Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • General Assembly Terminates Emergency Declaration, Ensures Key Waivers Remain
  • My Bill to Rein in Health Secretary’s Power, Ban Vaccine Passports Passes Senate
  • Advocating to Let Voters, Not Politics, Decide How to Best Secure Elections
  • Increasing Community-Based Services in Schools
  • Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended
  • Something to Celebrate this Flag Day
  • U.S. Army Marks 246 Years of Defending America
  • Real Alternatives 25th Anniversary Ceremony
  • Right to Bear Arms Rally
  • Miss Central Pa Meghan Sinisi Visits the Capitol

General Assembly Terminates Emergency Declaration, Ensures Key Waivers Remain

I voted this week to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration while ensuring Pennsylvania can take the steps necessary to recover.

House Resolution 106 terminates the pandemic emergency declaration and ends the governor’s power to close employers, limit occupancy, suspend state statutes or issue stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. The measure does not need to go to the governor for enactment.

Protecting Lives and Livelihoods

The legislature also approved House Bill 854, which will ensure all waivers that were previously effective under the COVID-19 emergency will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2021, unless sooner terminated by the authority which initially authorized the waiver. This protects access to critical federal funding and waivers that benefit health and safety, such as the emergency authorization of telemedicine, temporary staffing at nursing homes and personal care homes, and other staffing issues in health care facilities.

The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.

Voters approved two constitutional amendments in May that limited the length of disaster declarations and gave the General Assembly the sole power to extend a governor’s initial disaster declaration. The General Assembly’s action this week reflects the will of the people and is a necessary step to help the Commonwealth transition out of crisis.

Senator Judy Ward - Terminating Emergency Declaration

My Bill to Rein in Health Secretary’s Power, Ban Vaccine Passports Passes Senate

My bill to prevent the excess use of power by the state Secretary of Health and prohibit vaccine passport requirements was approved by the Senate.

This bill at all levels is about preventing government overreach whether its mandating a vaccine or mandating masking, social isolation, or business closures. For the past 15 months, Pennsylvanians have experienced unprecedented government intrusion into their lives without any input from their elected representatives in the General Assembly.  This vote ensures that does not happen in the future.

The bill prohibits the Secretary of Health from using the 66-year-old Disease Prevention and Control Act to mandate those who have not been exposed or in close contact with the exposed to wear a mask, stay at home or be socially distant. It also prevents the secretary from using the same laws to force business closures.

It also prohibits the state – as well as counties, municipalities, school districts and colleges that are subsidized by state taxpayers – from requiring proof of vaccination. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Ward-060912-Amendment to 618 

Advocating to Let Voters, Not Politics, Decide How to Best Secure Elections

Time and again, I hear from constituents who want to know why they need identification to buy cold medicine but not to choose their next Senator, township supervisor, judge or President. “Proposing that voters show verification not just the first time, but every time they vote as a constitutional amendment removes politics from the decision making and allows Pennsylvanians to take the lead in how they want to further secure our election process.

Currently, voters are required to show identification the first time they vote at a polling place. Senate Bill 735 and the companion bill, House Bill 1596, asks voters to decide if identification should be required every time a ballot is cast. The language must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions meaning the earliest the proposed amendment would reach voters for consideration is May 2023.

Unlike a piece of legislation, Constitutional Amendments do not need the Governor’s approval, rather, the bills would go straight to the voters for their input. More information is available here.

As a fundamental right of all citizens, voting is the anchor of our democracy. Confidence in our voting system has been seriously eroded. A disorderly election process for the 2020 general election was followed by a messy 2021 primary election that only magnified the confusion and increased voter distrust. Providing voters with the power to extend the need for identification beyond the first time someone votes at a polling place to every time they vote will go a long way toward restoring confidence in our election process.

We are experiencing in the most politically charged period in our lifetime where misrepresentations and attention-grabbing social media posts will be part of the rhetoric.”  I urge everyone to rise above that and not fall victim to outside influences trying to stir emotion. We have a responsibility to ensure that voters trust the election process and asking voters decide if requiring identification every time they vote will do just that.

060821-Senator Judy Ward Advocates for Voter Verification

Increasing Community-Based Services in Schools

The Senate voted to establish the Community Engaged Schools for Success Pilot Program to encourage community partners to work with schools to provide student support services.

Designated schools that qualify would be eligible for grants from the Department of Education to appoint a manager and a coordinator to implement community engagement plans. Physical and behavioral health resources, as well as basic needs such as food and clothing, can be provided to students more quickly if they are available at the school.

The legislation was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended

The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2020 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2021.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

Applications can be submitted online with the Department of Revenue’s myPATH system. Filing online leads to fast processing, easy direct deposit options and automatic calculators that help with the process.

Something to Celebrate this Flag Day

June 14, Flag Day, commemorates the 1777 adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. It has grown to mean more than simply the celebration of a banner.

This spring, as we head back outside and reconnect with neighbors, the flag symbolizes what unites us. Despite our differences, we share the unbreakable bond of citizenship in the greatest nation on earth. Fly our flag with pride, gratitude and love of neighbor.

U.S. Army Marks 246 Years of Defending America

“Resolved, That six companies of expert riflemen [sic], be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia; … [and] that each company, as soon as completed [sic], shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army.”  – Continental Congress resolution, June 14, 1775

For 246 years, the U.S. Army has defended the nation and the free world as a fierce fighting force noted for its power and bravery. It’s an honor to recognize the Army’s June 14 birthday, as well as the dedicated men and women who give it its strength all year round.

Real Alternatives 25th Anniversary Ceremony

I had the honor today to be the keynote speaker at Real Alternatives Service Providers Luncheon. For 25 years this organization has been helping provide clothing, food, shelter and other services to women in need of pregnancy support. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff also spoke about his personal story with adoption and the great things Real Alternatives is doing to make a difference.

Right to Bear Arms Rally

I joined some of my colleagues from the Legislature and patriots from across the Commonwealth this week for a rally to “Protect Your Right to Keep and Bear Arms” on the steps of the State Capitol Building. The right to bear arms was so important to our founding fathers that they specifically instituted it into the Constitution. I will continue to fight to protect your constitutional rights.

Miss Central Pa Meghan Sinisi Visits the Capitol

Miss Central Pennsylvania Meghan Sinisi from Altoona visited the Capitol this week.  She is competing this year to be Miss Pennsylvania.  She is a Speech-Language Pathologist and the Founder/President of From a New Perspective, a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization that connects autism families in PA with resources in their communities. For nearly a decade, she has been an advocate for autism acceptance through many social impact initiatives and has co-authored a children’s book titled Building Blocks about Autism. As Miss Central Pennsylvania, and hopefully as the next Miss Pennsylvania, she plans to continue working on community projects, such as installing sensory rooms in public spaces for families with autistic children to comfortably access community opportunities. I also had the pleasure of welcoming her brother Chris.

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