Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Take My Survey: What are your thoughts on Sunday hunting?
  • 10-Year Plan to Support PA Seniors, Opportunity for Public Comment
  • Senate Begins Review of Proposed State Budget
  • Free Webinars Provide Helpful Financial Aid Info
  • Help is Available for Struggling Veterans
  • Mental Health Treatment is Available for Farmers
  • Recognizing National FFA Week
  • Out and About in the 30th

Take My Survey: What are your Thoughts on Sunday Hunting?

There is a Senate bill (Bill Information) that would remove the prohibition on Sundays available for hunting and would leave all wildlife management decisions to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Currently, Sunday hunting is allowed one day during deer rifle season, one day during deer archery season, and one day as determined by the PA Game Commission.

Let me know your thoughts! Take the survey. If you have already took the survey, thank you! Please feel free to share with any neighbors who might have an opinion on the matter.

10-Year Plan to Support PA Seniors, Opportunity for Public Comment

Senator Maria Collett (D-12) and I, Chairs of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee and Registered Nurses, announced the publication of Aging Our Way, PA: A Plan for Lifelong Independence, a 10-year roadmap to better meet the needs of older Pennsylvanians. The draft strategic plan is open for public comment from February 20 – March 20, 2024.

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves to live and age with dignity,” Collett said. “This comprehensive and innovative plan from Secretary of Aging Jason Kavulich and his team will help ensure older and disabled Pennsylvanians can remain in their homes and communities, that their caregivers are supported, and that they have access to the services and resources they need to thrive. I’m proud to have played a role in the development of Aging Our Way, PA and encourage Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard by reviewing the draft plan and offering their feedback for any improvements we can make.”

I want to commend the Department of Aging for their work so far and encourage constituents and stakeholders to participate in the current public comment period. To create a plan that best serves Pennsylvania’s older adults, we need the input from those who know best what that community most needs. With their help we can create a Master Plan for Pennsylvania that helps older adults pursue their best lives.

Aging Our Way, PA was developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) in partnership with Pennsylvania’s Aging Network, including 52 Area Agencies on Aging and associated senior centers. Together, they conducted over 200 Listening Sessions to hear from residents in every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Through stakeholder feedback, PDA identified five key priorities, outlined in their plan:

  • Unlocking Access
  • Aging In Community
  • Gateways to Independence
  • Caregiver Supports
  • Education & Navigation

Pennsylvania residents, especially older adults and their caretakers are asked to share their feedback on the draft plan through PDA’s webform; by mail at Aging Our Way, PA 555 Walnut St. 5th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101; or by emailing Public comment is open through March 20, 2024.

Senate Begins Review of Proposed State Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee began public hearings this week on the proposed 2024-25 state budget.

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget plan would increase state spending by more than $3.2 billion, or about 7.1% above the current year’s budget. Projections indicate it will be all but impossible to balance budgets in the next five years without deep spending cuts and massive tax increases.

Among the highlights:

The Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) hearing focused on the commonwealth’s ongoing structural deficit and future financial standing. The IFO’s projected revenues for 2024-25 are $825 million lower than those from the Shapiro administration. Additionally, the IFO director projected the current fund balance and Rainy Day Fund – the state’s emergency savings account – would both run out in 2026-27 under the governor’s budget.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) budget hearing included questions about how the new governance model for PASSHE and community colleges would be structured and when the transition would happen. Unfortunately, very little information was available. PASSHE’s chancellor was not included in the work group planning the merger, which caused concerns.

At the Department of Corrections and Pennsylvania Parole Board budget hearing, the committee sought an explanation for Shapiro’s new funding for the department totaling $229 million, which is $74 million more than the department requested. This followed the department overspending its 2023-24 budget by $100 million. The need to curb excessive spending on overtime was also discussed. 

At the Department of Community and Economic Development budget hearing, the committee asked about the negative impacts of Pennsylvania’s burdensome permit process and tax penalties on startup businesses that don’t turn an immediate profit. Members also discussed the governor’s Main Street Matters program, which he wants to fund at more than four times the amount of a similar program that already exists.

Thursday’s hearings include the Department of Labor and Industry and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Find the hearings schedule, livestreams of budget hearings, daily recaps and video from prior hearings at

Free Webinars Provide Helpful Financial Aid Info

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is holding free webinars to assist college-bound students and their families with navigating the financial aid process.

Speakers will discuss planning for higher education financing, comparing financial aid offers and understanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Register to attend the one-hour webinars, which run through July.

Help is Available for Struggling Veterans

Like anyone, veterans and their families can face unexpected circumstances that impose financial burdens. To help veterans who are facing challenging times, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs administers the Veterans Temporary Assistance (VTA) Program.

The VTA provides temporary financial assistance of up to $1,600 in a 12-month period to veterans or their surviving spouses who reside in Pennsylvania for food, shelter, fuel and clothing.

Learn more about how to qualify and apply.

Mental Health Treatment is Available for Farmers

Pennsylvania farmers and farm families live a stressful way of life, often filled with uncertainty. Rural areas have fewer therapists, and the work on a farm never stops.

While the circumstances farmers experience are unique, there is help available for those dealing with loneliness, sadness, stress or depression.

Professional treatment for mental health is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the free AgriStress HelpLine. Call or text a health care professional at 833-897-2474.

Recognizing National FFA Week

As agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s top industries, it is important to recognize National FFA Week, which runs from Feb. 17-24.

Farmers work hard so we can enjoy fresh, local fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses and milk. They help to reduce our dependence on other countries for our food supply so we don’t need to worry about being able to put food on the table.

A group of young farmers founded FFA in 1928, and the organization continues to play an important role in attracting future generations. After all, agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it involves science, business and more.

Out and About in the 30th

America250PA has launched its Keystone Classroom Initiative, a storytelling and visitation program for kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms, children’s hospitals and youth camps across the Commonwealth. I participated as a guest reader at Foot of Ten Elementary School (Hollidaysburg Area School District) to partner with this initiative. I read the commemorative book, “K is for Keystone” to Mrs. Waible’s kindergarten class and Mrs. Carpenter’s 2nd grade class. The Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial (America250PA) was established by the legislature and Governor in 2018 to plan, encourage, develop and coordinate the commemoration of the 250th anniversary (2026) of the founding of the United States, Pennsylvania’s integral role in that event, and the impact of its people on the nation’s past, present, and future.

Huntingdon County Career & Technology Center (HCCTC) hosted a Celebrate Career & Technical Education event that featured awards presentations to HCCTC Joint Operating Committee members and a keynote speech from Kendon Helman, SkillsUSA State Officer. I was honored to receive a certificate of recognition from the HCCTC for being a VIP Career & Technical Education Supporter, and I am grateful for the dedicated staff and students that make the center’s technical education programs so successful.


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