Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • LBFC Declines to Audit 2020 Election
  • House State Government Committee Releases Interim Report on 2020 Election
  • Legislation Would Promote Election Integrity
  • Majority Policy Committee Hearing to Discuss Issues with the 2020 General Election
  • State Budget Holds the Line on Taxes, Meets Core Responsibilities of Government
  • Legislation Would Create New Program to Expand Broadband Coverage
  • Senate Passes Bill to Protect Rural Pharmacies, Improve Prescription Pricing Transparency
  • Hearing Explores PennDOT’s 2020-21 Highway and Bridge Budget Issues
  • Program Encourages Hunters to Help Families in Need
  • Enjoying a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

LBFC Declines to Audit 2020 Election

Recently, I stood with my colleagues in the House and Senate in support of an audit of the 2020 election to ensure the integrity of our electoral process. The House later approved a resolution that requests an audit of the election by the bipartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC). Unfortunately, the LBFC declined to perform the audit on a party-line vote.

I echo my colleague Rep. Jesse Topper’s thoughts: “I am deeply disappointed in the party-line vote by the LBFC against conducting an audit of the 2020 election. House Resolution 1100 passed with bi-partisan support and the rejection of this request strikes a blow to transparency in our electoral process. It will also delay and impede the Legislature’s ability to determine what changes should be made to our process moving forward.”

House State Government Committee Releases Interim Report on 2020 Election

The House State Government Committee recently released its interim report on the challenges that impacted the 2020 election. The report details the changes made to the state’s Election Code throughout the 2019-20 Legislative Session, as well as the impact of court rulings and conflicting guidance to counties from the Department of State.

The full interim report is available here.

Legislation Would Promote Election Integrity

In light of the serious concerns raised during the 2020 election, I plan to introduce legislation during the 2021-22 Legislative Session to ensure voters can be confident when they cast their ballots that the electoral process will be transparent, consistent and fair. The bill will amend the Election Code as it relates to the canvassing of absentee and mail-in ballots.

The bill would:

  • Allow more people to observe pre-canvassing and canvassing of ballots and ensure these poll watchers have a clear line of sight to view and hear the proceedings.
  • Make clear that only those ballots received by 8 p.m. on Election Day may be canvassed, with an exception for overseas military ballots.
  • Create a process to ensure signatures on mail-in and absentee ballots match the signatures on file with the county board of election.

It is my hope that we can approve these changes to ensure our elections are once again free from the shadow of doubt that has been cast over our democratic process.

Majority Policy Committee Hearing to Discuss Issues with the 2020 General Election

Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 25 at 12:30 p.m. at the Wyndham Gettysburg located at 95 Presidential Circle in Gettysburg, the Senate Majority Policy Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss issues with the 2020 General Election.  The hearing will be streamed live on policy.pasenategop.com.

State Budget Holds the Line on Taxes, Meets Core Responsibilities of Government

Lawmakers completed work on the 2020-21 state budget on Friday, agreeing to a plan that maintains critical state services without the need for tax or fee increases. The budget plan completes the work that began in May, when a five-month budget plan was enacted to provide additional time to determine the full financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The budget was balanced without a tax increase by using a combination of existing state revenues, additional federal funding and a transfer from the Rainy Day Fund and other unallocated money from various special funds. Overall state spending is down more than $760 million from the previous year’s budget.

More details about the budget are available here.

Legislation Would Create New Program to Expand Broadband Coverage

Access to reliable broadband service is critical for many industries throughout Pennsylvania, and the COVID-19 public health emergency has made broadband even more important for employees and students who are working remotely. The Senate gave final approval to a bill last week that will create a new grant program to extend deployment of broadband services in underserved areas of the state.

The legislation would create the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program, which will be administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The program would limit funding to entities that have demonstrated the ability to construct and administer internet services and require that they provide 25 percent of the funding for the project.

Senate Passes Bill to Protect Rural Pharmacies, Improve Prescription Pricing Transparency

Rural pharmacies have endured severe cuts to reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers, putting many of these small businesses at risk of closing. In some cases, reimbursement rates are actually lower than the cost of the drug, forcing the pharmacy to operate in the red.

Over the past several months, I have been working with these small businesses to ensure their issues are addressed, including requesting a workshop discussion with the Senate Majority Policy Committee  in Duncansville to hear their concerns and introducing similar legislation as to what was passed to address the challenges they face.

The Senate gave final approval to a bill last week that will improve pricing transparency for prescription drug costs and require the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study analyzing prescription drug pricing under the medical assistance managed care program.

Hearing Explores PennDOT’s 2020-21 Highway and Bridge Budget Issues

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that many sectors of the economy do business, including more telework and less travel. This has created significant financial challenges for PennDOT since fuel taxes help to fund many of the commonwealth’s road and bridge repair and maintenance projects.

The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing this week to explore how changes in travel habits have impacted PennDOT’s budget. The hearing also included an update on how PennDOT’s planned maintenance schedule has changed and what the department is doing to make up for the lost revenue.

Program Encourages Hunters to Help Families in Need

 

Food insecurity was a major concern for many Pennsylvania families even before the pandemic, and the business shutdowns and economic insecurity over the past eight months have only made the problem worse. Pennsylvania deer hunters can play a role in helping local families in need by donating part or all of their deer through the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program.

To participate in the program, hunters can take their deer to any participating deer processor and choose the amount of venison they would like to donate to local charities to help families who are less fortunate.

Enjoy a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

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