In This Update:
PA House of Representatives Attempts to Override Wolf’s Veto of HR836
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives attempted to override Governor Wolf’s veto of House Resolution 836, a bipartisan resolution to end Governor Wolf’s emergency disaster declaration. The resolution was first passed and signed in both chambers of the General Assembly in early June, with the understanding that the statute granting the governor the authority to declare an emergency also reserved for the General Assembly the right to terminate that declaration without the governor’s input. You can read more about my position and affirmative vote on HR836 here.
This interpretation was immediately challenged in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which to my frustration, ultimately ruled that the governor must approve the resolution before it could take effect, essentially allowing Governor Wolf to extend this declaration in perpetuity without input from the other branches of government. Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Governor Wolf vetoed HR836 on July 14th.
As House Resolution 836 is a House document, the process to override this veto must begin in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the two-thirds majority required to override a governor’s veto could not be achieved, and the effort failed by a vote of 118 – 84.
I remain open to any and all viable efforts that will allow the General Assembly to exercise its Constitutional authority and duty to check the powers of the other branches of government, including the Governor and his administration. As such, I intend to continue working with leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly to explore every option to rein in Governor Wolf’s largely unchecked power and his gross mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to try to avoid even more damage to our communities.
Senate Leaders Propose Reforms to Make Elections More Efficient, Secure and Accessible
Ensuring a fair and accurate election in November is one of the most critical issues the Senate is expected to tackle this fall. Senate leaders recently introduced a package of reforms that will expand voter access, implement greater efficiencies within Pennsylvania’s voting process and maintain election security.
The bill would protect the integrity of elections by requiring counties to check signatures on mail-in and absentee ballots to ensure they match with the signatures on file. Counties would be required to contact a voter to affirm their ballot if the signatures do not match. The legislation would also move the application deadline for mail-in and absentee ballots to 15 days prior to the election and provide additional time for counties to canvass the results to avoid a delay in reporting the outcome.
Other provisions of the bill would help address a potential shortage of poll watchers and poll workers, provide voters with ballots earlier, and provide for new secure return locations for ballots.
The reforms were developed with input from county commissioners and local elections officials and would address issues that were raised in the Department of State’s report on the 2020 primary election.
New Guidance Will Allow Spectators at Fall High School Sporting Events
Two weeks ago, the PIAA voted to allow fall high school sports to resume with proper precautions in place to protect the health of student-athletes. This week, updated guidance was released that will allow a limited number of spectators to also attend these events.
Although the new guidance allows for spectators, the Wolf Administration’s limitations on gatherings (25 or fewer people indoors, 250 or fewer outdoors) will remain in effect. Spectators must also wear a mask and practice social distancing.
Additionally, I was pleased to participate in an emergency voting meeting of the Senate Education Committee today, in which we advanced legislation that would codify into law Pennsylvania’s local school district’s ability to make decisions regarding fall sports and activities, thereby ensuring that our school districts are not subject to the ever-changing whims of Governor Wolf.
Senate Returns to Session Next Week
The Senate will return to session next week beginning on Tuesday. A complete schedule of committee hearings and meetings is available here, and all of the meetings and floor activity will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com.
Dairy Relief Grants Still Available
Many Pennsylvania farms were forced to dispose of milk during the COVID-19 pandemic due to severe disruptions in supply lines. Farmers who dumped milk during the crisis can apply to receive a share of $15 million in relief payments offered through the Dairy Indemnity Program.
The program, which was funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides relief payments of at least $1,500 for dairy farms that experienced a loss due to discarded or displaced milk during the pandemic. Farmers can also apply for a prorated portion of any remaining funds.
Farmers must apply by September 30 in order to receive funding. So far, $13.5 million of the $15 million dedicated to the program is still available for farmers to claim.
CDL and Commercial Learner’s Permits Extended Through September 30
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently extended the expiration dates for commercial driver licenses (CDL) and commercial learner’s permits through September 30. Previous deadlines that were extended for non-commercial driver licenses, photo ID cards and camera cards during the COVID-19 pandemic expired on August 31.
A list of driver license and photo licenses centers is available at www.dmv.pa.gov.
Virtual Consumer Protection Events Scheduled for September
The Department of Banking will host several virtual events in September to help senior citizens, veterans, service providers and other members of the public learn more about consumer protection tools that are available to Pennsylvanians. The events will cover topics including how to avoid scams and identity theft, cybersecurity, retirement planning and much more.
Check out the full schedule of events for more information.
Symposium Scheduled on VA Benefits
The Veterans Benefit Administration will host a virtual town hall meeting on September 24 for community groups, non-profits and faith-based organizations that are interested in helping to connect veterans in their area with the benefits they have earned through their service to our country.
The symposium is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Groups can sign up to participate here. More information on VA benefits are available on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
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