Senator Stefano E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Passes Stefano’s Bill to Create Online Registry of Fire Courses
  • VAEP Committee Establishes Significant Fire and EMS Programs
  • Honoring Our Hidden Heroes
  • Senate Approves Measures to Help Women at High Risk of Breast Cancer
  • Other Bills Passed by the Senate this Week  
  • Senate Committee Reviews Legislation to Empower Parents
  • HARP Helps Hospitality Workers in Need
  • Cultural and Historical Support Grants Available
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Around the District

Senate Passes Stefano’s Bill to Create Online Registry of Fire Courses

Legislation I sponsored to create an online registry of fire courses for firefighters received unanimous support from the Senate today.

Senate Bill 1265 would implement within the Office of the State Fire Commissioner a comprehensive registry of all courses that a firefighter successfully completes. Such a system would be highly useful for both a fire company, as well as a fire fighter, because it would more efficiently access, track and maintain their records. It would also greatly improve data collection and allow for better decision-making at state and local levels.

The registry would be similar to what is maintained within the Department of Health’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services for medical responders, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Pennsylvania’s decentralized system makes it unnecessarily challenging to verify firefighters’ training and certification. When fire companies are struggling to recruit and retain firefighters, the last thing we want to happen is to frustrate the men and women who do serve by making record-keeping a nightmare to maintain. We want them to focus their time on saving lives, not trying to track down proof of training.

Currently, Pennsylvania has no centralized registry for firefighters, fire chiefs and administrative officers to easily verify training and certification.

“Training and education are extremely important for all firefighters in Pennsylvania. The Fire Course Registry will allow for a common method to view accomplishments and electronically track training records so they can follow the firefighter during the tenure of their career,” said Jerry Ozog, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute. “The Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute would like to thank Sen. Stefano for supporting this important initiative.”

Having received support from the Senate, the bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

VAEP Committee Establishes Significant Fire and EMS Programs

Today, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee advanced two measures, including major new programming for Pennsylvania fire and emergency medical services (EMS), according to Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32), committee chairman. 

House Bill 1178, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-124), would establish the following fire and EMS programs:

  • Tuition & Loan Assistance for Active Volunteer Firefighters/EMS providers
  • Funding for Emergency Services Training Centers
  • Funding for Career Fire Company Training Centers
  • Fire Course Registry
  • Scholarships for Recruitment, Training & Retention of EMS
  • Higher Education/Secondary Education Partnership Program
  • Public Safety Campaign on Fireworks Safety Education

Additionally, the bill would:

  • Increase to 20 years (from 10 years) the amount of time that a merged fire company or EMS agency can receive an enhanced fire and  EMS grant.
  • Permit counties, school districts, and municipalities to adopt first responder tax credits via a resolution in addition to an ordinance.

Both arms of emergency management are facing significant staffing and funding challenges. By working together at the state, county, and local levels, we’re doing our best to mitigate the threat of any Pennsylvanian needing care but not receiving it quickly. This comprehensive measure is so important as it will provide not just needed funds to volunteer fire companies and EMS agencies but crucial programming. It will help establish partnerships between higher education institutions and high schools to attract students to be trained. It will incentivize students to enter this profession with tuition and loan assistance. And it will establish an online system to maintain and track courses taken by volunteer firefighters.

Additionally, the committee unanimously reported House Bill 2373, sponsored by Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102), which would provide the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs the authority to determine the best use of the former Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion and property at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County. The department would be required to provide equivalent facility space to support Pennsylvania service members, veterans and their families, and Gold Star survivor families, which are families who have lost a loved one who was serving in the armed forces.

Honoring Our Hidden Heroes

10/19/22 - Commonwealth as a Hidden Heroes State

On Wednesday, Senator Maria Collett and I spoke on Senate Resolution 346, which would designate Pennsylvania as a “Hidden Heroes” State.  While first and foremost, our military and veterans deserve our respect and support, we often overlook the families and the caregivers behind our heroes. 

As such, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has spearheaded the “Hidden Heroes” Campaign – bringing attention to military caregivers and seeking solutions for the challenges they face. Hidden Heroes focuses on three main issues:

  1. Raising awareness of the issues military caregivers.
  2. Inspiring individuals, businesses, communities, and civic, faith and government leaders to take action in support of military caregivers.
  3. Establishing a national registry and encouraging military caregivers to register online to better connect them to helpful resources and support. is an online resource for military caregivers.  It includes testimonials from military caregivers; a directory of resources; a private Facebook community for military caregivers; and call-to-action to get involved.  Joining as a “Hidden Heroes” state helps to grow a network of states, cities and communities dedicated to streamlining services to military caregivers and sharing best practices.  To date, nearly 200 communities have joined the network. 

Elizabeth Dole has served our nation in multiple capacities – while serving beside her husband, the late, great Bob Dole, a military hero, and disabled veteran.  I appreciate all that Elizabeth Dole has done throughout her career — and now with this campaign to support military caregivers.  

I would like to thank Senator Collett for working with me to highlight Hidden Heroes in Pennsylvania.

Senate Approves Measures to Help Women at High Risk of Breast Cancer

The Senate this week passed two bills to help women at high risk for breast cancer, ensuring coverage for MRIs, ultrasounds and genetic testing with no out-of-pocket costs.

Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in women in the United States after skin cancers, and early detection is the key to saving lives. The Senate approved the following bills:

Senate Bill 1225 eliminates out-of-pocket costs for breast MRI and ultrasound for women with high-risk conditions such as dense breast tissue, a family history of breast cancer, personal history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition or prior radiation therapy.

Senate Bill 1330 removes costs associated with genetic testing and counseling for Pennsylvanians with a family history of breast and ovarian cancers. Genetic testing for heredity cancers provides the opportunity for earlier screenings and preventive treatments and procedures.

At a news conference celebrating passage of the bills, PA Breast Cancer Coalition President Pat Halpin-Murphy said: “Senate Bill 1225 and Senate Bill 1330 will arm the women of Pennsylvania with the best tools possible to find breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.”

 Other Bills Passed by the Senate this Week

In addition to bills expanding coverage for breast cancer prevention, the Senate approved the following measures this week:

Senate Bill 1243 improves personal financial literacy by requiring completion of a half-credit economics and personal finance course as a high school graduation requirement.

Senate Bill 139 directs the Department of Education to establish a model curriculum for instruction in the events and significance of Sept. 11, 2001 and provides for a moment of silence in schools on 9/11.

Senate Bill 1265 creates an online registry of fire courses for firefighters similar to what is maintained for medical responders, EMTs and paramedics.

Senate Bill 1282 grants land banks the same environmental protections other economic development agencies receive when dealing with brownfields.

You can find a list of all bills that received votes in the Senate this week here.

Senate Committee Reviews Legislation to Empower Parents

The Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on legislation to establish by state statute the rights of parents over the upbringing of their children.

The hearing featured testimony from Pennsylvania parents and parental rights advocacy groups. Testifiers discussed the importance of the parent-child bond, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, and the inability of parents to remove inappropriate material from Pennsylvania schools.

Senate Bill 996 would make clear in statute that the state, counties, local governments and school districts may not infringe on the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest — narrowly tailored – and not otherwise achieved by less restrictive means.

The legislation would also ensure a parent’s right to access and review all school records related to their child, a right to review all instructional materials used throughout the school year, and the right to opt out their child from certain curriculum that the parent finds to be objectionable or harmful.

Earlier this year, the Senate approved legislation to require school districts to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum and materials and notify parents that their child’s coursework includes such content, and prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

HARP Helps Hospitality Workers in Need

Hospitality Assistance Response of PA (HARP) provides immediate, emergency funding to servers, bartenders, front-desk workers, housekeepers, receptionists, cashiers, cooks and others in need in the hospitality field.

HARP is a 501(c)(3) funded by private donations and can help with medical bills or general hardship and provide immediate relief to hospitality employees experiencing a variety of other financial challenges. Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and subject to availability of funds.

If you want to donate or know a hospitality worker who needs help, you can find information here.

Cultural and Historical Support Grants Available

Applications are being accepted from qualified museums and official county historical societies for nearly $2 million in state Cultural and Historical Support Grants.

Among other uses, the grants can supply general operating support to museums and official county historical societies that are not supported by other state agency funding programs. Eligible museums must have annual operating budgets exceeding $100,000 and at least one full-time professional staff person (some museums are not eligible if they are eligible for grant support from other state agencies).

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission has eligibility information and grant guidelines. The deadline to apply is Nov. 7.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

No one should have to tolerate domestic violence, and help is available for anyone experiencing it.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 
1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY for the Deaf)

The Guide to Victim’s Assistance features resources available to victims after abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or other crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, simple and aggravated assault, harassment, theft and homicide.

Around the District

On Tuesday, I joined several colleagues in honor of October as Italian-American Heritage Month.

I was on hand this past weekend to celebrate and present a citation to the 50th anniversary of the Old Time Fiddlers Association of Western Pennsylvania.

Established in 1972, the Old Time Fiddlers Association of Western Pennsylvania is an organization that promotes and preserves a style of traditional American music that is played with the fiddle, banjo and guitar and is often associated with the Appalachian Mountains. The group originally met at Strickler’s Barn and Irishtown, though they quickly outgrew those venues and moved into their own building at the Fayette County Fairgrounds in May 1988.

Throughout its history, the Old Time Fiddlers Association of Western Pennsylvania has contributed to the cultural enrichment and enjoyment of countless citizens, introduced many young people over the years to this traditional style of music, and partnered with the Fayette Cultural Trust and the Carnegie Free Library to provide instructional sessions for children, adults, students and teachers interested in learning to play old time music on the acoustic fiddle, mandolin, banjo and guitar.

Thank you all of the Fiddlers for their work with the community.

I was delighted to present a citation to two farms in the 32nd District recognizing designation by the Department of Agriculture as a Century Farm.

The Century Farm designation can be earned by any farm that has been owned by the same family for one hundred consecutive years, consists of at least ten acres of the original holding or grosses more than one thousand dollars annually from the sale of farm products and has a family member residing on the farm on a permanent basis.

The first farm was owned by Larry and Melissa Vough of SW Farms in Markleton, Somerset County.

Elmer Pletcher purchased the two hundred thirteen acres of SW Farms in 1915 and continued to operate the farm until 1953. The current owners, Larry Vough and his wife, Melissa, assumed ownership from his parents in 2002, and they have since expanded the property to three hundred nine acres, two hundred nine of which are from the original purchase. The current home was built in the late 1800s, and the farm currently operates as a hay-making business.

Congratulations to Larry and Melissa on this incredible achievement.

I was honored to present the second citation to Dale and the whole Hartman Family to recognize the Hartman Family Farm upon its designation by the Department of Agriculture as a Century Farm.

Purchased by Charles Hartman on January 25, 1922, the Hartman Family Farm was originally comprised of ninety-seven acres. In 1969, the current owner and Mr. Hartman’s grandson, Dale, took over ownership, and his father and uncle farmed the land. Today, the grass-fed beef operation is run by Dale and Dorothy Hartman and has expanded to one hundred eight acres. To its great credit, the farm is the site of several historical entities, including a former German Reform Church and the graves of Civil War veterans and railroad workers.

I commend Dale, Dorothy, and everyone who has made the Hartman Family Farm a fixture of the Somerset agriculture community.

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