In This Update:
Senate Votes to Strengthen State’s Emergency Response
I voted to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has asked the Wolf Administration for a seat at the table, to work with the administration to properly mitigate this virus, safely reopen our schools and businesses, and assist in vaccine distribution plans. All the requests to bring the people’s voice to the table have been denied by the Governor and his former Secretary of Health.
The proposed amendment now heads to the House for approval. If approved, it will be placed on the ballot this May for the people of the Commonwealth to decide.
Senate Transportation Hearing on PennDOT’s P3 Bridge Tolling Initiative
The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing earlier this week to collect testimony from PennDOT and the PA Motor Truck Association on PennDOT’s P3 Bridge Tolling Initiative. PennDOT officials are evaluating up to 10 bridge projects on PA interstates for tolling under the Public-Private Partnership Transportation Program.
COVID-19 Relief Package Earns Senate Approval
The Senate took the first steps toward providing a new round of financial assistance to restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the pandemic by passing a comprehensive $912 million COVID-19 relief bill this week.
The relief package dedicates federal funding for rental and utility assistance, as well as non-public schools, career and technical centers, Intermediate Units, charter schools for the deaf and blind, and approved private schools. Funding is also included to support the redesign of the State System of Higher Education.
In addition, the package allocates $145 million from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund to the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to provide county block grants to assist the hospitality industry, including restaurants, bars and hotels.
Legislation Advances to Enhance Penalties for Child Pornography
The Senate approved a bill this week that would crack down on individuals charged with possession of child pornography. The legislation would boost penalties in all cases of child pornography in which the child is under the age of 10 or prepubescent and provide sentencing enhancements for offenders who sexually abuse children who are known to them.
In addition, the bill would create a special task force to review all laws pertaining to child pornography and make recommendations to improve the investigation and prosecution of offenders.
The bill was previously sponsored by the late Senator Dave Arnold (R-48), who tragically passed away earlier this month.
New Online Filing Option Available for Property Tax and Rent Rebates
The state’s popular Property Tax Rent Rebate program provides rebates of up to $650 on rent or property taxes paid in the previous year by low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. A new online filing tool will make it easier to file applications for the program.
The new myPATH system allows applicants to complete applications online, track the status of their claim and benefit from faster processing and direct deposit options. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1.
Applicants can also still file by mail. I encourage community residents to contact my district office if they need additional information on filing Property Tax Rent Rebate claims.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program Reopens
The Department of Labor and Industry reopened the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) on Sunday. The program provides additional benefit weeks to qualified individuals who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Compensation benefits.
Claimants can receive an additional 11 weeks due to the extension of the program. More details are available here.
Bedford County Speaks Interview with Lloyd Roach
I sat down with Lloyd Roach of Bedford County Speaks to discuss my new role as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. It was a great opportunity to share what I feel are some of the biggest transportation challenges facing the Commonwealth. I am looking forward to doing the work needed to meet the transportation needs of our citizens. Listen here.
Senate Transportation Committee Advances Bridge Naming Bills
This week the Senate Transportation Committee advanced Senate Bill 49 designating the bridge carrying State Route 3037 in the City of Johnstown, Cambria County, as the Reverend Andrew William Tilly, Jr., Bridge and Senate Bill 55 designating the bridge carrying State Route 53 in Croyle Township, Cambria County, as the Private Frederick Kinley Memorial Bridge.
Johnstown Named Charming Small Town in PA
Johnstown is featured as #2 on the list of charming small towns in Pennsylvania. Rich with culture, history and the famous inclined Plane, I’m not surprised that Johnstown captured the #2 spot. I am proud to represent Johnstown as part of the 35thth Senatorial District and also it’s where I call home.
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