Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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New Bills Signed Into Law to Support Pennsylvania Farmers

Farming is the most important part of the state’s economy and the lifeblood of many communities in our area. I am extremely pleased that a number of bills to support Pennsylvania agriculture were signed into law this week – including two bills that I introduced on behalf of local farmers.

Two of the bills I sponsored create new programs to assist farmers:

  • The Agricultural Business Development Center, which will serve as a resource to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan, or succession plan to ensure the best chance of success.
  • The Agriculture and Youth Development Grants program, which will help youth organizations that promote development in agriculture, community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship.
  • The Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program, which will reimburse farmers for projects that increase market opportunities in urban areas.
  • The Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which would enhance the competitiveness of high-priority specialty crops, such as such as hemp, hops and hardwoods.

For a rundown of all of the agriculture bills approved by lawmakers and signed into law this week, click here.

It was an honor to attend a bill signing event for my own legislation and a number of other bills supporting the agriculture community.

State Budget Meets Government Responsibilities Without a Tax Increase

I was proud to support a fiscally responsible state spending plan last week that holds the rate of spending growth below the rate of inflation, sets aside money to deal with future financial challenges, requires no tax increases on hardworking families or small businesses, and invests new money in our schools, farms, job training and programs for our most vulnerable citizens.

A number of items in the budget are extremely encouraging. The additional $160 million for Basic Education should be put to good use in classrooms throughout the region. It makes key investments in career and technical education through an increase of $10 million.

This budget is committed to helping those in need. It provides $15 million for community-based services and much-needed care for over 800 Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities who have been waiting for services. There will also be a $1.7 million increase to Domestic Violence funding and a $1 million increase in Rape Crisis funding.

We are eliminating the inheritance tax on transfers of property from parent to children 21 years old or younger.  It provides a sales tax exemption for food and beverages sold by volunteer firefighters at fundraisers.

Senate Republicans understand the needs across our Commonwealth and are focused on funding what works.

My statement of passage of the budget is available here. I discussed some of the highlights of the budget package in the video below.

6/27/19 – Senate Republicans: Funding What Works

Statement on Sunday Hunting Vote

The Senate recently voted on a measure that would allow hunting on three Sundays each year. After much consultation with hunters, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts, I voted against the bill. It still received enough support to pass the Senate and was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

I deeply appreciate the feedback that I received on this issue. I encourage everyone to read my statement about my vote on this bill, and to continue to share your opinions. My statement is available here.

I had a great time visiting with some constituents from the American Legion Keystone State Boys Program at a meeting in my Capitol office.

Meadow Grounds Lake Construction Permit Issued

The Meadow Grounds Lake in Ayr Township, Fulton County, was drained in 2013 after deficiencies were identified in the dam. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of local volunteers, generous donors, and state and local officials, this tremendous resource is on its way to being restored.

The release of the dam construction permit is a major milestone in the restoration process. More information about the announcement from Representative Jesse Topper and me is available here.

6/18/19 – Cystinuria Awareness Day

I was proud to offer remarks on the Senate Floor in recognition of Cystinuria Awareness Day on June 24. Cystinuria is a chronic disease that can be controlled, but not cured. You can learn more about this disease at 

Proposal Moves Forward to Help Volunteer Organizations Fighting Cancer

Many community-based charities and other organizations can apply for permits to sell wines and spirits at special fundraising events. While these special permits help raise money for a number of very worthy causes, one local organization in Blair County raised a serious concern with this law; it doesn’t include community-based organizations that are helping to fight cancer.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee recently approved a bill I authored to address that loophole in the law. The bill would open up the application process to any non-profit organization which has been in existence for at least five years, is registered with the PA Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations, and is also recognized as a community-based voluntary organization committed to fighting cancer.  I look forward to getting this legislation over the finish line.

More details about the bill are available here.

I enjoyed visiting with Representatives Barb Gleim and Torren Ecker at the 24th Annual Newville Fountain Festival and parade.

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Increase Access to Psychology Services

Psychology services are a critical component of the mental health of many Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, access to services is not always readily available, especially in rural areas like ours. The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved a bill recently that I introduced to expand access to these services.

In current practice, each state has its own set of laws governing the practice of psychology, making it difficult for a psychologist to obtain a license to practice in multiple states. To deal with these issues, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards has developed the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT) to allow telepsychological practice across state lines as well as temporary in-person services.

My bill would allow Pennsylvania to join PSYPACT to improve patient access to services.  I look forward to getting this legislation passed.  More information about the proposal is available here.

I was pleased to participate in a groundbreaking event for a new ambulance station for the AMED.

Last Fish-for-Free Day of 2019 Scheduled for July 4

In order to help more beginning anglers enjoy the sport of fishing, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is offering a Fish-for-Free Day on July 4. The special event will allow anyone to legally fish in public waterways in Pennsylvania without a fishing license. All other applicable laws still apply.

More details are available here.

Debate over Cash Assistance Program 

I have always supported a strong safety net of programs and services to help Pennsylvanians in need, like single parents, the elderly, those who are disabled and veterans. Additionally, I have joined together with my Senate Republican colleagues to take steps to ensure that those programs, which are funded by taxpayers, operate efficiently and in a fiscally responsible way.

To that end, it is important to share some important history on this issue. Following reports issued by two Democrat Auditor Generals which found significant waste and abuse in the state’s cash assistance program, the General Assembly decided to eliminate funding for it in 2012. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the way the law was passed on procedural grounds was unconstitutional– but did not question the validity of law. However, the Governor, after committing not to revive the program, – revived it anyway, despite repeated concerns about the widespread lack of accountability. The Wolf administration re-opened applications for cash assistance beginning in August of 2018, without the approval of the Legislature.

I wholeheartedly support providing help for those that truly need it. When programs are not serving individuals and families as intended, however, we need to reevaluate the programs.

The cash assistance program was originally intended to help meet our poorest citizens’ basic needs. When multiple audits of the programs discovered misuse of funds, we must look for better programs. To date, cash assistance recipients may spend that money on anything they wish – including alcohol, illicit drugs or gambling– with no restrictions. At the time it was eliminated, approximately 70 percent of individuals receiving cash assistance were single males without dependents.

Rather than reinstating a flawed program that has no accountability, I support efforts to use taxpayer dollars on programs that have been proven to give state residents a step up.  These efforts include helping those who need treatment for drug abuse, providing additional funding for domestic violence services, assisting single parents who are working to obtain an education and/or a job, and providing more resources to veterans, the elderly, and children.  That is why I voted for House Bill 33 to end the cash assistance program.  

Unfortunately, last week while debating House Bill 33 the order and decorum of the Senate was disrupted by Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s failure to adhere to the Senate Rules. The partisan behavior exhibited is not what people of PA deserve from elected officials.

While policy disagreements are inevitable, robust and collegial debate on those disagreements can only be achieved by following the rules of parliamentary procedure. 

When our rules are not followed, chaos takes over.  It was a sad day for good government in Pennsylvania and these actions set a dangerous precedent for the future of an institution that I value so greatly. 

When we disagree with one another we must do so in a respectful manner. Our Senate Rules exist to ensure order and civility during debate. These rules, which are found in Mason’s Manual, are vital to the operation of this institution, and were unanimously adopted by the Senate earlier this year.  There is no allowance for setting aside the rulebook or choosing which ones to observe.

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