal to establish a 2030 Commission on Education & Economic Competitiveness in Pennsylvania to create this long-term vision here.
Exploring the Potential of Augmented Reality Technology in PA Farming
Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, providing a composite view. It’s increasingly used in manufacturing and the military and its potential to aid farmers is great.
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee held an informational meeting this week to explore how augmented reality technology can be applied to Pennsylvania farming.
The panel learned that the technology can be used for monitoring fields, repairing equipment, training new farmers, and more. You can view the presentation here.
Federal Unemployment Benefit Programs End Sept. 4
Reminder for affected Pennsylvanians: Federal unemployment benefit programs, including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), will end Sept. 4.
The state’s regular unemployment compensation program and those receiving benefits from it are unaffected.
Individuals currently enrolled in PEUC and PUA can take advantage of free jobseeker services offered through PA CareerLink. These services include access to a free job database, resume assistance, information about reskilling opportunities and more. To schedule an appointment, contact your local PA CareerLink office listed here.
Senate Citation Presentation for Maguire Younes Earning Eagle Scout Rank
In June, I had the pleasure of presenting a young constituent, Maguire J. Younes, with an official Senate of Pennsylvania citation for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest advancement rank available in the Boy Scouts of America. The Eagle Scout rank is only attained by a small percentage of all Boy Scouts and it is a monumental achievement representing the great sacrifice and tremendous efforts made by those who earn it.
A member of Troop 349 in Mountville, Maguire has served his troop as Senior Patrol Leader and is a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. For his Eagle Scout community service project, Maguire constructed five street games and two wooden ticket booths for the Rubber Duckie Race, an annual fundraiser supporting the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development.
Congratulations to Maguire for earning the rank of Eagle Scout! The Senate of Pennsylvania commends him on the outstanding work he has done to earn this prestigious honor and wishes him continued success in all future endeavors.
Senate Helps Open Agritourism to More Farmers
Agritourism includes farm markets, pick-your-own produce, corn mazes, paintball, petting zoos, hayrides and farm tours. They can make the difference between having a positive year on the ledger or ending up in the red, especially for small family farmers.
The Senate approved the Agritourism Activity Protection Act to create a statewide standard for agritourism and provide limited civil liability protection for persons who offer agritourism activities on a farm and meet requirements.
The legislation was returned to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Legislative Review: Supporting Emergency Responders
The police, fire and rescue, and EMS organizations that lead local emergency response are critical components for ensuring public safety. The Senate passed several bills in 2021 to support the men and women who support our communities.
Senate Resolution 96 directs the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee to conduct a performance audit on Pennsylvania’s critical 9-1-1 System and make recommendations in advance of the reauthorization of the 9-1-1 Law.
Senate Bill 36 provides for license fee exemptions for service dogs used by a fire department, sheriff’s office or in the performance of rescue services or medical emergency services.
Senate Bill 83 creates grants to establish fire training programs for students in high school.
Senate Bill 158 provides for medals of commendation for law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel.
Senate Bill 243 allows volunteer fire departments, veterans organizations and other non-profits to conduct small games of chance fundraisers online until May 1, 2022 to make up for fundraising revenue lost during the pandemic.
You can find a full list of bills of note passed by the Senate in 2021 here.