In This Update:
Ensuring Election Accountability and Security
The Legislature is responsible for ensuring that Pennsylvania has a system in place to hold fair and secure elections.
As a result of COVID-19 and the challenges that the pandemic has caused across our state, it is clear that voting reforms are needed prior to the November election.
COVID-19 Small Business Tax Relief Bill Introduced
Many small businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and unlike larger companies, most of these small family businesses lack the kind of robust savings and assets they need to weather this unprecedented financial storm. This week, I joined my colleague Senator Camera Bartolotta to introduce a bill that would provide critical assistance to small businesses that have been impacted by this crisis.
The bill would provide immediate tax relief to small businesses that are struggling due to COVID-19. The legislation would allow small businesses to take a net loss against other sources of income; permit small businesses to take Net Operating Losses (NOL) against future years for up to 20 years; and temporarily allow small businesses to “carry back” losses to previous tax years.
More details about our bill are available here.
Hearing Explores Economic Impact of PA’s Participation in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
In 2019, Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order mandating Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a compact between several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that imposes a carbon tax on electricity production and requires fossil fuel generators to purchase allowances. Creating this new tax could create significant new financial burdens on Pennsylvania consumers and cost the state thousands of family-sustaining jobs.
This week, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a public hearing to examine the economic and employment impacts of Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. The hearing featured testimony from leaders in the energy industry, business, organized labor, local governments and other stakeholders detailing the impact that a carbon tax could have on Pennsylvania communities. One estimate found that Pennsylvania consumers could pay an additional $2.6 billion in energy costs over the first 11 years of participating in RGGI.
In April, 18 senators including myself signed on to a letter urging Governor Wolf to rescind his Executive Order on RGGI, and legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would prevent the governor from imposing a carbon tax without the approval of the General Assembly.
Committee Examines Issues Facing Fire, EMS Companies
Fire and EMS companies provide critical services to our communities, but unfortunately, they also face significant challenges that have only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a hearing in Pike County this week to explore the most serious issues facing these organizations, both today and in the future.
Much of the discussion focused on progress toward implementing the recommendations of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which was formed in 2017 to study and address challenges facing Pennsylvania’s emergency response system. Some of the topics discussed during the hearing included recruitment and retention of first responders, fundraising challenges, mental health resources for personnel and new challenges created by the pandemic.
So far in 2020, the Senate has approved nine bills to support fire and EMS companies, including three bills that have been signed into law.
Additional Unemployment Payments Coming Soon
Pennsylvania will move forward with President Trump’s plan to provide an additional $300 per week in supplemental payments for many state residents who are collecting unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Lost Wages Assistance grant program, payments will be made directly to eligible claimants retroactively from August 1.
The state applied to participate in the program recently, and the application was approved by the federal government this week. The program will require Pennsylvania to set up a new system to distribute the additional payments to claimants. More details on the timing of these payments will be available soon.
New Mental Health Resources Guide Available
Pennsylvanians who are dealing with mental health challenges can find help through a new mental health resources guide. The guide offers information on treatment options, preventing suicide, helping a loved one, coping with grief and major life changes, stress management and more.
Additional sections offer specific advice and resources for service members and veterans, individuals dealing with substance abuse and victims of domestic violence.
2021 PA Farm Show Will Be Held Virtually; In-Person Events Cancelled
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced last week that the 2021 Farm Show would not host any in-person events or competitions. Instead, the celebration of our state’s rich agricultural heritage will be held virtually.
The announcement is certainly disappointing for the many young people who look forward to the Farm Show each year. Although 2021 Farm Show plans are still being finalized, I am hopeful that the virtual event will still allow the next generation of farmers to properly showcase and sell the products of their hard work throughout the year.
Around the 30th Senatorial District
I was proud to attend the Franklin County Conservation District’s Event recognizing the 2020 Conservation Farmer of the Year, Fisher Farms of Saint Thomas. Congratulations on your hard work and Best Management Practices you have implemented on your farm.
I was pleased to present a citation on behalf of Senator Doug Mastriano and myself to former Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas for his years of service to Franklin County. Best wishes Bob!
I had a great night at a townhall meeting in Antrim Township Park, Franklin County, with Representative Paul Schemel. Thanks to everyone for coming out!