Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Join Me at Discover STEM
  • Strengthening Guardianship Laws, Preventing Elder Abuse
  • Budget Hearings Begin March 20
  • PennDOT Winter Services Survey
  • Examining Government Cloud-Based Cybersecurity
  • DMVA Mobile Outreach Vans to Serve Vets
  • PennDOT Invites Public Feedback on Transportation
  • Beware of the Secret Shopper Scam
  • Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
  • Out and About in the 30th

Join Me at Discover STEM

Bring your children and join me at Discover STEM: A Day for Families, an event I am hosting in partnership with the Science in Motion Consortium and Juniata College.

This will be an educational, interactive and immersive day filled with the exploration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

At the event, you and your child can:

  • Explore the StarLab,
  • Watch ice cream develop before your eyes,
  • Code your way through the world of robots,
  • Discover secrets of the animal kingdom,
  • And man more hands-on activities!

Discover STEM will take place on Saturday, April 22, from 10 a.m. until noon, at the Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center, Juniata College, 1700 Moore St, Huntingdon.

Science in Motion is a state partnership program of colleges and universities. Science in Motion educators bring science and technology learning to the students of the commonwealth.

I hope to see you at Discover STEM!

Strengthening Guardianship Laws, Preventing Elder Abuse

As Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I held a joint public hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on strengthening guardianship laws and preventing elder abuse in Pennsylvania.

When an adult of any age is deemed incapacitated by a court, a professional or family guardian may be appointed to become responsible for making certain decisions on their behalf, including financial, medical and personal matters.

During the hearing, testimony was given by professionals in the elder and disability law fields to provide input on the flaws in Pennsylvania’s guardianship process. Guardianship issues discussed included the lengthy time to receive mandatory legal counsel and costs, necessary training of guardians, abuse, rights to counsel and more.

Budget Hearings Begin March 20

Three weeks of budget hearings held by the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin next week with appearances by the Department of Revenue, Independent Fiscal Office, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Treasurer, Department of Environmental Protection, Auditor General and Office of Attorney General.

The hearings will be used to review Gov. Josh Shapiro’s spending plan and ask administration officials about the need for any proposed expenses. From there, a budget that more appropriately reflects the needs of taxpayers can be developed before the constitutional deadline of June 30.

Livestreams of the hearings and daily recaps will be available here, and I will share updates on this important process each week.

PennDOT Winter Services Survey

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is seeking the public’s feedback on winter services through an online survey.

The survey is available through April 6 and should take about five minutes to complete. All responses are completely anonymous.

The 17-question survey asks respondents about their timeline expectations for safe and passable roadways, how they rank snow-removal priorities, and how they rate PennDOT’s winter services.

Respondents are also asked how they receive PennDOT roadway information, and whether or how they use the state’s 511PA traveler information services. During the winter, offers its standard traffic and incident information while adding PennDOT plow-truck locations, winter roadway conditions, and other services.

At any time, motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras.

Examining Government Cloud-Based Cybersecurity

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee brought together information technology experts this week for a public hearing about securing cloud-based data held by state and local governments.  

With cloud storage, digital data is stored on servers in off-site locations. The servers are maintained by a third-party provider responsible for hosting, managing and securing data. This data includes personally identifiable information such as tax records, unemployment claims, social security numbers, driver’s licenses and more.

Testifiers said the threat to cybersecurity is constant. Pennsylvania’s acting Chief Information Security Officer Christopher Dressler testified that, in a recent month, there were approximately 38 billion unauthorized attempts to connect to the state network. He said cloud computing presents cybersecurity benefits for the commonwealth, such as intrusion prevention, malware protection, identity and access controls and encryption. View video and written testimony from today’s hearing here.

DMVA Mobile Outreach Vans to Serve Vets

The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) operates Mobile Veterans Outreach Vans to assist the state’s more than 700,000 veterans. DMVA accredited veteran service officers travel the state to help veterans obtain information and initiate benefit claim paperwork.

There is a wide range of federal, state and county benefits available to qualified veterans and their families, and DMVA’s team can be an excellent source of information and assistance. Such benefits include service-connected disability compensation, pensions, VA health care benefits, burial benefits, education benefits, vocational rehabilitation, active service bonuses and state nursing home care.

PennDOT Invites Public Feedback on Transportation

Pennsylvanians are encouraged to submit their feedback using this transportation survey or by emailing comments to Public feedback and survey results will help identify needs and prioritize transportation projects across the state.

PennDOT will also host an online public forum on Wednesday, April 12, from 6:30-8 p.m. Pennsylvanians can ask transportation-related questions to PennDOT leadership and members of the State Transportation Commission during the forum.

The feedback provided will be used to inform Pennsylvania’s 12-Year Program, which is updated every two years. It is the first step in the state’s transportation program planning process and helps to evaluate the system’s performance and opportunities for progress. Learn more about how transportation projects are planned and funded.

Beware of the Secret Shopper Scam

In a current scam, Pennsylvanians are getting text messages, emails and letters inviting them to participate in a research project as a secret shopper without the need for an interview.

A recruiter typically sends a check worth more than the items you buy, so you get to keep the rest as a bonus. They instruct you to deposit the check right away, buy gift cards and provide the scammer with the number and pin on the gift cards. Unfortunately, the check they send is fraudulent and will take a few days to clear. In the meantime, you’ve made the purchases out of your account and sent them off to the scammer.

Read more about the warning signs of this scam. Consumers with any questions or feel they have been victimized by this scam or any similar scams may submit a complaint with the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection by visiting the website here, emailing or calling 1-800-441-2555.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What began as a religious holiday for the Irish is now celebrated on March 17 annually by people all across the world.

Saint Patrick, who lived in the fifth century, was credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland.

“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.” – Irish blessing

Out and About in the 30th

I had the pleasure of attending Huntingdon Regional Fire and Rescue dinner. Chaplain, Wes Clapper was awarded the President’s Award and Hugh Gerry was named Firefighter of the Year. Congratulations to both for everything you do for Huntingdon Regional Fire and Rescue and our community.

I enjoyed helping Mrs. Jeffries 4th grade class celebrate Read Across America this week by reading a book virtually. The students asked me a lot of interesting questions as well! 

This class is enrolled in the Pa Virtual Charter School. 

The Blair County Farm Bureau legislative round table is a great opportunity to sit down with my farming community and discuss their concerns and how I can best represent them in Harrisburg.  

Thank you to Mike Makowsky, Fulton County Medical Center CEO, and his team for the warm welcome at their campus this week. This comprehensive care campus is highly impressive and the community is fortunate to have them in the area. Pictured is a medical manikin that is used for medical training purposes.

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