Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Aging Sec. Kavulich Provides Status of Aging Our Way, PA
  • “Grow PA” Bills to Support Affordable Pathways to Higher Ed, Career Prep Passes Senate
  • Bill to Protect Property Owners from Squatters Receives Senate Support
  • Senate Approves Legislation Combatting AI “Deepfake” Images of Minors
  • Bill to Extend Grant Program for Fire, EMS and Rescue Organizations Passes Senate
  • Free Webinars Provide Helpful Financial Aid Info
  • Happy Father’s Day
  • Out and About

Aging Sec. Kavulich Provides Status of Aging Our Way, PA

As Majority Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I held a Joint Hearing with the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee to receive an update from Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Jason Kavulich on the recently announced Aging Our Way, PA.

Aging Our Way, PA is a 10-year roadmap from the Department of Aging to meet the needs of older adults across our entire Commonwealth. By 2030, one quarter of Pennsylvania’s population will be over the age of 65. Addressing the needs of an aging population will require a concerted effort and require us to tackle several issues. As Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I continue to work alongside my colleagues and stakeholders to prepare the state for a larger and longer-living senior population with ever changing needs.

The Aging Our Way, PA plan will continue Pennsylvania’s tradition of working to ensure that its citizens live with dignity in their communities throughout their lives. I look forward to continuing our work with Secretary Kavulich and the department as this plan is implemented across the Commonwealth.

The Aging Our Way, PA plan can be viewed here.

“Grow PA” Bills to Support Affordable Pathways to Higher Ed, Career Prep Passes Senate

I was proud to co-sponsor and support the bipartisan passage of the “Grow PA” package of bills in the Senate this week which would allow for tens of thousands of students to have more opportunities to pursue affordable post-secondary education and career preparations programs.

The Grow PA initiative would create and expand programs to connect students to high-demand careers in Pennsylvania. The bills would not only make education and career training more affordable, but also provide strong incentives for students to stay and work in the Commonwealth after completing their degrees and certifications.

Grow PA Scholarships would be established for in-state students who attend college in Pennsylvania, pursue a degree in a high-demand industry, and agree to live and work in that industry in Pennsylvania after graduation.

Grow PA Merit Scholarships would be created to allow high-performing, out-of-state students pursuing in-demand occupations to pay lower, in-state tuition at Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools.

Ready to Succeed Scholarships would be expanded to help as many as 24,000 additional students cover post-secondary education costs.

Fostering Independence Tuition Waivers would be expanded to nonresident students, waiving PASSHE tuition and fees for children in the foster care system and children who were adopted.

Performance-based metrics would be added to funding for state-related universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Temple University to provide added accountability to taxpayers.

A Higher Education Task Force would be created to improve higher education and career preparation programs.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion would be required for high school seniors, ensuring families have access to vital information on higher education aid, career and technical education, certificate programs and more.

The Grow PA plan also includes historic investments in career and technical education and dual enrollment.

Bill to Protect Property Owners from Squatters Receives Senate Support

The Senate approved legislation to establish more certainty for homeowners, landlords and law enforcement who encounter squatters. It respects the rights of all parties involved, ensuring legitimate tenants are protected while closing the door to those who exploit our system to occupy homes illegally. As a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1236, I have heard the concerns of homeowners, landlords and law enforcement striving to keep our communities and their properties safe.

Under current Pennsylvania law, squatters are considered trespassers after the property owner warns them they are not welcome and instructs them to vacate the property. Should the squatters remain where they are not licensed or privileged to be, they commit the offense of defiant trespass. However, reclaiming property from squatters requires a “notice to quit” be issued to individuals who have no legal right to the property. It imposes financial burdens and significant emotional strain on property owners.

Given the inconsistencies and lack of clarity in how states address squatter concerns, Pennsylvania must establish clear, uniform guidelines. Senate Bill 1236 defines what constitutes a “tenant,” simplifies the reclamation process – by eliminating the need for a “notice to quit” to be provided to a non-tenant – and offers a practical solution to a deeply distressing problem.

Senate Approves Legislation Combatting AI “Deepfake” Images of Minors

It is imperative that we protect our children. As a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1213, we have begun the process to pass legislation that would combat “deepfake” images of minors and child sexual abuse materials generated by artificial intelligence (AI) which was approved by the Senate recently. The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives now for consideration.

The unauthorized dissemination of an intimate image is against the law in Pennsylvania. However, the law does not specifically address the use of AI deepfake technology to create and disseminate an intimate image of a non-consenting person. Some websites have published realistic AI-generated sexual images of non-consenting adults, as well as children. The images may be artificial but are created by using data and images from real individuals and children.

Senate Bill 1213 would make it clear that the use of AI deepfake technology to create pornographic images of an individual without his or her consent is prohibited. It would also prohibit the use of deepfake technology to create child sexual abuse materials. 

Bill to Extend Grant Program for Fire, EMS and Rescue Organizations Passes Senate

The Senate approved Senate Bill 1099 to extend the state Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program for an additional five years. As a co-sponsor of the legislation, I believe in the importance of this program and the support it offers to our local Fire, EMS and Rescue organizations. The grant program is currently scheduled to expire on June 30.

Grants are provided through the program to help volunteer and professional fire companies, emergency medical services (EMS) organizations and volunteer rescue squads construct or renovate facilities, purchase or repair equipment, reduce debt and provide training.

The grant program allocates up to $30 million, with fire companies eligible for grants of up to $20,000 and EMS companies eligible for grants of up to $15,000.

Free Webinars Provide Helpful Financial Aid Info

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is holding free webinars to assist college-bound students and their families with navigating the financial aid process.

On Tuesday, June 25, at noon, speakers will discuss how to cover the gap between awarded loans and the actual amount due. On Thursday, June 27, at 6:30 p.m., speakers will focus on how to compare financial aid offers to choose the right loan for the borrower.

Register to attend the one-hour webinars.

Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a time to reflect on the amazing men in our lives and let them know how much their dedication means to us. They show their love and guidance in so many ways, big and small, that make our lives so much better. Wishing all the dads across the 30th District a wonderful day with their families, friends and loved ones!

Out and About

I was honored to recently join our Pennsylvania National Guard and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for Guard Day at the Capitol. Guard Day highlights the brave men and women of our National Guard, those past, present, and future, and all the amazing things that they do serving and defending our great Nation. It was a pleasure to join Senator Doug Mastriano, Major General Mark J. Schindler, Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, and Representative Mark Gillen. 

I had a wonderful time attending the 38th Annual Mifflin-Juniata Senior Games Opening Ceremony at Body and Soul. There were over 200 participants for the event. Pictured from left to right are: Chelsea Reed, Director, Mifflin Juniata County Area Agency on Aging, myself, Emily Price, Legislative Aide to Representative Kerry Benninghoff, Beth Harlan, Community Services Supervisor for the Area Agency on Aging, Alice Gray, Juniata County Commissioner, Mark Partner, Juniata County Commissioner and Noah Wise, Mifflin County Commissioner. The Senior Games is a week-long event for seniors age 55 and over from Mifflin and Juniata counties.

What a pleasure it was to meet with Donita Hord and other folks from Begin with Us Childcare and Preschool in Altoona. We spoke about the Pre-K Counts program, child care rates, and workforce issues. 

It’s not every day you get to meet a former professional athlete, especially LaVar Arrington, one of the best Pennsylvania linebackers in history.

Andrew McMonagle from Williamsburg High School, who wrestled for Huntingdon Area High School, was honored in the Senate this week for being the PIAA Class 2A state wrestling Champion in the 189 pounds weight class! Congratulations to Andrew and all the wrestlers who were honored this week for shattering new records and winning state championships!

It was pretty sweet at the Capitol this week! The Hershey Kiss was here with some friends who handed out Hershey kisses, chocolate and other treats bringing the Sweetest Place on Earth right to the Capitol!

I stood with the Pennsylvania Health Care Association in support of adults with disabilities, our seniors and our care providers from across the Commonwealth. There are currently many efforts to promote independent living and community health care services across Pennsylvania, but there is still a very vulnerable portion of the population which is deemed nursing-facility clinically eligible and dependent upon the availability of enhanced care. I deeply appreciate the services provided by our long-term care facilities and will continue to advocate for this network and those who need it.


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