In this Update:
State Budget Update: Empowering Parents & Supporting Educational Opportunities for All Children
The Senate Republican Caucus worked diligently to pass a bipartisan budget last week.
We negotiated in good faith with Gov. Josh Shapiro on the state budget since the beginning of June, with the direct understanding that agreement with his administration would translate into agreement with his majority party in the House.
Unfortunately, it only became clear to me on June 30 that Gov. Shapiro’s administration overpromised his ability to unify his own party and rally the support of House Democrats, for the budget deal he worked alongside Senate Republicans to build.
We were eager to stand with Gov. Shapiro on one of his priority campaign commitments: supporting school choice opportunities. We came together to include $100 million in the budget for the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Initiative.
My video comments above share why I believe this program is so important. It is very unfortunate that Gov. Shapiro now says he will veto this program, betraying the good faith agreement we reached and ultimately leaving tens of thousands of children across Pennsylvania in failing schools.
I believe in empowering parents and giving every child in Pennsylvania access to a quality education, which is why our budget included PASS, expanded educational programs and fully funded the governor’s requested amount for basic education for school districts at historic levels.
I remain steadfast in my work to restore confidence in this process, so that we may complete all necessary components of the budget and demonstrate that divided government is not dysfunctional government.
Expanding the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
In an effort to provide more financial relief for low-income seniors, the Senate passed legislation to increase the income eligibility and amount of rebates for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. I’m very pleased this bipartisan bill will put money back in the pockets of those who need it most.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. House Bill 1100 will expand this program to help homeowners and renters with household income of up to $45,000. Previously, the income limit was $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
In addition, as part of the legislation the household income limit is required to be adjusted each July equal to a percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with any changes rounded to the nearest $10. If the CPI declines, the income limits will remain unchanged.
Cornerstone Worship Center Government Day Service
Thank you to Cornerstone Worship Center in Indiana for inviting me to take part in their Annual Government Day Service on Sunday morning!
It was a pleasure to join other local leaders, including Constable Brianna Lehman, Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts Randy Degenkolb, Sheriff Robert Fyock, County Commissioner Robin Gorman, state Rep. Jim Struzzi and County Treasurer Kimberly McCullough, to take part in this moving service.
It is a blessing, an honor and very humbling to be a state senator and to serve on behalf of the residents of our community.
Helping Children of National Guard and Reserve Members Adjust to New Schools
Legislation that will reduce the educational challenges faced by children of National Guard and Reserve members was unanimously approved by the Senate.
Military families face frequent reassignments, posing educational challenges for children transitioning between schools in different states. Senate Bill 209 would give children of National Guard and Reserve members the same help provided to those of active-duty military families through the Military Interstate Children’s Compact.
The compact provides a consistent set of policies that make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities, facilitating enrollment and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children.
Senate Protects Sexually Exploited Children, Human Trafficking Victims
The Senate approved legislation to ensure that sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims always have full access to appropriate services and support.
Under current Pennsylvania law, any minor who is exploited for commercial sex must identify their third-party perpetrator to be considered a victim of human trafficking, unless their purchaser is charged as a trafficker.
Senate Bill 44 would ensure that third-party control is never a consideration for access to victim services. Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act.
Bill to Help Medically Fragile Babies Receives Senate Support
The Senate approved legislation to provide critical care for medically fragile babies by expanding access to pasteurized human donor milk.
Senate Bill 500 would require Medical Assistance coverage for medically prescribed pasteurized human donor milk in both inpatient and outpatient settings for children who are less than a year old. The donor milk must be obtained from a milk bank licensed in Pennsylvania or through a hospital licensure process in accordance with the Keystone Mothers’ Milk Bank Act of 2020.
For very low birth-weight babies and other medically compromised infants, the use of donor milk is a proven, cost-effective way to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs. It protects against serious health complications that can lead to longer hospital stays, multiple medical and surgical procedures, readmissions, lifelong disability or even death.
To qualify for coverage, the child’s mother must be medically or physically unable to produce breast milk in an amount needed to meet the child’s needs.
Senate Passes Bill Authorizing Body Cameras for Parole Agents
Legislation that would authorize state parole agents to wear body cameras was approved by the Senate.
Senate Bill 260 would allow state parole agents of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to wear body cameras capable of capturing encounters with parolees.
Under current law, state parole agents are not authorized to wear body cameras due to the Wiretap Act’s antiquated language. Other members of law enforcement including deputy sheriffs, municipal police officers and members of the Pennsylvania State Police are authorized.
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