In this Update:
Update on Vehicle Emissions Reform
I have been fighting this senseless and outdated emissions test since I was first elected. It is an issue of paramount importance to my district and those in the Commonwealth. The strong bipartisan vote earlier this session continues the fight that will hopefully and finally result in House passage.
Senate Bill 561 would exempt the five newest model year vehicles from the outdated emissions test and remove the gas cap testing requirement for subject vehicles without a gas cap. Senate Bill 562 exempts Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland counties from the vehicle emissions test as they have consistently met air quality standards.
As the usage of fuel-efficient cars has become more widespread, a vehicle emissions test has proven to be less effective at reducing air pollution. Between 2010-19, there were more than 21 million newer vehicles that passed the emissions test 99.65% of the time. Newer vehicles are consistently passing emissions tests due to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles on the market.
The Joint State Government Commission evaluated the impacts of removing counties from the vehicle emissions testing program and identified Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland counties as candidates for removal from testing.
The bills were sent to the House Transportation Committee for consideration.
2023 Accomplishments: Public Safety
The men and women of law enforcement and emergency response work hard to keep us safe. As their jobs become even more difficult, they need our support.
Last year, we passed legislation to combat different forms of theft. We have new laws that target looting and organized retail theft by increasing penalties and crack down on “porch pirating” by setting penalties for theft of mail, which includes a package, bag or letter.
We also passed measures to prevent the exploitation of older Pennsylvanians and update 911 funding to meet the expanding cost of services so help is available when Pennsylvanians face emergencies. We also provided an additional $20 million for county mental health programs. Ensuring safe communities is among the Senate Republican priorities to protect jobs, empower families and defend freedoms.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Now Serves More People
Financial relief is available to more people than ever through the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate (PTRR) Program, which supports homeowners and renters across the commonwealth using gaming and Pennsylvania Lottery proceeds.
New this year, the income cap increased to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters. Only half of an applicant’s Social Security income is included in the calculations for eligibility. Starting this year, income caps are tied to the annual cost-of-living increases. Additionally, the maximum standard rebate on property taxes or rent paid increased to $1,000. The program is open to state residents 65 and older, widows and widowers 50 or older, or anyone age 18 and over who is 100% disabled.
My office can provide free PTRR application assistance to residents. If interested, please call my office and bring all proof of income, your ID and a voided check if you wish to have the rebate direct deposited. In addition, property owners must have paid property taxes stamped or signed by the tax collector. Renters must have a rent certificate filled out and signed by their landlord.
Free FAFSA Workshops Across PA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) underwent changes resulting from the FAFSA Simplification Act, a federal law intended to streamline the financial aid application process.
Filing the FAFSA online is the first step for students and families to determine if they qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, Pennsylvania State Grant, scholarships, institutional awards and federal student loans.
Because of the changes, free FAFSA workshops are being held across the state. Find one near you.
If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter please sign up here.