Senator Stefano E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Around the District
  • Legislative Update
  • Senate Republicans Announce Priorities and Principles for 2023-24 Session
  • Committee Votes to Eliminate Costs for Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer Screenings
  • Senate Votes to Restrict Diversion of Transportation Funding
  • Senate Urges President Biden to Restart Keystone XL Pipeline
  • Homeowner Septic Program Helps Cover Cost of Septic Systems, Sewer Hook-ups

Around the District

Maple season has begun: On Saturday, the Somerset County Maple Producers Association held their annual tree tapping ceremony, marking the beginning of maple production season. Special thanks to Sanner Maple Products for hosting this year and good luck to the princesses on April 1 for the Maple Queen contest.

Stacie’s Sweets and Eats held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Somerset last week. The shop houses an abundance of treats including bubble tea and weekly specials. Congratulations to the team and wishing you much “sweet” success.

March is “Music in Our Schools Month.” On March 1, I had the privilege of meeting Brett Keith, elected state officer of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), to briefly discuss music education policies in Pennsylvania. He and other members of PMEA visited the Capitol for  “Music Education Advocacy Day,” where the group held a press conference and student concert in the Capitol Rotunda.  

Legislative Update

2/28/23 - Senate Bill 115

My legislation to eliminate the outdated requirement for a qualified mechanic to perform an oil change every 100 hours on all diesel-powered equipment used by mining companies passed the Senate unanimously this week. This requirement was established 25 years ago when diesel engines were much less efficient. Eliminating this requirement reflects the needs of current mining equipment so companies aren’t forced to take the time and pay the costs associated with unnecessary oil changes. The existing law requires that these companies also purchase excess oil and needlessly pitch out perfectly good oil.

I’m happy to see this bill progress in efforts to streamline the mining process and eliminate the current waste of resources. Now that my colleagues have passed the bill, it moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

2/27/23 - Joint Hearing on Grid reliability and Winter Storm Elliot recap 

On Monday, February 27, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee in conjunction with the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a joint hearing to discuss the reliability of the electric grid and review how it performed during December 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott. Leading experts from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, electric grid operator PJM, federal regulator Reliability First and energy suppliers presented testimony to the committees on the grid’s ability to supply enough power during the winter storm event and beyond.

Key take-aways from the hearing show the dynamic change the electrical grid is experiencing. There is a growing need for more energy in our homes, businesses and for the expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Traditional energy sources like coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear, which have ensured grid reliability for years, are starting to retire. New energy sources like solar and wind are on tap to replace them, but not with the same capacity or reliability factors. Managing these challenges will be an ongoing issue that must be resolved and one that both committees will remain focused on to ensure proper planning and preparedness.

If you would like to learn more about this hearing, please watch the hearing or read the testimony on the committee website here.

Senate Republicans Announce Priorities and Principles for 2023-24 Session

With the two-year legislative session getting into full swing, I joined colleagues this week in announcing Senate Republican priorities and principles for 2023-24.

Our legislative efforts will be focused on protecting jobs, empowering families and defending freedoms.

Protecting Pennsylvania jobs requires a comprehensive approach that includes ensuring energy independence, promoting workforce development and continued improvement of our infrastructure.

Empowering Pennsylvania families means providing healthy and safe communities, addressing mental and behavioral health needs, and guaranteeing access to high-quality educational opportunities.

Defending freedom means keeping government out of the lives and pockets of citizens as much as possible, and instilling confidence in the electoral process.

Senate Republicans will build on our successful efforts last session that were focused on:

  • Improving the state tax structure
  • Redesigning higher ed
  • Modernizing workforce development
  • Creating new tax credits to generate jobs
  • Improving broadband, water and transportation infrastructure
  • And more

Senate Republican leaders discussed our 2023-24 priorities and principles here.

Committee Votes to Eliminate Costs for Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer Screenings

Legislation I’m co-sponsoring to eliminate all out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women with a high lifetime-risk of developing breast cancer took a step toward Senate passage this week.

Senate Bill 8, a bipartisan, first-of-its-kind, comprehensive breast cancer screening and testing bill was approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and is poised for consideration by the full Senate.

Genetic testing often leads to early cancer detection or preventive treatments and procedures. It not only informs the tested individual, but also provides vital information to family members who may have a high likelihood of inheriting a gene mutation.

Senate Bill 8 expands on a 2020 law that secured insurance coverage for breast MRIs by removing any applicable patient copays, deductible and coinsurance for this preventive screening. A supplemental screening is necessary because of failed early detection by screening mammography among women with dense breasts and those at high lifetime risk of breast cancer.

Senate Votes to Restrict Diversion of Transportation Funding

To bolster funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure, the Senate passed legislation to restrict the diversion of transportation funding out of the Motor License Fund. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Motor License Fund obtains revenue from transportation charges, including the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver license fees. These funds are required by the Pennsylvania Constitution for the design, construction and maintenance of the state and local highway network. However, a large portion is transferred to the Pennsylvania State Police for statewide highway patrol operations.

Senate Bill 121 dedicates the transportation charges to road and bridge safety projects, while ensuring the Pennsylvania State Police receive reliable, sustainable funding from sources beyond the susceptible Motor License Fund. The bill caps transfers from the Motor License Fund at $250 million in 2023-24 then reduces the transfer by $50 million annually. The bill seeks to end the transfers by 2028-29 and allocate all transportation fees for road and bridge improvements.

Senate Urges President Biden to Restart Keystone XL Pipeline

I joined with Senate colleagues in passing a resolution calling on President Biden to allow completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to create nearly 60,000 jobs and strengthen our energy independence in uncertain times.

Senate Resolution 9 urges the president to restart and expedite the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which had its permit canceled through an executive order on his first day in office.

A report from the U.S. Department of Energy showcased that the construction of the pipeline would have generated between 16,149-59,468 jobs annually and contributed $3.4 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product. Incredibly, while President Biden blocked American jobs, he waived sanctions on the Russian firm responsible for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.

The resolution will now be transmitted to President Biden and members of Congress, including the entire Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.

Homeowner Septic Program Helps Cover Cost of Septic Systems, Sewer Hook-ups

Functioning on-lot septic systems, laterals and connections to a public sewer system are essential for public health but are expensive to repair or replace.

The Homeowner Septic Program offers affordable loans for the repair or replacement of on-lot septic systems and sewer laterals, or a first-time sewer connection from an existing home. The revamped program now features:

  • No restrictions on household income
  • A streamlined application process
  • Loan amounts up to $25,000 for all homes (including manufactured homes)
  • No prepayment penalty

The program is funded and administered by Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).

For more information or to start the PENNVEST application process, homeowners should contact a participating lender or PHFA at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466), then press “0” to be connected with the Customer Solutions Center. Information on the program is also available here. Lenders interested in participating should visit the PHFA website for more details.


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