In this Update:
Disapproving Pennsylvania Joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
On Wednesday, the state Senate voted to disapprove a regulation for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by early 2022.
In 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf stated that Pennsylvania was successfully reducing carbon dioxide emissions, thus it was unnecessary to join RGGI. Just one year later, Gov. Wolf bypassed the legislative process and directed Pennsylvania to instead join the RGGI coalition. RGGI operates on a CO2 “cap-and-trade” program resulting in a tax on CO2 emissions by electricity producers.
I have continued to voice how the carbon tax would not only violate Pennsylvania’s Constitution, but result in the closure of all five of Pennsylvania’s coal-fired plants. These plants would either close permanently or move to a neighboring state. Thousands of individuals will lose their jobs, resulting in having to learn a new trade or move to another state.
Joining RGGI will destroy our economy, shut down our state’s coal-fired power plants, and drastically raise energy prices. These power plants provide critical family-sustaining jobs, keep our electricity prices low, allow people to remain in Pennsylvania, and provide significant tax revenue. It is crucial we continue to fight for hard-working Pennsylvanians. If Gov. Wolf continues with the process of joining RGGI, Cambria County will lose 590 jobs and $122 million in economic impact. That is devastating and our citizens and towns deserve better.
As Gov. Wolf stated in 2018, Pennsylvania has done well at reducing CO2, all while being a major electricity exporter to other states, including RGGI states. Pennsylvania also meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and ozone at every electric generating source. Therefore, with RGGI, there will not be any local environmental benefits.
The concurrent resolution now goes to the state House of Representatives, which also has a window of 10 legislative days or 30 calendar days to pass the resolution and present it to the governor. If Gov. Wolf vetoes the resolution, it will return to the Senate, which may consider overriding the veto. Two-thirds of the Senate must support the resolution to override the veto. Should the Senate override the veto, the measure would then go to the House where the same two-thirds vote is required. Pennsylvania could very well be withdrawn from the RGGI by a future governor.
Measure to Hold Criminals Responsible Passes Senate
Senate Bill 814 authored by Senator John Yudichak would create a new offense of Evading Arrest or Detention by Foot which will protect both police officers and K9 officers.
Existing statute prohibits fleeing from an officer in a vehicle and struggling with an officer attempting to place an individual under lawful arrest. However, state law is silent with respect to fleeing an officer on foot, placing the officers or innocent bystanders at risk of injury.
Creating a new offense of “Evading Arrest or Detention by Foot” protects police officers who are lawfully attempting to place a suspect under arrest and community members who find themselves caught in the middle of a pursuit. The bill is modeled after a similar statute in the state of Texas.
On the floor of the Senate I spoke about the tragic death of Johnstown Police Department K-9 Officer Titan in support for Senate Bill 814.
This legislation now heads to the House for consideration.
Safe Exchange Zone Legislation Approved in Committee
This week, the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee chaired by Senator John Yudichak unanimously passed my legislation, Senate Bill 881, which establishes the Safe Exchange Zone Grant Program in the Commonwealth. The zones, typically located near a police facility, are utilized by citizens to exchange merchandise purchased online, as well as child custody exchanges, among other practices.
SB 881 codifies the hard work of the District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement in Cambria County and expands the safety net for all Commonwealth residents.
This legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Cambria County Wrestlers Honored in Harrisburg
It was my honor to have three incredible wrestlers from Cambria County on the Senate floor today. Thomas Verrette, Keegan Bassett, and Bo Bassett were crowned National Champions this summer in Wisconsin. After winning the National Championship, Bo Bassett represented Team USA at the 2021 Cadet World Championships in Budapest, where he was crowned World Champion. We all are looking forward to what these three young men do in their bright future!
Working to Ban Deceptive “Spoofing” Phone Calls
In an effort to crack down on deceptive and nuisance telephone calls, the Senate approved a bill banning the practice of caller ID “spoofing.” Senate Bill 236 now heads to the state House of Representatives for its consideration.
Senate Bill 236 is designed to protect citizens from misleading telemarketing “robocalls,” particularly those that disguise their real phone number by making it look like a local number, increasing the likelihood that the call will be answered.
The computerized telemarketing messages can be intrusive and can also prey on trusting Pennsylvanians, including vulnerable senior citizens because the calls come across the caller ID as being a local number and are intended to confuse and defraud the recipients. The legislation also prevents telemarketing calls before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
Telemedicine Legislation Passes Senate
The Senate approved legislation to promote telemedicine to overcome barriers to quality patient care created by distance and reduce the costs of those services.
Telemedicine is a rapidly growing component of health care, and many health care professionals and hospitals in Pennsylvania are already providing services via telemedicine. However, currently none of the health care professionals’ licensure acts explicitly authorize or regulate practice via telemedicine.
Senate Bill 705 defines “telemedicine” as “the delivery of health care services provided through telecommunications technology to a patient by a health care practitioner who is at a different location,” and allows anyone with a medical license or otherwise regulated by Pennsylvania law to provide telemedicine services.
Through the use of telemedicine, specialists and other health care providers are able to expand their reach, helping COVID-19 patients, high-risk patients, stay-in-home patients, and rural patients who would have the ability to stay in their communities, avoiding long-distance travel for specialized care.
The legislation now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Richland Office Serves as a Cuddles For Kids Drop-Off Location
Cuddles For Kids Holiday Season Donations can be dropped off at our Richland Twp. office through December 17, 2021. Donations of new toys, coloring books, games or puzzles will go to less fortunate children in our area this holiday season.
Donations of winter hats, scarves and gloves are also accepted.
The Richland office is located at 999 Eisenhower Blvd., Suite E, Johnstown, PA 15904.
Ribbon Cutting for Momma Earth Movement
My staff attended the Ribbon Cutting for Momma Earth Movement, which is located on Scalp Avenue in Johnstown, Cambria County. Congratulations and best of luck!
Bedford County 4-H Leader Appreciation Banquet
Tonya Clark from my Bedford office joined the Bedford County 4-H for their Leader Appreciation Banquet and presented the group with a citation from the Pennsylvania Senate recognizing their 100th anniversary.
Congratulations and thank you to all the members, volunteers, and staff for their continued efforts on behalf of the 4-H program!
Senate Approves Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers
The bill is part of a Small Business Tax Reform Package to help employers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated shutdowns.
Senate Bill 349 brings Pennsylvania tax law governing expense deductions in line with federal law, eliminating the unequal treatment of small businesses in Pennsylvania.
The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 raised the federal limit for IRS Section 179 expense deductions from $500,000 to $1 million annually. However, Pennsylvania law limits the deduction to $25,000 for personal income tax purposes, which covers S Corporations, partnerships and individuals.
The increase in limits makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and to invest, which promotes job growth in Pennsylvania. Small businesses create 65% of the jobs in Pennsylvania. Passage of Senate Bill 349 is part of a broader recovery effort to rebuild Pennsylvania’s economy.
The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
2021 Annual Greater Clearfield Chamber of Commerce Awards
My staff was able to attend the 2021 Annual Greater Clearfield Chamber of Commerce Awards.
Congratulations to the 2021 award winners:
Heating Assistance Program Open Now
Residents who struggle with their home heating bills can now apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.
The income limit for LIHEAP for an individual is $19,320; for a couple, the limit is $26,130; and for a family of four, it is $39,750.
Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the county assistance office in their county of residence. Click here for additional information.
Fish and Boat Commission is Accepting Boating Facility Grant Applications
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is accepting applications from across the state for its Boating Facility Grant Program through Dec. 30 to help communities capitalize on the surge in new boating activity.
The grant program provides funding to benefit public boating facilities located on the waters of the Commonwealth. It may be used for site acquisitions, development, expansion, preventions of the spread of aquatic invasive species and rehabilitation of recreational boat access facilities. Eligible construction projects include boat ramps, courtesy floats, restrooms, access roads, parking areas and signs. Funds may also be used to make facilities ADA compliant. Funding requests require a 50% match.
PFBC encourages townships, boroughs and municipal and county governments to apply. Nonprofit groups (501c3) including land trusts, conservancies and watershed associations may also apply. Private businesses and service clubs are not eligible for direct funding but are encouraged to partner with their local county or municipality.