In This Update:
Hearing Explores Progress Toward Protecting Long-Term Care Facilities
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been among the hardest-hit populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a Senate hearing last month exposed the Wolf Administration’s failure to protect these vulnerable members of our communities.
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee scheduled a follow-up hearing on the issue this week to learn more about what is being done to protect residents and staff at these facilities, particularly in light of the $692 million in federal CARES Act funding that was approved by lawmakers to support long-term living services recently.
Video and testimony from the hearing are available here.
Police Reform Measures Advance in the Senate
Last week, I was pleased to participate in two extensive joint Senate hearings aimed at exploring accountability and equality in law enforcement and the criminal justice system in our Commonwealth.
As a result of these hearings, the Senate this week unanimously passed two bills to achieve such goals. Senate Bill 459 would provide law enforcement agencies with record keeping and reporting requirements regarding the use of force and deadly force by law enforcement officers. It also requires a statewide report to be compiled annually on use-of-force incidents. Senate Bill1205 would prohibit the use of chokeholds except in situations when the use of deadly force is permitted, as well as require law enforcement agencies to adopt a use of force policy and to train officers on procedures allowed under the policy.
I commend Senators Lisa Baker, Lawrence Farnese, Pat Stefano, and Jim Brewster, the chairs of the Senate Judiciary and Law & Justice Committees, as well as both Senate and House leadership for taking swift action to advance these proposals. I am confident that the broad cooperation and widespread support for these bills will result in a favorable vote in each chamber to send the entire package to the Governor for his approval as soon as next week.
But pursuing legislative reforms is only one piece of the puzzle. The social issues, racism, and hatred that lie beneath the surface are larger pieces that cannot simply be addressed through changing the law. Compassion, understanding, and unity cannot be legislated. To address these issues, we need to look within and be willing to hear opinions and feelings from those who do not share our own.
When our fellow Americans repeatedly express their fear, frustration, and concerns with the current state of police / community relations, we must listen with compassion and empathy. We must recognize that while our own past experiences with law enforcement may have been positive, this may not be the case for all of our fellow citizens.
As a State Senator, I have spent time riding along with local law enforcement throughout northern Lancaster County, and I am extremely proud of the work they do honorably and selflessly serving our communities. However, I think we need to be open to the reality that the good relationship we have with our police departments in our own communities may not be shared by every resident or community throughout the state and country. Therefore, we must be open to the suggestions for improving those relationships.
And so, it is past time we come to the table to engage in a civil, respectful, and productive discussion on how we can address these challenging issues confronting our criminal justice system, train compassionate and effective police officers, and build trust and accountability within our communities.
This is a difficult but necessary endeavor. Our success depends on our ability to listen, seek understanding, and work together. Far more unites us than divides us. And the stakes have never been higher.
Read my full statement here.
Last Chance to Complete Senator Aument’s ‘Restore & Reimagine PA’ Survey
Over the past two months, my team and I have been collecting your feedback on issues that you see and experience firsthand in your communities, schools, businesses, and families in the wake of the global pandemic. I’ve invited constituents and community leaders to innovate and create new ideas with me, as I have always said throughout my time in the General Assembly that the residents of Lancaster County are my greatest resource to helping me do my job well.
Let me be clear – I am not simply collecting your feedback for the sake of collecting feedback. I am collecting your ideas so that I can share them with my colleagues and use those ideas as a blueprint to inform our legislative agenda for the next few years as we seek to reimagine, rebuild, and restore a stronger Pennsylvania in the aftermath of this pandemic.
To do so, I will compile and publish the results in a final report that will be made available to the public this summer. After the report is published, my team will continue to update the website and communicate progress in our legislative efforts. As such, residents will not be able to complete the Restore & Reimagine PA Survey after Tuesday, June 30th so that my team has enough time to compile the results for incorporation into the final report.
My office is always ready to receive feedback from constituents, and we encourage constituents to contact us if they have thoughts or ideas to share. However, if you would like to participate in the survey, please do so here by Tuesday, June 30th.
Finally, there are three additional ways that you can submit your feedback for my Restore & Reimagine PA initiative:
With your input, I’m confident that we can restore, rebuild, and reimagine a stronger Pennsylvania together.
PASSHE Reform Bill Heads to the Governor
Many schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) were facing considerable financial and enrollment pressures even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and these problems have been made worse by the temporary closing of all 14 system schools due to concerns about student health. The Senate approved a bill this week that would promote the long-term viability of all schools in the system and protect access to an affordable education for Pennsylvania students.
The legislation would help PASSHE transform its system and take advantage of opportunities to create, expand, consolidate, transfer or affiliate member schools. The bill was created with input from numerous stakeholders and ensures that any future changes to the system would be completed in an open and transparent way.
If we are to build an opportunity society in Pennsylvania where every resident has access to earned success and upward economic mobility, we need to ensure the long term stability of the PASSHE schools so that they can continue providing a high quality, world class education at an affordable price. PASSHE schools are not only vital to the student population that they serve, but they are also economic drivers for the communities in which they are located. This bill cuts through the red tape to allow the PASSHE system to transform and better meet the evolving needs of students, communities, employers.
The bill is on its way to the governor to be signed into law.
Read my full press release here.
Senate Committee Examines Pennsylvania’s Participation in RGGI
In October, Governor Wolf unilaterally ordered Pennsylvania to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state compact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan would impose a carbon tax on electricity production and require fossil fuel generators to purchase allowances, creating the threat of higher energy costs and fewer jobs at a time when the state simply cannot afford it.
Senate leaders have asked Governor Wolf to rescind his order in light of the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on Pennsylvania’s economy. The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing this week on the impact that this proposal would have on Pennsylvania families and employers.
Committee Reviews Ways to Safely Reopen Southeastern PA Economy
The Senate Majority Policy Committee continued a series of workshop discussions regarding the safe reopening of Pennsylvania’s economy this week with a closer look at unique challenges posed by Governor Wolf’s business shutdowns in the southeastern region of the state. Southeastern Pennsylvania was the first part of the state to close and the last to reopen.
Local business leaders detailed the economic devastation caused by the state’s response to COVID-19, and health experts again emphasized the need to safely open businesses in accordance with CDC recommendations.
The discussion followed similar meetings regarding issues in southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania in recent weeks.
Bills Protecting Healthcare Workers Earn Final Approval
Two bills that would extend new protections for healthcare professionals were approved by lawmakers this week and sent to the governor to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 351 would stiffen penalties for assaults against a broad range of healthcare practitioners and technicians, and Senate Bill 842 would eliminate a requirement for employee badges in healthcare facilities to include an employee’s last name.
Senate Approves New Marketing Tool for Veteran-Owned Businesses
Pennsylvania veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard who own their own business could soon have a valuable new marketing tool under a bill approved by the Senate this week.
The bill would direct the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to create special logos to promote veteran-owned businesses, creating new opportunities for Pennsylvanians to support the brave men and women who have served in the military at a time when that support is desperately needed during the state’s recovery from COVID-19.
Lawmakers Approve Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Additional Breast Cancer Screenings
Dense breast tissue and other factors can make it more difficult to detect breast cancer early in some women, heightening the long-term risks. The Senate approved a bill this week that would require insurance companies to cover supplemental screenings if a physician believes a woman is at an increased risk for breast cancer due to these conditions.
New Guidance Released for Veterinary Care, Reopening Senior Centers
While we await a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on whether Governor Wolf must perform his constitutional duty to end the current disaster declaration in accordance with state law – a ruling that could come as soon as next week – the Wolf Administration has released guidance for veterinary care and reopening senior centers, adult day centers and other senior services.
New veterinary guidance allows for the resumption of non-essential services and routine or elective surgical procedures, like spaying and neutering.
Guidance from the Department of Aging includes procedures to resume operations at adult day centers, senior community centers and aging and protective services that involve in-home visits.