Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Bills Passed in 2021-22 to Improve Education
  • New Law Targets Repeat DUI Offenders
  • Enforcement of REAL ID Delayed Until 2025
  • Fishing Licenses and Permits for 2023 Available Now
  • You Can Help Honor Those Who Gave All
  • Out and About in the 30th

Bills Passed in 2021-22 to Improve Education

Looking back on notable legislation we passed in the 2021-22 legislative session, some of the more important pieces were those that got students back into the classroom after the pandemic, expanded educational opportunity and better prepared students for success.

The General Assembly allocated $500 million in federal funds to help ensure schools safely reopened as soon as possible and addressed student needs resulting from the pandemic, and acted to help more students access tax credit scholarships by loosening the threshold for schools to be considered “economically disadvantaged.”

To get more teachers into the classroom, we passed legislation making permanent a temporary program that gave schools the option to use qualified individuals training to be teachers as substitute teachers, and helped ease Pennsylvania’s day-to-day substitute teacher shortage by providing schools with more hiring flexibility.

We also voted to improve workforce development initiatives and better prepare Pennsylvania students for jobs that will be in demand after they graduate. You can find a complete list of key education bills passed here.

New Law Targets Repeat DUI Offenders

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a good time to note that legislation we passed earlier this year has taken effect that increases penalties on repeat DUI offenders and hopefully reduces tragic deaths.

Under the new law, an individual charged with DUI with a BAC of .16 or higher or a DUI involving controlled substances, and already has the following number of prior offenses, commits:

  • A third-degree felony for two prior offenses (previously two or more prior offenses), punishable by up to seven years in prison.
  • A second-degree felony for three or more prior offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (Previously a third-degree felony.)

It also requires consecutive sentencing for certain repeat DUI offenders and imposes an 18-month driving privilege suspension for a second-degree DUI conviction.

The measure is named in honor of Deana DeRosa Eckman of Delaware County, who was killed in a 2019 head-on collision involving a truck operated by someone previously convicted of five DUIs.

Enforcement of REAL ID Delayed Until 2025

The deadline to obtain a REAL ID has been extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to May 7, 2025. The extension means you will continue to be able to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal building with a standard driver’s license until that date.

REAL ID is a federal law that dictates how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are going to be acceptable for federal purposes.

REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents. You will be able to get either a REAL ID driver’s license/identification card, or a standard driver’s license or identification card. If you do not get a REAL ID, you must have an alternate form of federally acceptable identification (valid passport, military ID, etc.) to board domestic commercial flights and enter certain federal facilities after May 7, 2025. You can find comprehensive information at PennDOT’s REAL ID page. (NOTE: The page has not been updated to reflect the new May 7, 2025 deadline.)

Fishing Licenses and Permits for 2023 Available Now

Pennsylvania fishing licenses, permits and gift vouchers for 2023 are available now. Licenses are valid immediately and are good for 13 months.

They can be purchased through the HuntFishPA online portal on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, on your smartphone using the mobile app or by visiting a retail license issuing agent, which you can find here.

In addition to licenses and permits, such as the trout or Lake Erie permits, you can purchase vouchers that can be given as gifts and redeemed by recipients.

You Can Help Honor Those Who Gave All

Every year at this time, Wreaths Across America helps communities remember the fallen, honor those who served in the military and teach children about their country by laying wreaths on the graves of heroes.

These acts of remembrance take place at Arlington National Cemetery, and more than 3,400 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

Ceremonies take place Dec. 17, and you can help by sponsoring a veterans’ wreath at a cemetery near you, volunteering or donating to a local sponsorship group. You can search for the nearest participating cemetery here.

Out and About in the 30th

I had a great time at the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce Holiday party. This wonderful event was held at the Hungry Run Winery and Bistro in Lewistown. Pictured with me is Jason Ufema, owner of Shy Bear Brewing and Rich Coast Coffee, along with Katy and Steve Flood, owners of Hungry Run Winery and Bistro.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Belleville Mennonite School on the day of their annual Christmas Program and enjoyed watching the children celebrate the joy of the Christmas season through their musical program. The administration, faculty, staff and students did an amazing job and captured the true spirit of the holidays through music and song. While there, I had the opportunity to meet with the school administration to discuss their school’s needs and its mission to offer a Christ-centered education and biblical worldview that inspires students to develop minds, build faith, and be disciples.

Pictured is Superintendent Nicholas Wilson and his daughter, Olivia, a student at the school.

It was an exciting day in Southern Huntingdon County as the new cell tower at the Shade Gap Area Volunteer Fire Company was finally unveiled, bringing vital communications services to first responders as well as cell phone service to the community in this previously unserved area. Being able to communicate is everything in today’s society, and the recent pandemic only made that fact more apparent. We use technology for almost everything we do on a day-to-day basis, but nothing more important than emergency services. The lack of cell phone service in this area was a serious public safety concern. This is a wonderful success story showing what can happen when everyone comes together to solve a problem. Thanks to AT&T and FirstNet Authority, America’s first public safety network, for their hard work and dedicated response to this important community need. Congratulations to the Shade Gap Area Volunteer Fire Company for their tireless efforts and continued persistence to make this happen, making every resident of the Shade Gap community safer.

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