In this update:
Reaction to the governor’s budget proposal that includes significant areas of concern
Gov. Josh Shapiro started the 2023-24 state budget process this week with the introduction of his spending plan, which contains some significant areas of concern.
While the governor’s support for Senate Republican priorities such as workforce development, infrastructure advancement, safe communities and mental/behavioral health are appreciated, the plan still boosts state government spending to unsustainable levels.
The $45.8 billion plan seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget and would almost completely deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund by 2028.
In addition to the many spending proposals, the budget includes no indication the governor will remove Pennsylvania from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which will burden all Pennsylvanians with an annual tax on electricity of nearly $670 million.
This is just the beginning of the budget process. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I look forward to working through a series of public hearings on the proposal starting March 20. After that, we will continue to create a final spending plan.
I will work with my colleagues to enact a responsible budget that respects taxpayers and funds essential services by the June 30 constitutional deadline.
You can watch my reaction to the governor’s budget here.
Historic breast cancer screening bill unanimously passes Senate
A comprehensive breast cancer screening and genetic testing bill, Senate Bill 8, was unanimously passed by the Senate. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill eliminates out-of-pocket costs associated with BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling, as well as supplemental screening such as breast MRIs and ultrasound for women at high-risk. High-risk conditions covered by the bill include dense breast tissue, a personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition, and prior radiation therapy.
The legislation expands on Act 52 of 2020, which required insurers to cover breast MRIs and ultrasounds for women with high-risk factors. Senate Bill 8 is step two, eliminating costs including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance for those screenings and BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling.
Senate approves my bill to ban TikTok on state devices, networks
The Senate unanimously approved my legislation to shield citizen data from unauthorized access by prohibiting state-owned devices and networks from downloading and using TikTok. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Pennsylvania state government holds sensitive information in the form of birth certificates, driver’s licenses, occupation certificates, taxes and more.
Senate Bill 379 would mandate that all state agencies, departments, and commissions remove the application from state networks. It would also require that policies are put in place to block application installation, as well as network-based restrictions to prevent its use and access.
Across the nation, both Democrats and Republicans have voiced growing concerns about the security and potential manipulation of the popular social media app TikTok. At least 29 states have addressed the risk to government systems posed by TikTok, and Congress prohibited its use across a wide array of federal agencies and departments.
You can watch my comments on this bill here.
Measure preserving community energy choice passed by Senate
Legislation ensuring that state residents have options when it comes to fuel availability was approved by the Senate.
Senate Bill 143, known as Energy Choice legislation, would prevent municipal entities from banning a specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses.
The measure was developed after cities across the nation took steps to ban fuels, such as natural gas and heating oil, in newly constructed buildings. The legislation is an important component of a sound energy policy for Pennsylvania that’s inclusive of all energy options residents may want or need to access.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate approves legislation to increase PA National Guard health care providers
The Senate approved legislation that would allow more health professionals to participate in the Medical Officer Health Incentive Program, helping to ease the shortage of medical specialists in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The Medical Officer or Health Officer Incentive Program was created in 2014 to provide a tuition reimbursement incentive to those who qualified through their time in the armed services. Even though the program was successful in attracting health care providers into National Guard service, some health professionals, like dentists and physician assistants, were inadvertently left out of the program.
Senate Bill 162, which fixes that oversight, now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate honors 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom
The Senate marked the upcoming 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a resolution this week.
In 2003, the United States and coalition forces began the mission to liberate Iraq from dictator Saddam Hussein and extend freedom and democracy throughout the region. On March 20, 2003, the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom was marked with airstrikes on Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace.
Operation Iraqi Freedom ended on Dec. 15, 2011.
The Super Bowl of High School Football: Big 33 team announced at Capitol
Earlier this week I was delighted to join the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association for the announcement of the 2023 Pennsylvania Big 33 team.
The Big 33 Football Classic originated in 1957, where the top players from Pennsylvania go head-to-head with Maryland’s finest 33 players. Still considered one of the finest scholastic all-star football games, it has been long known as the “Super Bowl of High School Football.”
A big congratulations to Mikey Bentivegna from York Suburban and Kenny Johnson from Dallastown who have both been chosen for the Big 33 Pennsylvania team this year. I know our whole community will be cheering on these two student athletes as they go on to represent York County!
Joseph P. Bevivino of Troop 25, earning Eagle Scout
Congratulations to Joseph P. Bevivino III of Troop 25 in Springettsbury on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout! It was an honor for me and PA State Rep. Joe D’Orsie to join Joe’s family, friends, and fellow scouts to celebrate his significant achievement and present citations to commemorate it.
Joe, the son of Perry and Elaine Bevivino, built and replaced a bridge over a stream at Rocky Ridge County Park for his Eagle Scout community service project. Well done, Joe!
York College student presents research on Lake Marburg at Capitol
Students enrolled in Pennsylvania colleges and universities were in the Capitol this week showcasing their research during Undergraduate Research Day.
I was able to catch up with York College of Pennsylvania biology major, Annabelle Hall, who was presenting her research on the threatened, red-bellied turtles in Lake Marburg, located in Codorus State Park. Annabelle’s research, with her professor Jessica Nolan, is working toward management recommendations to help conserve the population within the lake.
It was great to see what students all around the state have been working on.
“Spring forward” this weekend, and replace batteries in smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms
As a reminder, Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. While cell phone and computer clocks usually change automatically, most people move their standard clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night.
It is also recommended at this time of year to check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
If the devices are older than 10 years, experts suggest upgrading to 10-year, sealed battery alarms. They don’t require any battery replacement throughout their lifetime. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to press the test button on the alarms at least once every month.
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