In this update:
York County Sends Christmas Trees to Our Troops
Last weekend, I joined Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Russell Secretary Redding, Brig. Gen. Laura McHugh, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Deputy Adjutant General-Army, and Strathmeyer Christmas Trees to kick off Trees for Troops weekend in York.
The Trees for Troops program provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to members of the military and their families through donations, sponsorships, grants and the work of many volunteers.
Thank you to all involved in this program who bring that familiar pine scent to those who cannot be home this holiday.
Smart Saving Upgrades Pennsylvania’s Financial Standing
Due to Pennsylvania’s sound financial management and strong budgetary reserves, one of the nation’s leading credit rating agencies – Fitch Ratings – upgraded the state’s bond rating from AA- to AA. The state hasn’t held the improved rating since 2014.
The upgrade is expected to lead to lower debt service costs, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. This is one of the reasons Senate Republicans have led the efforts to build the state’s Rainy Day Fund to historic highs and resist new recurring spending the state cannot afford.
Earlier this fall, Moody’s Investor Services and S&P Global Ratings both upgraded Pennsylvania’s long-term financial outlook from “stable” to “positive.” I shared this update on my LinkedIn, which you can check out here.
Senate Approves Bill Enabling Better Service in Long-Term Care Facilities
The Senate approved a bill to enhance the availability and quality of service at long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 668 would address the workforce shortage in nursing homes that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown in recent years as health care professionals left the field due to burnout. It would enable certified nurse aids (CNAs) to train to become certified medication aides (CMAs) and deliver common, minimally invasive prescribed medications to residents of nursing facilities. Currently, only registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can administer medications to nursing home residents.
CNAs would be able to complete a certified medication administration program established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. CNAs who complete the program would be registered as CMAs and would be authorized to administer certain prescribed medications in health care facilities.
York College’s Environmental Horticulture Program
This week, York College of Pennsylvania President Thomas Burns and Dean MacVean gave Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and I an overview and tour of the new Environmental Horticulture program. The college invested significant resources to “seed” this program to make it a viable option for any incoming college student to learn about best practices in agriculture and horticulture.
I am excited about the opportunity for York County’s number one industry, agriculture, with the greater focus and collaboration of York College through this new program. You can find more photos from the tour on my Instagram.
Participating in Live PA Lottery Drawing
On Thursday, I stopped by the studio in Middletown where the Pennsylvania Lottery conducts its live on-air drawing every evening just before 7 p.m. The Lottery’s live drawing appears on WGAL, as well as other news stations across the state. I was allowed to witness how the several staff members, auditors and even a CPA prepare the machines to ensure each drawing is held with utmost integrity and security. In addition to the staff, the Lottery has two witnesses from the public who participate in the oversight activities leading up to the live drawing.
Witnesses watch the random selection of machines, ball sets, and various security tests. The only requirements are you must be 55 years of age or older and a Pennsylvania resident.
If you or someone you know is interested, please check out the Lottery’s website.
After several practice drawings we went live at 6:58 p.m. for the Lottery to draw the winning numbers for the Pick 2, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, Cash 5 and Match 6 games.
The Pennsylvania Lottery generates more than $1 billion annually to benefit older Pennsylvanians for important programs like prescription drug assistance, assisting our local senior centers, property tax and rent rebates, and more.
Tuition and Loan Assistance for First Responders
Legislation passed by Senate Republicans allowed the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to establish a Tuition and Loan Assistance Program for active volunteer fire and emergency medical service providers.
After a year of service, volunteers are eligible for up to $1,000 of financial assistance per academic year. Volunteers must commit to five years of service following college graduation.
The legislation is designed to combat Pennsylvania’s crisis in attracting volunteer first responders, which has led to many fire and emergency medical service companies reducing services.
Visit YOUR State Capitol! Capitol Christmas Tree is Officially Lit
Christmastime is a wonderful time to visit YOUR state Capitol! Come check out the state Capitol Christmas tree, which comes from a tree farm in Carbon County. Decorations were handmade by hundreds of senior citizens at participating senior centers, including Windy Hill on the Campus Senior Center!
I had a great time meeting up with students from Dallastown Elementary School, as well as Julie who came up from York Township. They were up in Harrisburg touring the Capitol.
If you would like to schedule a tour of the Capitol Building, please visit my website and select “Schedule a Capitol Tour.”
New Freedom Christmas Parade – Over 120 Entrants!
Last weekend, I was honored to spend my birthday participating in the New Freedom Christmas Parade! Thank you to Gillice Italian Ice & Ice Cream, the over 120 entrants, and the thousands of people who lined up the parade route! The York County Regional Police Department had their mounted unit decked out for the holidays!
You can find more pictures of the even here. While my pictures don’t really capture how awesome it was, the Hallmark Channel couldn’t even come close to the Christmas spirit and charm of New Freedom!
Santa Claus Arrived in Shrewsbury
Santa Claus arrived in style last weekend in Shrewsbury Borough for its annual Christmas tree lighting! The Susquehannock High School’s Jazz Band entertained the crowd with holiday classics. Thank you to the local organizations and businesses that supported the event with candy canes, hot chocolate, and hot dogs. And a big thank you to everyone who brought an unwrapped toy for SVFC Station 61 Cadets for the USMC Toys for Tots!
You can find more photos from the tree lighting here.
Newest Eagle Scout of Troop 50 in Spry
Congratulations to Trevor Clippinger of Troop 50 in Spry on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout! It was an honor to present him with a congratulatory citation from the Senate of Pennsylvania in recognition of his significant achievement!
Trevor, the son of Jill and Bill Clippinger, made improvements to the meditation garden at Saint Joseph’s Church in Dallastown, including moving and leveling the brick pathway, securing a statue, and planting boxwood shrubs for his Eagle project.
Well done, Trevor!
Comment Period Open on Plan to Expand PA Internet Access
A strong internet connection powers our economy and supports education, health care and more. Many Pennsylvania communities lack access to high-speed internet.
Development of Pennsylvania’s Digital Equity Plan was funded by federal dollars and aims to make high-speed internet available to more Pennsylvanians. You can review the plan and, until Jan. 8, 2024, take advantage of the public comment period to offer feedback.
The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) offers three ways to comment:
Deadline for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31
The deadline to apply for the state’s 2022 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31. Applications and no-cost assistance are available at our district office.
Eligible participants can receive a maximum standard rebate of $650, but supplemental rebates can boost rebates to $975. The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities.
Claimants who already applied for their rebates may check the status of claims online or by calling 1-888-222-9190.
Next year, this program will see increases to limits and amounts provided to property owners and renters. I was happy to vote in support of this measure.
Farm Show Starts Next Month – Survey on Milk Premiums
It’s hard to believe we are only ONE MONTH away from the 2024 Pennsylvania Farm Show opening. The official WINNERS of the “Oh, Say, Can You Sing?” National Anthem Contest have been confirmed!
Congratulations to Landon Mak of Hallam Borough for being selected to perform! Landon will be opening the Farm Show on Friday, Jan. 12 at 8 a.m.
In light of the Farm Show, I am asking for YOUR input on dairy premiums and how they are distributed in Pennsylvania. You can find more information and take my survey here.
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival that celebrates the ancient miracle of the oil burning a candle for eight nights, runs from Dec. 7-15. In honor of the holiday, people of the Jewish faith light a candle on their menorahs each evening for eight nights.
As our friends celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple, we wish them Chag sameach!
The Senate of Pennsylvania reconvenes on Monday, Dec. 11, 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.