In this Update:
Taking the Oath of Office to Begin Serving 48th Senatorial District Residents
On Wednesday, I took the oath of office to begin my first term in the Senate serving the 48th District. The current term will conclude in December of 2022.
During my time in office, I want to ensure Pennsylvania has fair and honest elections; reopen the Commonwealth’s economy and schools; help small business owners recover from Gov. Tom Wolf’s draconian lockdown orders; and replace the governor’s tax-and-spend budget proposal with a fiscally responsible budget that puts families and taxpayers first.
I also received my committee assignments this week and will be serving on the following Senate committees: Appropriations; Banking and Insurance; Game and Fisheries; Intergovernmental Operations; Urban Affairs and Housing; and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness.
Passing a budget that protects taxpayers from tax increases, like the one that was part of the governor’s budget proposal, is my top priority. As a small employer and father of two boys, I know how critical it is to balance the needs of the Commonwealth – like providing our children with a quality education – with the financial limitations of families and employers. So much has been done in the last year to drive employers from Pennsylvania, and we desperately need to take a different approach.
Before winning a special election following the passing of Senator Dave Arnold, I spent the past 25 years working in the insurance field. I currently own Hoaster Gebhard & Co., an insurance and risk management firm in Lebanon.
General Assembly Terminates Emergency Declaration, Ensures Key Waivers Remain
The General Assembly voted this week to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration while ensuring Pennsylvania can take the steps necessary to recover.
House Resolution 106 terminates the pandemic emergency declaration and ends the governor’s power to close employers, limit occupancy, suspend state statutes or issue stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. The measure does not need to go to the governor for enactment.
The legislature also approved House Bill 854, which will ensure all waivers that were previously effective under the COVID-19 emergency will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2021, unless sooner terminated by the authority which initially authorized the waiver. This protects access to critical federal funding and waivers that benefit health and safety, such as the emergency authorization of telemedicine, temporary staffing at nursing homes and personal care homes, and other staffing issues in health care facilities.
The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
Voters approved two constitutional amendments in May that limited the length of disaster declarations and gave the General Assembly the sole power to extend a governor’s initial disaster declaration. The General Assembly’s action this week reflects the will of the people and is a necessary step to help the Commonwealth transition out of crisis.
Senate Votes to Rein in Health Secretary’s Power, Ban Vaccine Passports
Legislation to prevent the excess use of power by the state Secretary of Health and prohibit vaccine passport requirements was approved by the Senate.
The bill prohibits the Secretary of Health from using the 66-year-old Disease Prevention and Control Act to mandate those who have not been exposed or in close contact with the exposed to wear a mask, stay at home or be socially distant. It also prevents the secretary from using the same laws to force business closures.
It also prohibits the state – as well as counties, municipalities, school districts and colleges that are subsidized by state taxpayers – from requiring proof of vaccination. The measure was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Increasing Community-Based Services in Schools
The Senate voted to establish the Community Engaged Schools for Success Pilot Program to encourage community partners to work with schools to provide student support services.
Designated schools that qualify would be eligible for grants from the Department of Education to appoint a manager and a coordinator to implement community engagement plans. Physical and behavioral health resources, as well as basic needs such as food and clothing, can be provided to students more quickly if they are available at the school.
The legislation was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2020 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2021.
The Property Tax/Rent 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.
Applications can be submitted online with the Department of Revenue’s myPATH system. Filing online leads to fast processing, easy direct deposit options and automatic calculators that help with the process.
Something to Celebrate this Flag Day
June 14, Flag Day, commemorates the 1777 adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. It has grown to mean more than simply the celebration of a banner.
This spring, as we head back outside and reconnect with neighbors, the flag symbolizes what unites us. Despite our differences, we share the unbreakable bond of citizenship in the greatest nation on earth. Fly our flag with pride, gratitude and love of neighbor.
U.S. Army Marks 246 Years of Defending America
“Resolved, That six companies of expert riflemen [sic], be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia; … [and] that each company, as soon as completed [sic], shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army.” – Continental Congress resolution, June 14, 1775
For 246 years, the U.S. Army has defended the nation and the free world as a fierce fighting force noted for its power and bravery. It’s an honor to recognize the Army’s June 14 birthday, as well as the dedicated men and women who give it its strength all year round.
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