Senator Stefano E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Students Become “Senator for a Day”
  • Senate Concludes Hearings on State Budget
  • Two Veterans’ Job Fairs Upcoming
  • How to Protect Yourself Against Tick-Borne Diseases
  • From the VAEP Chairman’s Desk
  • Access Nursing Home Inspections Online
  • March is National Kidney Month
  • Around the District
  • Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Students Become “Senator for a Day”

I am thrilled to share that my annual student government seminar, “Senator for a Day”, was back this year and better than ever. We hosted more than one-hundred students, from fourteen school districts, at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.

The program encourages students to become “Senators for a Day” to better understand the legislative process and think critically about some of the real-life issues facing lawmakers. The schools that participated include:

  • Albert Gallatin Area School District Senior High School
  • Belle Vernon Area High School
  • Brownsville Area School District Senior High School
  • Conemaugh Township Area School District Senior High School
  • Connellsville Area Career and Technology Center
  • Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School
  • Laurel Highlands School District Senior High School
  • Mount Pleasant Area Junior/Senior High School
  • North Star High School
  • Rockwood Area School District Senior High School
  • Somerset Area School District Senior High School
  • Turkeyfoot Valley Area School District Senior High School
  • Uniontown Area School District Mountain Schools High School
  • Windber Area School District Senior High School

The day started off with a group lesson on the legislative process. Then, the students were assigned to one of five committees – Education, Finance, Judiciary, Law & Justice or Transportation – to consider two mock Senate proposals. This year’s topics included:

  • K-12 School Day Start Times
  • High School Sports Program Elimination
  • Digital Product Sales Tax
  • Drug Testing For Welfare Benefits
  • Second Amendment Rights
  • Parental Consent to Join Online Social Networks
  • Rights to Social Media Upon Death
  • Liquor Store Privatization
  • Voter Identification
  • Banning Cell Phones While Operating a Motor Vehicle

All of which are ongoing topics of discussion for the General Assembly.

Once the mock committee meetings adjourned, the groups came together in a general session to debate the bills that were approved in committee. The students this year were lively and very passionate about the subjects at hand.

In addition to teaching students about the legislative process, the Senator for a Day program offers students a chance to discuss and debate the merits of some of the most important issues facing Pennsylvania. I was impressed with the perspectives and insights shared by students during these events, and the thoughts and opinions offered during the program were certainly no exception. If these students represented the future leadership of our communities, we are in good hands.

I would like to thank Senator Camera Bartolotta, PA State Rep. Matt Dowling, PA State Rep. Bud Cook and all the advisors, legislative staff, lobbyists, Penn State Fayette staff, and Somerset Trust Company for participating, organizing and sponsoring this event. Finally, a huge thank you to the students that made this all possible.

Senate Concludes Hearings on State Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week concluded four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by FY 2026-27.

Among the key points from the series of hearings, which began Feb. 22:

  • The Independent Fiscal Office warned that revenue projections Gov. Wolf used to balance the budget could be revised downward due to national and international events.
  • State Treasurer Stacy Garrity sees the potential for sizable deficits in future years that would require tax hikes, new taxes or spending cuts to erase the deficits.
  • A significant portion of department and agency employees continue to work from home with the possibility of doing so permanently. Committee members sought assurances work would still be done efficiently and citizen data would be secure.

The Senate will use findings from the hearings to craft an alternative spending plan to the governor’s, with the aim of enacting a final 2022-23 state budget by the June 30 constitutional deadline.

You can find video and recaps of every budget hearing at

Two Veterans’ Job Fairs Upcoming

How to Protect Yourself Against Tick-Borne Diseases

Lyme disease and the rare but dangerous Deer Tick Virus (DTV) have been found in ticks at high levels for the first time in multiple locations around the state. 

The Deer Tick Virus is rare in the United States, but positive cases have increased in recent years. Initial symptoms of a DTV infection may include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. Some people who are infected with DTV experience no symptoms, and therefore infection may go undetected. However, 91% of patients treated for DTV infections develop severe neuroinvasive disease. 

Recommended precautions for anyone venturing outdoors include:

  • Apply tick repellents containing permethrin to clothing, and EPA-registered insect repellents such as DEET to exposed skin before entering the outdoors.
  • Wear light colored outer clothing and tuck shirts into pants, and pants into socks.
  • Walk in the centers of trails and avoid wooded and brushy areas with low-growing vegetation and tall grasses.
  • After returning home, remove all clothing, take a shower and place clothing into the dryer on high heat to kill any lingering ticks. Examine gear, such as backpacks, for ticks.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check.
  • Check over any pets exposed to likely tick habitats each time they return indoors.
  • If a tick is found attached to your skin, use tweezers to remove it carefully, including the head. Monitor for symptoms and contact your doctor with any questions.

For more information about tickborne disease prevention, visit Department of Health’s Tickborne Diseases website.

From the VAEP Chairman’s Desk

It was a busy week to be the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chairman in Harrisburg this week.

On Tuesday, I welcomed Paul Dillard, the American Legion’s National Commander to the Pennsylvania State Capitol.  We discussed the importance of the Veterans Service Officer program, which helps veterans obtains the services and benefits that they’ve earned. 

On Wednesday, I participated in the Senate Appropriations Committee Budget hearing for the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs.  We discussed a number of topics, including the Pennsylvania National Guard’s State Partnership Program with Lithuania, staffing levels at the State Veterans Homes, and the start-up of the Keystone Youth Challenge Program for at-risk youth.

Access Nursing Home Inspections Online

Pennsylvanians with loved ones in long-term care can access a searchable database of nursing homes to view the results of inspections and complaint investigations.

The database includes patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The Department of Health oversees 688 nursing homes with more than 88,000 beds.

If you see something that may jeopardize patients’ safety or well-being, you can file an anonymous complaint by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out an online form, emailing or sending a letter in the mail

March is National Kidney Month

More than 37 million people in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease and nearly 90% of them are unaware.

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you are at higher risk for developing kidney disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has useful information during National Kidney Month and year-round.

Around the District

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in Connellsville Area Community Ministries’ Heart to Hope Telethon. This year they raised over $51,000 for their community ministries and programs.

The Connellsville Area Community Ministry uses the funds from this telethon, the proceeds from their thrift store, and income from renting portions of the community center to provide programs in our area; such as running Fayette County’s largest food pantry, providing numerous social services, and has plans to open a soup kitchen and start other programs in the future. They are a vital part of our community and I am so proud of Fayette County for helping them exceed their goals for this year.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

To everyone who is Irish or Irish for the day, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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