Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

View this email in a browser

In this Update:

  • My Legislation Strengthening Child Sexual Abuse Laws Unanimously Passes Senate
  • Every Child Deserves a Quality Education
  • PA Broadband Development Authority Grant Program Available for Libraries, Non-Profits and Community Institutions
  • Senate Approves Bill to Improve Workforce Development Programs
  • Bill to Improve Early Literacy Receives Senate Support
  • Senate Votes to Expand Access to Benefits for Disabled Veterans
  • Jumpstart Your Child’s Education Savings
  • Antlerless Deer Licenses for Sale Starting June 24
  • June is Pet Preparedness Month
  • Out and About

My Legislation Strengthening Child Sexual Abuse Laws Unanimously Passes Senate

Recently, the Senate unanimously approved two bills which I introduced with Minority Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, Senator Maria Collett, that would strengthen Pennsylvania laws related to child pornography and child sexual abuse.

The words we use in state laws are important, especially when they are the foundation for a criminal case against a child sexual predator. The internet has created a whole new front in the protection of our children. These changes will better enable law enforcement to keep our children safe and apprehend those individuals who present a danger to them.

Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187 would implement a recommendation from a 2022 report issued by the Child Pornography Task Force of the Joint State Government Commission and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The task force recommended replacing the phrase “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material” in Pennsylvania law. The phrase “child pornography” fails to adequately capture what is contained in the images or film, whereas “child sexual abuse material” specifically identifies the child as a victim of sexual abuse that has been captured in still photographs or videos.

Senate Bill 186 would apply the change to Title 18, commonly referred to as the crimes code. Senate Bill 187 would apply the change to the Child Internet Protection Act.

The Joint State Government Commission Task Force on Child Pornography was created through Act 53 of 2021.

Senate Bill 186 and Senate Bill 187 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

My comments can be viewed by clicking on the video above.

Every Child Deserves a Quality Education

I sat down with Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman to discuss our ongoing efforts to empower parents across the Commonwealth with opportunities to uplift their children through the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success scholarship program.

Senate Bill 795, which would establish the PASS scholarship program, will make scholarships available to families living in Pennsylvania’s lowest-achieving school districts.

This program will provide our students who are currently attending low-performing school districts with the opportunity to attend a school that will better meet their needs.

It is important that we act upon this scholarship program so that every child, no matter their current status, has the possibility to succeed. With continued and growing bipartisan support, this program will truly be life changing for our students!

You can click on the image above to view our discussion.

PA Broadband Development Authority Grant Program Available for Libraries, Non-Profits and Community Institutions

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority announced that the application period for the new Digital Connectivity Technology Program will be open beginning Thursday, June 20 through Monday, August 19, 2024. Online applications can be made through the PBDA website starting June 20.

Through the new program, the PBDA will purchase and distribute $20 million in laptops for eligible public-facing institutions such as libraries, municipalities, workforce training organizations, not-for-profit organizations, and other community anchor institutions located in areas where affordability has been identified as a barrier to broadband adoption and use who will then make them available to individuals who lack the technology needed to access the internet.

The PBDA will begin reviewing Digital Connectivity Technology Program applications on August 20 and anticipates announcing the grant awards in November. Projects are expected to begin in early 2025. Grant recipients are required to make digital skills training available through their own program or the free options on the PBDA website, however end users are not required to participate in a training program.

You can find more information about the Digital Connectivity Technology Program and how to apply to the program here.

Visit Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s website to learn more about its work to close the digital divide in the Commonwealth.

Senate Approves Bill to Improve Workforce Development Programs

The Senate passed legislation to make Pennsylvania more attractive to employers and improve workforce development programs.

Senate Bill 761 would require the Department of Labor and Industry and the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis to share data that is already collected with local workforce development boards in a timely fashion. Delayed information and data sharing limit these boards in efficiently analyzing programs and policy. Having access to workforce data on wages, new hires and unemployment claimants enables programs to be modified so Pennsylvanians can succeed professionally.

The bill also calls for technical assistance and support for the improved data sharing model so local workforce development boards can use the information.

Bill to Improve Early Literacy Receives Senate Support

To give students the best chance of success, the Senate passed a bill that would improve early literacy using a three-pronged approach.

Senate Bill 801 would:

  • Bolster reading instruction with evidence-based reading curricula,
  • Identify struggling readers via universal screening within the first 30 days of school and
  • Use screening data to implement intervention plans to prevent children from falling behind.

Half of Pennsylvania’s fourth grade students read below their grade level. Studies show that childhood reading difficulties can produce long-term effects and dramatically impact someone’s ability to succeed.

Senate Votes to Expand Access to Benefits for Disabled Veterans

Legislation to exempt 100% of disabled veterans’ benefit payments from income calculations for any commonwealth programs or benefits received Senate support.

Senate Bill 126 would ensure veterans who receive disability compensation would not have those payments counted against them when applying to programs such as the Real Estate Property Tax Exemption, Education Gratuity Program, Veterans Temporary Assistance Program and Military Relief Assistance Program.

The bill would also extend the exclusion of the veterans’ compensation benefits to their unmarried surviving spouses.

Jumpstart Your Child’s Education Savings

Saving for your child’s education can be daunting, but Keystone Scholars can jumpstart education savings for Pennsylvania children.

The first program of its kind in the country, Keystone Scholars provides a $100 investment for post-high school education for every child born in Pennsylvania since Jan. 1, 2019. It can be used to pay for collegiate studies, technical school training and apprenticeship programs. Claim your child’s money, which is funded by surplus investment earnings from the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan.

Opening a companion PA 529 College and Career Savings Program account can also help to save for education-related expenses. PA 529 accounts have tax advantages and do not impact eligibility for Pennsylvania state financial aid.

Antlerless Deer Licenses for Sale Starting June 24

For wildlife management units (WMUs) 1B, 2G and 3A, antlerless deer licenses go on sale for residents Monday, June 24, at 8 a.m. Licenses for residents of all other WMUs go on sale Thursday, June 27, at 8 a.m. They will be guaranteed until July 7. Unsold licenses will be available for nonresidents on July 8 at 8 a.m.

One tag will be available per hunter in the first round of sales. The second round of sales begins July 22 at 8 a.m. for residents and nonresidents alike on a first come, first served basis. Read more about all four rounds of license purchase.

Resident antlerless deer licenses cost $6.97, and nonresident antlerless deer licenses cost $26.97. Purchase a license online or in-store at a license issuing agent.

June is Pet Preparedness Month

Just as it’s important to have an emergency plan for our family, it’s also smart to think ahead for our pets so they can be safe even in unforeseen circumstances. Here are some steps to take:

  • Make a plan. Have an evacuation plan because many shelters and hotels do not allow pets. Have your pet microchipped, and make sure to keep your address and phone number up-to-date.
  • Build a pet emergency kit. Think about the basics for survival, such as food and water. Have two kits: one larger kit if you’re sheltering in place and a lightweight version if you need to evacuate.
  • Stay informed. Bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pay attention to wireless emergency alerts for local alerts and warnings. Evacuate or shelter in place when recommended.

Learn more about how to make sure your pets are prepared and protected.

Out and About

Zoo Day at the Capitol highlighted the network of Zoos we have around the Commonwealth and all the amazing animals they care for. It was a pleasure seeing some of our friends from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission who let me handle this black rat snake!

If you see Marklin in my office, make sure you say hello! Marklin will be interning for the 30th District this summer, serving our constituents and learning the functions of our state processes. It was a pleasure to have Marklin with us in the Capitol recently.

Congratulations to Kelly Fedeli on graduating from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Blair County” program. Kelly is a constituent relations specialist in my Blair County Office. Pictured with Kelly are her parents, Jim and Bonnie Crawford of Tyrone. We are so proud of Kelly!

Vince Greenland, District Executive, PennDOT District 9, updated members on current PennDOT projects in Blair County at a recent Blair County Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

I was happy to support Operation Honor in McConnellsburg. Operation Honor was a two-day event to Honor Rural Veterans and to help connect them with valuable resources.

Lewistown Liquidators held their grand opening and ribbon cutting recently. This new business, which is located at 75 East Hale Street in Lewistown offers quality items at a deep discount!

The former and newly reconstructed Cross Street Bridge in Mifflintown was dedicated and renamed Bravery Bridge on behalf of all our first responders who responded to the events of June 17, 2023. I commend the Mifflintown Mayor and Borough Council on their efforts with this project.

Speakers were Cory J. Snook, District Attorney, Sgt. Jared M. Hartsock, PA State Police Commander for Lewistown, Bruce Trego, Retired State Fire Commissioner, Anthony Martin, Director of the Bureau of EMS, PA Dept. of Health, and Tanner Zimmerman, Operations Manager for Zimmerman Truck Lines and the Plaque Donor.

Congratulations to Juniata Terrace for being named to the National Historic Registry! This recognition is truly well deserved. Thank you to Congressman Joyce for making it out to join in the ceremony.


If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter please sign up here.

Facebook Twitter/X Website

2024 © Senate of Pennsylvania | | Privacy Policy