In this Update:
Senate Republicans Continue Statewide Hearings on Rising Crime
Local police chiefs, prosecutors, addiction recovery experts and others met with the Senate Majority Policy Committee in Lancaster this week as part of Senate Republican public hearings on rising crime in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has the highest violent crime rate of any state in the Northeast, according to FBI data. Between 2019 and 2020, no other state reported a greater year-over-year increase in violence. Driven by spikes in aggravated assault and homicide, Pennsylvania’s violent crime rate climbed 27.1% from 2019 to 2020.
Chief David Steffen of the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department told the committee that the national media’s consistent coverage of emotional, high-profile and statistically rare cases of officer-involved shootings portrayed as the norm has created a foundation of mistrust in law enforcement.
Columbia Borough Police Chief Jack Brommer said recruiting new officers to the force has become increasingly difficult, particularly as anti-police rhetoric rises.
According to Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams, Lancaster County is a hotspot for human trafficking, an insidious crime that contributes to other types of community lawlessness.
A top priority for Senate Republicans is to ensure Pennsylvanians feel safe in the towns, cities and communities they call home. These hearings will help legislators better understand the trends in crime from law enforcement and key stakeholders, and better align the Commonwealth’s economic goals with community objectives throughout the state.
The next hearing on crime and public safety will be announced in the near future.
Less Than a Year to Go Before Federal Enforcement of REAL ID Begins
The one-year countdown has begun for the federal enforcement of REAL ID for commercial domestic air travel and other federal purposes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation advises Pennsylvania residents who want REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and photo ID cards and have not yet gotten one to gather the needed documents now to ensure they have plenty of time to get their REAL ID before the federal enforcement date.
REAL ID is a federal law that affects how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are going to be acceptable for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic flight or entering a federal building that requires federally acceptable ID for entry. A federally acceptable form of identification (whether it’s a Pennsylvania REAL ID driver’s license or ID card, a valid U.S. Passport/Passport Card, a military ID, etc.) must be used for these purposes on and after May 3, 2023.
There is no requirement that any resident obtain a REAL ID; PennDOT continues to offer standard-issue driver’s licenses and photo IDs. More information, including frequently asked questions and information on documents required for REAL ID, can be found on the state REAL ID website.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Extended to May 20
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended to May 20, allowing additional households to apply for help.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the state that provides assistance for home heating bills. Assistance is available for renters and homeowners.
You can apply for benefits online using COMPASS, or download a paper application, print it, fill it out and return it to your local county assistance office.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
While we focus on our physical wellbeing, the food we eat, exercise, and getting regular check-ups for vision and dental care, a growing body of evidence has demonstrated the need to take care of our mental health.
If you or someone you know needs assistance in this crucial area, the state has an online mental health resources page that can be a good starting point. Topics include finding help and treatment, preventing suicide and more.
Happy Mother’s Day
To mothers, grandmothers and everyone who serves in that role, I wish you a happy Mother’s Day in which all the love you give is returned to you in full.
Out and About in the 30th
Thursday we celebrated the National Day of Prayer in Blair County. I joined with local pastors, elected officials, and members of the community to honor the 71st Annual National Day of Prayer at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg. What an uplifting time it was to pray for our nation and to reflect on all that we have to be grateful for in our daily lives.
I was invited to give a legislative update to the Blair County Chamber’s Committee of Non-Profit Businesses with my colleagues, Representative Lou Schmitt and Representative Jim Gregory.
Recently, the Senate held “Bring Your Child to Work Day.” It was a great time for our staff’s children to get to visit the Capitol. To add to the excitement of the day, several colleges from across the state set up science exhibits for the children, including Juniata College in Huntingdon County.
I am so grateful for our local fire departments who dedicate their time to saving lives. Geeseytown Community Fire Company held their annual banquet and I was proud to spend time with all the members. Pictured is Fire Chief, Denny Estep and Denny’s father, Rick Estep, who is stepping down from his role as Fire Police Captain.
I joined my friend, Nasir, from Begin With Us Preschool in Blair County for “Muffins With Mom.”
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