Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Three of Senator Mensch’s Bills Advance to Senate Floor
  • After Wolf’s Blunder, Senate Votes to Support Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Bipartisan Election Integrity Committee Meets to Gather State and Local Insights
  • Budget Hearings Focus on Job Creation, Broadband, Corrections Costs
  • Personal Income Tax Filing Deadlines Extended to May 17
  • Eight Counties Added to Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine
  • PennDOT CDL and Learner’s Permit Extensions End March 31

Three of Senator Mensch’s Bills Advance to Senate Floor

Three significant pieces of legislation that I sponsor were advanced to the Senate floor this week.

3/23/21 - Aging & Youth Committee - SB 190

Senate Bill 190, also known as Designated Essential Family Caregivers (EFCs) in Long-Term Care Facilities, passed out of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee. This bill would allow facilities to designate at least one EFC per resident. An EFC is someone who was regularly providing care to a resident prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Designation would be at the sole discretion of the facility in consultation with the resident and their families and must follow a resident’s care plan. Only facilities that can comply with current CDC and DOH guidelines can designate an EFC. An EFC must comply with all the conditions specified by a facility, including CDC and DOH guidelines like handwashing, masks, social distancing, etc.

3/23/21 - Senate Bill 156

Senate Bill 156, also known as Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD), was voted out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Currently, MAWD services are only available to individuals with disabilities with an income of less than 250%, or roughly $32,000 annually. This often discourages workers from working more hours, or from accepting a raise or promotion. This bill allows individuals with disabilities to increase earnings under a new category of MAWD, called Workers with Job Success (WJS). Anything earned over the cap will bump contributions into a new category rather than just eliminating eligibility all together and covers workers from 250% of the poverty level up to 600%, or roughly $76,000.

3/23/21 - SB 435

Senate Bill 435, also known as the Clean Transportation Infrastructure Act, passed through the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. This legislation will spur development of transportation infrastructure to support the new generation of electric, natural gas, and hydrogen vehicles and equipment that will be an important part of Pennsylvania’s economic development in coming years. The Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Infrastructure Act will create a framework for building this infrastructure by combining the expertise of our transportation and public utility sectors. Under this proposal, Pennsylvania will:

  • Establish a state goal of increasing electrification by at least 50 percent over currently forecasted levels by 2030; and
  • Direct electric utilities to develop infrastructure implementation plans to support the development of these networks under PA PUC oversight.
  • Will require no new taxes and no government spending.
  • Ensure local control as planning and prioritizations are done from the bottom-up at the regional level, not a top-down bureaucratic approach from Harrisburg.
  • A time-limited program that mandates a 5-year program review and plan updates and sunsets after 10 years unless reauthorized by the Legislature.

Budget Hearings Focus on Job Creation, Broadband, Corrections Costs

The Senate Appropriations Committee continued to study Governor Wolf’s budget proposal on Monday with budget hearings with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.

3/22/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: DCED

The conversation with DCED focused on programs designed to spur job growth, including tax credits to support manufacturing and other critical industries. Members of the committee also raised concerns about the governor’s proposed cuts to broadband funding for underserved areas.

3/22/21 – Budget Hearing Q&A: Corrections/Probation & Parole

Lawmakers also learned during the Corrections hearing that the number of inmates was reduced by more than 6,000 over the past year, which is the largest drop in Pennsylvania history, with an anticipated further reduction of 2,000 inmates next year.

Budget hearings are scheduled to continue on April 6.

After Wolf’s Blunder, Senate Votes to Support Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The Senate re-started the process this week to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits against their abusers even if the statute of limitations had expired. The resolution would address the issue after an egregious blunder by the Wolf Administration will prevent the amendment from appearing on the ballot in the spring primary election on May 18. You can read more in my press release here.

Lawmakers approved a proposed Constitutional amendment that would create a two-year window for retroactive lawsuits for victims whose statute of limitations has already expired. However, the Wolf Administration failed to properly advertise the amendment, meaning sexual assault survivors must now wait until 2023 at the earliest for the measure to be considered by voters.

Lawmakers weighed several different options to fully rectify the Wolf Administration’s blunder. However, none of these options – including an emergency amendment to the Constitution or legislation to open a two-year window for lawsuits – were likely to withstand legal challenges and would have provided false hope to sexual assault survivors.

Creating a window for retroactive lawsuits would complete all the recommendations of a 2018 Grand Jury Report that detailed shocking cases of the sexual abuse of children.

Lawmakers have already created laws to address the other recommendations, including eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for future cases of sexual abuse of a child, as well as associated crimes such as human trafficking; extending the deadline for civil actions from age 30 to age 55; clarifying mandatory reporting standards for suspected cases of abuse; increasing penalties for mandated reporters who continue to fail to report suspected child abuse; and ensuring survivors who sign non-disclosure statements are not prohibited from speaking with law enforcement regarding their abuse.

Join Me and PHEAA for a FREE Financial Aid Webinar

I am hosting a Financial Aid informational webinar on Wednesday, April 21 from 6:30-7:30 PM. I am pleased to invite parents and students to this webinar for students who would like to pursue a higher education. This event will feature special guest speakers from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). The webinar is open to all ages and grades.

Register here.

Funding Now Available for Volunteer Fire Companies to Increase Protection from Wildfires in Rural Areas

Local firefighting forces in communities with less than 10,000 residents can now apply for wildfire assistance grants to be used for training and equipment purchases directly related to fighting brush and forest fires. More information can be found here.

Bipartisan Election Integrity Committee Meets to Gather State and Local Insights

The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform held its second public hearing on Tuesday to gather testimony on the administration of the election from state and local officials, including representatives from the Department of State, county election officials and county commissioners.

State residents are encouraged to submit their thoughts and comments through the online form.

Budget Hearings Focus on Job Creation, Broadband, Corrections Costs

The Senate Appropriations Committee continued to study Governor Wolf’s budget proposal on Monday with budget hearings with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.

The conversation with DCED focused on programs designed to spur job growth, including tax credits to support manufacturing and other critical industries. Members of the committee also raised concerns about the governor’s proposed cuts to broadband funding for underserved areas.

Lawmakers also learned during the Corrections hearing that the number of inmates was reduced by more than 6,000 over the past year, which is the largest drop in Pennsylvania history, with an anticipated further reduction of 2,000 inmates next year.

Budget hearings are scheduled to continue on April 6.

Personal Income Tax Filing Deadlines Extended to May 17

The deadline for taxpayers to file their state and federal personal income tax returns has been extended from April 15 to May 17. The extension provides additional time for taxpayers to navigate the difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension applies both to tax filing and payments.

Pennsylvania taxpayers can now file their state personal income tax returns online at mypath.pa.gov.

Eight Counties Added to Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that feeds on many types of plants that are important to Pennsylvania’s economy. Eight counties were recently added to the quarantine zone, bringing the statewide total to 34 counties under restriction.

One estimate found that under a worst-case scenario, the spotted lanternfly could lead to more than $550 million in expected losses for Pennsylvania’s economy and nearly 5,000 jobs lost. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to report sightings of the spotted lanternfly by calling 1-888-422-3359 and to destroy any egg masses or spotted lanternflies they see.

PennDOT CDL and Learner’s Permit Extensions End March 31

The expiration dates for commercial driver licenses (CDL) and commercial learner’s permits have been extended several times during the COVID-19 pandemic. The final extension is scheduled to expire on March 31, and no additional extensions are expected to be offered.

Motorists who are covered by extensions that run from March 16, 2020, through March 31, 2021, are encouraged to renew these licenses and permits as soon as possible before they expire next week.

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