In this Update:
Senate Special Committee Releases Report on Election Reforms
The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform released a report this week detailing its findings and recommendations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s election system.
The committee was created to review all aspects of the November 2020 election. The panel held a series of hearings in March and April to review election security and best practices in other states, state and local perspectives on the administration of elections, and the management of elections in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.
In addition, the committee created a webpage to encourage Pennsylvanians to share their experiences in the 2020 General Election. The survey generated more than 20,000 responses.
The testimony and feedback received by the committee led to a series of recommendations to boost election security, improve voter access and support counties in the efficient administration of elections. You can read the report here.
Bill to Improve Safety in Daycare Facilities Approved by Senate
The Senate approved a bill to improve safety in state-regulated daycare facilities and sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The legislation designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
The measure was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie on August 11, 2019. Only one smoke detector was found in the building and it was located in the attic.
Senate Votes to Permit “Mixed Drinks to Go” Permanently and Enacts Other Steps to Help Hospitality Sector Employers
In the ongoing effort to help employers in the hospitality sector get back on their feet following COVID-19 restrictions, the Senate voted to permanently allow “mixed drinks to go” from restaurants and hotels, extend sales for outdoor dining and expand the number of locations where ready-to-drink mixed drinks can be sold.
The measure makes permanent the sale of mixed drinks to-go by restaurant or hotel licensees for off-premises consumption. Originally, mixed drinks to-go was a temporary measure allowed during the COVID-19 disaster declaration. It also allows larger outdoor dining spaces, off-premises catering permits without restrictions, and more.
It also allows a different type of product called Ready-to-Drink cocktails to be sold by restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and beer distributors for off-premises consumption. Restrictions are set on alcohol-by-volume content and container size.
VAEP Chairman’s Update: Senator Stefano Shepherds Military Promotions Through Committee
Monday, as Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, I advanced the nominations of three Pennsylvania National Guard officers nominated for promotion.
The Committee unanimously reported the following officers’ promotions with a favorable recommendation:
Col. Scott A. Coradi is the Commander of the 111th Medical Group, located at the Horsham Air Guard Station. As the Commander, Col. Coradi is responsible for the personnel and financial resources attached to the Medical Group.
Col. Monahan is the Commander of an Army National Guard Training Academy within the Army School System. He oversees the planning and execution of institutional training of Infantry, Armor, Cavalry, Artillery, Combat Medic career management fields, and Basic Non-Commissioned Officer training for all three Army Components.
Col. Pippy directs and oversees training, intelligence, personnel and logistic functions of a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade to ensure State and Federal mission accomplishment through the full spectrum of military operations from civilian disaster through wartime combat support operations.
These three officers have a combined 91 years of military service to our nation and as citizen soldiers. I am grateful for their service to our Commonwealth and nation. I would also like to thank their families for the sacrifices they made along the way — for all the drill weekends while they were away, the overseas deployments, and for being called up to respond to state emergency declarations. Each will be entrusted with the rank of General. And with that comes great responsibility. I am looking forward to working with each to ensure that Pennsylvania continues to have the best Guard in the nation.
The officers’ nominations now proceed to the full Senate for further consideration. For a link to the video from the meeting, click HERE.
Legislation Preserving Nursing Home Visits During a Pandemic Approved by General Assembly
Legislation to allow family members to safely visit long-term care facilities as essential caregivers for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor for enactment.
During the pandemic, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were closed to visits from friends and family. The prolonged separation negatively impacted the overall health and well-being of facility residents.
The measure would allow a designated essential family caregiver to be named for each resident of a licensed long-term care facility. Protocols would be put in place to screen the essential caregivers and require additional steps to gain access to the facilities.
VAEP Chairman’s Update: Keeping PA State Veterans’ Homes Safe in a Pandemic
Today the Pennsylvania Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee and the House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee held a joint public hearing regarding Pennsylvania’s State Veterans Homes and their COVID-19 Mitigation Protocols, according to Senator Pat Stefano, Committee Chairman.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been 122 deaths at our six state veterans’ homes. Tragically, there were 42 deaths at just the Southeast Veterans Center just between March 2020 and November 2020, which resulted in a number of state investigations. Today we heard about the changes in leadership at the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs and other protocols put in place to ensure that this does not happen again. I will make sure that these changes are implemented properly.
Testimony was heard from the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, Department of Health, a Veterans advocate, and the Auditor General’s Office.
Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal
In a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved legislation requiring legislative approval before Gov. Tom Wolf can have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Under the measure, the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to provide a public comment period of at least 180 days and hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.
Following the public comment period, DEP would be mandated to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI and imposing a carbon tax would have on affected communities, the PJM Interconnection region and ratepayers. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Observes Juneteenth Holiday
Senate offices will be closed Friday to observe the Juneteenth holiday.
The June 19 holiday honors the end of slavery by commemorating the date in 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Granger’s proclamation came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Happy Father’s Day
To all fathers: I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day this Sunday. This is the day when we celebrate your essential role in family and community. May your day be filled with love and gratitude.
Around the District
Congratulations to my new neighbor in Connellsville, Calli Tony, as we did a ribbon cutting with the Greater Connellsville Chamber celebrating the opening of her new business: Calli Tony CPT. Stop by on Main Street in downtown Connellsville to see what she has to offer in health and holistics, along with her work as a Certified Physical Trainer. Welcome to the block!