In this update:
Bipartisan Bill Signed into Law
This week, Senate Bill 84 was signed into law as Act 26 of 2023 assuring the First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression for every Pennsylvanian.
The act eliminates the section from the state’s Public School Code that prohibits teachers from wearing any dress, mark, emblem or insignia indicative of their faith or denomination. Pennsylvania is the last state in the nation to remove this provision from its books.
Over the last several decades, every other state legislature has removed this provision with Nebraska being the most recent state to address this issue in 2017. With Act 26 of 2023, Pennsylvania is the final state to remove this anti-First Amendment language from its Public Education Code.
In 2003, a federal court ruled in favor of a teacher who was suspended for wearing a necklace with a cross on it. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to suspend the teacher and she was finally rehired with backpay. However, the provision in our state’s law remained. Several complaints have been brought forward against educators for wearing religious emblems, like the Star of David or Christian cross, leading to litigation costs for the school district.
It has been great to work on this bipartisan legislation along with my colleague, Sen. Judy Schwank from Berks County, to finally get this provision off the books. Act 26 will take effect in 60 days from the day the bill was signed.
Learn more about this new law here.
$900 Million Moved to PA’s Rainy Day Fund
Thanks to the fiscal discipline of Senate and House Republicans, nearly $900 million was transferred to Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund. The transfer was the third-largest in the state’s history.
The fund, which exceeds $6.1 billion, provides protection from economic downturns and other unforeseen circumstances. It shields Pennsylvanians from being subjected to a tax increase at a time they would already be struggling financially.
Having a healthy Rainy Day Fund has also improved the state’s rating with the nation’s major credit rating bureaus. Moody’s Financial Services and S&P Global Ratings both affirmed the commonwealth’s bond rating and revised the state’s long-term outlook from stable to positive in September.
Honoring the Sacrifices of Our Veterans
Saturday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, when we take time to reflect on the bravery of the men and women who served our country. Their selflessness and their willingness to put their lives on hold to defend our great nation is the reason we enjoy freedoms many other people can only imagine.
To support our Veterans, just this year alone Senate Republicans passed bills to create a logo promoting Veteran-owned businesses, establish the Veteran-Owned Business Loan Guarantee Program, provide educational support for children of National Guard and Reserve members, exempt disabled Veterans’ benefit payments from income calculations for any commonwealth program or benefit and modernizes the way fishing licenses are issued for disabled Veterans and military personnel.
It was a pleasure to join the New Freedom Recreation Commission for their Veterans Day Dinner last night. I got to interview 100-year-old United States Navy WWII Veteran, Harold “Sandy” Harper again. Mr. Harper has lived an incredible life of service and devotion to this great nation. I look forward to attending more Veteran’s Day events throughout the weekend to honor the bravest men and women of our nation.
Many businesses offer specials to Veterans and their families on Veterans Day– check out this list compiled by ABC27.
As a reminder, in honor of the holiday, my offices will be closed today, Friday, Nov. 10. You can always access our office online at SenatorKristin.com as well as visit our mobile office hours (Penn Township and Springettsbury Township) to make the Senate of Pennsylvania more accessible to you and your family!
Windy Hill Honoring Veterans
It was an honor to join Windy Hill’s annual Veterans Day Program Wednesday morning. In their program, they recognized over sixty Veterans for their sacrifice and service in defense of our nation’s freedoms.
Mr. Brad LeVault, who served in the US Navy, was the guest speaker and is a Spring Grove resident. He spoke on “Making a Veteran”.
Thank you to all involved in the program, it was a special recognition.
Are You Owed Unclaimed Property?
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department is currently holding more than $4.5 billion in unclaimed property, with about one in 10 residents eligible to recoup that property.
Unclaimed property includes dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, insurance policies and contents of forgotten safe deposit boxes. The amounts can range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars, with the average value of a claim being about $1,600.
To find out if you or a member of your family is entitled to unclaimed property, please visit www.patreasury.com.
Veterans and their families can check for military decorations here.
Unclaimed property can now be returned via direct deposit, and the process can be further expedited if the claimant provides their Social Security number when filing a claim. All property will be returned free of charge, there is no need to pay a private service to submit a claim. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact my office.
Medicare Beneficiaries: Get Free Health Benefits Counseling
The open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries is active now until Dec. 7. Any new coverage selected or changes to existing benefits will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.
During open enrollment, new Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage and health plans to complement Medicare, and current Medicare beneficiaries can review and join, switch or drop Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Coverage so that it better meets their needs.
To help Medicare beneficiaries understand their options, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging offers free, objective health benefits counseling through Pennsylvania Medicare Education and Decision Insight (PA MEDI). Available at Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging, PA MEDI counselors can assist Medicare beneficiaries with plan comparisons, help with enrollment in a new plan and evaluate eligibility for any of Pennsylvania’s Medicare cost-savings programs. Learn more here.
Mobile Office in Penn Twp., Open House Coming Up!
Next week my mobile office will be back in Penn Township! From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., my staff will be at the Penn Township Municipal Building to assist in state-related matters.
If you are interested in stopping by, let me know by either emailing me back or call the district office at 717-741-4648 to ensure we have staff available!
In addition, next week on Sat., Nov. 18, my district office will be hosting an open house as a part of Chirstmastime in Loganville. I will share more details on that event with you next week!
Recognizing Outstanding Pennsylvania Educators
Pennsylvanians are encouraged to nominate their favorite teacher to be the commonwealth’s 2025 Teacher of the Year by Friday, Dec. 15. The Teacher of the Year Program celebrates excellence in teaching and honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the young people of Pennsylvania.
The state’s 2025 Teacher of the Year will be announced at an awards ceremony in early December 2024 and will represent the commonwealth at various local, regional and national functions culminating in the National Teacher of the Year ceremony at the White House.
Nominate your favorite teacher here.
Heating Assistance Program Open Now
Residents struggling with their home heating bills may apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.
The income eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP are $21,870 for an individual, $29,580 for a couple and $45,000 for a family of four. Find limits for other family sizes here. Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting their local county assistance office.
Basic Education Funding Commission Wraps Up Tenth Hearing
Yesterday we wrapped up the tenth Basic Education Funding Commission meeting in Bedford. There was a great conversation about school district shared services, statewide population forecasts and the perspectives of teachers.
Touring Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Center
BriteLife Recovery is a premier addiction treatment center located right in Hanover. It provides programs that are cutting-edge, with evidence-based care for detox and residential setting, while focusing on total health and wellness. They believe in one-on-one care that is tailored to individualized unique needs, ensuring a successful path to long-term recovery.
Thank you for the hospitality and the insightful tour of the center!
LHM Physical Therapy Opens Shrewsbury Location
Last week marked the grand opening of LHM Physical Therapy Institute clinic! LHM Physical Therapy Institute is committed to providing exceptional outpatient rehabilitation care designed to enhance the patient’s quality of life. Located on Shrewsbury Commons Avenue, Shrewsbury area will benefit from this new clinic that is focused on providing exceptional care and personal attention for each patient. Congratulations!
Davies Drive Extension Streamlines Traffic Systems
Congratulations to Springettsbury Township for the official opening of the Davies Drive extension! Since the 1980s, it has been a goal to improve the cul-de-sac at the York County 911 Center. By creating a southern entrance to Davies Drive to aid economic development, reduce traffic congestion in important corridors, and improve public safety.
This new at-grade crossing provides an improved traffic system that will now allow emergency vehicles, and industrial and truck traffic access the Township’s Concord Road corridor. It also decreases emergency response time, reduces cut-through car and truck traffic, and reduces traffic volumes on congested streets like Market and Mt. Zion.
Slow Down, Stay Alert for Deer
As the fall breeding season for deer is in full swing, it is more important than ever to slow down and remain alert for activity. This is particularly important in the commonwealth as Pennsylvania drivers unfortunately face one of the highest rates nationwide of a vehicular accident involving a big game animal, like deer: a 1-in-59 chance.
Drivers can reduce their chance of collisions with deer – and the associated injuries and property damage – by staying alert and better understanding deer behavior. Deer often travel in groups and walk in single file. If one deer crossed the road in front of a driver, another could be right behind it.
A driver who hits a deer with a vehicle is only required to report the accident to the Game Commission within 24 hours if the deer dies and the Pennsylvania resident wishes to keep the carcass. To do so, they can call 1-833-742-4868 or 1-833-742-9453. An agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number. To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-349-7623.
The Senate of Pennsylvania reconvenes on Monday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. Follow me on Twitter for all the latest updates on session convening times. You can watch all the Senate votes and view our agenda here.