In this update:
Landmark bipartisan broadband legislation approved by Senate
The legislature unanimously approved legislation creating the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) that will establish a single point-of-contact for broadband funding in the Commonwealth and drive out federal tax dollars to eligible projects to close the digital divide.
The legislation will handle the recently approved federal infrastructure taxpayer dollars aimed at improving access to high-speed internet in unserved and underserved communities.You can watch my comments during the Senate vote below.
Taxpayers do not care if it’s federal funding, state funding, or local funding – it all comes out of one wallet. Decisions were made at the federal level to provide this funding, so it is the duty of the General Assembly to ensure that every dollar allocated for this problem is spent for its intended purposes and not wasted on boondoggles that simply do not close our digital divide.
This legislation was the focus of my latest podcast episode, which you can listen to here.
The priority for the PBDA is to create a broadband plan that allows the state to apply for competitively awarded federal infrastructure money. The bill also requires the state to create a database to monitor all broadband deployment activities across the state. Entities that are eligible for funding must have technical, managerial and financial expertise to design, build and operate high-speed service infrastructure. Furthermore, contractors that have defaulted on prior projects or have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the last 10 years due to their past performance will not be eligible for funding.
You can learn more here.
Strong support for curriculum transparency leads to legislative action
My recent legislative survey found strong support for legislation that would require every school district to publicly post their curriculum online. I am pleased to say that the Senate and House of Representatives approved the bill this week, sending it to the governor’s desk.
House Bill 1332 would require K-12 schools to post curricula online in a standardized, user-friendly manner. Under the bill, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, school districts must post on their websites an internet link or title for:
To prevent placing another burden on teachers, the bill stipulates that a school administrator or designee would be required to post the curricula online. House Bill 1332 was amended in the Senate and will return to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children
As Pennsylvania has struggled to keep children in their classrooms because of questionable COVID-19 policies, the Senate acted to prevent students from being barred from school if they do not get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Senate Bill 937 would prohibit a child from being required to be immunized for COVID-19 as a condition of attendance in any public or private K-12 school. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill does not contest the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which is now available to children ages 5 to 15 under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization, and full FDA approval for anyone 16 years of age and older.
The legislation acknowledges parents have a right to be involved with the health care decisions for their children. And because the COVID-19 vaccine for those under age 16 has only received FDA emergency use authorization (EUA), federal EUA law prohibits patients from being coerced into taking the vaccine. That means those children have the right to refuse the medical treatment, with their parents exercising that right on their behalf.
As you may recall, I sponsored the bill to ban vaccine passports in Pennsylvania. At the time, the governor vetoed the bill saying there were no plans to implement vaccine passports in Pennsylvania. Just this week, the City of Philadelphia is requiring every restaurant patron to produce proof of the COVID-19 vaccine to dine-in, forcing local restaurant owners and their staff to serve as vaccine passport enforcers.
Fireworks laws reviewed during bicameral legislative hearing
During the Fourth of July holiday, our office fields many calls, emails and follow-up meetings with concerned citizens, law enforcement, fire chiefs and first responders with major concerns over “consumer fireworks” that were legalized in a 2017 law (that I voted against).
“Consumer fireworks” are aerial fireworks, like bottle rockets and Roman candles. A legislative survey I conducted last session found strong opposition to these fireworks, as well as support for greater enforcement. To date, I continue to field complaints from our neighbors over this nuisance with stories of how it impacts their lives, as well as their pets’ or farm animals’ lives.
Enforcement continues to be a challenge as the individual setting off fireworks in violation of the law needs to be caught in the act. This requires neighbors to turn in neighbors to law enforcement. Furthermore, the damage caused by these fireworks pales in comparison to the fine amount for violating the law ($100).
I asked about this issue during a hearing held this week by the Senate and House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committees, which you can watch below.
You can review all testimony provided at the hearing, as well as watch the hearing in its entirety here.
Pastor Andrew Woods of Community Evangelical Free Church serves as Guest Chaplain of PA Senate
It was an honor to host Pastor Andrew Woods of Community Evangelical Free Church as the guest chaplain for the Senate of Pennsylvania on Tuesday. He was joined by his wife, Lori.
You can watch Pastor Woods’ opening prayer before the Senate of Pennsylvania below.
Meeting with students from York County School of Technology
Thank you to the students and Mr. Scott Rogers of York County School of Technology for their advocacy of the important work at our local career and technology school.
The students shared with me their future plans to take what they learn in the classroom and turn it into family-sustaining careers. I am grateful to partner with the York County School of Technology to find ways to introduce students across the 28th District to career-readiness programs offered by the school. I hope to share more with you in the New Year on this effort.
Trail Towns program expanding to bring greater access to local residents, boost small businesses
Last evening, I joined Reps. Kate Klunk and Seth Grove for a presentation of upcoming projects conducted by the York County Rail Trail Authority. I am pleased to have secured the seed funding to initiative the Trail Towns program, in partnership with the York County Economic Alliance.
Through that investment, we have been able to lift up several communities, as well as support our locally owned businesses to provide synergy between small business and our nationally-renowned Rail Trail.
This program continues to expand due to the success and popularity during the last year. I am looking forward to the expansion the western part of our county.
Comprehensive probation reform approved by Senate
The Senate approved probation reform measures aimed at reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the system while better integrating probationers into society. The bills will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 913 provides an opportunity for early release from probation and ensures fewer individuals return to prison by offering incentives that reward positive behavior and participation in education, employment, vocational and drug treatment programming shown to reduce recidivism.
Among other goals, the measure is intended to prevent cases in which technical violations, such as a minor traffic offense, can perpetually extend the clock on an offender’s term and result in re-confinement.
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 904, to allow probation meetings to be held remotely, and Senate Bill 905, to improve the scheduling of probation and parole meetings.
State efforts to curb ransomware highlighted
We continue to see the proliferation of ransomware impacting all sectors of our economy. More recently, we have seen the world’s largest timekeeping and employee payment program subject to a massive ransomware attack, crippling payroll systems all across Pennsylvania and the nation.
Ransomware continues to be a growing concern for state government. My proactive legislation safeguards your tax dollars at all levels in the state from paying organizations engaged in ransomware, which are often tied to terrorist cells all across the globe.
Read the article here.
Deadline approaching for Property Tax/Rent Rebate applications
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2020 is Dec. 31, 2021.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
Claimants of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are encouraged to file their rebate applications online by visiting mypath.pa.gov. You can check the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program instruction booklet to learn which information you will need to input/upload to complete the process. I also put together the following video to help you through the application process.
Please do not hesitate to drop by the District Office for further assistance!
Where we stand with redistricting
On Thursday, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved a Preliminary Reapportionment Plan for the state House of Representatives and the Senate of Pennsylvania. I continue to field many emails asking about the process and where it stands.
The process of reapportionment for state legislative districts (House and Senate) is a different process than Congressional redistricting. The short video below breaks the process.
If you are interested in weighing in on the preliminary plan for the state legislative districts, feel free to do so here. You can also view proposed district maps here.
Next week’s podcast episode looks at “Zuckerbucks” in our elections process
As I wrote to you in the past, I am sponsoring legislation alongside Sen. Lisa Baker to prohibit outside groups from contributing to election operations. You can learn more about our efforts here. This was also the subject of a legislative survey I conducted earlier this year, which showed very strong support to eliminate the ability of outside groups to contribute to our elections process.
This week, the House of Representatives approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Eric Nelson that mirrors what Sen. Baker and I are working on in the Senate. Rep. Nelson will join me next week to discuss the issue at greater length and our chat will be featured on my upcoming podcast episode.
If you are interested, you can subscribe to my podcast on the following platforms: SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Castbox, iHeartRadio and Spotify. You can catch up on all of my podcast episodes here.
Holiday office hours
Please be advised that our office hours over the next few weeks have changed due to the Christmas holiday:
Monday, Dec. 20: Closed for a Team Christmas Luncheon and Get-Together
Tuesday, Dec. 21: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 22: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 23: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 24: Closed (Christmas Eve)
Monday, Dec. 27: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 28: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 29: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 30: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 31: Closed (New Year’s Eve)
Monday, Jan. 3: Closed
Resume normal operating hours, starting Tuesday, Jan. 4
You can always access many state resources on our online office at SenatorKristin.com.
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