Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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Governor Intends to Fund Voting Machine Replacement without Legislative Authorization

After vetoing an important election reform bill that would have also provided $90 million in funding to assist counties replacing their voting machines, the governor has decided to bypass the Legislature and supply the funding unilaterally.

Leaders in both the Senate and the House question the governor’s authority to take such action without legislative authorization.

The need for the funding was brought about by the governor’s decision to decertify all voting machines currently in use in the Commonwealth.  As a result, county governments are being forced to purchase new machines at an estimated cost of $150 million. This is an expense that many counties – especially in rural areas like ours – can scarcely afford.

Lawmakers agreed on a package of election reforms last month that also included funding for these new machines. Instead of agreeing to this legislation and solving the problem, the governor compounded the pain on counties by vetoing the bill based on political pressure.

The main point of contention was a provision that would have eliminated straight-party voting. Most states have moved away from this option, and the bipartisan effort to eliminate it was led by a Democrat in the Senate. The governor had a chance to choose between the people of Pennsylvania, or his party.

I had the honor of presenting awards to artists at the Central PA Festival of the Arts in State College. As a Board member of PA Council of the Arts and good friend of CPFA Executive Director, Rick Bryant, they asked me to take part in this great event. Also pictured with Rick and myself is J.D. Dunbar, who is the Executive Director of Penn State Rural-Urban Leadership program (RULE).

Committee Advances Bills to Combat Blight, Promote Affordable Housing

In May, I was appointed to serve as Chair of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. In my first two months of leading this committee, we have already held a public hearing to more closely examine the programs and services offered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), as well as a meeting to approve bills related to blight and affordable housing.

The bills approved by the committee include:

  • A proposal that later became law to expand affordable housing options through the PA Housing and Rehabilitation Enhancement (“PHARE”) fund.
  • Legislation I sponsored to offer incentives for local taxing authorities and developers to transform blighted properties into mixed-use spaces.
  • A bill to establish a county demolition and rehabilitation fund in each county to address blighted properties.
  • A bill that would provide a uniform definition of blight to avoid points of contention on future projects.

Video of the meeting to consider bills is available here. Video of the PHFA hearing is available here.

Representative Jesse Topper and I had a great visit to Tuscarora IU-11’s Fulton County Early Intervention Program in McConnellsburg. We enjoyed interacting with the students and learning about the program from the instructors and specialists. Thank you for hosting us!

First Six Months of Legislative Session Includes a Flurry of Activity

In the first six months of the two-year 2019-20 Legislative Session, the Senate passed more than 100 bills, including 39 measures signed into law that were sponsored by Senate Republicans. In addition to passing a state budget that included no tax increases, we acted on a number of bills to boost school safety, provide assistance to Pennsylvania farmers, strengthen the rights of crime victims, and much more.

A list of many of the bills of note that have been approved by the Senate so far this year is available here.

There is exciting news at Colonel Denning State Park! I joined Representative Barb Gleim for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announcement of the completion of the Campground Shower House and Comfort Station project.

Our state parks are a treasure for everyone to enjoy. If you are interested in learning about volunteer opportunities to keep our parks clean and beautiful, visit

Local Housing Grants Awarded in Local Communities

Four projects to support housing for low-income community residents were recently awarded in Blair, Franklin and Huntingdon counties through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE).

The projects include new housing for seniors in Huntingdon County, new rental options for low-income families in Franklin County, and safe housing options for homeless residents in Blair County. The complete list of local projects is available here.

I appreciated the chance to visit the Tyrone Youth Athletic Association and InspectionGo in Tyrone with John Russell (CEO & Co-Founder), Mike Whitby, Will Russell and Matthew Fox of ABCD Corp.

Grants Available to Support Local Transportation Projects

Municipalities, businesses and agencies focused on economic development and transportation can apply now for grants from the Commonwealth Financing Authority Multimodal Transportation Fund. The program supports the development/improvement of transportation infrastructure, streetscape, lighting, sidewalk enhancement, pedestrian safety, connectivity of transportation assets and other transportation projects.

The deadline to apply is July 31. More details about the program are available here.

Congratulations and best wishes to Leo Matuszewski on his retirement as a Supervisor of Antis Township!

Family Event Offers Introduction to Fishing

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will host a special family fishing event on August 18 from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Canoe Creek State Park to help connect more families to one of Pennsylvania’s favorite pastimes.

The event is free and equipment will be provided. A fishing license is not required, but participants must register for the event in advance. The registration page has more information here.

Bike Routes Offer Recreational Opportunities Throughout the Region

Pennsylvania has thousands of miles of safe, accessible bicycle routes, including many in our area. The PennDOT Bike Routes Map shows you where they’re at, including traffic volume, speed limits and elevation.

More details are available here.

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