Senator Pennycuick E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving
  • Serving Our Local Seniors Thanksgiving Lunch
  • Survey Results: Should Armed Security Be Required to Protect Children at School?
  • Pennycuick: New Law Will Make It Easier for Students of Military Families to Enroll in School
  • Pennycuick Measure Expanding Disabled Veteran Property Tax Relief Approved by Committee
  • Pennycuick Joins Effort to Advance Bipartisan Sexual Harassment Legislation
  • Ukrainian Genocide Remembrance Month
  • Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) Informational Tool
  • Financial Aid Webinar
  • Playing Santa? Shop Small on Saturday
  • Healthy, Free Food Available to Low-Income Seniors
  • Preparing Pennsylvanians of All Ages for Career Success
  • Winter Life Jacket Requirement in Effect

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

Serving Our Local Seniors Thanksgiving Lunch

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of serving our local seniors Thanksgiving lunch at the Boyertown Area Multi-Service Center. During my visit, I also got the opportunity to learn more about Preston’s Pantry Project. This project was founded in honor of 8-year-old Preston Dray, who passed away two years ago in a tragic flood flash. This pantry today currently serves over 300 households in the Boyertown area. The holidays are the season of giving, they are also about showing appreciation and helping those in need. Please take time out of your schedules to find ways to give this year.

Survey Results: Should Armed Security Be Required to Protect Children at School?

In my last newsletter, we asked the question: “Do you support a state requirement for school districts to have security officers to protect children while at school?” The 24th District voted, and the results are in.

Thank you to all who voted and a big thank you to everyone who took the time to send me their thoughts and perspectives on this issue. Hearing what you have to say helps me represent you in Harrisburg.

This feedback is especially timely as the Senate is set to consider Senate Bill 907, which would require schools to have the presence of at least one armed security officer. The school security officer (School Police Officer, School Resource Officer, or School Security Guard) will be armed and must undergo extensive annual training, background checks, and must maintain relevant certifications.

When it comes to the safety of our children at school, we can leave no stone unturned. And while we are still debating the bill’s details, including potential funding solutions, I believe this is a reasonable step to help enhance the safety of our children. This measure can also serve as a compliment to other actions state government has already taken to make schools safer, including:

  • $150 million for the School Safety and Security Grants program to help local districts pay for safety and security upgrades.
  • $100 million for K-12 mental health programs in the 2023-2024 budget
  • Instituting the Safe2Say school threat reporting system, which has been effective in giving   students an anonymous way to report potentially dangerous situations.
  • Implementation of the School Bus Stop Arm Camera Program, designed to catch and help prevent motorists from illegally passing stopped school buses transporting children.

Pennycuick: New Law Will Make It Easier for Students of Military Families to Enroll in School

Legislation championed by Rep. Milou Mackenzie (R-141), Rep. Brian Munroe (D-144) and I has been signed into law making it easier for students of relocating military families to enroll in school.

As a veteran and a mother, I understand the challenges military families face in balancing the demands of service and educating their children. Every year, an estimated 185,000 military students move between schools, and this change will make the move less stressful and more orderly for children and parents.

Currently, students of military families that are transferring on official military permanent change of station orders are not eligible to register in classes, enroll in specialized academic programs, or submit their children’s names in lotteries for charter or magnet schools until they are physically located within the district boundaries. The delay can cause students to miss deadlines, requiring them to shift their planned courses of study, which may force them to take summer classes, or even graduate later than expected.

House Bill 1094, now Act 24 of 2023 and sponsored by Representatives Mackenzie and Munroe, will allow such families to establish residency for purposes of enrollment in the school district in which they will be residing by providing the school district with a copy of their military transfer order. This will allow them to access registration and enrollment at the same time it is open to the general population.

I sponsored companion legislation, Senate Bill 707, in the Senate.

I am proud to work with my colleagues in the House to advance this issue and make it easier for military children to stay on the path of academic success and, ultimately, graduation.

Pennycuick Measure Expanding Disabled Veteran Property Tax Relief Approved by Committee

My legislation that would allow more disabled veterans to receive property tax relief was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Senate Bill 194 would exclude federal VA Aid and Attendance benefits as income when calculating eligibility for Pennsylvania’s 100% Disabled Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption. VA Aid and Attendance benefits provide monthly payments to disabled veterans who are housebound or need help with daily activities.

Including these benefits when calculating income is preventing some disabled veterans from qualifying for property tax reductions. Some of the veterans receiving VA Aid and Attendance benefits have the greatest need for the property tax exemption and receive this disability benefit to assist them in paying for everyday functioning, care services, medication management and renovations to their residence to accommodate their disability.

We owe the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of our country a debt of gratitude that can never truly be repaid. When those servicemen and women are injured in the line of duty, we as a grateful state need to ensure that they receive the proper aid and benefits they deserve.

I also am sponsoring Senate Bill 844, which would allow for a reduction in assessed value of a disabled veteran’s property value, building and land, for the purposes of property tax assessment. The assessed values would be lowered in relation to the individual’s disability rating.

There is no more fundamental level of support we can provide to our disabled veterans than the promise of keeping them in their homes. For many of these heroes, property taxes threaten this basic right.

Senate Bill 194 moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Pennycuick Joins Effort to Advance Bipartisan Sexual Harassment Legislation

There is no room for sexual harassment in any workplace, especially in state government. Recent events have cast a spotlight on the inadequacies of the current process surrounding state government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations.

Now is the time to say, “enough is enough.”

I, along with my Senate colleagues, will be introducing a bipartisan package of bills to institute greater transparency and accountability in how government handles these instances. The package will require third party investigation of all sexual harassment claims and public posting of any monetary settlements with non-disclosure agreements. This way we can ensure that victims are protected, due process is provided, and taxpayer dollars are respected.

This package will be introduced shortly and you can read more about this proposal on the General Assembly’s website.

Ukrainian Genocide Remembrance Month

Senator Maria Collett, Senator Art Haywood and I introduced a bipartisan resolution designating November 2023 as “Ukrainian Genocide Remembrance Month” in Pennsylvania. The world has looked on in horror as Ukraine has suffered an onslaught of Russian aggression. As we continue to focus our attention and efforts on this ongoing war, it is more important now than ever before to remember past atrocities against the Ukrainian people.

Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) Informational Tool

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) recently introduced a new informational tool created to educate Pennsylvanians on the regulatory review process, in hopes to encourage greater involvement on matters that affect you. This tool helps shape final regulations and often leads to changes and improvements along the way, ensuring the public interest before these rules and regulations go into place.

More information and detailed videos about the process can be found here: https://www.irrc.state.pa.us/videos/videos.cfm.

Financial Aid Webinar

Playing Santa? Shop Small on Saturday

Small Business Saturday is this weekend, a great time to shop small when thinking about gifts for the holiday season.

Small businesses account for 99.6% of Pennsylvania businesses and half of our jobs. That’s why I’ve advocated for the continued phase-out of the state’s excessive Corporate Net Income Tax – which burdens many small business operators – and voted for a host of measures this year to cut government red tape that is hampering the work of these crucial job creators.

You can find state resources on starting a small business here.

Healthy, Free Food Available to Low-Income Seniors

The Senior Food Box Program supplements low-income seniors’ diets with nutritious food, including non-fat dry and shelf-stable fluid milk, juice, oats, ready-to-eat cereal, rice, pasta, dry beans, peanut butter, canned meat, poultry, fish and canned fruits and vegetables.

To participate, individuals must be at least 60 years old and meet income eligibility guidelines. A single senior’s annual income may not exceed $18,954, and the income for a couple is capped at $25,636.

Seniors who would like to participate should call 800-468-2433 to be directed to the regional food bank distributing the Senior Food Box in their county of residence. Learn more here.

Preparing Pennsylvanians of All Ages for Career Success

People at any stage of their careers – and even before their careers have begun – may use SkillUp PA, Pennsylvania’s free online job training platform. The free trainings are designed to fill critical skill gaps that can be a barrier to employment, prepare people for credential or certification tests and sharpen soft job skills.

Some of the courses include Being an Effective Team Member, Essential Skills for Professional Telephone Calls, Interpersonal Communication: Listening Essentials and Thinking Critically: Coming to Terms with Assumptions.

Learn more about SkillUp and enroll here.

Winter Life Jacket Requirement in Effect

Until April 30, all boaters are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any kayak, canoe or paddleboard on all Pennsylvania waters.

A disproportionate number of boating fatalities occur from November to April in Pennsylvania, and cold water is one of the primary reasons. When water temperatures are less than 70 degrees, the cold water shock can cause an involuntary gasp, hyperventilation, breathlessness and a reduced ability to control breathing and swim.

A life jacket greatly increases your chance of survival in cold water. It also increases the amount of time for you to be rescued. Find more cold water survival safety tips here.

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