Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Veterans Appreciation Dessert Social
  • Senate Committee Approves Bill to Enable Better Health Care for Seniors
  • Senate Passes Bills Empowering Parents
  • Senate Votes to Extend and Improve Program to Protect Students
  • Grants Available for Organizations Helping Veterans
  • Apply to Vote by Mail by Oct. 31 for the November Election
  • Recognizing Pennsylvania’s First Responders
  • Out and About in the 30th

Veterans Appreciation Dessert Social

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Enable Better Health Care for Seniors

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill introduced by myself and Senator Maria Collett (D-12) that would enhance the availability and quality of health care for senior citizens in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is facing a health care workforce crisis that directly affects the ability of senior citizens and adults with disabilities to receive the care they need. This bill would enable Pennsylvania health care providers to better serve older residents by creating a new position in nursing homes that creates greater flexibility in how they deliver certain medications.

Senate Bill 668 would help address a workforce shortage that exists in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes. The shortage, which existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, has only grown in recent years as health care professionals have left the field due to burnout.

The bill would enable certified nurse aids (CNAs) to train to become Certified Medication Aides (CMAs) and deliver common, minimally invasive prescribed medications to residents of nursing facilities. Currently, registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are the only authorized caregivers who can administer medications to nursing home residents.

CNAs would be able to complete a certified medication administration program established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The program would include a minimum of forty hours of classroom and clinical training.

CNAs who complete the program would be registered as CMAs and would be authorized to administer certain prescribed medications in health care facilities. The certification would require renewal every two years.

In addition to providing better care to nursing home residents, this bill also would establish career growth and development opportunities for dedicated health care professionals. This legislation would create new advancement opportunities for CNAs while enabling them to deliver expanded care to the patients they serve.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Passes Bills Empowering Parents

The Senate approved legislation that would empower parents to protect their own child from accessing sexually explicit content at school, without impacting the books available to other students. Senate Bill 7 would require schools to:

  • Identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum, materials and books.
  • Create an opt-in policy that would:
    • Notify parents of the sexually explicit content by including a list of the book titles on the form.
    • Give parents the opportunity to review the materials.
    • Require parents to give direct consent for their children to be provided or have access to sexually explicit content.
  • Provide children with non-explicit alternatives if their parents do not opt in.

Senate Bill 7 was crafted after a non-partisan, thorough two-year process – including conversations with parents, school administrators, teachers and librarians. It would not ban any books from Pennsylvania school curriculum or libraries, but rather empower parents to control only what their own children have access to in school. 

The Senate also approved legislation requiring schools to make public curriculum information available online, including a link or title for every textbook and course syllabus used for classes. Other measures passed this week would require schools to display the United States Constitution and display the Pennsylvania Constitution. Empowering parents and families is a priority of Pennsylvania Senate Republicans.

Senate Votes to Extend and Improve Program to Protect Students

Building on recent legislation to improve school bus safety, the Senate approved legislation extending and improving the school bus stop-arm automated enforcement program. The measure is set for enactment into law.

The program was first authorized in 2018 and includes nearly 40 participating school districts that equipped 2,500 school buses with cameras to record vehicles that don’t stop for school buses. More than 4,000 violations have been recorded.

The program was set to expire this week. Senate Bill 851 makes the program permanent, improves interaction with law enforcement and streamlines the appeals process. If a driver illegally passes a stopped school bus, the school district will send the car owner a police-vetted violation in the mail. The owner must pay the $300 fine or make an appeal for a virtual or in-person hearing overseen by a PennDOT official. The driver may petition a magisterial district judge after PennDOT’s decision.

Grants Available for Organizations Helping Veterans

The Veterans’ Trust Fund is accepting grant applications for programs and services benefiting Pennsylvania veterans. Nonprofit organizations, veteran service organizations and county directors of veteran affairs may apply by Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 2 p.m.

Find more information about the grant opportunity and how to apply here.

The trust fund is supported by Pennsylvanians who donate when applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses, photo IDs or motor vehicle registrations; purchase veteran-specific license plates; or make private donations. Tax-deductible donations can be made online.

Apply to Vote by Mail by Oct. 31 for the November Election

The deadline is approaching for anyone who would like to vote by mail for the Nov. 7 election. Your county election board must receive your application for a mail-in or absentee ballot no later than Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 5 p.m.

Any registered voter may request a mail-in ballot. Absentee ballots can be requested by voters with disabilities or an illness that prevents them from going to their polling place on Election Day, or those who will be absent from their municipality on Election Day.

You can apply for a mail-in ballot online, by mail or in person at your county election board’s office or other designated locations. Learn more here.

Recognizing Pennsylvania’s First Responders

Saturday, Oct. 28, is National First Responders Day. Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians care for us during some of life’s worst moments. They are true heroes, and I am proud to honor their brave and selfless efforts.

My Senate colleagues and I have passed legislation to address the serious shortage of volunteer firefighters in the commonwealth. The number dropped from about 300,000 in the 1980s to less than 38,000 today, so they need our support. Without enough volunteers, communities across Pennsylvania face longer wait times when minutes make the difference between life and death.

Out and About in the 30th

Congratulations to Dan Hoover on being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Blair County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Dinner. Dan is the Co-Chair/CEO of Spring Cove Container and Allegheny Mountain Spring Water. He has been a servant leader in our community and I can’t think of anyone more deserving than him to receive this prestigious award!

Congratulations to Mifflin County Savings Bank on the opening of their new branch in Burnham!

I had the opportunity to attend “Girls Night Out” at the Blair County Convention Center. Meghan Reilly Stewart, a friend who grew up in Altoona, was the keynote speaker. She was diagnosed with a rare form of stage IV breast cancer at age 34.

My dear friend Amy Mearkle was the Emcee of the event and was honored with the “Breast Friend of GNO Award”.

What a blessing it was to attend the 6th Annual Altoona Prayer Breakfast. The Keynote Message was delivered by Susan Robinson Fruchtl. This year’s theme was “Love Your Neighbor” and the focuses of prayer included government, business, education, church, family, and entertainment. It was an uplifting time of inspiration.

Pictured with me from left to right are Todd Lewis, Marcie Lewis, Caleb Moses, and Kelly Fedeli.


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