In this Update:
Legislators Tour Lancaster County, Continue Discussions on Economic Competitiveness
It is always a pleasure to show off the beauty of Lancaster County to visiting Pennsylvania House and Senate colleagues. Last week, I hosted Representative Josh Kail (R-15) for a tour of Lititz Borough, TAIT Towers, Rock Lititz, the PA Renaissance Faire in Manheim, and a driving tour of Lancaster County farmland. Representative Kail and I have had many discussions about how we can collectively work to increase economic opportunity for Pennsylvanians and elevate our Commonwealth to a position of economic competitiveness on a national and even global scale.
By focusing our 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, we hope to 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.
Senators Introduce Sweeping Bipartisan Election Reform Legislation
After hearing from a variety of stakeholders including election officials in Pennsylvania and nationally from both parties, as well as the general public, the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform issued a report with several recommendations aimed at improving the election code. While some recommendations like Voter ID requirements have been addressed by other pieces of legislation, Senators Dave Argall (R-29) and Shariff Street (D-3) plan on introducing a bill to implement some of the other recommendations that have broader bipartisan support.
Their bill will address pre-canvassing, tracking, and counting mail-in ballots; application deadlines; eliminating the permanent mail-in list; real-time reporting of deceased voters; 24/7 drop box surveillance; and training election workers.
For more details on the specifics of this legislation, click here.
Legislative Review: Supporting Veterans
Pennsylvania is home to nearly 800,000 veterans in addition to active members of the military. Supporting these men and women, and their families, is a top priority. The Senate passed several bills this year to assist Pennsylvanians who served our nation.
Act 31 of 2021 extends employment protections to Pennsylvania citizens who are members of another state’s National Guard.
Act 55 of 2021 increases the maximum donation amounts to the Veterans’ Trust Fund from $3 to $5 when applying for or renewing a driver’s license, ID card or vehicle registration and from $6 to $10 when applying for a two-year vehicle registration.
Act 63 of 2021 adds a member of the State Veterans Commission to the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council.
Senate Bill 248 designates March 6 as Persian Gulf War Veterans Day and October 7 as Global War on Terrorism Veterans Day.
Senate Bill 486 provides members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve on active duty, as well as their spouses, preference for placement into job training programs for one year after discharge.
You can find a full list of bills of note passed by the Senate in 2021 here.
Public Hearing on Child Protective Services Law Revisions
Proposed changes to a state law aimed at protecting children from abuse was the topic of a Senate hearing this week.
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee took testimony on revisions to Pennsylvania’s child protective services law proposed by the state Department of Human Services. Among the changes would be the removal of time frames for the expungement of state records on child abuse cases.
Currently, state law requires that unfounded child protective services reports and invalid general protective services reports be expunged from the state database after one year and that validated general protective services reports be expunged after 10 years or until the youngest child in the report turns 23. The change is aimed at aiding efforts to identify children at risk of future abuse.
You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.
Education Financial Assistance Available to Eligible Children of Veterans
The Educational Gratuity Program provides financial assistance for those attending post-high school education or training at an approved institution in the Commonwealth.
The program supports children of honorably discharged veterans who have 100% service-connected disabilities and served during a period of war or armed conflict, or children of veterans who die or died in service during a period of war or armed conflict.& All applicants must have a financial need.
Payments will not exceed $500 per term or semester per qualified child to each approved educational institution over a total of eight terms or semesters. More information on the program and how to apply can be found here.
Senate Committee Tours Rock Lititz, Holds Hearing on Workforce Shortage
The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development (CERD) Committee held a hearing last month at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce on the Economic Impact of the Workforce Shortage. The committee heard testimony from the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, and local business owners.
A May 2021 survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that forty-nine percent of Americans who became unemployed during the pandemic said they are not actively or not very actively looking for work. John Longstreet, President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, testified that the shortage is exacerbated in the hospitality industry because it takes so many people to run a restaurant or a hotel. The restaurant business generates more jobs per dollar of revenue than virtually any other industry and is the third largest non-farm employer in the country.
Small businesses in Lancaster County and across this Commonwealth have already suffered immensely due to the restrictions and forced closures they had to endure throughout the pandemic, and now the workforce shortage threatens to delay their recovery even further. Anything that we as elected officials can do to help employers and employees get back on track and move our state’s economy forward is worthwhile. I commend the Chairman of the CERD Committee, Senator John Yudichak (I-14), for calling this hearing so that we can learn more about this problem and work together to find commonsense solutions.
Read more from the hearing and its testifiers here.
Game Commission Offering Learn to Hunt Webinars
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is offering a series of free webinars to provide new and existing hunters of all ages information on finding places to hunt, selecting a firearm, regulations, biology of game species, hunting tips and preparing wild game for the table.
The series kicks off Aug. 19 with a “Squirrel Hunting 101” webinar at 7 p.m. Additional live webinars will be on Sept. 9 and Sept. 21, also beginning at 7 p.m. The series continues into October with a “Pheasant Hunting 101” webinar at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 and again on Oct. 26.
The webinars will be about an hour long and hosted by Game Commission staff. Each webinar will include a live Q&A session at the end. Advanced registration to view the webinars live is required at the Learn to Hunt page.
Observing Aviation’s Contribution to Pennsylvania and America
August 19 is National Aviation Day. Pennsylvania ranks 13th in the country in the number of public-use aviation facilities, including airports, heliports and seaplane bases. More than 120 public-use facilities provide an annual economic impact of $23.6 billion and support more than 300,000 jobs. Happy Aviation Day!