In this Update:
Senate Re-elects Senator Kim Ward as Senate President Pro Tempore
I was honored to support Sen. Kim Ward in her re-election as the president pro tempore of the Senate. Over the last year in her role as pro tempore, Sen. Kim Ward has exemplified the qualities we want as the presiding officer of the Senate, showing fairness, consistency, and impartiality. I am confident that Senate Pro Tempore Kim Ward will lead the Senate well and continue to build on the success that this chamber has had so far this session.
During her first year as president pro tempore, Ward supported the key Senate Republican initiatives of protecting jobs, empowering families, and defending freedoms in Pennsylvania.
President Pro Tempore Ward also advanced landmark legislation that eliminated out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women at high risk of developing breast cancer.
Having previously filled the role of majority leader, President Pro Tempore Ward is the first woman in the history of the Pennsylvania Legislature to serve in the top two positions of the Senate or House of Representatives.
Giving Students the Tools to Succeed
The passage of the 2023-24 state budget reflects important Senate Republican priorities, including helping students by dedicating an additional $567 million to Basic Education and an additional $150 million for education tax credits to provide scholarships to students so they can learn in an education environment that best suits their needs.
We also ensured greater collaboration in keeping children safe in the classroom by consolidating school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The commission already manages the highly successful School Safety and Security Grant Program created by the Senate in 2018.
As mental health needs continue to rise, we allocated $100 million for K-12 mental health programs for schools so children have the basic foundation to succeed educationally.
Helping Pennsylvanians at the Pump
After automatically rising last year due to inflation, the 2024 Pennsylvania gas tax will return to 2022 levels.
Last year, the average wholesale price of gasoline exceeded $2.99 per gallon, which triggered an automatic increase in the gas tax. Knowing how Pennsylvanians were already struggling with skyrocketing inflation, the Senate passed and sent to House of Representatives legislation last January to end these inflation-based, automatic gas tax hikes.
Had the House acted in a timely fashion, Pennsylvanians would have saved more than $200 million in the gas tax. We continue to encourage our counterparts to work cooperatively with us to benefit commonwealth residents as we were elected to do.
Reducing the Tax Burden
As part of the state budget, Senate Republicans voted to reduce the tax burden. One initiative would address a barrier to employment for working families by giving parents additional support to continue to seek and maintain employment.
The legislation also exempts Dependent Care Assistance and Flexible Savings Accounts, which are used to cover health care expenses, from the state Personal Income Tax. They were already exempt from federal taxes.
Finally, it helps counties and municipalities avoid raising taxes on their residents. It increases the payment made for state-owned property dedicated to outdoor recreation to $2.40 per acre to be paid from the State Gaming Fund. Previously, open spaces for the public’s enjoyment were more of a financial burden because they aren’t owned by businesses or individuals.
Officiating Opportunities Available Throughout PA
If you would like to help your community more this year, there are lots of opportunities to make a huge difference in the lives of student-athletes.
There’s a shortage of referees, umpires and other high school officials in almost every sport. High school officials protect the integrity of the games our kids love to play by demonstrating qualities like honesty, objectivity, consistency and courage.
Hours are flexible, and it’s a great way to stay in good physical condition. Find out how to become an official.
Recognizing Law Enforcement in Our Communities
Tuesday, Jan. 9, is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Protecting our communities is a dangerous and demanding job, but men and women across the state answered the call to public service. They leave their families not knowing if they’ll need to give their lives to keep us safe.
I appreciate their selflessness and commitment to others and was proud to vote for legislation to help them.
Act 60 of 2023 expands the list of law enforcement entities covered under the Heart and Lung Act, which provides for salary and medical expenses to be paid when an officer or firefighter is injured on the job. Other new laws passed by the Senate allow municipal police to conduct fingerprint-based criminal history checks on police applicants and funds an additional 100 Pennsylvania State Police troopers to help make our communities safer.
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