In this update:
Bills to Limit Exposure of Sexually Explicit Content in PA Schools Approved by Senate Committee
Two bills that would give parents a voice in discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in Pennsylvania schools advanced out of the Senate Education Committee.
Senate Bill 1277 would require districts to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum and materials and notify parents that their child’s coursework includes such content. Senate Bill 1278 would prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students, consistent with the timeline for when the existing academic standards on general sex education begins in sixth grade.
The proposals are in response to concerns of parents that age-inappropriate conversations about these sensitive topics are occurring prematurely and without parental knowledge in elementary school classrooms around the state.
Information about what Senate Bill 1278 does and does not do, examples of situations that concerned parents have reported from classrooms around the state and other important information can be found here.
VAEP Committee Meets with Civil Air Patrol
On Tuesday, the Senate and House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committees held a joint informational meeting to hear from the Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and a key emergency management component of the Pennsylvania Department of Military & Veterans Affairs.
Colonel Kevin Berry (Pennsylvania Wing Commander) and members of his team provided an overview of the Civil Air Patrol’s primary missions — Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services. After the presentation, Senator Stefano and Committee Members were sworn in as Members of the “Legislative Squadron” of the Civil Air Patrol.
Legislation Preparing Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs Approved by Senate
The Senate approved legislation to improve workforce development initiatives and better prepare Pennsylvania students for jobs that will be in demand after they graduate.
House Bill 723 would bring state law in compliance with the federal requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by updating state and local workforce development board membership requirements and making other changes. The state and federal acts work in concert to help train individuals for family sustaining jobs.
This bill also requires the state Department of Labor and Industry to collect data on emerging and projected future employment sectors in Pennsylvania and send it to educational institutions. Schools would be required to use the information to develop career education programs and for providing career guidance to students. The amended bill will return to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Committee Passes Stefano Bill to Benefit National Guard Members
On Tuesday the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee which I serve as chairman voted in favor of five bills, including ones to increase compensation for members of the Pennsylvania National Guard; establish a statewide mapping system for tracking and responding to drug overdoses; and improve the state’s cyber security.
Senate Bill 1286, sponsored by Sen. Katie Muth (D-44) and me, would increase the compensation for National Guard members when they respond to emergencies to $180 per day. Act 61 of 2016 was the last increase Guard members received when it was increased from $75 to $100 per day.
There are many teenagers who work in grocery stores and restaurants who are making more than what our Guard members – who are providing critical emergency response needs – currently do. Based on a twelve-hour shift, National Guard members make just $8.33 per hour at the current $100 per-day rate. By raising the per-day rate to $180, Guard members would make $15 an hour.
Senate Bill 1152, sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33), would create the Overdose Mapping Act to ensure drug overdoses are reported into a mapping system by first responders within 72 hours. It would coordinate the response of public health, emergency management, first responders, community organizations, and health care providers to prevent and reduce overdose spikes.
House Bill 397, sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett (R-68), would allow counties, municipalities, and school boards to utilize resolutions or ordinances, to establish tax credits for active volunteers of a fire or emergency medical services company as a recruitment and retention tool.
House Bill 1867, sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback (R-117), is the companion bill to Stefano’s Purple Star Schools legislation. It would ensure schools provide strong services for students of military families as they deal with frequent moves, new schools, deployments and separations.
Twenty-eight states have adopted similar Purple Star School programs, and I am hopeful that Pennsylvania will soon recognize those schools that are taking the extra steps to support our military-connected students and their families.
House Bill 2412, sponsored by Rep. Craig Williams (R-160), would permit the Pennsylvania National Guard to assist state agencies, counties and municipalities with cyber security.
Click HERE for the video from the meeting.
Senate Acts to Reduce PA Lyme Disease Cases
With Pennsylvania leading the nation in the incidence of Lyme disease, the Senate approved legislation to require insurance coverage for testing and treatment, and raise awareness of tickborne diseases.
Senate Bill 1188 also requires the Department of Health to work with the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg University to develop an electronic database to better track possible cases and provide access to the latest research. The measure will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Early diagnosis is crucial to preventing the persistent symptoms of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Left untreated or improperly treated, Lyme disease can lead to debilitating symptoms, which include fevers, arthritis, joint aches and more. If treated within the first 30 days, 10% or fewer patients will progress to severe symptoms.
Bill to Curb Welfare Abuse Passed by Senate
A bill to halt wasteful spending in the Medical Assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1124 requires the Department of Human Services to check death certificates with the Bureau of Vital Statistics so that the payments can be halted immediately when a recipient’s death is recorded.
An audit by former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services paid benefits to 2,324 dead people. In one case, $800 in benefits intended for a woman who passed away was used by another individual for a shopping spree.
Veteran Legislation Advances Through the Senate
On Monday, the Senate passed House Bill 1421. House Bill 1421 would increase the amount of the burial benefit to those who perform burial details for deceased veterans at any of the three national cemeteries. The rate would increase from $150 to $250 a day, which would be the first increase in more than 20 years. The bill would also allow the Pennsylvania National Guard to perform the burial functions when veterans’ groups are not available. House Bill 1421 now heads to the Governor for final approval.
On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1194, which originally came through the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee. The Military College of Pennsylvania Educational Assistance Act would provide financial assistance to students at Valley Forge Military College who commit to become officers in the Pennsylvania National Guard. Ultimately, the legislation would provide an opportunity for exceptional leaders to attain an early commission while completing their bachelor’s degree. SB 1194 now heads to House for further consideration.
Regional Transportation Projects Open to Review
Pennsylvanians have until June 30 to participate in a comment period on the draft 2023 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
The draft 2023 STIP reflects the first four years of the 12-Year Program. It lists prioritized projects identified for federal, state, local and private funding in each federal fiscal year between 2023 and 2027.
The draft 2023 STIP can be viewed on the Talk PA Transportation website. Citizens can view projects by county and comment by filling out the online comment form or emailing RA-PennDOTSTC@pa.gov. You can also call PennDOT at 717-783-2262 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Older Mobile Phone Services Shutting Down
Mobile carriers are shutting down 3G and other older services to make room for 5G and other more advanced network services.
The Federal Communications Commission says T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS and Sprint 4G LTE services will be shut down by the end of June and Verizon’s 3G by Dec. 31.
If your device uses the 3G wireless spectrum, you will not be able to make 911 calls on the device after the 3G phase out occurs. In addition to older mobile devices, some home security systems, life/medical alert systems, vehicle SOS services, and other tablets that rely on 3G are also impacted. More information and help can be found here.
National Dairy Month and PA Dairy Farmers
Pennsylvania is second only to Wisconsin in the number of dairy farms in America, with 5,200 throughout the state.
The commonwealth’s 474,000 cows produce more than 10 billion pounds of milk annually. Pennsylvania dairy production is critical to our commonwealth and nation, and keeping it strong is a top priority.
Around the District
It was a pleasure meeting these young men from the 32nd District, Ian, Conner, Grant, Kaleb, and Josh (not pictured), who were visiting the Capitol today with Keystone Boys State. Thanks for letting me show you all around the Senate floor.
Each semester I invite college students to apply for an internship in my district office. This week, I was glad to welcome this summer’s intern, Nicholas Seto, to Harrisburg. He spent the day shadowing me and my staff and was introduced on the Senate floor. Thank you to Nicholas for your hard work this summer.
Last Friday, Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar and I had the opportunity to speak with the Cambria Somerset Association of REALTORS® at their meeting in Jennerstown. We discussed legislative issues important to realtors and the general problems of high inflation and rising interest rates on the real estate market.
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