In this Update:
Resolution to Fix Section 8 Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee passed my resolution which urges the federal government to address the abuse of the porting process in the Housing Choice Voucher program.
Portability, or porting, is the process in the Housing Choice Voucher program by which a family can transfer their rental subsidy when they move to a location outside the jurisdiction of the public housing agency that first gave them the voucher when selected for the program.
Individuals are circumventing the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s wait list by claiming residency in Johnstown, obtaining vouchers, staying for a few months and leaving, opening the door for more individuals to take advantage of the system.
Senate Resolution 45 calls on the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which administers the program, to address the abuse of the porting process.
In October of last year, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing committee was brought to Johnstown to address issues in public housing. Testimony showed a marked rise in the transient population, creating significant strains on law enforcement, social services and our schools. Specifically, Greater Johnstown School District has seen 619 students enter or leave school early in just this school year alone. This issue is of paramount importance to my constituents and one that I intend to remedy. In addition to this resolution calling on the federal government to act, I have sponsored Senate Bill 98 to create avenues to prevent individuals with suspect criminal records from being permitted housing in Johnstown. Today’s resolution is a first step to combatting this problem.
The resolution now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Guest Chaplain Pastor Ben Carthew
On Tuesday, Pastor Ben Carthew from Flood City Church served as Guest Chaplain of the Pennsylvania Senate. Pastor Carthew and his wife Taylor serve as Family Ministry Leaders at Flood City Church. Thank you, Pastor Carthew, for traveling to Harrisburg to deliver the opening prayer!
Centre County Open House
I will be hosting an Open House for the public at my Centre County office on Monday, March 13 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The office is located at 341 Science Park Road, Suite 201, State College, PA 16803.
The event is designed to introduce the public to their new State Senator and his staff. I encourage all to attend to learn about the various constituent services he and his office can provide. Senate district offices assist constituents with many services, including PennDOT registrations, status reports on legislation, birth certificate applications, property tax and rent rebate forms, notary applications or unemployment compensation questions and much more.
I want my new constituents to know that my office is a resource for them. I look forward to seeing many new faces at this event.
Residents of the 35th Senatorial District can get assistance Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the new location located at 341 Science Park Rd., Suite 201, State College, PA 16803, or by calling 814-806-1197.
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.
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