In this Update:
House Committee Passes Bill to Address Teacher Shortage by Improving Certification Process
In response to the impact Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage has on students, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and I sponsored legislation to simplify the process for out-of-state teachers to obtain certification in the commonwealth. It received unanimous support from the House Education Committee today.
Senate Bill 224 would allow an out-of-state candidate who has completed any state-approved educator preparation program from an accredited institution of higher education, including field placement/student teaching, to be eligible for a comparable in-state instructional certification.
The bill would also require the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to recognize and accept out-of-state candidates’ qualifying scores on equivalent content tests toward PDE’s testing and certification requirements.
Lastly, Senate Bill 224 would grant Pennsylvania certification to any candidate who holds a valid certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education.
According to PDE, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 66% since 2010.
Senate Bill 224 now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Lyme Disease Seminar
Thank you to Hyde Volunteer Fire Company and everyone who came out this evening for the Lyme disease prevention seminar. A lot of great information regarding prevention and treatment of tick borne disease was shared. Thank you Eric Huck and Jeff Covelli from PA Lyme Resource Network as well as Dr. Shannon Smith for traveling to Clearfield to share their knowledge with us. Information on free tick testing is available at www.ticklab.org
Honoring Tresean Wiggins
I had the honor of introducing WBA Northern American Association Welterweight Champion, Tresean Wiggins, on the Pennsylvania Senate Floor. He was joined by his family, Brock Kull of Kastle Boxing, and Julio Alvarez and Heriberto Alicea both from Lincolnway Boxing in York. On June 11th, Tresean will defend his title in Miami.
Guest Chaplain Pastor Johnny Bayush
Thank you to Pastor Johnny Bayush for serving as the guest chaplain on Tuesday for the Senate of Pennsylvania. Pastor Bayush is a lead pastor alongside his wife, Megan at Flood City Church in Johnstown. Pastor Bayush was joined by Pastor Ben Carthew and Ross Stewart.
Honoring Jordyn Fouse
I had the privilege of introducing Northern Bedford County School District’s own Jordyn Fouse to the Senate. Jordyn claimed first place during the 2022 MyHouse Pennsylvania State Girls’ Individual Wrestling Championships in the 130-pound weight class. Best of luck Jordyn in your future matches!
Guest Chaplain Reverend Sylvia King
Thank you to Reverend Sylvia King from Christ Centered Community Church in Johnstown for serving as the guest chaplain on Wednesday for the Senate of Pennsylvania! Reverend King was joined by Reverend Antionette Allen.
Concealed Carry Educational Seminar
This seminar will address PA Gun Laws, how to apply for a conceal carry permit, how to safely interact with law enforcement while carrying a firearm and much more. Register here or by calling my office at 814-266-2277.
As the school year comes to a close, I would like to once again honor the graduates of the 35th Senatorial District by acknowledging their accomplishments and goals in my “Senior Spotlight”.
Do you know of someone graduating from high school, trade school, or college from Bedford, Cambria, Centre, or Clearfield counties that has made an impact on their community, accomplished a goal, been accepted to a college or technical school, joined the armed forces, or any other amazing accomplishments? If so, please submit their name, brief description of their accomplishments, and photo here.
Declining Revenue Projections Highlight the Risk of Gov. Wolf’s Budget Plan
The state Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its initial revenue estimate for 2022-23 and warns that tax revenue is likely to fall in the coming fiscal year. The IFO’s projection for General Fund revenue next year is $42.26 billion – about an 11.5% drop from 2021-22.
The new numbers further highlight the risk of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state budget and emphasize what Senate Republicans have been saying all along: the governor’s bloated spending plan is unrealistic and unsustainable. His plan to increase spending by more than $4.5 billion next year would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security.
The new figures from the IFO build on previous analysis that shows the potential for Gov. Wolf’s $45.7 billion budget to create multi-billion-dollar deficits for years to come.
As the June 30 deadline for enacting a state budget approaches, Senate Republicans will work to draft a more responsible plan that protects taxpayers already struggling with staggering inflation and an uncertain financial future.
Bill Establishing Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer Approved by Senate
Legislation establishing the position of Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer was approved by the Senate, recognizing the crucial role that registered nurses play in the delivery of health care.
Senate Bill 848 would establish the Office of Chief Nursing Officer, modeled after the role and confirmation process of the Physician General. The duties of the Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer would include:
Senate Bill 848 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Acts to Improve Access to Property Tax and Rent Rebates
The Senate acted to close a loophole that made many senior citizens ineligible for the state Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The bill moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The problem arose when senior citizens transferred retirement funds into other retirement accounts, which would show up as available income on an application and make the individual ineligible for help lowering their property taxes.
Senate Bill 230 would allow retirees to transfer those retirement account investments between accounts within 60 days without counting toward income when applying for property tax or rent relief. If those funds are not invested into another qualified retirement plan within 60 days, the funds will be considered income.
PUC Offers Tips for Dealing with June Electric Rate Hikes
With costs for electric generation increasing on June 1 for many utility customers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding consumers they have options to manage anticipated higher bills.
According to the PUC, the best response for those struggling to pay energy bills is to call utilities and ask about assistance programs, manage energy use and shop for competitive electric generation suppliers. You can find more from the PUC about consumer options here.
The rate increase will occur even before Gov. Tom Wolf’s carbon tax kicks in, which could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers. The carbon tax is part of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was enacted by the governor without legislative approval.
Further Extension of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to June 17
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended a second time to June 17, allowing additional households to apply for help.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the state that provides assistance for home heating bills. Assistance is available for renters and homeowners.
Paying for College and Career Training with 529 Accounts
Sunday is College and Career Savings Day to promote the savings opportunities offered by 529 accounts, such as the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program.
The PA 529 College and Career Savings Program offers two plans, the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP). PA 529 GSP account earnings are based on college tuition inflation rates, while PA 529 IP account earnings are tied to investment choice and financial market performance.
PA 529 accounts can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, equipment and room and board at technical schools, apprenticeship programs, community colleges and four-year colleges nationwide. Through Tuesday, May 31, families can take advantage of special PA 529 promotions at pa529.com/529day.
Memorial Day: Our Duty to Remember
I hope you will join me in taking time this weekend to remember our fellow citizens who gave their lives for our nation. Let us never forget what they did for us.