Unprecedented Senate session leads to advancement of major issues to help with state’s coronavirus pandemic response, Phillips-Hill says

YORK – Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) voted on several key measures during today’s Senate session, which was conducted over a livestream video feed where senators could remotely vote, to aid in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate took swift action on legislation regarding changes to allow schools to better address challenges during the extended shutdown, unemployment compensation, diverting special funds from state coffers to boost hospital equipment purchases, and moving the date of the Presidential primary to June 2.

“These are unprecedented times for every York Countian and every Pennsylvanian,” Phillips-Hill said. “Today’s action is one of many steps the Senate will take to address the most significant challenges we face together as a community, as a county and as a Commonwealth.”

Senator Phillips-Hill voted in support of the following bills during today’s session:

House Bill 68 makes emergency changes to the state’s Unemployment Compensation program for Pennsylvanians who are out of work due to the coronavirus, including temporarily waiving job search requirements, removing the one week period to wait for benefits, along with additional flexibility for the department and claimants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 751 will provide significant changes to the state’s education code to allow greater flexibility for local schools to address the prolonged mandated closure.

“I have been in frequent communication with our local superintendents and their continued commitment to their students, teachers, faculty and parents is second-to-none,” Phillips-Hill added. “A lot of the concerns they raised to me will be addressed through this much-needed legislation.”

Under the changes, schools will not be required to meet the 180 day minimum for school days, and it will provide greater flexibility to a statute Phillips-Hill authored last year that allows for school districts to utilize flexible instructional days. Under the original statute, schools could only use up to five flexible instructional days per school year. This will allow for more days, as well as waive the application deadlines to allow more schools to apply. Currently only 79 schools participate in flexible instructional days. The bill will also allow all personnel – teachers, administrators and school bus drivers – to be treated the same had the pandemic not occurred. School districts are allowed to waive all standardized testing that would have occurred this spring.

House Bill 1232 will provide an immediate investment by taking unspent special funds from various state funds and redirecting it to hospitals and other health care providers to purchase equipment and supplies. The bill will appropriate $50 million for this statewide mitigation effort.

Senate Bill 422 will move the state’s primary Election Day from Tuesday, April 28, 2020 to Tuesday, June 2, 2020. In order to address the likely challenge of finding poll workers on the new Election Day, the bill allows volunteers to come from any part of a county as well as provides additional flexibility for counties to consolidate or move polling places, as needed. The bill also makes several updates to allow for mail-in ballots and absentee ballots to be opened prior to 8 p.m. on Election Day to allow for the earlier processing of ballots.

House Bills 68 and 1232 go to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote while Senate Bill 422 and 751 go to the governor for his signature.

Last week, the Senate of Pennsylvania unanimously passed a resolution to ensure the Senate can continue voting even when Senators cannot be physically present at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg due to coronavirus mitigation efforts that are ongoing statewide. (Read more about that effort here.)

“We are in uncharted waters, but what I have seen across the county and state is truly uplifting – people helping others in need. These four measures are the start of the state’s commitment to fighting this pandemic. We are all in this together and I know we will all get through this together,” she added.

COVID-19 Updates 

Phillips-Hill and her staff continue to respond to emails and phone calls left at her offices. The office remains closed to in-person meetings and visitors until further notice.

She can be reached at 717-741-4648 (District Office) or at 717-787-7085 (Capitol Office), as well as at SenatorKristin@pasen.gov or SenatorKristin.com.

For more information on the coronavirus pandemic and any state and local news, local citizens are encouraged to follow Senator Phillips-Hill on Facebook (facebook.com/SenatorKristin) and on Twitter (@SenatorKristin).