In this update:
House committee approves bill banning vaccine passports
The House Health Committee approved legislation I’ve sponsored along with Senator Judy Ward (R-30) that would ban the state – as well as any county, local municipality, school district and publicly-funded university – from requiring a proof of vaccination.
Below are my comments from the House Health Committee. (If you are interested, you can watch the entire debate here.)
The bill would also ban the Secretary of Health from unilaterally requiring face masks, imposing travel restrictions, implementing social distancing guidelines, mandating shelter in place and closing privately-owned businesses.
We have seen a growing trend of more governmental entities across the nation seeking to require vaccinations to gain entry to receive services. The Department of Health has shown that it was unable to manage a massive data breach of personal health care information through its third-party contact tracing vendor. Just last week, a news report showed that this information is still sitting on the internet. This bill would ensure that the state, or any local government, taxpayer-subsidized school or university, does not overstep its bounds with collecting and requiring this personal information.
The bill is pending further consideration in the House of Representatives.
You can learn more about this bill here.
Senate committee advances proposed constitutional amendment to implement voter ID
Voters may have an opportunity to weigh in on whether identification will be required to vote through a proposed constitutional amendment.
To date, I continue to hear from local residents who wish to see a voter identification law enacted. A proposed constitutional amendment would let every voter in this Commonwealth have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue. By advancing this measure out of committee, we are one step closer to giving the people of Pennsylvania the ultimate say.
Listen to my comments here.
Senate Bill 735 proposes to amend Article VII, in accordance with Article XI, of the state Constitution by requiring voters to present valid identification before receiving a ballot to vote in person. The proposed constitutional amendment would also require those voting by mail or absentee ballots to provide a copy of a valid identification.
You can find more information here about the constitutional amendment process and when voters could see this on a ballot.
Ransomware legislation debated, voted during Senate committee meeting
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation I sponsored that would address ransomware attacks against state government, county governments, municipalities, as well as school districts, and state-owned and state-related universities.
Senate Bill 726 would impose significant penalties on any individual who possesses, uses, sells, transfers, develops or threatens the use of ransomware.
You can watch my comments on this legislation from the committee meeting below.
Under the measure, an individual found guilty of a ransomware offense would be subject to a range of penalties – first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony – depending on the monetary amount exploited.
The bill also strengthens ransomware alerting within state agencies, the judicial branch, the Legislature, local governments, school districts, publicly funded colleges and universities, by requiring notification within one to two hours of first discovery of a ransomware attack.
Comprehensive broadband legislation wins House committee approval
The House Consumer Affairs Committee advanced legislation that I sponsored to address major challenges with expanding access to high-speed internet in unserved and underserved areas in the Commonwealth.
The bill would also require all revenue from a massive contract to aid in expanding access to high-speed internet.
The bill is now waiting further consideration in the House of Representatives. Learn more here.
Celebrating Flag Day in Wrightsville
Monday was Flag Day, a day that commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777.
On June 6, I joined the Sons of the American Legion Post 469 in Wrightsville to dedicate a new flagpole in the borough.
That flag is a great reminder of the brave men and women whose service, sacrifice and devotion assured our freedoms.
Senate committee approves legislation addressing high-speed wireless issues
The Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which I chair, advanced Senate Bill 769 out of committee on Wednesday to address major issues Pennsylvania faces for small cell wireless technology.
The committee held two public hearings to gain input and feedback from various stakeholders on the bill.
You can learn more about this effort here.
Thank you to Senate Guest Chaplain, Pastor Alison Bowlan-Kurkland
On Tuesday, I was honored to host the Senate of Pennsylvania’s Guest Chaplain – Pastor Alison Bowlan-Kurkland of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Spring Grove.
Pastor Bowlan-Kurkland opened the Senate in a word of prayer to start what would be a busy week of legislative session.
You can watch her opening prayer below.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program application deadline extended
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2020 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2021.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
Applications can be submitted online with the Department of Revenue’s myPATH system. Filing online leads to fast processing, easy direct deposit options and automatic calculators that help with the process.
Learn how to complete the application in this video I created below.
Also, I want to note that I hear the complaints on school property taxes in general. I agree that they are outdated and need to be eliminated.
I am a co-prime sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate school property taxes by way of enshrining this in our state Constitution.
In the memo I circulated alongside Senators John DiSanto, Dave Argall, Scott Martin and Pat Stefano, we wrote, “The status-quo is unacceptable, and voter approval of this constitutional amendment would force the General Assembly to address this issue once and for all. Powerful and entrenched special interests opposing reform would no longer be able to block needed action.
This amendment would also guarantee that our local school districts receive the same amount of revenue as they did from the property tax, so education funding would be more equitable for taxpayers while ensuring school needs are met.” Read the full memo here.
You can learn more about this bill here.
Senate passes bill to address outdated liquor laws
The Senate of Pennsylvania approved legislation that would make the sale of mixed drinks to go by restaurants or hotel licensees for off-premise consumption permanent. This was initially a temporary measure to provide another revenue generator for the hospitality industry that was devastated by unilateral shutdowns over the last 15 months.
The legislation also provides additional COVID provisions on a temporary basis to allow for extended licensed premises for outdoor dining, off-premise catering permits without restrictions, the waiving of fees, and an additional year of safekeeping of liquor licenses by licensees that are not able to operate.
You can learn more about this bill here.
Local jobs from PA CareerLink
PA CareerLink shared with me its 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 will post its list of upcoming scheduled maintenance projects here.
The Senate of Pennsylvania reconvenes for voting on Monday, June 21, at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and review our agenda at SenatorKristin.com/session.
Office closed on Friday
Please be advised that our offices will be closed on Friday, June 18, in observance of Juneteenth National Freedom Day, which is an official state designated holiday. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas to share the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the last of the enslaved people.