In This Update:
Senate Leaders Appeal Election Case to U.S. Supreme Court
Last year, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives worked together to strengthen our state’s election law with the most comprehensive reforms in at least 80 years. In advance of this year’s General Election on November 3, all parties had been working in good faith once again to address new issues that could prevent a complete, timely and fair count of ballots.
Unfortunately, a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court introduced new risks to election security and unraveled weeks of progress in negotiations between lawmakers and the Wolf Administration. It is disappointing that the state Supreme Court has muddied the voting process and created questions about the fairness of the forthcoming results, including a new requirement to count ballots received by county election boards up to three days after Election Day – a clear infringement of the General Assembly’s right to determine the time, place and manner of elections.
This week, Senate leaders appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and requested a stay of the court’s ruling so we can resume our work to ensure every Pennsylvanian has an opportunity to vote – and give everyone the peace of mind to know that their vote is counted fairly and in a timely manner.
Senate Panel Approves Bill to Provide Certification to Temporary Nurse Aides
At the outset of the pandemic, Pennsylvania authorized individuals to be hired as nurse aides on a temporary basis to support the state’s response to the pandemic. Unfortunately, under current law these individuals will no longer be able to work as nurse aides once these temporary provisions expire.
The Senate Education Committee approved a bill last week that I authored to allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 emergency declaration to receive certification to continue working in the field. The bill would recognize their performance in nursing facilities under extremely difficult circumstances and provides a pathway for them to continue full-time employment.
More details are available here.
New Statewide Rare Disease Needs Assessment Announced
I was pleased to join with my colleagues on the PA Rare Disease Advisory Council (PARDAC) last week to launch a first-of-its-kind statewide needs assessment that will help guide the state’s future policies and initiatives related to rare diseases. More details about the announcement are available here.
The survey is open to rare disease patients residing in Pennsylvania and takes approximately 10 minutes to fill out. If the patient with the rare disease is under the age of 18, or over the age of 18 in need of assistance, a parent, legal guardian or advocate may complete the survey on behalf of the person with a rare disease. Individuals who want their voices heard can fill out the survey at PARDAC.org. PARDAC will begin reporting preliminary results at the beginning of 2021.
Committee Approves Bills to Protect Newborns, Family Caregivers
As Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I scheduled a meeting last week to consider two bills to improve newborn health screenings and allow designated caregivers to visit and care for elderly relatives in long-term care facilities during a disaster emergency.
Senate Bill 983 would expand Pennsylvania’s Newborn Child Screening and Follow-up Program by ensuring that every baby in the Commonwealth will be screened for every recommended disorder.
Senate Bill 1279 would allow a family member to provide care to a resident of a long-term care facility during an emergency declaration. The bill is important to provide regular care and contact with loved ones during a pandemic or other emergency.
More information on these bills is available here.
Committee Discusses Future of Telemedicine in Pennsylvania
Telemedicine services were authorized in Pennsylvania on a temporary basis at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these services have played a critical role in ensuring patients could continue to access medical services without gathering in waiting rooms and other areas where the virus could easily spread. This week, the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a workshop discussion to gather input on the future of telemedicine in Pennsylvania.
During the discussion, medical experts and other stakeholders spoke at length about the benefits of telemedicine to patients, and they encouraged lawmakers and Governor Wolf to approve a new telemedicine law to ensure these services can continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.
Lawmakers approved a bill authorizing telemedicine in Pennsylvania on a permanent basis in April, but Governor Wolf vetoed the bill.
Grants Available for Environmental Education Projects
Youth and adult environmental education projects may be eligible for grant funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Schools, colleges, nonprofit community and environmental organizations, county conservation districts and businesses are encouraged to apply for Environmental Education Grants by December 11.
A special webinar is scheduled for October 14 from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. to provide additional information on how to apply. Registration is required. Registration and more details are available here.
Motorcycle Safety Courses Resume
Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program classes are set to resume statewide through the end of the year with new safety measures in place to protect against COVID-19. The classes are free to Pennsylvania motorcycle permit and license holders. Completing the basic or intermediate course waives the requirement for a permit holder to complete the skills test at a PennDOT Driver License Center.
REMINDER: Mental Health Resources Available for Pennsylvanians in Need
Pennsylvanians who are struggling with mental health issues can find help through a variety of different avenues. If you or someone you know are experiencing a mental health crisis, help is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “PA” to the Mental Health Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Pennsylvania residents can also call the PA Support & Referral Helpline at 1-855-284-2494. More information on mental health resources is available here.
New Scam Targets SNAP Assistance Program
Community residents should be aware of a new scam involving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The scam involves text messages telling the recipient that they have been selected to receive assistance through SNAP and requesting personal information that is later used to commit fraud.
Government agencies do not solicit participation in assistance programs like SNAP through text messages. If you ever have a question about whether a call, text, letter or other communication is legitimate, questions can be directed to the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930.
REMINDER: New Resource Available to Support Caregivers
A new educational program is available to support relatives and non-relative caregivers who are responsible for caring for children when the biological parents cannot. The Pennsylvania KinConnector website offers a list of resources, training, support groups and other information that is helpful to caregivers.
More information is available on the website or by calling 1-866-546-2111.
New WellFlight Air Ambulance Takes Off in Central PA
WellSpan Health recently announced a new medical helicopter service to improve access to care for critically ill and inured patients. The new WellFlight air ambulance will primarily serve residents of Adams, Franklin and York counties.
More details about this new service are available here.
I was proud to stand with Senators, Representatives and supporters of the 2nd Amendment at the Pennsylvania Right to Keep and Bear Arms Rally on the Capitol steps in Harrisburg.
Congratulations to Carlisle resident Nicholas Moul of Troop 174 of Newville who was recently honored for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.