Senator Pat Stefano E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Election Integrity: Senate Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes
  • Election Integrity: Senate Acts to Keep Outside Money Away from PA Election Process
  • PA National Guard Officers Eligible for Promotion
  • Senate Boosts Crime Victim Protection and Support
  • Legislation to Aid Rural Remote Working Passes Senate
  • VAEP Committee Bills Advance Out of the Senate
  • Senate Approves Measure to Encourage Responsible Solar Development, Protect Property Owners
  • Around the District
  • Have a Happy and Blessed Easter

Senate Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes and Private Funding of Election Operations

The Senate voted this week to safeguard the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections by approving two bills that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban private money to fund election operations. The measures were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

No More Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes

Senate Bill 1200 would require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. 

Drop boxes were permitted by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in 2020, despite the fact that they were never authorized or intended by the General Assembly through the legislative process. Since that time, numerous examples of drop boxes being misused have been discovered throughout the state, including:

  • Video evidence from Lehigh County showing ballot harvesting in the 2021 General Election.
  • Video evidence from Lackawanna County showing a man allegedly harvesting multiple ballots into a drop box during the 2021 Primary Election.
  • Video evidence from Montgomery County showing ballot harvesting in the 2021 General Election.
  • Memorandum from Lehigh County explaining how detectives reviewed video from four different drop boxes in the county and determined there were overvotes at each of the locations.
  • Testimony from a Luzerne County Judge of Elections indicating an individual admitting to repeatedly harvesting ballots at a drop box, not realizing it was even illegal.

Eliminating unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are more than 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots.

Keep Outside Money Away from PA Election Process

Senate Bill 982 would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania.

The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election. Correspondence between CTCL officials, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that funding was intentionally directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.

Democrat-leaning counties were selectively invited to apply for the grants before Republican-leaning counties were even made aware of the funding. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election, while other counties received significantly less.

For example, Philadelphia received $8.83 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020. On the other side of the state, Venango County, with a Republican voter registration advantage, received only $.64 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.

It was never the intent of the legislature to establish rogue election facilities on public street corners with pop-up tents, or in cars, trucks, and vans and without Board of Elections oversight while allowing outside third party entities to pay for them in areas of their choice.

The steps the Senate took with SB 1200 and SB 982 are a significant step towards ensuring the vote of Pennsylvanians is secure.

PA National Guard Officers Eligible for Promotion

On Monday, I had the honor of meeting seven Pennsylvania National Guard officers that are being nominated for promotion.  All told, these officers have 171 years of combined experience in our Pennsylvania National Guard.  We discussed their backgrounds that led to joining the Pennsylvania National Guard, their service to this nation, their civilian jobs, and their current roles.  The officers standing for promotion are:

  • Colonel Leland Blanchard, PA Army National Guard (nominated for Brigadier General)
  • Colonel Raymond Hyland, PA Air National Guard (nominated for Brigadier General)
  • Brigadier General Terrence Koudelka, PA Air National Guard (nominated for Major General)
  • Brigadier General James McCormack, PA Army National Guard (nominated for Major General)
  • Colonel Richard McMullen, PA Air National Guard (nominated for Brigadier General)
  • Brigadier General Carl Reese, PA Army National Guard (nominated for Major General)
  • Brigadier General Michael Wegscheider, PA Army National Guard (nominated for Major General)

These officers continue to selflessly serve our nation, particularly during the past two years when the National Guard had to assist with the pandemic, walking into nursing homes without proper PPE, helping to administer vaccines, and ensuring peace during rioting periods.  I greatly appreciate their service and sacrifice.

From Left to Right: Colonel Blanchard, Senator Stefano, Colonel McMullen, Brigadier General Wegscheider, Brigadier General Koudelka, Brigadier General Reese, Brigadier General McCormack, Colonel Hyland

Senate Boosts Crime Victim Protection and Support

The Senate approved a package of bills aiding crime victims by providing stronger protections, increasing support and improving access to services. The bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 1179 extends the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act to give victims of child abduction and human trafficking access to substitute mailing addresses and allows applications for address confidentiality to be submitted electronically.

Senate Bill 118 expands Megan’s Law to require offenders convicted of any sex trafficking-related offenses to register.

Senate Bill 1040 requires law enforcement to make reasonable efforts to ensure a murder victim’s family has been notified before releasing the victim’s identity to the public and media.

Senate Bill 1172 expands access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to better provide quality care for victims. SANEs have specialized training in trauma and forensic nursing and are vital to a complete care system for survivors of sexual assault.

Legislation to Aid Rural Remote Working Passes Senate

Legislation to help more rural Pennsylvania communities establish remote workplace facilities was approved by the Senate. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 962 would create the Rural Co-Working and Innovation Centers Grant Program within the Department of Community and Economic Development to help rural communities create facilities equipped with high-speed broadband, furniture, and security systems for teleworkers. 

According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 48 out of 67 counties and 1,592 municipalities are rural and could benefit from this program.

VAEP Committee Bills Advance Out of the Senate

This week the Senate passed two bills which came through the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee that I chair.

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1047, legislation that updates the State Armory Board, under the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs.  The Board overseas the 89 Readiness Centers (“armories”) and 18 Field Maintenance Shops for the Pennsylvania National Guard.  The legislation will allow the State Armory Board to advise the state Adjutant General on a greater array of issues to support our soldiers more effectively. 

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1016, that would allow the Governor to award two medals – the “Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal” and the “Pennsylvania Meritorious Service Medal” — to members of allied nations, such as Lithuania.  Since 1993, Pennsylvania has partnered with Lithuania through the National Guard’s “State Partnership Program.”  As military tensions arise across the globe, it’s important for us to be able to recognize strategic allies, like Lithuania, and their exemplary service that they have provided to our Commonwealth.

Senate Approves Measure to Encourage Responsible Solar Development, Protect Property Owners

The Senate approved a proposal that would establish decommissioning and financial requirements for solar generation projects going out of service and offer better protections for landowners.

Senate Bill 284 includes a graduated, phase-in process for financial assurances, setting up five-year benchmarks using third-party professional engineers to assess and calculate fair market value of the project and costs to decommission it.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Around the District

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending Belle Vernon’s Easter Egg Extravaganza with Mayor Gerald W Jackson II. This event was graciously organized by Davee Spoto, who spent months making this day perfect for the kids. Thank you for inviting me and Happy Easter.

CASA Champion of the Year Award

This week, I had the honor of being awarded as Pennsylvania CASA’s first ever “Champion of the Year”. Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocate’s (CASA) mission is to stand up for abused and/or neglected children, to ensure their well-being, and assist in placing them in their forever home.  I am proud to continue to support this organization and all of their selfless volunteers.

Have a Happy and Blessed Easter

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