In this Update:
Senate Unanimously Approves Two Pieces of Ward Legislation
The state Senate today unanimously approved two bills I introduced that would add an additional judge to the Court of Common Pleas in Huntingdon County and repeal an outdated state law regulating the frozen dessert industry in Pennsylvania.
These are two commonsense measures to make state government work better for the people of Pennsylvania.
Huntingdon County currently has one Court of Common Pleas judge. Senate Bill 361 would add a second Court of Common Pleas judge in Huntingdon County and add four more Court of Common Pleas judges in counties across the commonwealth.
We currently have one judge who covers all the cases in Huntingdon County, so my bill would add an additional judge. The overall goal of the bill is to reduce excessive judge caseloads and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our courts.
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 152, which would repeal the state Frozen Dessert Law. The law is repetitive and unnecessary because the commonwealth already follows other state and federal food laws and regulations.
Pennsylvania has a robust system of food safety rules and regulations that protect our residents. Repetitive and ineffective rules place burdens on employers without enhancing public safety and we need to remove them to make Pennsylvania competitive with other states.”
Senate Bills 361 and 152 now head to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee Holds Hearing on EMS Issues
The Senate Health and Humans Services Committee held a hearing on the crisis that our EMS providers are currently facing. We heard from several testifiers who shared the ongoing issues they have faced. Gary Watters who serves as the Executive Director and EMS Chief for AMED in Altoona, President of the Southern Alleghenies EMS Council, and President of the Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania provided insight on how this issue is impacting our communities. The full hearing can be watched above.
Senate Unveils Display Recognizing PA Women Veterans
The Senate unveiled a display at the state Capitol recognizing women veterans as Pennsylvania prepares to observe the first official Women Veterans Day on June 12. The honorees today included PA Treasurer Stacy Garrity, former state Rep. Karen Beyer, Rep. Nancy Guenst, Rep. Natalie Mihalek, Adj. Gen. Jessica Wright (Retired), PA Civil Service Commissioner Pam Iovino, Brig. Gen. Laura McHugh, Brig. Gen. Maureen Weigl (Retired), Col. Robin Hightower (Retired) and Command Sgt. Maj. Shannon Cullen. Pictured above is State Senators and Representatives who attended the event.
State Would Automatically Return Unclaimed Property Under Bill Approved by Senate
The Senate unanimously approved legislation authorizing the state to return unclaimed property without the need for rightful owners to search for it. It now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 24 would authorize the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to automatically return single-owner property for living individuals valued up to $5,000 after a thorough identification and verification process. The legislation streamlines the return of unclaimed money and property by eliminating the need for citizens to search and file a claim. For larger and more complex claims, owners would still be required to complete a claim form and provide additional information to confirm their identity and rightful ownership.
This commonsense initiative, which exemplifies how government should work to better serve its citizens, would return more money to hardworking Pennsylvanians who may be unaware of their unclaimed property. Search Treasury’s unclaimed property database here.
Protecting Pennsylvanians from Unauthorized Tracking Devices
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation to protect Pennsylvanians from the unauthorized use of electronic tracking devices. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
While tracking devices have been used for decades, the release of the Apple AirTag has resulted in a low-cost proliferation of such technology. Rather than using them to locate commonly misplaced items, some people place them in people’s purses or on their vehicles when unaware. Current law is vague on criminal culpability.
Senate Bill 159 would make it a misdemeanor of the second degree to use such devices to track another person without consent. Exceptions include law enforcement agencies conducting investigations and parents keeping tabs on their children.
Simplifying Government, Ensuring Adequate Funding for Roads and Bridges
Legislation sponsored to replace Pennsylvania’s Alternative Fuels Tax on electric vehicle owners with a flat fee was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee. It would simplify the process for electric vehicle owners and ensure all drivers are contributing toward the maintenance of roads and bridges.
Currently, owners of electric vehicles are required to file monthly statements with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and remit the alternative fuel tax on how much electricity their vehicle uses. However, most electric vehicle owners do not do this, or are inconsistent at doing so, due to the cumbersome process or simply being unaware.
Senate Bill 656 would exempt electric vehicle owners from the tax and replace it with a flat annual fee of $290. The fee was calculated based on the average annual gas taxes paid by owners of gas-powered vehicles. Like the gas tax, the revenue from the flat fee will be deposited into the Motor License Fund for highway maintenance and construction.
Bill Ensuring Educational Opportunities for Military Children Receives Committee Support
Legislation to reduce the educational challenges faced by children of PA National Guard and Reserve members was approved by the Senate Education Committee and is before the full Senate for consideration.
Military families face frequent reassignments, posing educational challenges for children transitioning between schools in different states.
Senate Bill 209 would give children of National Guard and Reserve members the same help provided to those of active-duty military families through the Military Interstate Children’s Compact. The compact provides a consistent set of policies that make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children.
Free Junior Game Warden Camps Offered Across PA
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) offers free Junior Game Warden Camps in each of PGC’s six regions in June and July for youth ages 12-15.
Campers will learn about wildlife crime forensics and how wardens catch poachers and solve wildlife-related crimes. Additional instruction will include woodland tracking skills, outdoor survival skills and wildlife capture techniques for nuisance complaints and research purposes.
Registration, available here, is limited to those who have not attended a camp previously.
The 2023 Season Opening Day at the Tuscarora Academy Museum in Academia (Juniata County) included a special event to mark the recent return of historical artifacts that had been stolen from the museum in 1979. Pictured are (seated, left to right) former PA State Rep. Fred Noye; Assistant US Attorney K.T. Newton, prosecutor; retired PA State Trooper Jerry Eaton, who filed the theft report in 1979; Upper Merion Township Police detectives Andy Rathfon and Brendan Dougherty, investigators; (standing, l-r) PA State Rep. Perry Stambaugh; PA State Senator Judy Ward; museum curator Jessica Guyer; Juniata County Commissioner Mark Partner; and Juniata County DA Cory Snook. Items recovered included a Colt 45 used in WWI by Alfred Bartram, a Sharpe flintlock pistol that belonged to Revolutionary War soldier Samuel Culbertson, and an Albert System Fife used by East Waterford native James Marshall Donnelly during his two enlistments in the Civil War. (Photo by Paulette Forry)
My district office intern, Dominic Cacciotti, joined me for a day at the Capitol this week. He was present in the Senate Chamber to observe the voting session and learn about the legislative process.
Boy Scouts across Pennsylvania visited the Capitol this week. It is wonderful to hear about the work they are doing and all of the many skills they have learned. I look forward to maybe congratulating some of these young scouts when they become Eagle Scout’s in the future! Second photo includes some 30th District Scouts who had the opportunity to visit the Senate Library.
As a member of the Manufacturing Caucus, we attended a tour of UTC RAS in Morton, PA. UTC RAS is a certified wheel, axle, bearing, truck, gearbox, and transmission manufacturing and remanufacturing facility. Since 1982, this family-owned operation has served the rail transport industry. It is wonderful learning about the work that is being done throughout our Commonwealth to push us forward.
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