In this update:
Voting issues explored, including how York County precincts ran out of ballots on Election Day in 2021, during hearing
Local elections officials and members of advocacy groups testified before the Senate State Government Committee regarding Senate Bill 878, an election reform bill being vetted and debated in the committee.
I raised significant concerns over the fact that York County precincts were without ballots on Election Day for Republicans AND Democrats, leading many voters to turn away and left unable to cast a vote this past Primary Election.
The bill includes changes that originated from the bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, which was created to make recommendations on how Pennsylvania’s election code could be improved.
The committee included members of the Senate from both parties and all regions of Pennsylvania and heard testimony from a variety of stakeholders, including election officials from Pennsylvania and other states around the nation.
The proposed changes include:
The panel heard testimony from the County Commissioners Association, local elections officials Common Cause PA, the Committee of Seventy and the PA League of Women Voters. You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.
Supporting local farmers and growing agritourism industry through liability reforms
Over the last few weeks, I have been meeting with local farmers to discuss Act 27 of 2021, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim, that provides liability protections for the growing agritourism industry in our Commonwealth. I was the prime sponsor of the Senate version of this new law aimed at protecting family farms and their guests.
Julie Keene owns and operates Flinchbaugh’s Orchard with her family. Julie’s great-grandfather originally purchased the Hellam Township farm in 1950 and started the first steps in growing the orchard to what it is today. It was great to see how Act 27 (liability protection) has been implemented at her farm and how it will help this locally owned family farm.
Flinchbaugh’s Orchard offers a variety of local agrotourism activities for all ages, including a corn maze and pick your own apples, pumpkins, peaches and flowers.
Take a virtual tour and learn more about Flinchbaugh’s Orchard in the video below.
Maize Quest/Maple Lawn
The Field of Dreams baseball game in Iowa was one of the highlights this summer for baseball fans, yet, it was Hugh McPherson and his team at Maize Quest who designed the neat designs you saw on the nationally televised game.
Hugh’s Maize Quest and Maple Lawn Farm are huge tourist draws throughout the year, and he explained how liability protections will create an even better experience for both employees and guests. Hugh started his business in 1997 and is now nationally known for his giant corn maze, pumpkin and fruit picking and other experiences local residents know and enjoy.
Take a virtual tour and learn more about Maize Quest/Maple Lawn in the video below.
Family Tree Farm
In North Hopewell Township, the Family Tree Farm’s Karen Doyle& told me more about their seasonal activities and how the farm has been in her family for more than 200 years.& In fact, it started as a tobacco farm and is now one of the top Christmas tree farms in York County.
They are hosting visitors for pumpkin and apple picking as well as wagon rides and a corn maze.
Take a virtual tour and learn more about Family Tree Farm in the video below.
Information technology spending at state level would be fourth largest state agency – national experts testify on how we can make it better in PA
Earlier this week, I chaired a Senate Communications & Technology Committee public hearing to get feedback on best practices used in other states when it comes to information technology and cybersecurity in state government.
I am sponsoring a bill with Senator Ryan Aument to address the state’s information technology assets and ensuring that we are prioritizing and reviewing all best practices in other states. Keep in mind that if our IT spending were a state agency, it would be the fourth largest in all of state government.
You can view testimony from our hearing here. Our second hearing, which will take place next week, will feature testimony from Pennsylvania’s information technology specialists.
Senate hearing on school COVID-19 policy reveals ongoing frustration with state agencies
Saying state agencies overseeing schools are slow to respond to COVID-19 questions while providing conflicting guidance on the virus to schools, educators from all levels testified before the Senate Education Committee about their ongoing frustrations with the Wolf Administration’s oversight.
This testimony and feedback echoes what I have heard in our school districts all across York County.
The Department of Health and Department of Education declined to participate, citing pending litigation.
A Lancaster County superintendent testified that the current mask orders from the state agencies conflict with the FAQs and emails that the district has received. The director of a career center in Jefferson County testified schools are the target of frustrations from parents as “threats from the government pile on to an already intense situation.”
A child care worker said the communication from the state Office of Child Development and Early Learning has ranged from vague to intimidating, with threats to remove the facility employees if the young children in daycare do not comply.
The Education Committee will continue to press the Wolf Administration for answers. You can view hearing video and written testimony here.
Turnpike misses over $100 million in tolls last year, a Senate committee wants answers
The Senate Transportation Committee convened a public hearing with top officials from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to demand answers into how the state’s only toll road missed out on over $100 million in tolls last year.
I continue to hear frustration how tolls continue to rise every year due to a law passed before my time in the legislature, yet the Turnpike did not collect $104 million in tolls last year.
You can learn more about this hearing here.
Legislative Reapportionment Commission alters decision on counting of prisoners
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission made an adjustment to an earlier policy change regarding how the residency of prison inmates will be counted when developing new district maps for the state Senate and House of Representatives.
At its Aug. 24 meeting, over Republican objections that the commission was exceeding its authority, the panel voted to adopt a prisoner reallocation proposal that changes the long-standing practice of having state inmates counted where they eat, sleep and live at the time of the census — like every other Pennsylvanian — and instead count them where they resided prior to incarceration for their crimes.
Noting that not all currently incarcerated individuals remain in prison for less than 10 years from the time new district maps are drawn, the decision was altered by majority vote to count state prison inmates with a minimum sentence expiring after April 1, 2030, in the prison in which they reside, not the community from where they came.
Thank you, Pastor Paul Frank of Hellam for opening Senate in prayer
During the last year and a half, the Senate has had religious leaders from all across the state open the Senate in prayer, but only if they were remote (virtual). As you may recall, Pastor Paul Frank from St. James Lutheran Church in Hallam opened up the Senate in prayer virtually back in May.
It was an honor to host Pastor Frank, who served as the Guest Senate Chaplain, and his lovely wife, Ruth, during Senate on Tuesday.
Senate acts to extend Ida state disaster emergency, access to recovery aid
The Senate approved extending the state disaster emergency declared in response to Hurricane Ida until Oct. 27, giving Pennsylvanians more time to apply for recovery assistance.
Gov. Tom Wolf issued a 21-day proclamation declaring the disaster emergency on Aug. 31. Following extended pandemic emergency declarations over the last year, and the governor’s unilateral actions throwing Pennsylvanians out of work, voters in May stripped him of the authority he commandeered to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly.
Action by the General Assembly to extend the emergency declaration will help communities with their recovery efforts, which are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida brought historic rainfall to Pennsylvania, causing record flooding and widespread damage throughout York County. Nearly 400 roads were closed statewide, while downed trees and limbs disrupted utilities and left more than 15 major interstates, roadways and expressways closed.
Senate votes to implement low-interest loans to fire companies approved by voters
The Senate voted to implement aid to Pennsylvania fire departments approved by voters in a May referendum. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 739 would permit municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies to participate in the Emergency Services Loan Assistance Program, which has been historically limited to volunteer fire companies.
Expanding the assistance program was one of several ballot questions decided by voters in the 2021 Primary Election.
Bill limiting firefighter exposure to PFAS, safeguarding environment approved by Senate
A bill restricting the use of “Class B” firefighting foams containing added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for training purposes and testing was approved by the Senate. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Some PFAS linger in the environment and in the human body – they don’t break down and can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.
Senate Bill 302 would restrict the use of foam containing PFAS chemicals beginning July 1, 2022 and direct the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, in consultation with the State Fire Commissioner, to assist firefighting entities with evaluating and determining how to transition to the use of Class B firefighting foam that does not contain a PFAS chemical. The legislation would not impact the continued use of firefighting foams during emergency situations.
Honoring local Veterans at Normandie Ridge
It was an honor to be part of a very special dedication ceremony this morning at Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community as they unveiled their Veterans Wall. This special installation remembers, recognizes, honors and preserves the achievements of the men and women who reside at Normandie Ridge who served honorably in the United States Armed Forces to preserve our freedoms and way of life.
Thank you to the staff at Normandie Ridge who made this happen and thank you to our veterans. We are grateful for your service and sacrifice.
Congratulations to Minnich’s Pharmacy on its 75th Anniversary
Locally owned and operated, Minnich’s Pharmacy reached a historic milestone this past week when they celebrated their 75th anniversary of serving our community’s needs.
It was an honor to present Deron Shultz and the entire team a congratulatory citation from the Senate of Pennsylvania.
Innovative pediatric treatment center in York County
Leg Up Farm provides so many opportunities and unique programs for children who need therapy in our community. They offer behavioral, occupational, physical and speech therapies, as well as equine-assisted therapies. Thank you to the entire team at Leg Up Farm for the tour and for showing me all of the opportunities you provide to children seeking personalized treatment in a beautiful setting in York County.
You can learn more here.
Local job openings
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, September 27, at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and review our agenda at SenatorKristin.com/session.
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