In this Update:
Election Integrity Update
Every week if not every day, I hear from the majority of our friends and neighbors sharing their desire to see a thorough examination of Pennsylvania elections. As an update, Senator Doug Mastriano as chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee sent letters to three counties (York, Tioga and Philadelphia) to begin a forensic investigation of the November 2020 and May 2021 elections. The counties have three weeks to communicate their compliance. While the Governor threatened the counties if they do comply, our Republican leadership took a stand, calling out the Governor’s ongoing unilateral decision-making.
Those who reached out have told me that they want to know more about how Pennsylvania elections are conducted. Given the concern that so many of you have, I believe I have an obligation as your Senator to ensure citizens have faith in this process and to restore their confidence. As a member of this committee, I will have a role in this as we review our election process and examine areas for legislative reform. I will keep you posted and things develop.
Parents have until July 15 to Choose Additional Year of Education for their Child Following Pandemic Disruptions
Parents have until July 15 to take advantage of a new state law empowering them to decide whether their children should advance to the next grade level or be held back a year due to learning disruptions created during COVID-19.
Parents who wish to pursue the additional optional year of education for their children must complete and return a standardized form to their school district by the July 15 deadline. This allows school districts enough time to plan for changes in class sizes for the upcoming school year.
The additional optional year of education was provided by the newly enacted Act 66 of 2021. The option would only apply to the 2021-22 school year to help manage learning loss caused by the pandemic.
$591,134 in State Funding for 30th District Fire, Ambulance Companies
Good news – $591,133 will be awarded to volunteer fire and ambulance companies throughout the 30th District by a grant program administered by the Office of the State Fire Commissioner. In our area, Blair County received $220,696, Cumberland County received $100,832 Franklin County received $89,571, Fulton County received $43,700, Huntingdon County received $136,334.
This past year has been tough on our fire and EMS companies as they were prevented from holding their traditional fundraising events due to the Governor’s edicts during the pandemic. Yet through it all, these departments continued to provide excellent protection and service to our communities. These grants will provide some help for those who dedicate themselves to helping others.
The Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program provides grants to improve and enhance firefighting, ambulance and rescue services capabilities of fire companies and emergency medical services throughout the Commonwealth. It is open to all fire and EMS companies, as well as volunteer rescue squads.
Because Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives passed Act 93 of 2020, fire and EMS companies may use the grants for more areas, including education of the public regarding fire prevention and community risk reduction; recruitment and retention programs; volunteer firefighter length of service programs; and revenue loss for grants issued in 2020 or 2021.
Grants may also be used to fund the purchase or repair of equipment, construction or renovation of facilities, debt reduction and training.
2021-22 State Budget in Detail
In my last E-newsletter, I reported that the Senate approved a 2021-22 state budget that holds the line on taxes, supports Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and provides a financial safety net for the future.
This year’s budget was unlike almost any other given the amount of pandemic recovery federal funding involved. The goal was to drive state and federal funds to where they are most needed, while holding back money to balance next year’s budget responsibly. You can take a closer look at the spending plan here.
Bills of Note Passed by the Senate in 2021
Legislation giving citizens a voice in disaster response and protecting the vulnerable during the pandemic received the most attention this year, but the Senate tackled many more issues in the first six months of the two-year legislative session.
From strengthening schools, to reducing regulatory burdens, improving health care and more, here’s a roundup of notable bills passed by the Senate in 2021.
Bipartisan Task Force Recommends Steps to Improve Juvenile Justice System
The bipartisan Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force recently released a comprehensive final report with policy recommendations that protect public safety, increase accountability, achieve savings for reinvestment, and improve outcomes for youth, families and communities.
The 30-member task force assessed the state juvenile justice system and reviewed data from court and state agencies and examined how practices can better align with what research says works to improve outcomes for youth and families. The task force received input from more than 500 stakeholders.
If adopted, the policy recommendations are expected to safely reduce the population of young people in out-of-home facilities by 39% by 2026, freeing up nearly $81 million for reinvestment.
Avoiding Tick Bites and Lyme Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest statistics (2019), Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of confirmed Lyme disease cases.
The best way to avoid it is to avoid tick bites. Some tips:
You can read more about how to avoid tick bites, as well as how to spot Lyme disease symptoms and other related topics, here.
YMCA Women’s Summer League Turns 40
Congratulations to the Blair regional YMCA Women’s Summer League who are celebrating their 40th year anniversary. This league has developed into the longest running women’s summer league in the state of Pennsylvania. It features high school teams from Altoona, Bishop Guilfoyle, Hollidaysburg, Tyrone, Central, Bishop Carroll, Tussey Mountain, Williamsburg, Bellwood, Juniata Valley, State College, Penns Manor, and Berlin Brothers Valley this summer. In addition, the league also features an alumni division. Susan “SueKo” Kovensky has been involved for over 30 years and currently serves as the Officials’ Liaison. Also pictured with me is Sharon Jones, YMCA Executive Director, and Tom Kopriva, former Executive Director and current YMCA volunteer.
Pavement Preservation Work to Begin on Interstate 99 in Bedford and Blair Counties
Concrete patching will begin Wednesday, July 14, on both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-99 between Exit 1 (Bedford/PA Turnpike) and Exit 3, (Johnstown/Cessna), in Bedford County. This is the next phase of a larger project being completed in four separate work zones along I-99 in Bedford and Blair Counties.
Traffic will be temporarily reduced to a single lane in the work zones. Motorists are advised to use caution and watch for construction personnel and vehicles.
Additionally, preparation for concrete patching work on the northbound and southbound lanes of I-99 will start next Wednesday, July 21, between Exit 7 (Osterburg/St. Clairsville) and Exit 10 (Imler/Blue Knob).
Overall work on this project consists pavement preservation of approximately 31.5 miles of I-99 and all interchange ramps in both Bedford and Blair Counties. The project will run from Exit 1 (Bedford/Turnpike) to Exit 15 (Sproul/Claysburg). Work includes application of one-inch of thin overlay wearing course, concrete pavement patching, rumble strips, guide rail, drainage upgrades, cable median barrier, pavement markings and any other needed miscellaneous construction.