Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • My Bill to Provide Certification to Temporary Nurse Aides Goes to the Governor
  • Update on 2020 Election Issues
  • Legislation Offers Lifeline for Veteran and Social Clubs During COVID-19
  • Senate Approves Liability Protections for Schools, Health Care Providers, More
  • Senate Approves Bills to Protect Second Amendment Rights of Pennsylvanians
  • Bill Would Provide Flexibility for Teacher Certifications, Keystone Exams 
  • Senate Sends Broadband Expansion Bill to the Governor
  • Legislation Supports Organ and Tissue Donation

My Bill to Provide Certification to Temporary Nurse Aides Goes to the Governor

My bill that allows temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 emergency declaration to receive certification to continue working in the field has gone to the Governor for consideration.

At the outset of the pandemic, Pennsylvania authorized individuals to be hired as nurse aides on a temporary basis after they completed an approved 8-hour online training and examination. Unfortunately, under current law these individuals will no longer be able to work as nurse aides once these temporary provisions expire.

Senate Bill 1268 would amend the law to deem temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 emergency declaration to have satisfied the necessary training and testing requirements to be certified to work as a nurse aide on a permanent basis.

Candidates would be required to complete the online training program and competency assessment, complete a minimum of 80 hours working as a nurse aide under the supervision of a licensed or registered nurse, and competency by way of exam, certification or assessment.

Temporary nurse aides served admirably and compassionately during the severe challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the on-the-job training they received should count for something,” Ward said. “In light of their tremendous contributions to the health and safety of our citizens, temporary nurse aides deserve a pathway to continue full-time employment after the pandemic is behind us.

Update on 2020 Election Issues

I was looking forward to participating in the House State Government public hearing chaired by Representative Seth Grove with Dominion Voting Systems this morning. Unfortunately, late last night the committee received an update stating that officials from Dominion would no longer participate. This is very disappointing that the public will no longer be afforded the opportunity to have their questions asked by their elected representatives about these voting machines.

In place of the hearing, I joined colleagues from the House and the Senate for a news conference to discuss the cancellation of the hearing and how we can move forward to restore faith in our elections. You can watch the full news conference here.

It was an absolute honor to participate in the Retirement Ceremony of Harry J. (Jim) Buchanan, III (Blair County) at Fort Indiantown Gap. The event was hosted by Major General Anthony J. Carrelli.

CSM Buchanan’s wife Tami also participated in the ceremony.

Legislation Offers Lifeline for Veteran and Social Clubs During COVID-19

The Senate recently approved House Bill 777, which would permit social organizations, such as veteran and other social clubs, to utilize small games of chance profits to meet financial obligations during the COVID-19 crisis. Normally, proceeds from small games of chance are split with 60% going to charitable purposes and the remaining 40% staying with the clubs. This measure would change the fund distribution ratio during the COVID-19 pandemic so that a club would be able to use the 60% to cover general operating expenses, such as rent, payroll and utilities.

I fully supported this bill which provides a financial lifeline to our social organizations to help them stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure now goes to the Governor for consideration.

Senate Approves Liability Protections for Schools, Health Care Providers, More

Many health care providers, schools, businesses and other entities have raised concerns about lawsuits being filed against them related to COVID-19, even if they closely followed all health directives from state and federal health agencies. The Senate approved a bill this week that would protect these entities from lawsuits if they acted in good faith to protect public health.

The liability protection does not apply in cases in which these entities were responsible for any intentional wrongful acts or reckless acts. The legislation does not provide complete immunity for any person or group; it simply ensures they will not be held responsible for any harm that occurred when health directives were followed.

Schools, health care providers, businesses and others who played by the rules and took every reasonable step to protect the public should not face the threat of lawsuits that could lead to financial ruin. This legislation provides a middle ground that protects entities who followed public health directives while preserving the right of victims to take legal action in cases of clear negligence.

The measure now goes to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

Senate Approves Bills to Protect Second Amendment Rights of Pennsylvanians

Two bills I supported in the Senate this week would ensure the Second Amendment rights of Pennsylvanians are protected during emergency declarations. Both bills were sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Under current law, the rights of law-abiding citizens to open carry firearms can be limited during a state of emergency. The Senate approved a bill that would ensure these rights are not infringed during a state of emergency. The bill would also ensure firearm sales are not prohibited during an emergency declaration.

The Senate also approved a bill that would establish the Hunting, Firearm, and Ammunition Life-Sustaining Business Act to ensure shooting ranges, sportsman clubs, hunting facilities and firearm and ammunition manufacturers, retailers and distributors are considered life-sustaining businesses that will not be shuttered by state government during an emergency declaration.

Bill Would Provide Flexibility for Teacher Certifications, Keystone Exams

Schools would have more flexibility to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic under legislation that was approved by the Senate this week. The bill would ease many certification and staff development requirements that are difficult to fulfill during the pandemic and extend certain emergency permits when staff development requirements cannot be completed.

The bill would also delay the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement until the 2022-23 school year. Additional provisions are also included to deal with problems related to pupil transportation.

The bill now goes to the Governor for his approval.

Senate Sends Broadband Expansion Bill to the Governor

Legislation that would create a grant program to extend deployment of broadband services in underserved areas of the state earned final approval in the Senate today and was sent to the governor to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 835 would provide funding to improve access to high-speed broadband internet in rural areas of Pennsylvania, which currently do not have access to reliable networks. The bill creates the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program, which will provide funding to nongovernmental entities to build and operate a high-speed broadband service in underserved communities.

Funding would be provided only to entities that have demonstrated the ability to construct and administer internet services. Grant recipients would be required to provide at least 25 percent of the funding for the project.

Access to broadband has become even more crucial during the COVID-19 health crisis, connecting residents with services and information they would otherwise not have access to. It is also important to those who tele-work, senior citizens, fire and emergency workers and students who are taking classes remotely.

The new grant program would be administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

Legislation Supports Organ and Tissue Donation

The Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund was created in 1994 to encourage residents to become organ donors. The program allows Pennsylvanians to voluntarily donate $3 to the fund through a check-off box when they renew driver licenses, photo ID cards and vehicle registrations.                                                                                                                         

The General Assembly approved a bill recently that updates the program to reflect the fact that Pennsylvanians can now complete vehicle registrations on a biannual basis. The legislation allows state residents to donate $6 instead of $3 when they complete a biannual registration.

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