In this Update:
Gebhard Calls for Fiscal Restraint, Making PA Business Friendly
Gov. Josh Shapiro started the 2023-24 state budget process this week with the introduction of his spending plan, which contains some significant areas of concern.
It’s common knowledge that Pennsylvania is not as business friendly as states we compete with on the national stage. Our unpredictable permitting process and unattractive tax structure deters employers from locating and expanding in the Commonwealth. As a result, Pennsylvanians miss out on family-sustaining jobs and the Commonwealth misses out on that additional revenue generated by those employers and employees. While I am appreciative of the Governor’s call to speed up the Corporate Net Income tax reduction plan, I am disappointed Gov. Shapiro has not yet reversed the plan for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which will be a step in the right direction to improve our business climate and lower energy costs for our citizens. In addition to preventing energy sector job growth, this carbon tax, which is being held over from the Wolf administration, will cost our citizens more than 660 million dollars.
Especially considering the record high inflation and difficult financial struggles faced by so many Pennsylvania families as the cost of food and gas skyrocket, we must exercise some fiscal restraint. We can’t keep spending tax dollars at the same rate knowing revenue shortcomings are on the horizon. Today’s announced spending plan would eliminate our Rainy Day reserves by the end of his first term in office.
Education funding, particularly for the state’s poorest school districts, is also important, so I appreciate the Governor highlighting this priority. Pennsylvania’s children deserve to have access to a quality education, no matter where they live. A strong education will give them the foundation needed to secure their own good-paying jobs down the road – a benefit to themselves and the Commonwealth.
Secure elections would be another benefit to the state. Pennsylvanians deserve to have faith in our voting process, so I hope Gov. Shapiro is prepared to support commonsense voter identification requirements. Voter ID has broad support from both Republicans and Democrats with the majority of the state’s residents favoring it; there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to enact a voter ID law.
Historic Breast Cancer Screening Bill Unanimously Passes Senate
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 8, a comprehensive breast cancer screening and genetic testing bill. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill eliminates out-of-pocket costs associated with BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling, as well as supplemental screening such as breast MRIs and ultrasound for women at high-risk. High-risk conditions covered by the bill include dense breast tissue, a personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition and prior radiation therapy.
The legislation expands on Act 52 of 2020, which required insurers to cover breast MRIs and ultrasounds for women with high-risk factors. Senate Bill 8 is step two, eliminating costs including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance for those screenings and BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling.
Senate Acts to Protect Citizen Data with State Employee TikTok Ban
The Senate approved legislation to shield citizen data from unauthorized access by prohibiting state-owned devices and networks from downloading and using TikTok. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Pennsylvania state government holds sensitive information in the form of birth certificates, driver’s licenses, occupation certificates, taxes and more.
Senate Bill 379 would mandate that all state agencies, departments and commissions remove the application from state networks. It would also require that policies are put in place to block application installation, as well as network-based restrictions to prevent its use and access.
Across the nation, both Democrats and Republicans have voiced growing concerns about the security and potential manipulation of the popular social media app TikTok. At least 29 states have addressed the risk to government systems posed by TikTok, and Congress prohibited its use across a wide array of federal agencies and departments.
Measure Preserving Community Energy Choice Passed by Senate
Legislation ensuring that state residents have options when it comes to fuel availability was approved by the Senate. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 143, known as Energy Choice legislation, would prevent municipal entities from banning a specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses.
The measure was developed after cities across the nation took steps to ban fuels, such as natural gas and heating oil, in newly constructed buildings. The legislation is an important component of a sound energy policy for Pennsylvania that’s inclusive of all energy options residents may want or need to access.
Senate Approves Legislation to Increase PA National Guard Health Care Providers
The Senate approved legislation that would allow more health professionals to participate in the Medical Officer Health Incentive Program, helping to ease the shortage of medical specialists in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The Medical Officer or Health Officer Incentive Program was created in 2014 to provide a tuition reimbursement incentive to those who qualified through their time in the armed services. Even though the program was successful in attracting health care providers into National Guard service, some health professionals, like dentists and physician assistants, were inadvertently left out of the program.
Senate Bill 162, which fixes that oversight, now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Honors 20th Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom
The Senate marked the upcoming 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a resolution this week.
In 2003, the United States and coalition forces began the mission to liberate Iraq from dictator Saddam Hussein and extend freedom and democracy throughout the region. On March 20, 2003, the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom was marked with airstrikes on Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace.
Operation Iraqi Freedom ended on Dec. 15, 2011.
Daylight Saving Time Begins This Weekend
Reminder: Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. While cell phone and computer clocks usually change automatically, most people move their standard clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night.
It’s also a good time to check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. If the devices are older than 10 years, experts suggest upgrading to 10-year, sealed battery alarms. They don’t require any battery replacement throughout their lifetime. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to press the test button on the alarms at least once every month.
Concealed Carry Seminar
State Rep. Dave Zimmerman and I are holding a concealed carry seminar on Mar. 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Reamstown Fire Company, 12, W Church St., Reamstown, PA 17567.
The event will feature information about Pennsylvania’s concealed carry laws, the Castle Doctrine and how to safely interact with law enforcement while carrying a firearm.
Lancaster County Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman will lead the discussion and answer questions about Pennsylvania’s concealed carry laws.
You can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 717-556-0031
Minister Ron Ziegler Leads Opening Prayer
Thank you to Ron Ziegler, the State Capitol Minister for Pennsylvania, for leading our opening prayer in the Pennsylvania Senate this week.
Ron and his wife have four adult children and live in Palmyra, PA. He currently serves through Ministry to State with Mission to North America, the domestic missions organization of the Presbyterian Church in America.
You can view his full prayer here.
Saturday, March 11, 9am-3pm Annville-Cleona SAFETiNET Conference
Saturday, March 11, 2pm The Science of Antler Growth and how to Hunt Antler Sheds
Saturday, March 11, 10am-12pm Elks Reading Program in honor of Lt. William Lebo
Sunday, March 12, 12pm-4pm Cornwall Iron Furnace Free Admission
Sunday, March 12, 12pm-4pm Conrad Weiser Homestead Free Admission
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