In this Update:
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.
Vehicle Emissions Reform Update
I announced the DRIVE SMART Act on June 2, 2021, at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. Without raising taxes, the omnibus plan focuses on reforms and investments for the Commonwealth’s multimodal transportation system.
The DRIVE SMART Act prioritized at least two reform measures for vehicle emissions testing, which has been a top priority of mine. The first reform is to provide a vehicle registration discount to subject vehicle owners who improved their air quality in the following counties: Blair, Cambria, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer and Westmoreland. These counties were identified in legislation I sponsored, Senate Resolution 168 in 2017, that required a comprehensive analysis of removing certain counties from the emissions test. The second reform is to exempt the 5 newest model year vehicles from the emissions test. Last Session, there was a public hearing that uncovered how newer vehicles rarely fail the test since they are built with energy-efficient design and parts.
Public input is being collected on the DRIVE SMART Act at the following link: https://redesign.senatorlangerholc.com/drive-smart-act/
Increasing Community-Based Services in Schools
The Senate voted to establish the Community Engaged Schools for Success Pilot Program under legislation prime sponsored by Senator Langerholc 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.
Patron Plummer – Gold Medal at the 2020 Powerade Wrestling Tournament in the Girls’ Varsity Division
I was pleased to introduce Chestnut Ridge School District Middle School student Patron Plummer at the Capitol this week to be recognized for winning a gold medal at the 2020 Powerade Wrestling Tournament in the Girls’ Varsity Division.
Congratulations Patron, it was an honor to recognize you for this tremendous accomplishment!
Cambria County Youth Café
As the school year ends and summer begins, free meals will continue for youth in the area. Attached are flyers for Cambria County and one specific to Johnstown that lists all of the sites where free meals are available for any youth 18 and under.
Fort Bedford Honor Guard 75th Anniversary
It was a tremendous privilege to have a citation from the Pennsylvania Seneate presented by my staff to the Fort Bedford Honor Guard in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the founding of this wonderful organization.
Present at this week’s event was Mr. Robert Howsare, who served in WWII and is the only remaining founding member. Thank you to the members of the Fort Bedford Honor Guard for your service and for your commitment to honoring others who have served!
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.