Senator Pennycuick E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Finalizes 2023-24 State Budget
  • Right-To-Know Law Disability Accommodations Exception Passes Senate
  • New Legislation Puts the Brakes on Transit Operator Assaults
  • Wreaths Across America Ceremony
  • Michael Tannous Retirement Party
  • Smart Saving Upgrades Pennsylvania’s Financial Standing
  • Senate Approves Bill Enabling Better Service in Long-Term Care Facilities
  • Tuition and Loan Assistance for First Responders
  • Comment Period Open on Plan to Expand PA Internet Access
  • Deadline for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31
  • Celebrating Bill of Rights Day

Senate Finalizes 2023-24 State Budget

The Senate on Wednesday finalized the 2023-24 state budget by approving two major bipartisan budget implementation bills, which have now been enacted into law.

A large portion of the 2023-24 state budget was completed in August with enactment of the General Appropriations Act. However, several important components still required additional budget implementation language to be passed by both the Senate and House and signed by the governor.

House Bill 1300 (Fiscal Code amendments) and House Bill 301 (School Code amendments) make major investments in the future of Pennsylvania and achieve many of the principles and priorities identified by Senate Republicans as a focus in March.

House Bill 1300 includes several important and time-sensitive measures, including reauthorization of funding for county 911 systems, expansion of a tax credit helping parents seek and maintain employment and allocation of funding for an additional 100 Pennsylvania State Police troopers to help make our communities safer. House Bill 301 includes many provisions to expand education empowerment and access and increase school safety. Read more.

Right-To-Know Law Disability Accommodations Exception Passes Senate

My legislation which will exempt certain disability accommodations from the Commonwealth’s Right-To-Know Law passed the Pennsylvania Senate.

Exempting certain sensitive records from public access is an important feature of the Right-To-Know Law. As it is currently written, the law does not address sensitive records produced or used to accommodate a disability. For example, the Mayor of a community in my district is deaf and uses a device when in executive session to generate a visual transcript of the conversation. There is a concern that this transcript may be subject to a right-to-know request as it is a written document of communication.

That legislation will amend the Right-To-Know Law to create a specific exception covering disability accommodations. My bill exempts reference notes and working papers prepared by or for a public official or public employee that are used to accommodate an individual’s disability.

The bill now goes before the House of Representative for consideration.

New Legislation Puts the Brakes on Transit Operator Assaults

Legislation to safeguard transit operators against assault was passed by the Pennsylvania Senate.

To deter such assaults, Senate Bill 977 would make it a serious crime to interfere with an operator of any public transit vehicle. The offense would be classified as a felony of the third degree if the interference causes bodily injury. The offense would be steepened to a felony of the first degree if the intrusion causes serious bodily injury or death. 

Upholding safety on our public transit systems is critical for operators and riders from cities and suburbs. A key part of maintaining order is making it clear that if you interfere with transit operators you face a serious penalty.

Passage of the legislation is part of the ongoing effort of Senate Republicans to invest in infrastructure and increase public safety

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Wreaths Across America Ceremony

I was proud to participate in the Wreaths Across America Day ceremony. This year’s Wreaths Across America Day will take place on December 16, 2023.

On that day, more than 2 million Veterans’ Wreaths will be placed across Local, National and Military Cemeteries as well as Veterans’ Memorials and historic sites. This small gesture of gratitude is carried out at more than 4,000+ locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.

I am honored to be a part of such a noteworthy tradition to “Remember, Honor and Teach.”

Please visit their website to learn more about the organization’s mission.

Michael Tannous Retirement Party

Congratulations to Michael Tannous, Executive Director of Upper Perk YMCA, for his 15 years of service to the Y! Thank you to you and your staff for your dedication to your members and Upper Perkiomen Valley. Best of luck to you in your next chapter!

Smart Saving Upgrades Pennsylvania’s Financial Standing

Because of sound financial management and strong budgetary reserves, one of the nation’s leading credit rating agencies – Fitch Ratings – upgraded the state’s bond rating from AA- to AA. The state hasn’t held the improved rating since 2014.

The upgrade is expected to lead to lower debt service costs, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. This is one of the reasons Senate Republicans have led the efforts to build the state’s Rainy Day Fund to historic highs and resist new recurring spending the state cannot afford.

Earlier this fall, Moody’s Investor Services and S&P Global Ratings both upgraded Pennsylvania’s long-term financial outlook from “stable” to “positive.”

Senate Approves Bill Enabling Better Service in Long-Term Care Facilities

The Senate approved a bill to enhance the availability and quality of service at long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 668 would address the workforce shortage in nursing homes that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown in recent years as health care professionals left the field due to burnout. It would enable certified nurse aids (CNAs) to train to become certified medication aides (CMAs) and deliver common, minimally invasive prescribed medications to residents of nursing facilities. Currently, only registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can administer medications to nursing home residents.

CNAs would be able to complete a certified medication administration program established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. CNAs who complete the program would be registered as CMAs and would be authorized to administer certain prescribed medications in health care facilities.

Tuition and Loan Assistance for First Responders

Because of legislation passed by Senate Republicans, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency established a Tuition and Loan Assistance Program for active volunteer fire and emergency medical service providers.

After a year of service, volunteers are eligible for up to $1,000 of financial assistance per academic year. Volunteers must commit to five years of service following college graduation.

The legislation is designed to combat Pennsylvania’s crisis in attracting volunteer first responders, which has led to many fire and emergency medical service companies reducing services.

Comment Period Open on Plan to Expand PA Internet Access

A strong internet connection powers our economy and supports education, health care and more. Many Pennsylvania communities lack access to high-speed internet.

Development of Pennsylvania’s Digital Equity Plan was funded by federal dollars and aims to make high-speed internet available to more Pennsylvanians. You can review the plan and, until Jan. 8, 2024, take advantage of the public comment period to offer feedback.

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) offers three ways to comment:

The PBDA will also host in-person and virtual Public Comment Sessions on the following dates:

Clearfield County: Dec. 7

Washington County: Dec. 14

Philadelphia: Dec. 16

Deadline for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31

The deadline to apply for the state’s 2022 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31. Applications and no-cost assistance are available from my district office.

Eligible participants can receive a maximum standard rebate of $650, but supplemental rebates can boost rebates to $975. The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities.

Claimants who already applied for their rebates may check the status of claims online or by calling 1-888-222-9190.

Celebrating Bill of Rights Day

Friday, Dec. 15, is Bill of Rights Day, when we recognize the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. For 232 years, these amendments have protected our right to speak our mind, defend our families and worship as we see fit.

We hold those liberties – and the others that make up the Bill of Rights – dear and cherish how they impact our daily life as the true framework of our society.

Bill of Rights Day was first observed on the document’s 150th anniversary when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation dedicating Dec. 15 as the day to recognize our God-given rights.

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