In this Update:
Senate Approves Landmark Scholarship Legislation
The state Senate today approved landmark legislation containing language I sponsored with Senator Anthony Williams that would offer scholarships to students in the commonwealth’s lowest-performing schools so they can access better educational opportunities.
These scholarships can offer parents and students the hope that comes with a quality education. Our children are our most valuable asset, and education is their most valuable tool. They should not be destined to a poor education just because of the zip code they live in.
Senate Bill 795, which was included as part of House Bill 479, would establish the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Scholarship Program in Pennsylvania. PASS scholarships would provide funding for children in kindergarten through the 12th grade in the lowest 15% of schools in statewide performance standards.
The program, which would be administered by the Department of the Treasury, would provide $2,500 scholarships for students in half-day kindergarten; $5,000 for students in kindergarten through the 8th grade; $10,000 for students in the 9th through 12th grade; and $12,000 for students with special needs.
Scholarships would be available to students living in households with an income below 250% of the federal poverty level, which equates to $75,000 this year for a family of four.
The legislation has the potential to help students in 382 schools across 79 school districts.
I urge the Democrats in the House to put the children of Pennsylvania first, make this bill a priority, take swift action and get it to the governor’s desk so he can sign it into law. Pennsylvania students trapped in underperforming schools cannot wait any longer for this to opportunity at a brighter future to become a reality.
Video of my remarks in the Senate are available here.
License Plate Replacement Event
NFIB News Conference
I was proud to speak on my Senate Bill 662 regarding net operating loss for small businesses. This legislation gives our small business’s an accounting tool, which is currently available to their large, corporate counterparts, and thus helps to create fairness between these two groups. Our small business are the backbone of our economy, and they should be allowed the same tax advantages as large businesses. Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they should be allowed the same tax advantages as larger businesses.
Senate Works to Reunite Missing Children with Their Families
The Senate approved the Child Reunification Act to provide parents and law enforcement with a new tool to help identify and return missing children.
Senate Bill 460 would provide parents and guardians with free identification kits that include fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs and other information to help identify the child in case of an emergency.
The bill would require school districts to distribute the kits to all first graders at no cost to parents. To protect the personal information of children and families, the information would be stored securely by parents and would not be entered into any state or national database.
Work Continues on a New State Budget
This week, our work continues to complete a state budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. Budget priorities include:
This effort requires a serious approach. We are focused on putting the right plan in place for PA families and taxpayers and ensuring that it is sustainable for this year and in the future.
Supporting Transportation Infrastructure
The Senate has been working on numerous transportation initiatives that would impact ALL areas of our state.
This week, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 136 to extend until Nov. 1 the emergency disaster proclamation issued in response to the collapse of the I-95 bridge in northeast Philadelphia.
Earlier this year, as people struggled with rising costs for all kinds of basic necessities, the Senate voted to protect Pennsylvanians’ wallets and stop the automatic gas tax increase for 2023. It would have been the second-highest gas tax in the nation, behind only California.
In another vote to bolster funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure, the Senate passed Senate Bill 121 to restrict the diversion of transportation funding out of the Motor License Fund by the State Police for statewide highway patrol operations. The fund obtains revenue from transportation charges, including the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver license fees.
We also recently passed Senate Bill 656 to ensure owners of electric vehicles pay their fair share of road and bridge maintenance by enacting a flat annual fee of $290. Currently, they are required to remit the Alternative Fuels Tax based on the amount of electricity their vehicle uses, but most electric vehicle owners do not do this.
Senate Advances Bill to Combat Elder Abuse
The Senate passed legislation combatting elder abuse and strengthening guardianship laws in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 506 would require courts to automatically appoint counsel to individuals undergoing the guardianship process, consider other less restrictive alternatives before imposing a guardianship, and institute training and screening of professional guardians. The bill would also establish more robust review procedures for those currently in a guardianship.
Currently, when an adult of any age is deemed incapacitated by a court, a guardian may be appointed to become responsible for making certain decisions on their behalf, including for financial, medical and personal matters. Pennsylvania is one of only eight states in America that does not automatically appoint counsel to represent alleged incapacitated persons.
Happy Independence Day
Next week marks 247 years since the 13 American colonies signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia to break free from British rule. As we pause to celebrate the birth of our nation, let us take a moment to remember the men and women who sacrificed so much to create this country.
If you are traveling, check out www.511pa.com, which is free and available 24 hours a day. The site provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to traffic cameras.
PennDOT will also close its driver license service centers on Tuesday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website.
Have a safe and happy July Fourth!
Out and About in the 30th
Congratulations to Brody Cirtwell of Boy Scout Troop 45, Fulton County, who recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout! For his Eagle Scout service project, Brody constructed and installed a veterans memorial at the Buck Valley Christian Church in Warfordsburg. This included creating a dedication plaque, as well as plaques representing each branch of the United States Armed Forces.
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