In this update:
PA Voters Could Get Greater Say in Next Presidential Election
Thank you to everyone who weighed in on moving up the 2024 presidential election date. The Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In many presidential primary elections, the outcome is largely decided before Pennsylvania voters have a chance to cast a ballot. Moving up the spring election date gives voters in the fifth-largest state a better chance of weighing in on the presidential primary.
Currently, the primary takes place on the fourth Tuesday of April. Senate Bill 224 would move the primary to the third Tuesday in March, making the next presidential primary election date March 19, 2024. The change would also prevent a conflict with Passover, during which observant Jewish Pennsylvanians are prohibited from writing, driving or using electricity.
Again, thank you to everyone who participated in my survey. I will share the results with you next week!
Bipartisan Bill to Protect Children Online Heads to the Full Senate
Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory about the effects social media has on youth mental health and called on policymakers to strengthen standards for children of all ages. The report cites research that shows children who spend more than three hours per day on social media face double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes and approximately 64% of children are exposed to hate-based content through social media.
I teamed up with Sen. Vincent Hughes to combat this exact issue. The Senate Communications and Technology Committee unanimously approved our legislation that would take a major step to protect minors and empower parents.
Protecting children, improving mental health and empowering parents should not be and, as we proved this week, are not partisan issues. It is imperative that parents are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their children on social media. This is just one way to empower parents and address the mental health crisis at the same time.
This measure will be sent to the full Senate for a vote. You can find more information on this legislation here.
Hallam Resident Sings National Anthem to Honor Heroes of Flight 93
What an honor it was to host Landon Mak and his family during Senate session this week! Landon has been singing the National Anthem since the age of four. He was at the Capitol this week to sing our Star-Spangled Banner honoring the heroes of Flight 93. Landon and his family reside in Hallam Borough.
Senate Votes to Streamline and Increase School Safety Measures
This week, the Senate passed House Bill 27 to more effectively keep Pennsylvania children safe at school by streamlining and increasing school safety measures.
House Bill 27 would consolidate school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and create a new Executive Committee under PCCD to review school safety issues and to identify current and emerging trends.
The bill would also ensure schools and counties can develop best practices for emergency response by developing a safe schools collaborative, release $100 million that was included in the 2023-24 state budget for K-12 mental health programs and provide greater flexibility for school districts experiencing shortages of substitute teachers. You can find out more on this measure here.
Committee Approves Lobbying Reform Measure
Taking a huge step in the right direction to clean up how Harrisburg operates, the Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved my legislation to change the current “revolving door.”
The legislation would extend the state’s prohibition for public officials or employees from lobbying the governmental body in which they were associated with, also known as the revolving door, to two years.
Pennsylvania currently has a one-year moratorium, which creates opportunities for legislators and legislative staff to leave the General Assembly and return to lobby the chamber where they came from within the same session.
Former Prisoner of War, Private Lynch, Honored by Senate
In honor of POW/MIA Recognition Day, the Senate of Pennsylvania had a special guest, former Prisoner of War and Army Private First Class Jessica Lynch.
Jessica was captured and held prisoner after her unit was ambushed by Iraqi forces in 2003. After nine days of relentless door-to-door operations, actional intelligence was finally received and a special forces rescue mission was launched to rescue her.
Jessica became the first American Prisoner of War to be rescued successfully since WWII.
Since that time, Jessica has been working to recover from the visible and invisible wounds she received that day. She earned a teaching degree and has been raising her daughter back home in West Virginia. She also has been speaking about her ordeal throughout the country.
My colleague, Sen. Devlin Robinson, was present during Jessica’s rescue and was honored to introduce her on the Senate floor. You can find Sen. Robinson’s remarks, including Private Lynch addressing the full Senate here.
Second Go-Around for Guest Chaplain, Rev. Glenn Miller
Also pictured in the photograph above with Private Lynch is Rev. Glenn Miller who resides in York County. Rev. Miller is the priest associate at the Saint James Episcopal Church located in Lancaster.
He served as guest chaplain of the PA Senate, a role he served in 25 years ago as the guest of the late Sen. Mike O’Pake of Berks County.
Reverend Miller retired from ministry in 2019 and currently serves as senior director of philanthropy at York College of Pennsylvania where he works closely with community leaders and donors on advancing the goals of the college. You can find Rev. Miller’s opening prayer here.
Protecting Pennsylvania from Cyberattacks
Cyberattacks are getting more common, more creative and more destructive daily. Within Pennsylvania, there have been cyberattacks on various state departments, putting valuable data of virtually every single Pennsylvanian at risk.
My legislation to ensure Pennsylvania is up to standard with best practices of cybersecurity passed the Senate Communications and Technology committee this week unanimously.
The legislation utilizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) best practices that consist of standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage cybersecurity-related risk. Under this bill any state government purchase of computer hardware would have to meet NIST standards and best practices for computer security.
Largest Exercise to Date Done by Search 93
This past Sunday, I was able to witness Search and Rescue 93 of South Central PA’s largest exercise to date! Despite the overcast and eventual rain, their team showed true resilience to finish the tasks.
They practiced several scenarios that closely mirrored search and rescue calls they have received over the past few years, including lost hikers, missing persons and even several drone operations. While my favorite part was seeing the hardworking K9s, I think Rick was mostly fascinated by the drone! You can find all the pictures from this exercise on my Facebook.
Thank you again to Search and Rescue 93 for the invitation!
Tax Seminars Held Virtually and Across PA
Tax professionals can learn about changes to state tax laws and policies during one-day seminars offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue held across the state and virtually.
The tax seminars will educate tax professionals on Personal Income Tax, sales tax corporate taxes, compliance initiatives and using the department’s website to establish tax accounts for new businesses, file tax returns and pay state taxes.
Find a local or virtual seminar here.
Grants Available to Increase Economic Benefits Boaters Offer PA Communities
Communities can apply now for grants to enhance the economic and social benefits of providing convenient boating access along their waterways. Townships, boroughs, municipal and county governments, and nonprofit groups may apply. Private businesses and service clubs are not eligible.
Applicants can seek grants for site acquisition, development, expansion, prevention of the spread of aquatic invasive species and rehabilitation of recreational boat access facilities. Eligible construction projects may include boat ramps, courtesy floats, restrooms, access roads, parking areas and signs. Funds may also be used to make facilities ADA compliant.
While the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will accept applications from anywhere in the commonwealth, special consideration will be given to projects that provide public boating access in the Delaware River watershed. Learn more or apply online by Dec. 30.
Yom Kippur Begins Sunday
Yom Kippur – the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – begins at nightfall on Sunday, Sept. 24. The Day of Atonement, which ends the following day at nightfall, is spent fasting, praying and seeking forgiveness.
I wish everyone who observes this important holiday a meaningful Yom Kippur. May you be sealed in the Book of Life.
Next Podcast Episode focuses on Proposed Pump Storage Facility along Susquehanna River
Subscribe to my podcast to listen to my upcoming episode featuring the second in a two-part series featuring Mark Platts, president of the Susquehanna National Heritage Area. Our conversation focuses on the challenges presented by a proposed pump storage facility that would take 1,000 acres of preserved farmland and recreational areas along the Susquehanna River in Chanceford Township.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently rejected the application by the developers, who are based in Berks County. However, the developers pledged to reapply for approval from this federal entity. Learn about how this project could impact York County by subscribing to my podcast on your favorite platforms, including: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.