Ensuring Election Integrity Has Never Been More Important

Americans are debating an array of contentious issues. As profound as they are, none of these debates can be truly settled without an election process the people trust.

The bad news is, most Pennsylvanians say they are dissatisfied with the way elections are conducted in the state, according to a May 2022 Franklin and Marshall poll.

The good news is, we’re a step closer to giving the people the power to restore confidence in Pennsylvania’s election process.

The General Assembly passed two proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution addressing elections. If approved again in the 2023-24 legislative session, the questions will be put on the ballot for voters to decide.

One of these amendments would require all voters to present a valid form of identification prior to voting. This would apply to voting in person or by mail.

Valid ID would include any government-issued identification. To ensure no voter is prevented from participating in the election process, anyone without a valid ID could receive one at no cost.

Pennsylvania is woefully behind the times when it comes to requiring voter ID. Thirty-five other states require some form of voter ID, and studies show that states where voter ID was implemented have not seen a drop-off in voter participation in any demographic.

When asked, citizens have consistently said they want voter ID. A Franklin and Marshall poll last year found that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians support requiring voters to present identification to vote.

A separate proposed amendment would require the General Assembly to provide for audits of elections, including the administration of elections and the results.

The work would be performed by the state Auditor General, who is elected independently by the voters. In years when the Auditor General is on the ballot, the election audit would be conducted by a separate, independent auditor.

Election audits would provide transparent and fact-based analysis of election results, giving voters across the political spectrum assurance that elections are fair and accurate.

In addition to moving these constitutional questions one step closer to voters, the General Assembly passed Act 88 to get private money out of the administration of our elections. The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election.

Even if you’ve never heard of CTCL, you’ve heard of one its chief financial backers: billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Correspondence between CTCL, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that millions of dollars in “Zuckerbucks” were directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.

Common sense tells us that using private funding to pay for the administration of elections is going to undermine confidence in the process, so we banned it. However, counties do face substantial costs related to primary and general elections, and we ensured the state will help them do it right.

The new law creates grants for counties to cover costs such as hiring and training staff, printing ballots and managing voting machines and tabulation equipment.

In return, counties who accept the money are required to take several critical steps to ensure the integrity of the process. They must clean up voter rolls, including removing deceased voters, and report the total number of voters registered prior to an election. They must disclose the number of mail-in votes received within four hours of polls closing and ensure safekeeping of all ballots. Finally, counties must count ballots on Election Day without interruption.

Our republic began in Pennsylvania, and we’re taking the lead in keeping it healthy and strong. Act 88 and the above constitutional amendments make up one of the most significant election integrity packages enacted in America.

Passions are running high across Pennsylvania and the nation. People need to know we can resolve our differences peacefully through the election process. Such resolution can only occur when the integrity of the process is assured. We can do it, and it’s my hope that soon the voters themselves will play a key role in providing it.

Sen. Bob Mensch represents the 24th Senatorial District, covering parts of Berks, Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Contact: Lidia Di Fiore ldifiore@pasen.gov 215-541-2388

Senate Approves Mensch Bill to Increase Opportunities for Valley Forge Military Academy and College Cadets

HARRISBURG – The state Senate this week approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) to provide a pathway for Valley Forge Military Academy and College cadets to commission early into the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as an U.S. Officer in the Army.

Senate Bill 1194 would establish a Pennsylvania Military Academy Assistance Program to recruit, train, educate and retain cadets from Valley Forge Military Academy and College (also known as the Pennsylvania Military Academy), helping them become commissioned officers in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard through the Reserve Officer Early Commissioning process. Through this program, they would receive educational grants for military academy attendance to first attain an associate degree and military commission.
 

This program is based on current educational assistance programs which have been successful in allowing individuals interested in military service to obtain top-notch education while pursuing a path toward serving our country,” Mensch said. “Most importantly, the cost of this program can be absorbed by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, so there is no added cost on the taxpayers.”
  
In addition, the program would support attendance at a participating state university or provide partial funding to complete their undergraduate degree at any college or university within the commonwealth. “We are grateful to Senator Mensch for his leadership on this Bill,” said Colonel Stuart B. Helgeson, USMCR, (Ret), president of Valley Forge Military Academy & College. “This is welcome news for those who seek a VFMC education and enables those planning to serve in the Pennsylvania National Guard to receive the financial support they need to do so.” Upon graduation from the military academy, the candidate would have an obligation to serve eight years as a commissioned officer.

“There are many positive outcomes of this bill,” Mensch said. “It will increase opportunities to attend Valley Forge Military Academy and College and boost the number of qualified commissioned officers in the Pennsylvania National Guard, in addition to ensuring that more graduates remain and serve in Pennsylvania.”

The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com. State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

Contact: Lidia Di Fiore ldifiore@pasen.gov 215-541-2388

Harrisburg Highlights- Week of June 13, 2022

Dear Friends,

The Senate was in session this week, positioning bills that will be used to create a state budget, along with passing other measures and holding committee activity.

The Appropriations Committee approved my legislation (SB1194) to provide a pathway for Valley Forge Military Academy and College cadets to commission early into the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as an U.S. Officer in the Army. 

Senate Bill 1194 would establish a Pennsylvania Military Academy Assistance Program to recruit, train, educate and retain cadets from Valley Forge Military Academy and College (also known as the Pennsylvania Military Academy). This will increase opportunities to attend Valley Forge Military Academy and College and boost the number of qualified commissioned officers in the Pennsylvania National Guard. In addition, this piece of legislation will ensure that more graduates remain and serve in Pennsylvania. The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Pennsylvania has the third highest Corporate Net Income Tax rate in the nation. The Senate approved Senate Bill 447 and Senate Bill 771 to lower the rate to attract job creators and keep young citizens from having to move away to find careers. My hope is that a CNI Tax reduction will be included in the state budget being worked on this month.

The Senate voted to block Gov. Tom Wolf’s overreaching charter school regulations after his administration misused the regulatory process to avoid brokering an agreement with lawmakers. The vote on House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution I comes after the administration didn’t adequately address concerns raised during the public comment process and instead committed to final regulations that run contrary to the intent of existing charter school law. There is bipartisan interest in making reforms to our current charter laws. Frustration over the process does not justify circumventing the legislature.

Other measures that passed the Senate include:

Senate Bill 669 gives municipal and regional police officers the option to buy back up to five years of previous part-time or full-time service at another department. The change could serve as a recruitment tool for police departments. Senate hearings on rising crime in Pennsylvania uncovered a crisis facing local police departments in recruiting and retaining officers.

Senate Bill 1094 updates the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to improve highway safety regarding large motor carriers – including heavy trucks, public transit buses and coach buses.

Senate Bill 1159 extends the state law permitting service organizations, such veterans’ organizations and volunteer fire companies, to use 100% of their Small Games of Chance money to cover their general operating expenses, including rent, payroll and utilities.

You can find a list of everything the Senate voted on this week here.

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CONTACT: Lidia Di Fiore ldifiore@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Senate Votes to Block Wolf Administration’s Overreaching Charter School Regulations

HARRISBURG – The Senate voted yesterday to block Gov. Tom Wolf’s overreaching charter school regulations after his administration misused the regulatory process to avoid brokering an agreement with lawmakers. 

“His plan is clearly aimed at punishing and eventually eliminating charter schools and not making necessary reforms to preserve educational choice in the Commonwealth” Senator Mensch said. 

The vote on House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 comes after the administration didn’t adequately address concerns raised during the public comment process and instead committed to final regulations that run contrary to the intent of existing charter school law.

The Department of Education’s proposed list of wide-ranging policy changes through the regulatory process could, in effect, jeopardize the educational futures of thousands of low-income, minority and special education students through burdensome, unfunded mandates, Mensch said.

Many of these regulations serve as backdoor attempts to implement some of the administration’s own policy preferences, including enrollment caps, onerous application standards and one-size-fits-all health benefit requirements that will shutter operations for many smaller charters. This is egregious considering the vulnerable students these schools primarily serve, Mensch said.

There is bipartisan interest in making reforms to our current charter laws. Frustration over the process does not justify circumventing the legislature.

CONTACT: Lidia Di Fiore ldifiore@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Harrisburg Highlights-Week of June 6, 2022

Dear Friends,

The Senate was in session this week, with multiple committee meetings, hearings, and three days of voting by the full chamber. Work on finalizing a 2022-23 state budget will be picking up as the June 30 deadline for enactment approaches.

The Senate approved the Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to ensure election laws are strictly adhered to and improve confidence in Pennsylvania’s elections. Senate Bill 573 would allow all registered Pennsylvania voters to be eligible to be a poll watcher in any precinct in the state and ensures poll watchers can clearly observe the pre-canvassing and counting of all ballots. The bill is the third election integrity measure passed by the Senate this year, along with the elimination of controversial ballot drop boxes and prohibiting third-party funding of elections.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which protects the integrity of women’s sports in Pennsylvania, was approved by the Senate. Senate Bill 1191 states that school athletic teams designated for women should not be open to those of the male sex, defined as the biological distinction between male and female, based on reproductive biology and genetic make-up. My remarks regarding Senate Bill 1191 can be found here.

Both bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

In addition to several bills necessary for crafting a final state budget, other notable bills passed by the Senate include:

  • Senate Bill 1183 provides for the seizure, forfeiture and disposal of dirt bikes and ATVs operated illegally on public roadways in boroughs and cities of the first, second, second A and third class.
  • Senate Bill 1196 and Senate Bill 1197 allow cosmetology and barber students to earn course credit and gain experience working in local salons and barber shops. 

CONTACT: Lidia Di Fiore  ldifiore@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Mensch Bill Establishing Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer Approved by Senate

Senator Mensch urges colleagues to approve his measure establishing the position of Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) establishing the position of Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer was approved today by the state Senate.

“Registered nurses play a crucial role in the delivery of health care across the commonwealth. They are the largest professional group in Pennsylvania, yet lack adequate representation in policy decision-making in Harrisburg,” Mensch said.
 
Senate Bill 848 would establish the Office of Chief Nursing Officer, modeled after the roles and confirmation process of the Physician General. The Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer will have the following duties:

  • Advise the governor and Secretary of Health.
  • Participate in the decision-making process of the Department of Health (DOH) on policies related to nursing and public health issues.
  • Review professional standards and practices in nursing and public health.
  • Consult with recognized experts on nursing and public health matters which are within the jurisdiction of the DOH.
  • Provide advice on nursing and public health issues to the secretary and to other executive branch agencies.
  • Coordinate educational, informational and other programming for the promotion of wellness, public health and nursing issues.
  • Consult with experts on programs and issues important to Pennsylvania.
  • Serve as a voting member of the State Board of Nursing.  

“It is long overdue that the General Assembly and governor include registered nurses and other members of the health delivery team in health policy decisions,” said Mensch. “I believe this legislation is an important step in improving outcomes in Pennsylvania health care.”

Senate Bill 848 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com. State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

Contact: Lidia Di Fiore ldifiore@pasen.gov (215) 541-2388

Op-Ed: Republicans Must Once Again Shield Pennsylvanians from Gov. Wolf’s Reckless Spending

For seven years, Republicans have shielded fellow Pennsylvanians from massive tax hikes and overspending by Gov. Tom Wolf. Now, following his final budget proposal, it’s clear we must do so again.

Gov. Wolf’s proposed 2022-23 state budget would increase General Fund spending by $4.5 billion to $45.7 billion. $2 billion of which is federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending, including the expenditure of federal dollars returned to Pennsylvania during the pandemic. The governor’s budget represents a 10.9% increase in spending.

Based on Senate Appropriations Committee budget projections, the governor’s plan will produce a $1.3 billion deficit for the 2023-24 fiscal year. This will create an even bigger bill for Pennsylvania taxpayers long after he leaves office in January 2023, because of inflated revenue estimates and understated spending. The plan creates a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.

Gov. Wolf says he is not proposing any tax increases, but that is misleading on two fronts: first, the projected deficits will require a tax hike next year and into the foreseeable future; and second the governor continues to unilaterally forge ahead with plans to impose a carbon tax on energy producers. That cost, possibly as much as a 30% increase on goods and energy, will be passed on to consumers, who are already struggling to get by in the face of 40-year high inflation.

The root of the problem is Gov. Wolf wants to spend all the one-time federal money and proposes to use it for recurring expenditures. This is a reckless violation of Fiscal Policy 101. We saw similar disastrous results in 2008, and we cannot allow a recurrence of the same reckless spending.

In 2015, the General Assembly protected taxpayers from Gov. Wolf’s record $4.5 billion tax hike proposal in his first budget, and continuously have stopped Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget and tax increases in every subsequent year. Through the efforts of the General Assembly, fiscal order and accountability have been restored and state finances are to good standing. We have finally erased the structural deficit, but Gov. Wolf’s efforts would recreate a structural deficit and return us to the years of difficult budgets.

Republicans in the General Assembly will continue to shield our citizens from the consequences of the Gov. Wolf’s irresponsible budget proposal.

State Sen. Bob Mensch represents the 24th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery, Bucks and Berks counties.

CONTACT: Lidia Di Fiore  ldifiore@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Senate Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes and Private Funding of Election Operations

HARRISBURG – State Sen. Bob Mensch voted Wednesday to safeguard the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections as the Senate approved legislation that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban private money to fund election operations.

“In recent years, voters have witnessed confusing and sometimes arbitrary application of election laws, including in Montgomery County in 2021,” Mensch said. “This undermines the integrity of our elections. We have a fundamental responsibility to restore faith in this process.”

Senate Bill 1200 would require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. 

Drop boxes were permitted by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in 2020, despite the fact that they were never authorized or intended by the General Assembly through the legislative process. Since that time, numerous examples of drop boxes being misused have been discovered throughout the state, including:

  • Video evidence from Montgomery County showing ballot harvesting in the 2021 General Election.
  • Video evidence from Lehigh County showing ballot harvesting in the 2021 General Election.
  • Video evidence from Lackawanna County showing a man allegedly harvesting multiple ballots into a drop box during the 2021 Primary Election.
  • Memorandum from Lehigh County explaining how detectives reviewed video from four different drop boxes in the county and determined there were overvotes at each of the locations.
  • Testimony from a Luzerne County Judge of Elections indicating an individual admitting to repeatedly harvesting ballots at a drop box, not realizing it was even illegal.

Eliminating unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are more than 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots.

Senate Bill 982 would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania.

The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election. Correspondence between CTCL officials, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that funding was intentionally directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.

Democrat-leaning counties were selectively invited to apply for the grants before Republican-leaning counties were even made aware of the funding. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election, while other counties received significantly less.

For example, Philadelphia received $8.83 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020. On the other side of the state, Venango County, with a Republican voter registration advantage, received only $.64 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.

Both bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com. State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

Contact: Lidia Di Fiore ldifiore@pasen.gov (215) 541-2388

Senator Mensch speaks on Senate Resolutions 266 and 270

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Financial Literacy Month

HARRISBURG – Senator Mensch this week in session spoke before the Senate, on Senate Resolution 266 and Senate Resolution 270. Senate Resolution 266 is a resolution that will designate March 2022 as “Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.

Breast cancer is among the most diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States.  Nearly 14,000 Pennsylvania women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 2,000 will die from it this year.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer is one of many forms of breast cancer and accounts for about 15-30% of all diagnosed invasive breast cancer cases in the United States. Sadly, people diagnosed with metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer have a less than 30% chance of surviving past five (5) years.

“Therefore, it is necessary for us to promote Triple Negative Breast Cancer education, raise awareness among the disease-related disparities, and tackle inequities within the health care delivery such as inadequate access to screening, diagnostic treating and care, and to improve early detection and survival,” said Mensch.

Senate Resolution 270 was also brought to the attention of the Senate this week. Senate Resolution 270 will designate April 2022 as “Financial Literacy Month” within the Commonwealth. Financial Literacy Month, every year, is celebrated in April.  It was first recognized in the United States in April of 2004 to highlight the importance of being financially literate, and to encourage individuals to learn about the ways and techniques that can help them in becoming financially smart and independent.

Financial Literacy Month originated from Youth Literacy Day, which came into existence through the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).  In 2003, Congress showed great support for this designation after both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives passed resolutions requesting President George. W Bush to declare April as Financial Literacy Month.

The house then passed a bill that supported the goals of Financial Literacy Month, requesting the President to implement the month of April to the Federal Government, schools, localities, and non-profit organizations.  It is said that the foundation of a bright future is to develop a budget and increase your financial knowledge.

Because of this, Senator Mensch states, “we hope that we can expand upon that Mr. President, and encourage everyone great financial literacy.”

CONTACT: Lidia Di Fiore  ldifiore@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Meeting to release two reports entitled: (1) A Study in Response to Act 2020-93: Review of the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund; (2) A Study of the Impact of Tavern Gaming on the Pennsylvania State Lottery; and Committee administrative matters and updates.)

Legislative Budget and Finance Committee

Wednesday, April 13, 2022 | 9:30 a.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-B

Agenda

To release two reports entitled: (1) A Study in Response to Act 2020-93: Review of the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund; (2) A Study of the Impact of Tavern Gaming on the Pennsylvania State Lottery; and Committee administrative matters and updates.)