Harrisburg Highlights-Week of June 20, 2022

Dear Friends,

As the June 30 deadline to pass a state budget approaches, the Senate spent part of this session week positioning bills that will be used to create a 2022-23 spending plan, along with passing other measures and holding committee activity.

The Senate approved my legislation to increase opportunities for students to attend Valley Forge Military Academy and College and boost the number of qualified commissioned officers in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

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 ensure that more graduates remain and serve in Pennsylvania. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate also approved legislation to improve workforce development initiatives and better prepare Pennsylvania students for jobs that will be in demand after they graduate.

House Bill 723 incorporated language from a bill I am sponsoring with Sen. Vince Hughes (D-7), Senate Bill 168, that requires the state Department of Labor and Industry to collect data on emerging and projected future employment sectors in Pennsylvania and send it to educational institutions. Schools would be required to use the information to develop career education programs and for providing career guidance to students. The amended bill will return to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Legislation I co-sponsored that passed the Senate:

Senate Bill 569 protects the rights of Pennsylvania’s corrections officers by requiring specific procedures for suspensions and interrogations when an officer is accused of misconduct. 

Senate Bill 1093 allows energy-efficient lighting to be installed on outdoor advertising devices, such as billboards, while maintaining compliance with federal regulations.

Senate Bill 1173 gives continuing educational credits to dentists who volunteer at free clinics and charity events.

Other measures that passed the Senate include:

Senate Bill 1188 requires insurance coverage for testing and treatment of tickborne diseases, such as Lyme disease. Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases.

Senate Bill 1124 requires the Department of Human Services to check death certificates with the Bureau of Vital Statistics so that Medical Assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments can be halted immediately when a recipient’s death is recorded, and welfare fraud can be prevented.

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

 

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

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

Harrisburg Highlights- Week of May 23, 2022

Dear Friends, 

The Senate was in session this week, with multiple committee meetings and three days of voting by the full chamber.

I was pleased that the Senate approved by legislation establishing the position of Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer, recognizing the crucial role that registered nurses play in the delivery of health care.

Under Senate Bill 848, the duties of the Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer would include:

  • Advising the governor and Secretary of Health.
  • Participating in the decision-making process of the Department of Health (DOH) on policies related to nursing and public health issues.
  • Reviewing professional standards and practices in nursing and public health.
  • Consulting with recognized experts on nursing and public health matters which are within the jurisdiction of the DOH.
  • Providing advice on nursing and public health issues to the secretary and to other executive branch agencies.
  • Coordinating educational, informational and other programming for the promotion of wellness, public health and nursing issues.

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

The Senate also approved and sent to the House Senate Bill 230, which closes a loophole that made many senior citizens ineligible for the state Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The bill would allow retirees to transfer those retirement account investments between accounts within 60 days without counting toward income when applying for property tax or rent relief. If those funds are not invested into another qualified retirement plan within 60 days, the funds will be considered income.

Other notable bills passed by the Senate:

  • Senate Bill 1186 allocates a portion of the fee from the sale of the special USA semiquincentennial registration plate to the Pennsylvania Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial.
  • House Bill 889 updates international nursing licensure exam requirements.
  • Senate Bill 1043 reduces the amount of paperwork required by the Steel Products Procurement Act.
  • Senate Bill 1163 protects the identities and other personal information of Pennsylvania lottery prizewinners.

 

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

Harrisburg Highlights Week of April 11, 2022

This past week in Harrisburg, both the House and Senate were in Session.  There was quite a bit of Committee and Floor activity in both Chambers, but all in all it was a productive and important week in the General Assembly.

I was fortunate enough to have two of my bills considered by Committees this week, one in the Appropriates Committee that has been approved previously and another in the Health and Human Services Committee that has been a work in progress for several months. 

  • First, my Senate Bill 848 was approved in Appropriations on Monday, and it seeks to create the Office of Chief Nursing Officer of the Commonwealth, similar to our Physician General. 
  • On Tuesday, the Health and Human Services Committee passed my Senate Bill 749, with an amendment, which adds much needed clarification to the Medical Marijuana Act in terms of employees and employers.
  • Also of note, the Senate Transportation Committee

In terms of the Floor votes, the two most important bills in my opinion had to deal with elections.  First, Senate Bill 982 (Baker) banned third-parties from contributing to election operations which avoids a clear conflict of interest.  Second, Senate Bill 1200 (Dush) to clarify the election code, where drop boxes are not mentioned, and specify that the only place mail-in or absentee ballots can be physically returned is the County election office in the County seat.  Both of these bills passed and are now under consideration in the House.

Other notable floor votes:

 

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

Harrisburg Highlights Week of March 14, 2022

Dear Friends,

This week, both the House and Senate wrapped up our respective series’ of Appropriations Hearings in the Capitol to get a better understanding of the Governor’s proposed budget and the individual Departments’ and Agency’s budget requests.  It’s been a long four weeks filled with a lot of information and research, but this exercise will no doubt help form our work together with the Administration and the Departments to craft a fiscally sound and historic budget.

This week, I attended the hearings for the Department of Labor & Industry, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Department of General Services (DGS)/Office of the Budget.  Below, you view my exchanges with the representatives of the respective departments to discuss matters important to my constituents.

Department of Labor & Industry

Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs

  • I spoke with our Adjutant General Mark Schindler of the Pennsylvania National Guard about education opportunities for our current and prospective guard members.

Department of General Services/Office of the Budget

I appreciate you taking the time to read my summaries, and definitely took this process in stride as it was my last opportunity to ask budget questions as your Senator. 

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

Harrisburg Highlights Week of February 7, 2022

Dear Friends,

This week, Harrisburg was buzzing with budget fever as the House and Senate were both in session to hear Governor Wolf give his eighth and final Budget Address to a joint session of the Legislature.  More on that in a bit, as that was not the only thing going on in the State Capitol this week.

First in anticipation of the Budget Address and analysis, the Senate Calendars were relatively light.  Among the bills passed by the Senate this week were:

  • Senate Bill 327 (J. Ward) – Reporting of COVID-19 Deaths to Coroners
  • House Resolution 173 (Boback) – Resolution extending the disaster emergency declared in response to the Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse
  • House Bill 232 (Mustello) – Allowing School Districts to Change their Names
  • Senate Bill 739 (Stefano) – Fire and Emergency Medical Services Loan Program and COVID-19 Recovery Grant Program

As far as the Governor’s Budget proposal, his tone deaf ideas regarding our current and future fiscal positions are just mind-boggling.  His proposal hinges on the use of Federal ARPA dollars allocated to Pennsylvania, but ignores the fact that spending all of that money now when his projections, our projections, and the Independent Fiscal Office’s projections all show a significant structural imbalance in the out years.  More on that from the Senate Leaders here.

For my statement and thoughts on this fantasy proposal can be found on my website.

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

Harrisburg Highlights Week of January 24, 2022

Friends,

This week, both the Senate and the House were in session.  This was an important week, as both chambers came together to send much needed funding to our hospitals and healthcare centers and we approved a Congressional Map for redistricting purposes.   

As far as bills passing in Committee, an important bill for rural connectivity and employment came out of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, Senate Bill 962, which would create Rural Co-Working and Innovation Centers (RCICs).  The Environmental Resources and Energy Committee passed Senate Bill 945, which would allow for the sale of alternative energy credits, and House Bill 1843, which updates the Clean Streams Law.  

In terms of the Congressional Maps, House Bill 2146 was passed in both Chambers and sent to the Governor in order to meet our deadline.  The final map was one drawn by an average citizen, not politicians, with minor changes due to certain constitutional factors which it didn’t consider.  The map was subsequently vetoed by the Governor, which made it clear that his goal is to have the 5-2 Democratic Majority Supreme Court have final say on Congressional Redistricting.

Finally, House Bill 253, perhaps the most important bill of the week, was signed by the Governor yesterday.  This bill provides will over $200 million in funding for our hospitals and health systems as they continue to fight through the pandemic while enduring staffing and supply chain issues.

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

Harrisburg Highlights Week of January 17, 2022

Dear Friends,

This week the Senate was in Session considering legislation for the first time since early December.  While my colleagues and I weren’t in Harrisburg, Capitol staff has been busy working with constituents and others to prepare for the final part of the Session year, and even ahead to the FY 2022-2023 budget. 

Unfortunately, no bills which I introduced were considered this past week, although there’s still a long way to go in the session and I am still diligently working on my legislative priorities.  One important bill which I was able to vote in favor of in the Health and Human Services Committee was Senate Bill 1019, which would expand the COVID-19 regulatory flexibility authority.  This is undeniably important piece of legislation which will further our ability to respond to the short-term programmatic issues created by the pandemic.

Other legislation passed in the Senate this week:

  • SB 930 (Boscola) – Physical Therapy Licensure Compact Fix
  • SB 861 (Stefano) – EMS Compact
  • SB 450 (Yaw) –  Updating the Rural Pennsylvania Revitalization Act
  • SB 696 (Laughlin) – Update to the Breach of Personal Information Notification Act
  • SB 818 (J. Ward) – Aligning Pennsylvania’s Ambulatory Surgery Centers Procedures with CMS
  • SB 726 (Phillips-Hill) – Safeguarding the Commonwealth from Ransomware Attacks
  • SB 482 (Phillips-Hill) – Strengthening State Government Cybersecurity and Consolidation of IT Services
  • HB 1588 (Mercuri) – Remote Mortgage Banking

Interestingly enough, Senate Bills 726 and 482, which deal specifically with the protection of personal information, passed on party line votes.  It was interesting that our friends on the other side of the aisle felt the need to vote against the security of personal identification.

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

Harrisburg Highlights- Week of December 13, 2021

Dear Friends,

This past week, the House and Senate were both in session for what was likely the last time in 2021.  As many of you know, a legislative session is two years, so the closing out of 2021 doesn’t mean that the session is over, just that we have reached the half way point.

On Tuesday of this past week, one of my bills, Senate Bill 848, was passed by the Senate Health Committee.  Senate Bill 848 creates a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) in the Commonwealth which will have a similar role in Pennsylvania as the Physician General.  I sponsored this bill because Registered Nurses play crucial role in the Commonwealth’s healthcare environment.  They are the largest professional group in Pennsylvania, yet they often lack adequate representation in policy-related decision-making in Harrisburg.

The following important bills were passed in the Senate this week

  • SB 562 (Scavello) – Airport Land Development Zones
  • SB 772 (DiSanto) – Updating Pennsylvania’s Annuity Laws
  • HB 1332 (Lewis) – Empowering Parents with Curriculum Transparency
  • HB 412 (Gleim) – Substitute Teacher Shortage
  • HB 1255 (Lewis) – Statutory Limitation for Civil Actions Against Real Estate Appraisers
  • HB 1260 (Thomas) – PACE/PACENET Eligibility Expansion
  • HB 291 (Labs) – PACE/PACENET Social Security COLA Moratorium
  • HB 1837 (Irvin) – Workers Comp Regulation Suspension
  • SB 566 (Regan) – Dead Liquor License Auctions
  • HB 2071 (Causer) – Establishes Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority 
  • SB 913 (Baker) – Comprehensive Probation Reform

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