Senator Phillips-Hill E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • Senate approves my reform measure that corrects the failure of Wolf Admin to carry out proposed constitutional amendment
  • Public hearing focuses on state’s IT spending, which would be fourth largest state agency
  • Congratulations to Cole Michael Janes, York County’s newest Eagle Scout
  • Exit 4 Interchange – PA-based contractor gets it done on time and on budget
  • Legislature approves extension of pandemic waivers of government regulations
  • ICYMI: With fall activities in full swing, check out how locally owned family farms are greeting customers of all ages
  • Senate passes measures to help Pennsylvania farmers move goods
  • Program to battle opioid abuse extended by Senate
  • Mark your calendar: Local event to focus on how community can fight human trafficking
  • Celebrating Manufacturing Day in PA today
  • Recognizing Jason Smith, who dedicated his Sept. bicycling to defeat childhood cancer
  • Impacted by Hurricane Ida? Local help and resources are available!
  • Local job openings, including two new jobs with Met-Ed
  • Upcoming PennDOT projects
  • On deck

Senate approves my reform measure that corrects the failure of Wolf Admin to carry out proposed constitutional amendment 

By a vote of 43-6, the Senate approved legislation I authored after the Department of State and Governor Wolf’s Administration admitted to failing to carry out their legal and constitutional duties when it comes to advertising a proposed constitutional amendment.

Borrowing an idea from the private sector, my legislation will require the Department of State to post to a website accessible to every Pennsylvanian to track the constitutional amendment process in real time, including:

  • A copy of the notice and constitutionally required deadline.
  • A listing of every newspaper in which the constitutional amendment notice was published and the date of said publication.
  • The earliest possible Election Day it may be considered by voters.

9/27/21 - Floor Remarks on SB 738

As you may know, Pennsylvania’s constitutional amendment process requires the General Assembly to pass the same resolution in consecutive sessions, then it heads to the voters for their approval or rejection.

There is also a requirement of the Dept. of State to advertise the constitutional amendment proposal in newspapers all across the state throughout the process. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Wolf Administration failed to carry out this requirement to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with a retroactive window on statute of limitations for child sex abuse to sue their perpetrators.

You can learn more about this pro-transparency reform measure here.

A second bill, sponsored by Sen. Dave Argall, would require formal training for the Dept. of State’s employees regarding their legislative responsibilities and the constitutional amendment process.

A 68-page Inspector General report on the botched handling of the constitutional amendment showed that some Department of State staff lack the formal training needed to properly handle their responsibilities with legislation.

Both bills go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Public hearing focuses on state’s IT spending, which would be fourth largest state agency 

Pennsylvania taxpayers spend over $1 billion annually in information technology (IT) infrastructure in state agencies. I believe a coordinated and consolidated approach will help streamline the overall process.

Over the last 18 months, almost all state agencies went remote and allowed its employees to work from home. Many state agencies are still engaging in a hybrid work setting, where employees are only required to return to the office for one day a week. I am concerned over the accountability of workstations, that have sat vacant for over a year, despite having expensive software licenses installed on each dormant machine. Furthermore, more devices and assets are now deployed outside of state government buildings and offices, meaning more information could be exposed without proper protocols and oversight.

The total price tag for all spending on IT in state government eclipses $1 billion, which would be the fourth largest state agency if it functioned on its own.

To that end, I have sponsored Senate Bill 482 alongside Sen. Ryan Aument to consolidate administration and management of our state’s information technology under the “Office of Information Technology.” Rep. Seth Grove has a companion bill in the House of Representatives You can view our bill here. 

Our hearing this week focused on how the state currently conducts its oversight of IT. We heard from the state’s chief information officer and a deputy secretary of the Dept. of General Services. You can watch our hearing in its entirety below, which runs just over one hour.

9/29/21 - Consolidation of State IT Systems

You can read the testimony they provided to the committee here.

Congratulations to Cole Michael Janes, York County’s newest Eagle Scout 

Rep. Mike Jones and I congratulating Eagle Scout Cole Michael Janes 

This past weekend, I was honored to present a congratulatory citation from the Senate of Pennsylvania to Cole Michael Janes of Troop 27 in Stewartstown.

As part of his Eagle Scout service project, Cole constructed and donated flag retirement boxes. He worked with the local VFW on the project that enabled him to step up and help our community. His parents, Greg and Lisa, should be very proud of his tireless effort and for his dedication to helping local Veterans in our community through his service project.

He is currently in his second year at Penn State where he is majoring in chemical engineering.

Congratulations on your major achievement, Cole! 

Exit 4 Interchange – PA-based contractor gets it done on time and on budget 

It’s amazing what a locally owned company with local employees can do when tasked with completely transforming a major interchange along Interstate 83.

I joined Rep. Kate Klunk, PennDOT officials and community leaders, including local Veterans, to cut the ribbon on the newly redesigned Exit 4 Interchange in Shrewsbury.

I was pleased to work with the contractor, PennDOT and other state agencies to keep open lines of communication and assist in cutting through some regulatory barriers throughout the project.

As you know, the Exit 4 Interchange is the de-facto Pennsylvania welcome center along Interstate 83. As you travel through the diverging diamond, you may notice some neat additions along the wall under the bridge. I want to give a special thank you to the VFW Post 7012 New Freedom, Rotary Club of Southern York County, New Freedom Lions Club and Shrewsbury Lions Club for your donations to welcome visitors to York County and honoring all Veterans of foreign wars.

You can view more pictures from the ribbon cutting here.

Legislature approves extension of pandemic waivers of government regulations 

The Senate voted to extend waivers of an array of regulatory statutes, rules and regulations to aid in Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was sent to the governor for enactment following approval by the House of Representatives.

The waivers affecting health and human services, as well as consumers and employees, were due to expire Thursday. Enactment of the legislation would extend the waivers until March 31, 2022.

As you know, voters stripped Gov. Tom Wolf of the authority he claimed to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly. Delivering on a promise to the people that we work better together, the General Assembly initially extended these waivers as part of the budget in June.

Approval of the following waivers is critical to providing flexibility in managing the pandemic during a workforce shortage crisis:

Waivers Benefiting Consumers and Employees

  • Suspending the requirements for initial patient evaluations for buprenorphine narcotics treatment to be completed via telehealth.
  • Allowing up to 28 days of take-home medications for patients on stable dosages if deemed appropriate by their physician.
  • Quicker access to home health care and home care services by allowing nurse practitioners to sign eligibility forms.
  • Telehealth access for individuals seeking behavioral and mental health services.
  • Flexibilities for visitation in foster care and group home settings for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Temporary removal of barriers to employment by waiving in-person meetings and allowing electronic signature requirements.
  • Flexibility in scheduling and notice for unemployment compensation hearings.
  • Allowing for telephonic testimony and use of documents in unemployment compensation referee hearings. 

Waivers Aiding the Work of Health Care Facilities and Services

  • The ability for acute care hospitals to use alternative locations for overflow, quarantining, and surveillance efforts to help manage the influx of patients in their emergency departments.
  • Flexibilities in staffing health care facilities.
  • The ability for pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Reimbursement for those providing telehealth through the Medical Assistance program.
  • The ability to maintain COVID-19 surveillance efforts within child care and congregate settings to reduce spread and respond to outbreaks.

ICYMI: With fall activities in full swing, check out how locally owned family farms are greeting customers of all ages 

If you’ve driven around York County’s family-owned farms, you will see that many of them continue to evolve. A trend that continues to grow around the nation and across the Commonwealth is agritourism.

Many of our local farms have picked up on this trend and expanded their offerings to their customers.

Fall is one of the busiest times for these farms, where they offer corn mazes, pick-your-own, and more!

I toured three local farms to highlight what they provide to the community and discuss a recently enacted law I sponsored in the Senate to provide liability protections to these locally-owned and operated farms. (Rep. Barb Gleim was the sponsor of the House-version that Gov. Wolf signed into law earlier this year.)

Below are three, one-minute overviews of the tour. The full tour can be accessed in the link below each video. I hope you and your family are able to get out and enjoy all that York County (and our proud farms) have to offer this fall!

08/30/21 Flinchbaugh Preview

Take a full tour of Flinchbaugh’s Orchard & Farm Market here. View photos from our tour here.

08/30/21 Maize Quest Preview

Take a full tour of Maize Quest and Maple Lawn Farm here. View photos of our tour here.

08/30/21 Family Tree Farm Preview

Take a full tour of Family Tree Farm here. View photos from our tour here.

Senate passes measures to help Pennsylvania farmers move goods 

The Senate passed two measures to help Pennsylvania farmers make home deliveries and meet other transportation needs. The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

One bill would enable a farmer to register a farm vehicle for the delivery of milk and other agricultural products to both businesses and homes. Under current law, a farmer is required to purchase, register and maintain a separate commercial vehicle for home deliveries while also maintaining a farm vehicle to deliver products to businesses.

Another measure would allow farmers to use a Class A, B or C driver’s license when operating farm vehicles with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds on roadways.

Act 170 of 2014 clarified that farmers did not need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) when operating farm trucks, or farm trucks hauling trailers, with a combined weight of more than 26,000 pounds.

However, it was unclear as to whether a farmer could use a Class B, Class C or Class A driver’s license when operating those vehicles. A Class A driver’s license is a graduated license above the common Class C license and requires an additional road test and fee.

Program to battle opioid abuse extended by Senate 

The Senate approved a bill that continues a program designed to help doctors and pharmacists battle opioid abuse. The program, set to expire on June 30, 2022, would be extended until Dec. 31, 2028. The bill now goes to the governor for enactment.

The measure extends the successful Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) program that allows access to a patient’s prescription medication history through an electronic system to those who prescribe medications and those who dispense medication.

Electronic access to a patient’s prescription medication history allows doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals to better treat patients. ABC-MAP enables opioid prescribers and dispensers to identify warning signs of abuse including “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy shopping” that occurs when patients attempt to obtain opioid prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies. 

Mark your calendar: Local event to focus on how community can fight human trafficking 

Sparrow Place, in coordination with the New Freedom Lions Club, will hold a community event in a few weeks to provide information, resources and training to the public about how to end human trafficking in our community.

As the sponsor of Act 1 of 2020 that I sponsored alongside Rep. Seth Grove, which places significant penalties on individuals who patronize victims of human trafficking, our community can play a huge impact in ending this heinous crime in the Commonwealth.

Below is information for the upcoming event that I plan to attend with many other local advocates, including law enforcement and nonprofit leaders.

Celebrating Manufacturing Day in PA today 

As the Senate co-chair of the Manufacturing Caucus, I was honored to speak on the Senate floor to recognize the hardworking men and women who work in the manufacturing industry in York County and across the Commonwealth.

We have seen a major resurgence in “Made in America” and this pandemic has pushed us to have a greater appreciation (and reliance) on American-made goods.

I also highlighted that the average manufacturing job pays over $65,000 per year, yet there continues to be a worker shortage.

9/29/21 - Manufacturing in PA

Recognizing Jason Smith, who dedicated his Sept. by cycling to defeat Childhood Cancer 

York Township resident Jason Smith devoted his month of September to a worthy cause and one that has impacted many in our community by raising awareness and funding for a cure for pediatric cancer. In fact, this was Jason’s fifth year of participating in this noble cause. Jason rides his bike throughout the community, mostly on the Rail Trail, to raise funds and awareness for this major problem.

Jason celebrated his 50th birthday this past week, and I am extremely grateful for Jason for sharing his story with me and for devoting so much time and energy to a worthy cause.

You can learn more about Jason’s story and track his rides for children (and their families) battling this horrific disease here. 

Impacted by Hurricane Ida? Local help and resources are available! 

Earlier this week, I sent out a special email update to inform our community of local resources available to assist with Hurricane Ida recovery.

In addition to the local office hours with FEMA officials, the Department of Revenue also announced it is extending certain tax dates for taxpayers impacted by Hurricane Ida. You can get the details here. 

Local job openings, including three new jobs with Met-Ed 

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.

Met-Ed is also seeking a repairman 1st Class, a distribution designer, as well as a technician for their relay team. You can see these job postings here.

Upcoming PennDOT projects 

PennDOT will post its list of upcoming scheduled maintenance projects here. You can also view next week’s projects below.

On deck

The Senate of Pennsylvania is not in session next week, however, the Senate State Government Committee, which I am a member of, will hold a series of public hearings on various issues. The committee’s full schedule of hearings can be found here. I will provide a recap in my weekly email next week. Stay tuned!

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