In this update:
Bill to ban statewide, local action on vaccine passports moves out of committee
The COVID-19 vaccines currently being administered in the United States have only been approved under Emergency Use Authorization and do not have full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Under federal law, an individual must be given the option to accept or refuse administration of the vaccine. California, for example, is putting in place rules for vaccination verification for various events. New York paid IBM $2.5 million to create its state-issued vaccine passport known as Excelsior Pass.
Based on overwhelming local feedback, I partnered with Senators Judy Ward and Michele Brooks to ensure the state, local governments or school districts cannot create new programs that could capture personal health care information.
Earlier this week, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved this legislation.
I believe that anyone who wants to receive the vaccine should have every opportunity to do so.
However, we have seen shifting guidance from day one and while the administration shares our sentiment in not requiring vaccine passports, this legislation will give every Pennsylvanian the reassurance that his or her state government will not overstep its bounds.
I discussed the issue at length on several radio programs, which you can listen to in the “On the Radio” section of this email update.
You can learn more here.
Over 72K Pennsylvanians were not notified of data breach of personal health care records until two months after the fact; this bill would require notification within a week
As I’ve shared with you in the past few weeks, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s third-party contact tracing vendor, Georgia-based Insight Global, exposed more than 72,000 personal health care records of everyday Pennsylvanians.
I found out this week that it also included children under the age of 18.
The department was made aware of this data breach by whistleblowers dating back to February. However, the state only came public with the information in late April after a reporter in western Pennsylvania uncovered the issue.
The Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which I chair, took action this week to ensure that any data breach in YOUR state government, as well as any third party entity, is made public to the victims of the breach within seven days. Furthermore, the Attorney General would be made aware for any investigation and criminal proceedings within three days.
You can watch my reaction to the passage of Senate Bill 696 below.
Learn more here.
Senate approves landmark permitting reform measure
The Senate of Pennsylvania approved my legislation that would require state agencies to publicly post all permits issued, as well as create a mechanism to monitor the progress of permit applications working through the bureaucracy.
The pandemic shined a bright light on the inadequacies of the status quo. We continue to see major investments leave this state due to how slow, inconsistent and ineffective our permitting review process is. The status quo benefits bureaucrats and punishes job creators and Pennsylvania taxpayers. This legislation fixes that and makes state government more accountable.
According to the Associated Press, project permits for the U.S. Steel plant in western Pennsylvania never came through and the company opted to add capacity outside of the Commonwealth. The company initially planned to upgrade its Pennsylvania-based facility with a $1.5 billion investment.
Learn more about my legislation, which is now heading to the House of Representatives for further consideration, here.
Two bills I sponsored advance out of Senate to address digital divide
The Senate approved two proposals I authored to address our Commonwealth’s digital divide.
In 2019, the Wolf Administration entered into a $100 million, 20-year contract – with the option to renew the contract up to an additional 10 years – with an out-of-state company to inventory state-owned assets to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania.
The state contract sends all revenue generated from leasing state-owned assets to various carriers into the state’s General Fund. My bill would pull the new revenue into a restricted account with one purpose: expand access to high-speed internet.
You can watch my remarks on Senate Bill 442 below.
Another bill I authored would remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment for landline telecommunications providers.
You can watch my remarks on Senate Bill 341 below.
You can learn more about these proposals here.
Cleaning up blighted properties in the City of York
The Redevelopment Authority of York worked with me to secure a competitively awarded grant of $280,000 through the Commonwealth Financing Authority to assist in blight remediation in the City of York.
The project will allow for the acquisition, stabilization and repair of seven properties that present a danger to the community.
The properties are located on Penn Street between York College and the historic section of downtown York.
You can learn more about this grant here.
Honoring those who gave it all this Memorial Day
I hope you are able to take some time this weekend to remember our fellow citizens who gave their lives for our nation.
Even with everything that has occurred throughout the last year, we can say we live in the greatest nation on earth.
I am looking forward to participating several events across the county, including in Red Lion, Wrightsville and York City.
Our independence was hard-won and defended by those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Let us never forget what they did for us.
On the radio
This past week, I joined a few talk radio shows to discuss my latest legislative efforts on vaccine passports, combatting blight in downtown York, the massive data breach impacting 72,000 Pennsylvanians and expanding access to high-speed internet.
You can listen to the interviews in the links below.
Fish for Free Day on May 30
Pennsylvania’s Fish for Free Days are scheduled for May 30 and July 4 this year. They allow residents and non-residents to fish on PA waterways with no fishing license, trout/salmon permit or Lake Erie permit required. All other fishing regulations still apply.
It’s a great opportunity for families to try their hand at a new outdoor activity. Learn about where to borrow fishing tackle, where the best fishing waters are, and more, here.
Local pastors open up Senate in prayer this past Monday, Wednesday
The Senate opens each session day with a prayer by the Senate chaplain. Many days, the chaplain is a guest of a senator. This week, I was fortunate to have two local religious leaders from York County open the Senate of Pennsylvania in prayer this week.
You can watch their opening prayers and my introductions below.
Rev. John Dorr, Jr. of the Bethlehem Steltz Reformed Church in Glen Rock offered the opening prayer on Monday.
Pastor Paul Frank of the St. James Lutheran Church in Hallam offered the opening prayer on Wednesday.
First public hearing on Congressional redistricting
The Senate State Government Committee held its first public hearing on Congressional Redistricting this past week.
Based on federal Census data, Pennsylvania will lose a congressional seat due to national shifts in population over the last decade.
This is the first hearing on this issue.
You can watch my line of questioning below.
You can watch the public hearing in its entirety here.
Unemployment compensation to restart work search requirement
The Department of Labor and Industry announced that work search requirements for individuals receiving unemployment benefits will restart the week of July 11, with individuals to begin certifying on July 18 that they have looked for work during the previous week.
As pandemic business closures rocked the job market last year, the department suspended the requirement that claimants actively search for work and register with the PA CareerLink database. In January, without legislative approval or input, the department then extended the suspension indefinitely.
With the pandemic easing and employers desperate for workers, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved legislation to reinstate the job search and CareerLink requirements earlier.
The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.
Reminder: Changes coming to Unemployment Compensation System next week
The state’s Unemployment Compensation system will complete a major upgrade next week that will require changes in the way that claimants will file for benefits. It is critical for claimants to understand the timeline and new process to file for benefits to avoid any interruption in payments.
The Unemployment Compensation system will be offline from May 30 through June 7 to allow data to be moved from the old system to the new one. No new claims will be processed during this time, and some services will not be accessible during this time. Claimants who are eligible to file a bi-weekly claim from June 3-7 can file May 30 through June 2.
Beginning on June 8, claimants must file for benefits and initial claims at benefits.uc.pa.gov following the same schedule as before. There will no longer be paper forms available; claimants will be required to create a Keystone ID to log into the new UC system. Claimants will still be able to file by phone starting June 10.
More information is available on the Department of Labor and Industry’s FAQ page.
Local jobs from PA CareerLink
PA CareerLink shared with me their latest list of local job openings, which you can view below. You can also find job postings shared with the York County Economic Alliance here.
Upcoming PennDOT projects
PennDOT shared with me their list of upcoming scheduled maintenance projects, which you can view below.
Office hours for next week
Please be advised that our District and Capitol offices will be closed in observance of Memorial Day on Monday, May 31. We will reopen on Tuesday, June 1, at 9 a.m. You can find many resources on my online office at SenatorKristin.com.