In this update:
Bill blocking state, local governments, schools from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccine vetoed by Governor Wolf
Governor Wolf had an opportunity to provide clarification for students, parents and every Pennsylvanian by signing Senate Bill 618.
Unfortunately, due to his veto, this fall will be met with confusion and chaos as students in K-12 through higher education will head back to school with little guidance on whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine will be a requirement.
Instead of showing that no one will be denied service or an education because of a decision not to take a COVID-19 vaccine, students and parents will be forced to make difficult decisions in less than two months as more schools begin forced vaccinations.
While this pandemic is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event, we have seen that broad powers implemented by the Secretary of Health lead to serious unintended consequences for people I represent, especially those along the Maryland border. The voters showed us last month that they want collaboration between elected officials, not one person to wield all of the power and make drastic decisions affecting lives and livelihoods.
I gave many reasons of local significance why this legislation would provide more clarity to the residents of York County during the Senate debate on my legislation. You can watch that below.
You can read more here.
Wolf blocks bill making it easier to vote, harder to cheat in Pennsylvania
I am very disappointed that the governor vetoed the Voter Rights Protection Act without reading a comprehensive bill drafted by Representative Seth Grove that was created after hours of bipartisan public hearings and testimony from experts with very diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
This legislation would have:
– addressed many issues that voters and election experts identified in our state’s election laws.
– made it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Pennsylvania.
Learn more about this effort here.
New law protects farmers in agritourism industry in York County
Agritourism includes farm markets, pick-your-own produce, cut-your-own Christmas trees, corn mazes, paintball, petting zoos, hayrides and farm tours. They can make the difference between having a positive year on the ledger or ending up in the red, especially for small family farmers.
The Senate and House of Representatives approved the Agritourism Activity Protection Act to create a statewide standard for agritourism and provide limited civil liability protection for persons who offer agritourism activities on a farm and meet requirements. I sponsored the Senate version of this bill, which you can find here.
I spoke in support of the measure when it was brought up for a vote in the Senate. You can watch my comments below.
The governor signed this legislation into law on Thursday morning.
Trail Towns Program leads to small business expansion in Glen Rock
Our team participated in the ribbon-cutting celebration for Simply Local at the Glen Rock Mill Inn on Thursday. This continues to add to the many options along the Heritage Rail Trail as part of the York County Trail Towns Program.
Simply Local’s café hours are:
Wednesday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday – Sunday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Congratulations to Karen Dietrich and her team!
Budget compromise is a mixed bag – here’s how I voted
The Legislature approved a funding package to fund state government operations for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which began on July 1.
The Legislature is required to approve a balanced budget each year. This is a duty I take very seriously.
The fiscally responsible budget does not include any of the tax increases proposed by the governor in February — including a 46% Personal Income Tax hike.
While Pennsylvania is on pace to end the current fiscal year with $2.5 billion in surplus revenue, revenue projections for the current fiscal year were made as Pennsylvania was coping with the financial devastation caused by the global pandemic and the governor’s business closure orders.
We must remain vigilant and pragmatic because Pennsylvania’s mandated spending growth still outpaces its revenue growth and the Commonwealth cannot depend on continued federal funding. (More on this a little later…)
I voted against the Fiscal Code amendment, which spells out how funding must be spent for the new fiscal year. My main concern: It did not provide any school property tax relief requested by many local residents. I continue to raise this issue and concern over school property taxes, in light of many federally-funded programs providing relief for entities and individuals adversely impacted by the pandemic, but no school property tax relief for those struggling to make ends meet.
That’s why I am sponsoring legislation alongside a few of my colleagues to put this on the ballot through a constitutional amendment. You can read more about that endeavor here.
I also feel strongly that budget reforms must be implemented for the long-term. (I am sponsoring legislation to require every state agency to justify every expense, starting with the first penny. This is known as “Zero-Based Budgeting,” which you can read about here.)
However, the budget did make a major shift in how the Commonwealth looks to the future. The budget included in the Administrative Code (one of the other budget-related bills) to establish dynamic modeling in Pennsylvania. This will allow the public and legislators alike to see how major policy proposals will affect our LONG-TERM trajectory.
Too often, we are fixated on a short-term solution, whether it be the cost impact of a tax cut affecting next year’s revenue, but not looking past the horizon on how much economic opportunity a tax cut would create in later years. This will set us on a much better path to create a stronger vision for the future.
I discuss the budget in greater detail with Matt Brouillette on his podcast, “Brews & Views,” which runs approximately 24 minutes. You can listen to our discussion here.
Oversight of wasted COVID-19 wasted vaccines
The Senate voted to increase the transparency of Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout by requiring the Department of Health to make public the amount of vaccine doses that have been wasted.
The measure addresses the Department of Health’s unwillingness to release details of their pandemic response using a law from 1955. Media organizations across Pennsylvania have expressed their frustration throughout the pandemic with this refusal to publicize information.
The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for their consideration.
Senate approves bill to protect children during custody disputes
The Senate approved and sent to the House of Representatives legislation known as Kayden’s Law to increase protections for children during child custody disputes.
The legislation is named after Kayden Mancuso, a 7-year-old Bucks County resident murdered by her biological father in 2018 during a visit ordered by the court, despite evidence of his abusive and violent behavior.
The bill imposes safety conditions and restrictions on visitation in cases of abuse, modifies the factors that a judge must consider in making a custody award to put the focus on the health and safety of the child, and recommends better training of all court personnel involved in custody cases.
Act 66 will offer optional year of education due to COVID-19
Parents now have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to learning disruptions caused by COVID-19 under a bill approved by the Senate and signed into law by the governor.
In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teacher. The law only applies to the 2021-22 school year to address learning gaps related to the pandemic.
Senate Bill 664, now Act 66 of 2021, provides parents with the option to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year due to COVID-19. This provision prevents students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21 after missing out on much of the specialized attention they need due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Radio interviews talking about the latest in YOUR state government
This week, I joined Gary Sutton for the Morning News on 910 WSBA to talk about the latest on the vaccine passport legislation I sponsored. However, when I spoke with him, the governor had not made his decision on whether to approve or veto the legislation.
You can listen to our discussion here. The conversation is approximately 15 minutes.
I also spoke with Dom Giordano on 1210 WPHT (based in Philadelphia). You can listen to our wide-ranging interview covering vaccine passports and the data breach impacted 72,000 Pennsylvanians, here. The conversation is approximately 14 minutes.
Fish for Free on July 4th
On Sunday, July 4, anglers of all abilities can head out to their favorite fishing spot as part of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Fish for Free Days.
Fish for Free Days allow residents and non-residents to fish on state 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 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 to its website. You can view the schedule for next week here.
Office hours next week
Our offices will be closed on Monday, July 5, in observance of Independence Day, which falls on a Sunday. I hope you all have a safe, happy and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday.
While I continue to support measures to provide greater tools for law enforcement to address fireworks being used irresponsibly, I encourage the entire community to use extreme caution when celebrating our nation’s birthday. We have seen many fires throughout our community already. Please remember families, our first responders and animals when setting off fireworks over the weekend.
Happy Birthday, USA!
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