Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • County Election Officials, Local Leaders Testify at Election Investigation Hearing on the Flaws of Drop Boxes
  • Senate Acts to Extend Pandemic Waivers of Government Regulations
  • Independent Analysis Concludes RGGI Carbon Tax Could Increase Pennsylvania Electricity Costs 3.8 Times more than Wolf Administration Projections
  • Spread of the Spotted Lanternfly
  • “Purple Star Schools” to Support Military Families Approved by Senate
  • Assistance Available for COVID-Related Funeral Expenses
  • Happenings with the 30th

County Election Officials, Local Leaders Testify at Election Investigation Hearing on the Flaws of Drop Boxes

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee hosted a public hearing yesterday on the use of election drop boxes in Pennsylvania as part of the committee’s continuing efforts to investigate Pennsylvania’s elections. Four testifiers including county election officials and local leaders from around the Commonwealth testified that drop boxes, as implemented in Pennsylvania, are problematic.

As a member of the committee, I was given the opportunity to ask the testifiers questions not only about drop boxes, but also about other election integrity measures, such as my legislation to require voter ID in Pennsylvania. You can watch the full video from the hearing and read witness testimony here.

The hearing was a part of a larger effort to examine Pennsylvania’s elections in order to identify and address election irregularities and strengthen our voting laws.

Senate Acts to Extend Pandemic Waivers of Government Regulations

The state Senate this week voted to extend waivers of several regulatory statutes, rules and regulations to aid in Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Bill 1019 was signed into law as Act 14 of 2022.

The waivers affecting health and human services, as well as consumers, workers and veterans, were due to expire Thursday. Act 14 extends the waivers until June 30, 2022.

The waivers were initially implemented as part of the COVID-19 emergency declaration in 2020. In response to overreach by Gov. Tom Wolf, voters in 2021 stripped him of the authority he claimed to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly. Wednesday’s vote marks the third time the legislature has extended waivers.

Some of the waivers extended through June 2022 allow for:

  • Quicker access to home health care and home care services.
  • Access to behavioral, mental, physical, and drug and alcohol treatment services through telehealth and ensures Medicaid providers are paid for them.
  • Utilizing pharmacists, health care professionals, and alternative care sites to lessen the burden on our hospitals and acute care providers.
  • Flexibilities in scheduling hearings and telephone testimony for unemployment compensation and for work permits to be issued without in-person meetings.
  • PA National Guard members to operate commonwealth-owned or leased vehicles.
  • Alternative and temporary locations in banking for better access.

The new law also requires commonwealth agencies to issue a report to the public and the General Assembly identifying regulatory statutes, rules or regulations that were temporarily suspended that the agency believes should be considered for a permanent suspension.

Independent Analysis Concludes RGGI Carbon Tax Could Increase Pennsylvania Electricity Costs 3.8 Times more than Wolf Administration Projections

Impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) projects the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers.

The nonpartisan IFO reviewed the Wolf administration’s outdated RGGI modeling and presented its findings to a joint hearing of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee on Tuesday.

IFO Director Matthew Knittel said Pennsylvania could spend upwards of $781 million annually on emissions credits at the RGGI auctions – nearly four times the amount anticipated by the administration’s taxpayer-funded 2020 analysis used to justify Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. The IFO also warned members that “those costs would be pushed through to final customers.”

The IFO analysis also concluded that emissions reductions between 2008 and 2020 for the 10 RGGI states were comparable to non-participating states.

The administration’s effort to force Pennsylvania into RGGI is being challenged in court and could face additional legislative action.

Spread of the Spotted Lanternfly

The Department of Agriculture has recently found new signs of Spotted Lanternfly in the 30th District.  11 new counties will be added to Pennsylvania’s Spotted Lanternfly quarantine zone ahead of the 2022 spring hatch.  With this addition, the quarantine for this invasive pest is now at 45 counties.  The Department is working to combat the expanded threat.  Homeowners with questions about treatment are encouraged to contact their local Penn State Extension office or learn about management, including approved sprays, online.  Pennsylvanians who live inside the quarantine zone should also review and sign the Compliance Checklist for residents.  If you have any questions on the quarantine or Spotted Lanternfly, please visit for more information.

“Purple Star Schools” to Support Military Families Approved by Senate

The Senate approved legislation to have Pennsylvania join 28 other states in establishing a Purple Star School Program for students from military families. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The program is a state-sponsored recognition designed to acknowledge a public, private or charter school that has committed to supporting the unique educational and social-emotional needs of military-connected students. A Purple Star School designation means better ease and consistency in transferring schools so children experience fewer educational gaps and obtain meaningful support when frequently moving to new towns and schools as a military child.

Senate Bill 1028 would provide “Purple Star” recognition to schools that: maintain a website with resources for military-connected students and their families, designate a staff point of contact for these students, provide training to school staff to best equip them to support these families, establish a partnership with a military installation, and take other steps.

Assistance Available for COVID-Related Funeral Expenses

Pennsylvanians who incurred funeral expenses for a COVID-19-related death can apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) COVID-19 funeral assistance program to help ease the financial burden brought on by the pandemic.

The program will provide reimbursement for expenses incurred for funeral services, including but not limited to transportation to identify the deceased individual, the transfer of remains, a burial plot or cremation niche, a marker or headstone, clergy or officiant services, the use of funeral home equipment or staff, and cremation or interment costs.

Eligible applicants can apply for the funeral assistance program by calling FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Helpline at 1-844-684-6333 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday to begin the application process.

Happenings with the 30th

I visited Huntingdon Area High School on Friday, March 25, 2022 that included a question and answer session with students who developed and asked questions on local, regional and state topics of importance to them. The visit also included a tour and visit to a visual arts and graphic design classroom where the students showcased their impressive talents and shared some recent projects.

Congratulations to Zachary Kramer who recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Zachary is a member of Boy Scout Troop 171, chartered by the Otterbein United Methodist Church in Boiling Springs. What a fine, young man who has a bright future!

I had the opportunity to sit down with members of the PA Farm Bureau from Blair and Fulton County. It is always great to hear what work is being done in our agriculture community. As well, learning what we can do to help our farmers.

It is always great to sit down with students from Penn State and learn about several of their terrific programs. These programs benefit thousands of great minds throughout the Commonwealth. Wishing you all the best luck in the future!

I was thrilled to join Steller Floors in Tyrone to celebrate the company’s successes and plot a path for the future. The company’s newly-constructed studio floor showcased some of their impressive and innovative new products.

Steller Floors, using 100% PA-sourced hardwoods and shipping flooring nation-wide direct-to-customer, started manufacturing its patented flooring system in 2019. With the support of partners at Ben Franklin, SAP&DC, ABCD and DCNR, the company posted over $1M in revenue in 2022 and currently has 15 employees. Startups like this represent a new era of growth and investment in rural areas.

I visited this company several years ago as a State Representative to discuss their development plans and encouraged them to stay in Tyrone. It is very exciting to see their tremendous success and continued commitment to the local community. Stellar Floors is eager for the next phase of growth, and the potential is unlimited! I congratulate them on their tremendous success and look forward to working with them on their future expansion plans.

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