Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Votes to Stand with Israel
  • Continuing Education Enhancement Act on the Move
  • Senate Republicans Continue Negotiations for Pro-Growth, Responsible State Budget
  • Set for Enactment: Senate Bill Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services
  • Bill Giving Parents Flexibility with Their Children’s Education Passes Senate
  • Set for Enactment: Bill Providing Free Credit Monitoring for Data Breach Victims
  • June is National Fireworks Safety Month
  • Out and About

Senate Votes to Stand with Israel

I was proud to co-sponsor and support, Senate Bill 1260, which sends a loud and clear message from here in the state Senate and across our Commonwealth, that we will proudly stand with our top ally in the Middle East – Israel.

Senate Bill 1260, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support would prohibit the Pennsylvania Treasury’s Office, the State Employees’ Retirement System, the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System from boycotting or divesting from Israel. As a steward of your tax dollars, I think it is important to ensure that your money is used wisely. This measure would also cut off state tax dollars from flowing to institutions of higher education that decide to follow down the path of boycotting and divesting from Israel.

We will never forget the horrific tragedies which took place on Oct. 7, 2023, where more than 1,000 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, were murdered by Hamas terrorists. This measure is a response due in part to the rise of antisemitism around the country and across college campuses, where protests are seen calling for the complete destruction of Israel. These protests are putting students and faculty at risk, in which Jewish students have been required to shelter in place having feared for their lives. Senate Bill 1260 would lay to rest the efforts of those wanting to boycott and divest from our strongest ally.

In the wake of Oct. 7, Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, who fully supports this legislation, invested an additional $20 million in Israel bonds, bringing the Treasury’s total investment in Israel to more than $56 million.

We will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel.

Continuing Education Enhancement Act on the Move

I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1242, known as the Continuing Education Enhancement Act, which would enable the optimization of operations of the Department of State and its professional licensing boards and commissions which require continuing education for licensed professionals. In working with Senator Stefano, the Majority Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, the bill advanced from committee recently with unanimous approval.

My legislation will establish clear statutory authority for the Department of State to modernize and verify professional continuing education compliance through the establishment of a required continuing education tracking system that brings licensees, boards and continuing education providers together in one universally accessible platform. This will also increase constituent access to digital government services, increase transparency and create a simplified experience for licensed professionals, which will ultimately reduce licensing burdens.

Senate Bill 1242 will increase efficiencies and streamline processes, which will save time and costs, providing the Commonwealth the opportunity to join other states and be a leader in continuing education modernization, while addressing the state’s licensure system.

Senate Bill 1242 now awaits consideration by the full Senate. You can view the committee meeting by clicking the image above.

Senate Republicans Continue Negotiations for Pro-Growth, Responsible State Budget

State budget negotiations are ongoing in Harrisburg, and we are encouraged by the dialogue between the Senate, House and governor. While it appears clear at this point that we will not have a full budget agreement which could be implemented by June 30, we are hopeful to reach a consensus very soon and avoid any negative impacts on the people of Pennsylvania. The Senate will return to session on Monday, July 1, at 3 p.m.

Senate Republicans continue to push for a spending plan that respects taxpayers, ensures existing resources are used wisely, and leads to economic and demographic growth in Pennsylvania. Since Gov. Josh Shapiro presented a budget plan in February that would increase overall spending by $3.2 billion, we have voiced the amount he wanted to spend is much higher than Senate Republicans believe is fiscally responsible.

Learn more about the process of enacting the 2024-25 state budget and watch the Senate in session here.

Set for Enactment: Senate Bill Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services

Legislation expanding access to telemedicine in Pennsylvania received final Senate approval and will be sent to the governor for enactment.

Telemedicine allows individuals to access health care services online using a computer, tablet or smartphone. It allows medical services to be provided to some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians who otherwise would not be able to receive them due to location or other circumstances.

Senate Bill 739, which I was a co-sponsor of, sets a base for how telemedicine will be covered by insurance companies and medical providers in Pennsylvania. The legislation requires:

  • Health insurance policies to provide coverage for covered health care services delivered through telemedicine consistent with the insurer’s medical policies.
  • Insurers to pay providers for covered health care services delivered through telemedicine consistent with the terms of the contract between the insurer and participating network provider.
  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs to pay for covered health care services consistent with federal and state law.

Bill Giving Parents Flexibility with Their Children’s Education Passes Senate

To ensure children with autism, developmental delays or intellectual disabilities are better prepared to enter the classroom, the Senate passed a bill allowing parents or guardians to delay their children attending school for as long as one year.

Senate Bill 1157 would allow them to request a waiver from the Department of Education to delay compulsory attendance when their child reaches the age of six if:

  • The child has been diagnosed by a qualified health professional with autism spectrum disorder or has been identified by the state as having developmental delays or intellectual disabilities.
  • The child has been evaluated by a qualified health professional in the last six months and has been recommended for continued intensive early intervention services.
  • The parent or guardian provides evidence of alternative services being provided or documentation of their efforts to obtain such services.

The bill would offer individualized learning and specialized approaches so children are able to develop the social and emotional skills necessary for future success.

Set for Enactment: Bill Providing Free Credit Monitoring for Data Breach Victims

Bipartisan legislation to strengthen notification requirements for data breaches and provide affected citizens with free credit monitoring for a year and a credit report is set to be signed into law. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives this week, following Senate passage last year.

Senate Bill 824 would cover instances in which an individual’s first and last name or first initial and last name have been accessed in combination with any of the following information: Social Security number, bank account number, driver’s license or state ID number. The bill also strengthens state notification requirements and mandates Attorney General notification if a data breach occurs in the commonwealth.

A record 3,122 data breaches occurred nationally in 2023, affecting hundreds of millions of Americans and costing billions of dollars, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. It marked a 72% increase in data compromises from the previous all-time high in 2021.

June is National Fireworks Safety Month

Independence Day is right around the corner, which means many of us will enjoy celebrations that include an American tradition: fireworks. Being aware of restrictions on consumer fireworks can help prevent injuries and property damage.

They cannot be discharged within 150 feet of a building or vehicle, regardless of whether the building or vehicle is owned by the user of the consumer fireworks. Fireworks cannot be discharged while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or another drug.

Read more about state restrictions, and check with your local municipality for applicable local ordinances.

Out and About

It was great to stop by and see Students for Life for America in the Main Capitol Rotunda. As a member of the Pro-Life Caucus, it is important that we continue to advocate for life.

Got a surprise visit from a former colleague, Tommy Sankey, and his son, Tuck!  It was great to hear what the Sankey family has been up to.

Did you know that June is National Dairy Month? It was wonderful to have Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding; Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chairs Sens. Elder Vogel and Judy Schwank; and the Pennsylvania Dairy Princesses here at the Capitol this week to recognize the hardworking dairy industry throughout our Commonwealth! It was also nice to catch up with Rep. Barb Gleim and snag a fan favorite, the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association Farm Show Milkshake!


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