In this update:
Senate concludes week two of budget hearings
My colleagues in the Senate Appropriations Committee and I continued public hearings this week on the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
As a reminder, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion budget seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget. Projections indicate it will nearly wipe out the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
Below are links to videos of the questions I asked and the answers I received on matters important to our community:
Department of Education
School districts holding onto massive cash reserves while raising property taxes.
Exploring ways to recruit new teachers.
Department of State
Discussed the constitutional amendment advertising mistake by the prior administration and how a better tracking process could help all Pennsylvanians.
Department of Labor and Industry
Addressing cybersecurity shortfalls with the unemployment compensation system and any successful strategies for combatting fraud.
Department of Agriculture
What can be done about PA farmland being lost to energy projects that produce energy for other states that made poor energy choices.
Pennsylvania State Police
Recruitment challenges for new cadets to fill positions and some generational issues
Potential cost of enforcing the governor’s proposal to legalize adult use of recreational cannabis, and if the governor has consulted law enforcement officials about his plan to legalize marijuana.
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education
Efforts they are taking to ensure programs are providing graduates with skills necessary to obtain jobs
Find full hearing recaps, video, livestreams, and upcoming schedule at PASenateGOP.com.
You can find photos from the hearing on my Instagram.
New podcast: Sitting down with Auditor General DeFoor on how he protects YOU
The latest guest on my podcast is Auditor General Timothy DeFoor, our state’s top fiscal watchdog.
We discussed his concerns with government spending and the need for greater oversight and transparency. Auditor General DeFoor also shares how taxpayers can be part of the solution in reviewing the state’s finances.
My measure that would make it easier, more transparent to switch energy providers
This week, I unveiled legislation to address significant gaps in the state’s law related to choosing electricity and natural gas suppliers. It would also tighten oversight of energy suppliers operating in Pennsylvania to protect consumers.
Senate Bill 558 would allow consumers to provide a government-issued identification or their account number to switch utility providers. As is, law requires consumers to provide an existing account number to switch electric or natural gas suppliers.
In addition, it would create greater transparency by requiring Pennsylvania’s default utilities to separately break out their costs associated with serving as a supplier and distributor.
Maryland and the District of Columbia already have similar enhanced accountability measures in place to best protect consumers participating in retail energy markets.
You can find more information about my effort here.
Help our struggling military members
Anyone who is owed a Pennsylvania personal income tax return has a convenient opportunity to support our military members, veterans, and their families who are facing tough times.
You can help those who serve our nation and commonwealth by making a gift to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program. All donations will benefit those with a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control.
On lines 32 through 36 of the Personal Income Tax Return, fill out Code C. If you do not have an overpayment on your return, you may make a donation by sending a check directly to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program, c/o Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Building 0-47, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003-5002.
Welcoming our Vietnam Veterans home on National Vietnam War Veterans Day
I am grateful for the privilege of joining our Vietnam veterans, their family members, and friends on the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War to recognize and honor our veterans’ service, re-affirm our lasting gratitude, and offer a warm and heartfelt “WELCOME HOME” which they so rightly deserve!
Thank you, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1032, for hosting this special event!
You can find more photos here.
Thank you, farmers!
Last Friday, I joined members of our 28th district agriculture community to celebrate National Agriculture Week! A big thanks to Department of Agriculture Acting Secretary Russell Redding for coming to speak, and Eureka Volunteer Fire Hall for graciously hosting my farmer’s breakfast meeting.
Most importantly, thank you to all the members of the agricultural community who were able to attend and celebrate York County’s robust agricultural community!
You can find more photos of the event here and watch the event below:
And if you want to take away a key statistic that tells you everything you need to know about how importance our farming community is, watch Acting Secretary Redding make this point here.
State offers free motorcycle safety training
PennDOT offers free motorcycle training through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program.
Free courses for novice through seasoned riders are offered to Pennsylvania residents who have a motorcycle learner’s permit or motorcycle license. Four levels of courses are available – including the 16-hour Basic Rider Course, the eight-hour Intermediate Rider Course, the one-day Advanced Rider Course and the 3 Wheel Rider Course.
For more information or to enroll in a course, visit www.pamsp.com.
Veterans: Town hall about PACT Act on April 4
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) will hold an in-person Veteran Town Hall on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act on Tuesday, April 4, from 6-8 p.m. at the West View VFW Post 2754, 386 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh. The town hall will also be available by phone.
The new federal PACT Act law expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. The town hall will enable veterans and their advocates to learn and ask questions about eligibility and applying for benefits related to the PACT Act.
In-person attendees may arrive early to enjoy a dedicated resource fair from 5-6 p.m. People who will be attending any portion of the event in person are asked to register by calling 717-644-3890.
Anyone joining the town hall by phone should call 267-332-8737 and enter Conference ID: 989503340# to participate. Both in-person attendees and callers will be able to ask questions during the town hall.
$25,000 fishing and boating grants available
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is seeking applicants for grants to support education programs that promote new and renewed interest in fishing and boating. The grants aim to connect Pennsylvanians with the fun of commonwealth waterways by teaching fishing and boating skills and providing quality places for these recreational opportunities.
PFBC will reimburse qualifying organizations up to $25,000 for eligible expenses from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024. The grants require a minimum 25% match of total project costs. Grant applications must be submitted here by April 14.
Next generation of farming in York County
It was great to spend time with the Future Farmers of America at their annual banquet this week! Meeting the next generation of farming in York County, I have no doubt we are in good hands.
Welcome to the Capitol, Kreutz Creek fourth grade class
In between state budget hearings, I spent time with the fourth-grade class from Kreutz Creek Elementary School, part of the Eastern York School District. It was an honor to take them to the Senate chamber and show them where I cast votes on behalf of them and their families. If you are interested in visiting the state Capitol, please let me know!
You can view more pictures from their visit here.
Opening day of trout season this Saturday
Saturday, April 1, will kick off the 2023 season of trout fishing across the commonwealth. With nearly 16,000 miles of wild trout streams, nearly 5,000 miles of stocked trout streams and over 125 stocked trout lakes, PA has something to offer every trout angler.
To participate in trout fishing, anglers ages 16 and older must obtain a Pennsylvania fishing license and a trout permit. Licenses and permits are available online at https://www.huntfish.pa.gov/, and in-person at nearly 700 license issuing agents.
You can find more information on opening day and the trout stocking schedule here.
Local job openings
Upcoming PennDOT maintenance projects
You can view PennDOT’s list of scheduled maintenance projects for next week below. If you have trouble viewing the schedule, please click here.