In This Update:
Senator Bob Mensch Introduces Deana’s Law in Memory of Deana Eckman
Today, Representative Chris Quinn and I announced the introduction of a crucial piece of legislation in memory of DUI homicide victim Deana Eckman that would increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders in both the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives.
Just a little over two years ago, Deana Eckman was reprehensibly murdered by an individual who was then convicted of his sixth DUI. It is unacceptable that we allow people to continually drive while impaired. If we know there’s an impairment, we need to deal with it up front and much more effectively than we do. It is imperative that the legislature do everything in our power to keep those who have numerous DUIs off the roads. Doing so will protect the lives of many and will hopefully ensure that something like what happened to Deana does not happen to anyone else.
Op-Ed: Look Out for Misleading Wording in Upcoming Ballot Questions
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the benefits of working together to confront a challenge, as well as the dangers of unchecked government power.
The case in point is the effort to mislead voters who will decide ballot questions in the upcoming primary election! This effort demonstrates the lengths to which those in authority will go to maintain unilateral control. I’d like to explain what I mean so you can make an informed decision at the May 18th primary election.
Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Since March of 2020, Governor Tom Wolf used this blanket authority to change and suspend state laws, prevent shuttered businesses from reopening with safety measures in place, and spend state and federal taxpayer dollars with no oversight or input from the citizen’s representatives in the legislature.
However, several proposed constitutional amendments will appear on the May 18th ballot. The effect of two of these proposed amendments would be to limit an emergency declaration to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved a longer duration. They also clarify that the governor will not be able to unilaterally veto legislative action that ends the declaration, as Governor Wolf has done.
These amendments have not been taken lightly. Public health and safety are critically important. This legislation was debated, amended, and passed in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly.
Read more in my latest op-ed.
MCATO Spring Convention
Today, I was pleased to be a panelist during the Montgomery County Association of Township Officials Spring Convention with Representative Tim Briggs. The topic of the convention was the Governor’s proposed budget and COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Montgomery County Office of Senior Services COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Assistance
The Montgomery County Office of Senior Services is excited to share their newest initiative that will enable residents who have no access to internet and fall into two specific categories, to pre-register by phone for the vaccine.
See the attached flyer for more information.
DMVA, PHEAA Launch Portal for Guard Members, Families Applying for Higher Education Benefits
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) have collaborated to create a portal that automates the education benefits application process for Pennsylvania National Guard (PNG) members and their families.
The new electronic process – which can now be completed from any device such as a computer, tablet or smart phone – allows for submission of applications for the Military Family Education Program (MFEP) and the Education Assistance Program (EAP), as well as the ability to change/update enrollment information, assign beneficiaries, and change credit allocations. To learn more about valuable education benefits that help the PNG retain and strengthen its readiness, visit https://www.pa.ng.mil/education/.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration and information is now available.
A guide about how to get the COVID-19 vaccine is now on the Department of Health website, which can be found here: https://www.pa.gov/guides/get-vaccinated/.
Berks County vaccine information can be found at https://www.doyourpartberks.com/covid-19-vaccine-information. To locate a COVID-19 vaccine provider and schedule your vaccination appointment, visit https://www.health.pa.gov/…/COVID-19-Vaccine-Providers…. If you have a question about the COVID-19 vaccines, you can call the PA Health Hotline at 1-877-724-3258.
Bucks County has posted COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration information on their website. Visit https://buckscounty.org/…/CoronavirusInfo/VaccineInfo for more information. For any questions regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations you can email COVID19@buckscounty.org or call 215-345-3318.
Montgomery County has posted COVID-19 vaccine FAQs on their website, along with COVID-19 vaccination registration. Visit https://www.montcopa.org/3660/COVID-19-Vaccine for more information. Any questions or concerns regarding the vaccine registration must be directed to the Montgomery County Office of Public Health at email@example.com or 610-278-3000.
Mobile Home Tax Reassessment Program
United Way of Bucks County, in partnership with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, is offering free assistance to mobile home owners in Bucks County to file for property tax reassessment appeals. They will do all the work and pay the fees of the eligible homeowners in the program. See the flyer for more information, or click here.
Don’t forget to check whether or not you need to file a decennial filing or decennial report!
All domestic and foreign business corporations, non-profit corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships that are not also limited partnerships, business trusts, as well as insignias and marks used with articles and supplies that have not made a new or amended filing with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations (Bureau) from January 1, 2012 thru December 31, 2021, must file a report that they continue to exist.
Learn more here.
Hearing Highlights Importance of Getting Students Back in the Classroom
A joint hearing of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday explored the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students, families and educators. The message from teachers, parents, students, representatives of state agencies and other key stakeholders was clear – Pennsylvania students need to be back in the classroom as soon as possible to safeguard their educational development and mental health.
Testifiers explained the numerous ways that school shutdowns and current policies are hurting young people and families. The hearing also included discussion about meeting the needs of students with special needs, challenges associated with virtual learning and hybrid models, the need for consistency in state and federal guidance to school districts, concerns about standardized testing during COVID-19, and much more.
Funding Released to Support Struggling Restaurants, Hospitality Industry
The Senate approved legislation that was signed into law last month to provide $145 million to Pennsylvania restaurants and other employers in the hospitality industry that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Wolf’s mitigation orders. Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced last week that the funding has been distributed to counties, clearing the way for employers to begin applying for grants on March 15.
The grant program will be administered by local economic development organizations and/or community development financial institutions. More details on how to apply in each county will be available within the next two weeks.
COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Announces Plan to Prioritize Seniors and Vaccinate Teachers
In order to help get more Pennsylvania students back in the classroom, the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force announced a new plan this week to provide vaccines to teachers without impacting the ability of seniors and other vulnerable populations to get vaccinated. This announcement came in conjunction with news of an improved distribution formula that accounts for a county’s overall population, population over 65, infection rate, and COVID death rate, the intent of which is to dramatically improve the vaccination rate of Pennsylvanians in Phase 1A, including seniors.
The new vaccination plan would not change who is eligible to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in Phase 1A, including older Pennsylvanians and state residents who are more vulnerable to the virus due to various health conditions. However, teachers would now be eligible to receive the newly authorized, single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine under a separate program, which is expected to help teachers and students return to the classroom as soon as possible.
In order to deliver the vaccine quickly, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Education and Health will partner with the state’s 28 Intermediate Units (IUs) to establish vaccine sites, with the support of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Lawmakers passed legislation authorizing the National Guard to deliver vaccines in February.
PUC Urges Consumers to Explore Assistance Options
Consumers and businesses who are struggling with higher heating bills this winter are encouraged to explore assistance options before existing programs are changed or eliminated. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is urging individuals and employers to contact their utility company to learn about assistance programs that are available, including payment plans, late-payment fee waivers and other options to resolve overdue balances.
Consumers can also call PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services toll free at 1-800-692-7380 for more information.
Wildlife Conservation Officer Training Program Applications Due March 14
Pennsylvanians who are interested in a career as a Wildlife Conservation Officer can apply now through March 14 to be a part of the next training program, which begins this summer.
The training includes a 26-week basic training course for municipal police officers in Hershey, followed by an additional 26 weeks of training at the H.R. Stackhouse School of Fishery Conservation and Watercraft Safety in Bellefonte, Centre County.
New Resources Available for National Guard Members, Veterans and Job-Seekers
The Pennsylvania National Guard Associations will host three virtual job fairs in the coming months to help connect veterans and other job-seekers with employment opportunities in their area. The first event will be held on March 24 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., with additional events scheduled on May 26 and July 28. Interested individuals can register to participate here.
The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) also recently announced a new online portal to help National Guard members and their families access education benefits, allowing applications for the Military Family Education Program and the Education Assistance Program to be completed online. More details on benefits are available on PHEAA’s website.
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