In this Update:
STEM Family Fun
Thank you to everyone who attended and supported my recent STEM event at Juniata College. The event was a tremendous success, with more than 300 participants!
I am grateful for the partnership with Juniata College, who provided the venue, all the members of the Science in Motion Consortium from several organizations and educational institutions across the state. Take a few minutes to browse the photo gallery and check out all of the exciting exhibits we had available for attendees.
Veterans Outreach Services
Senate Committees Advance Five Ward Bills
This week, several important bills of mine took their first step in the legislative process and passed out of their respective committees. These bills all have the potential to make a huge impact in my district and across the commonwealth. Farmers, veterans, firefighters, and many others would see benefits from the different pieces of legislation, and I am hopeful that these bills will continue to advance to the full Senate for their consideration.
The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 153, which would ensure milk haulers can travel on highways during a disaster emergency declaration. Trucks hauling milk have a limited window of up to 24 hours to deliver their product before it perishes. Ward introduced the bill after learning about milk haulers who were prevented from delivering their product during winter travel restrictions in 2019.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 360, which would allow establishments with club licenses to sell malt beverages for off-site consumption. The bill would limit any sale to no more than 192 fluid ounces, which is equivalent to a six-pack of alcohol.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 361, which would add five new judges to the judicial districts for the courts of common pleas in Chester, Huntingdon, Columbia/Montour, Northumberland, and Butler counties.
The Senate State Government Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 423, which would enable retired State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) participants to serve as part-time, state-certified fire instructors without stopping their pension benefits. Current law prohibits a SERS retiree from collecting a pension while working for a SERS employer. The retirees who return to work would not increase their pensions.
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 189, which would increase – from $150 to $200 – the monthly pension provided to blind, amputee and disabled veterans. As of Nov. 17, 2022, the Blind Veterans Pension Program benefited approximately 100 people and the Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension Program served more than 2,150 people. The two programs have not provided a pension increase since 1999.
Senate Bill 8 Passage
The House unanimously passed Senate Bill 8, a comprehensive breast cancer screening and genetic testing bill. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.
The bill eliminates out-of-pocket costs associated with BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling, as well as supplemental screening such as breast MRIs and ultrasound for women at high-risk. High-risk conditions covered by the bill include dense breast tissue, a personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition and prior radiation therapy.
The legislation expands on Act 52 of 2020, which required insurers to cover breast MRIs and ultrasounds for women with high-risk factors. Senate Bill 8 is step two, eliminating costs including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance for those screenings and BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling.
Senate Passes Bill to Protect Newborns
The Senate unanimously passed legislation to protect babies whose parents are unable to care for them. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 267 would expand Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven Law to allow parents to surrender their unharmed baby at participating urgent care centers. The urgent care centers will ensure the newborn is transported to a hospital and placed in the care of a health care provider.
Currently, people may bring their newborn (up to 28 days old) to any Pennsylvania hospital, to a police officer at a police station or to an emergency services provider at an EMS station. The Department of Health estimates that 50 babies have been saved by Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven Law since 2003.
Increasing Accountability and Disaster Response Capability
Legislation requiring Senate confirmation of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) director was approved by a bipartisan Senate vote. Senate Bill 433 would increase accountability and ensure the agency is prepared to deal with emergencies efficiently and effectively.
PEMA is the lead emergency coordination agency in the commonwealth tasked with guaranteeing the safety of 13 million residents. This includes oversight of 911 centers and the Emergency Alert System, as well as hazardous materials and incidents involving five nuclear power plants.
Five state agencies with fewer employees than PEMA require Senate confirmation. The bill is before the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Votes to Protect Seniors from Financial Exploitation
The Senate approved a bill to help protect Pennsylvania senior citizens from financial exploitation scams using information that is already available within state government.
Under Senate Bill 137, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General would notify the Department of Aging about any investigations or enforcement actions involving someone age 65 or older and related to the Pennsylvania Telemarketer Registration Act.
The improved information sharing would enable the Department of Aging to deliver warnings to local area agencies on aging in counties across the commonwealth while ensuring strict adherence to confidentiality rules.
Senate Bill 137 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Broadband Grant Program Opens May 10
The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority recently approved the Pennsylvania Broadband Infrastructure Program which will provide $200 million in funding to businesses, nonprofits, local governments and economic development organizations.
This program will fund line extension and development projects, as well as large-scale regional infrastructure projects. Upon completion, projects must deliver service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 Megabits per second, with prioritization being given to fiber-optic deployment.
The application period will begin May 10 and will close July 10. View program guidelines here.
Register to Vote by May 1
The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania’s May 16 primary election is Monday, May 1. Your county election board must receive your application for a mail-in or absentee ballot by Tuesday, May 9.
To legally register, individuals must be a citizen of the United States, reside in their local voting precincts at least 30 days prior to the election and be at least age 18 on Election Day, Tuesday, May 16. Once registered to vote, you are not required to register again unless you change your residence, name or political party affiliation.
Voter registration forms, mail-in ballot applications and absentee ballot applications are available here or from your local county’s Board of Elections. You can also use the site to check your registration status.
Free Tick Testing for All Pennsylvanians
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of Lyme disease cases. As we continue to fight Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in the commonwealth, East Stroudsburg University offers a valuable resource for all Pennsylvanians.
The university has a tick lab, which provides free testing on ticks for harmful diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and more. Send a tick sample to the lab and receive the test results that are often necessary evidence for doctors to treat you and increase your chance of staying healthy.
This week, the Senate passed a bill to require school officials to notify a student’s parents or guardian if a tick is removed from them at school and inform them of the symptoms of Lyme disease. The bill also calls for schools to provide the tick to parents or guardians if they would like to send it to the lab for testing.
To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible and then pull upward with a steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
For more information about tick-borne diseases or how to submit a tick for testing here.
Call Before You Dig
As the weather improves, more people are doing outdoor projects. To stay safe during your excavation project and avoid hitting an underground utility line, call PA One Call by dialing 8-1-1 before you dig.
State law requires contractors and residents to contact PA One Call at least three days prior to excavation. This minimizes risk to the contractors or homeowners who are doing the digging; to utility workers and emergency responders who are mobilized to deal with the damage; and to bystanders who live, work or travel near the locations of the incidents.
Pennsylvanians can dial 8-1-1 to connect with the One Call system, while out-of-state residents or businesses can call 1-800-242-1776. Learn more here.
Out and About in the 30th
Congratulations to the grand opening of the Juice Shack in Duncansville!
Had the great opportunity of listening to the Altoona Area Jazz Ensemble perform on the Capitol steps this week! It was an awesome performance that showcased their hard work and dedication.
Huntingdon County Career and Technology Center was in Harrisburg on Tuesday for Technical School Education Day. Technical education plays a key role in our Commonwealth’s economy and the skills taught to future generations. It was great talking to the students and hearing about their respective interests.
I had the pleasure of meeting some students from Sacred Heart School in Lewistown. These young boys and girls clearly enjoy learning and asked me questions about the building and my job as a senator. Pictured with me is Representative Benninghoff.
Thank you to Susan Miriello, Director of the Mifflin County Library, for giving me a tour of the library. We had the opportunity to discuss about future changes for the library and look forward to seeing all they do in the future.
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