Senator Mensch’s Harrisburg Highlights

Dear Friends,

Below are some important Harrisburg updates that may be helpful to you.

This week was yet another busy one, with the Senate in session on Monday and Tuesday, along with a few hearings throughout the week.

In terms of legislation on the Senate floor, various pieces of legislation that had widespread bi-partisan support passed through the Senate this week.

To begin, my Senate Bill 890 was unanimously approved on Monday, which would provide better earning potential for workers with disabilities. The bill would create a new classification similar to the MAWD program called “Workers with Job Success,” which would have increased income limits and allow for increased savings limits for individuals in return for paying for a percentage of their benefits. Watch the Senator’s remarks here. Another bill to protect access to healthcare coverage and services in Pennsylvania communities, Senate Bill 1268, would allow temporary nurses aides to hired during the COVID-19 emergency declaration to receive certification to continue working. My Senate Bill 1279 was also passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. I will continue to give updates on this legislation as they are made.

Some other important legislation that was approved in the Senate this week include Senate Bill 1075, which would strengthen penalties for the heinous crime of child pornography and create a new task force to help prevent children from being victimized in the future. The legislation would boost penalties in all cases of child pornography in which the child is under the age of 10 or prepubescent. Senate Bill 810 was also approved, which would strengthen, secure, and consolidate state government IT systems while saving taxpayers and estimated $32 million annually.

The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing this week to take a closer look at legislation that would ensure children in Pennsylvania will have access to the educational resources they need to succeed. The committee heard testimony from education experts and advocates throughout Pennsylvania about a proposal to create Back on Track Education Scholarship Accounts to empower parents by providing funding to offset educational costs for their school-age children in grades K-12. The special accounts would help families pay for educational needs such as tutoring, online classes, curriculum, tuition, counseling, and services for students with special needs.

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), which I chair, released reports on the current Pennsylvania Health and Human Services hotlines and their costs, and a financial analysis of Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) revenues and expenditures. For more information on both reports, see below.

A Report on the Pennsylvania Health and Human Services Hotlines
Full Report
Report Highlights
Committee Presentation

Financial Analysis of the Pennsylvania Game Commission
Full Report
Report Highlights
Committee Presentation

I also wanted to be sure to include a quick, yet important, update on the Department of the Auditor General’s audit into the Governor’s business waiver system. At the request of state lawmakers and business owners throughout the state, the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General is taking a closer look at Governor Wolf’s deeply flawed waiver system that determined which businesses were forced to remain shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the audit is still ongoing, a status update that was released by the Auditor General this week detailed glaring inconsistencies in the way the waiver system was handled. According to the Auditor General, “The waiver program appeared to be a subjective process built on shifting sands of changing guidance, which led to significant confusion among business owners.”

The update also noted that the waiver system was “remarkably subjective,” and in many cases the approval or denial of applications depended heavily on the individual reviewing the application. Approximately 500 businesses received responses that were later reversed by the Department of Community and Economic Development, including 171 waiver applicants that were initially denied and forced to remain closed longer than necessary before finally receiving approval to reopen. I will provide further updates on this issue when the audit is completed.

If you’re interested, you can sign up to receive my newsletters that contain the most up to date information on statewide and local issues on my website, senatormensch.com.  You can also keep an eye on my website for news releases, email me with questions or concerns, or find contact information for my district offices which you can get in touch with if you need anything.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 215-541-2388.