In this Update:
Military Child Month
On Tuesday, I spoke in support of Senate Resolution 252, which Senator Devlin Robinson and I introduced. This resolution would designate April as the Month of the Military Child and April 15th as “Purple Up for Military Kids Day” in Pennsylvania. This resolution also coincides with our work on Senate Bill 1028, which designates Purple Star Schools that make the extra effort in support of our military children and their families.
There are more than 32,000 children in this Commonwealth with a parent currently in the National Guard, Reserves, or active military. 80% of children in military families are in kindergarten through grade 12 and attend public schools. These students face unique challenges during their parents’ military enlistment, including being uprooted from their communities and schools mid-year.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission Calls For Historical Marker Nominations
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) is reminding individuals, public agencies, and private organizations that June 1 is the final date to nominate historic properties, persons, and events of state or national significance for the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program in 2022.
Since 1914 PHMC’s historical markers have chronicled the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries. The more than 2,500 markers feature a multitude of noteworthy subjects, such as Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, and factories and businesses.
Among the subjects for Pennsylvania Historical Markers approved by PHMC in 2021 are Chinese Workers in Beaver Falls, the first large Chinese workforce in Pennsylvania; Dr. James Oscar Cooper, a founder of one of America’s first Black fraternities; Ephrata Female Composers, three women of a religious society who were among the first American women to write music; and Winter Wonderland, the classic Christmas song.
Managed by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program is one of PHMC’s most visible public history initiatives. The program brings together nominators, PHMC representatives, public officials, and local residents to dedicate and celebrate the installation of each new marker with a public ceremony.
For more information on the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, including marker criteria, the approval process, and resources to assist nominators, visit www.pahistoricalmarkers.com.
State Court Blocks Gov. Wolf’s $781 Million Carbon Tax Pending Further Order
In a win for Pennsylvania consumers and workers, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court this week ruled Gov. Tom Wolf’s $781 million carbon tax could not take effect pending a full order from the court.
The ruling came a day after Republicans stood united in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of the resolution that disapproves of Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The effort came up one vote short when Democrats voted against the state’s economic interests in favor of a policy that will spike residential electricity bills 30% and kill 22,000 jobs.
Just last week, impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) concluded RGGI could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers above the administration’s own year-old projections for the program. The IFO also warned members “those costs would be pushed through to final customers.”
As for environmental benefits, multiple independent reports show emissions from Pennsylvania’s power sector declined at a comparable rate to the other 10 RGGI states over the last decade.
The Wolf Administration is attempting to enter this pact through the regulatory process without the approval of the legislature. Every other participating state entered RGGI through the legislative process – not unilateral executive action. A bipartisan majority of legislators has consistently voted against RGGI when the issue has been brought to the floor for a vote.
Senate Votes to Expand Sexual Assault Law to Cover Crimes Against Care-Dependent Pennsylvanians
The Senate voted to expand the law against institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care-dependent individuals, closing a loophole that allows perpetrators to escape punishment.
Current law against sexual assault applies to institutions such as prisons, schools and law enforcement. It is premised on the fact that truly consensual sexual acts are not possible where someone is in a position of power over another.
Passage of Senate Bill 704 recognizes the same power disparity exists between caretakers and those in their care. Such individuals face additional challenges to reporting sexual abuse due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles.
Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault eliminates the loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim the victim consented. Senate Bill 704 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault is just the latest action taken by the General Assembly to stand together against this vile crime.
In recent years, lawmakers enacted measures strengthening the rights of sexual assault survivors and bolstering their ability to obtain justice.
Need help? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider.
Safe Exchange Zones Could Come to More PA Communities with Senate Vote
Legislation to create a grant program to establish Safe Exchange Zones throughout Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 881 would provide a safe area for individuals to exchange goods bought and sold through an online marketplace, as well as serving as a safe place for child custody exchanges, among other practices.
The Safe Exchange Zones would be voluntary and require the agreement of the participating law enforcement agencies. The zones would be equipped with video surveillance and are either within 100 feet of a law enforcement office or located near a public area with an active public presence. Passage came a year to the day that Cambria County resident Denise Williams was murdered after she attempted to finalize the purchase of an item found through Facebook Marketplace.
Grants Available to Help Drug and Alcohol Recovery Houses
Effective treatment for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder is essential for healthy communities. State grants are available to help recovery houses with facility upgrades to comply with federal, state, and local laws and receive a state license.
Grants up to $50,000 for a 12-month period beginning July 1 will be awarded to eligible applicants for health and safety upgrades including demolition, debris removal, rehabilitation improvements, environmental remediation costs, and construction and inspections to comply with state regulations.
Applicants must meet several qualifications to be eligible. More information is available here.
Saturday is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day
It’s commemorated on April 9 because that day in 1942 was the prelude to the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of up to 80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war. Up to 650 American and 10,000 Filipino soldiers died during the brutal, 65-mile march.
We must never forget the ordeal faced by prisoners of war during captivity and the emotional toll on those fortunate enough to survive.
Around the District
Today I was able to speak in front of some of Fayette’s Farmers and Agricultural industry workers at the Commissioners’ Agricultural Roundtable. We gathered in the Fiddler’s Building of the Fayette County fairgrounds where I spoke about the impact the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would have on the Agricultural industry.
This week, The Daily American featured this photo of myself and students from Somerset Area School District, Somerset County Technology Center – SCTC, Meyersdale Area School District, and Shanksville-Stonycreek School District at the Pennsylvania FFA Legislative Breakfast. Read more about it on the Daily American website.
I was delighted to be on hand as CASA kicked off Child Abuse Prevention Month by swearing in their three newest advocates. Congratulations to Emma, Tahaney, and Breanna! Thank you for your service on behalf of the children you will work with in Fayette County!
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s annual Legislative Luncheon. This event was part of their State Legislative Conference, which brings farmers from all across our Commonwealth to the PA Capitol to advocate for agriculture. Agriculture is one of the top industries in our area and all of Pennsylvania. I was thrilled to meet so many of our area’s farmers that have worked so hard to continue this tradition.