Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Plan for Parental Choice for Masks in Schools
  • Legislative Review: Strengthening Health Care
  • Ballot Question: Blair County Second Amendment Sanctuary
  • Latest from the Legislative Reapportionment Commission
  • Annual PennDOT Highway Safety Survey
  • COVID-19 Vaccines Coming to the County Fair
  • August is ABLE to Save Month
  • Saturday is Purple Heart Day
  • Out and About in the 30th

Plan for Parental Choice for Masks in Schools

I have joined with Senator Doug Mastriano to introduce legislation to allow parents and legal guardians to “opt out” their children from having to comply with a school’s mask mandate.

As we approach the upcoming school year, a number of K-12 school districts around the state have already declared that they will be enforcing mask mandates for all students in the fall. I have heard from many parents around the state who are concerned about the negative impacts of mask wearing to include:

  • Adverse health effects
  • Inhibited breathing
  • Stunted psychological development
  • Decreased communication skills with other students
  • Learning impairment

I believe that parents and legal guardians have the fundamental right to make health and educational decisions that are best suited for their children.

Legislative Review: Strengthening Health Care

The pandemic underscored how fragile good health can be, and how important access to high-quality care is for Pennsylvania communities. The Senate passed several measures, including one of my bills, aimed at strengthening health care, including:

Act 11 of 2021 creating the Living Donor Protection Act.

Act 23 of 2021 giving individuals renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

Act 56 of 2021 dedicating additional Medicaid funding for ventilator and tracheostomy services.

Act 60 of 2021 recognizing Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists under Pennsylvania statute to prevent them from leaving Pennsylvania because of designation issues.

Act 68 of 2021 authorizing Pennsylvania to join the Nurse Licensure Compact recognizing mutual agreement in the requirements for nurse licensing and providing easier transfer of licenses.

Senate Bill 74 allowing companies to apply for a tax credit after donating to a Pennsylvania pediatric cancer research hospital. 

Senate Bill 323 extending the moratorium on increases in income due to a Social Security COLA for PACE and PACENET enrollees for two additional years until Dec. 31, 2023, benefitting 17,800 seniors.

Senate Bill 397 & Senate Bill 398 modernizing state law to encourage more physician assistants to stay and practice in the Commonwealth, resulting in a wider range of medical professionals across the health care delivery system.

You can find a full list of bills of note passed by the Senate in 2021 here.

Ballot Question: Blair County Second Amendment Sanctuary

Blair County voters can expect to see a question on the ballot this fall about naming the county as a Second Amendment Sanctuary. I supported this initiative to ensure that our Second Amendment rights are protected. I am pleased this initiative received enough signatures to take the matter to the voters.

Latest from the Legislative Reapportionment Commission

On July 29, the commission held a public hearing featuring presentations from representatives of National Conference of State Legislatures, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, and the Legislative Data Processing Center. You can view the hearing and access written testimony here.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the panel heard feedback from PA citizens regarding the reapportionment process as a whole and specific issues that may exist in their districts. You can see what citizens had to say here and here.

While the Legislative Reapportionment Commission draws new lines for the state House of Representatives and Senate following the census, congressional maps are drawn by the General Assembly. On Wednesday, the Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on congressional redistricting. You can find testimony and hearing video here.

Annual PennDOT Highway Safety Survey


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is seeking motorists’ input on traffic safety and driving behaviors through its annual online Highway Safety Survey. The survey is available through August 23 and should take about five minutes to complete. All responses, including the “comments” fields, are anonymous.

Nearly 8,000 people responded to last year’s survey, answering questions about safety habits such as seat belt use, impaired driving, speeding and distracted driving. Notably, nearly 91% of respondents said they always wear a seat belt and approximately 88% said they never drive while impaired. When asked how often they choose to exceed the posted speed limit, nearly 84% said they speed at least some of the time. 

COVID-19 Vaccines Coming to the County Fair


Residents heading to the county fairs for corn dogs, funnel cakes and fried pickles can now add the COVID-19 vaccine and educational resources to their list of things to find at the fair. The state Department of Health is partnering with the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs to offer free, walk-up vaccinations and educational materials.

Every Pennsylvania resident age 12 and older is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Use Vaccine Finder to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you. 

August is ABLE to Save Month

Thanks to the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 and the Pennsylvania ABLE Act of 2016, Pennsylvanians with disabilities and their families now have the tools they need to save for the future without losing critical benefits they rely on like Supplemental Security Income or medical assistance.

PA ABLE offers various savings options including an interest-bearing checking account with an accompanying debit card. All of the options come with generous tax benefits including no federal or state income tax on savings growth or withdrawals for qualified expenses, state income tax deductions for contributions up to $15,000, and exemption from state inheritance tax.

Pennsylvanians with disabilities and their families have opened more than 5,000 accounts and saved nearly $60 million since the program opened in 2017. Pennsylvanians with disabilities can save for costly expenses such as assistive technology or modified vehicles – or for necessary day-to-day needs like groceries and housing. Families can also use PA ABLE to save for their loved one’s future care.

For more information about eligibility for PA ABLE, qualified expenses and savings options, visit or call 855-529-2253.

Saturday is Purple Heart Day

The Purple Heart, awarded to those killed or wounded while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members.

To shed blood for one’s country is a price few would pay, and to die on behalf of fellow citizens is the ultimate sacrifice. On August 7, please think of those killed and wounded in defense of this great and decent nation.

Out and About in the 30th

It was a great evening at Blair County’s National Night Out Against Crime event in Duncansville. I always enjoy talking with constituents and hearing what issues are most important to them.

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