Senator Pennycuick E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Happy New Year
  • Agriculture Department Reminds Poultry Owners to be Vigilant to Protect Against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
  • The American Legion Opposes the PLUS Act, Proposes GUARD Act to Protect Veterans
  • PA Public Utility Commission seeks input on EV charging rates
  • Legislation to Fund Emergency Services Now Law
  • PA Farm Show Runs Jan. 6-13
  • Mature Drivers: Take a Course, Save on Insurance
  • Resources to Help Quit Using Tobacco

Happy New Year

Agriculture Department Reminds Poultry Owners to be Vigilant to Protect Against Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

The Department of Agriculture reminds all poultry owners – backyard flocks and commercial producers – to keep their guard up to protect their birds from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). After a lull in detections for several months, Pennsylvania has detected a new case of avian influenza in a game bird flock in Lower Mahanoy Township, Northumberland County. 

Samples from this detection are being forwarded to the USDA National Veterinary Services lab for confirmatory testing. However, the Department has worked with the premises operator to respond immediately and mitigate impact. 

Poultry and eggs continue to be safe to eat. Human health is not at risk. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, avian influenza does not present an immediate public health concern. 

The Department has quarantined the farm and established a Control Area around the farm. Control Areas are the 10 kilometer perimeter around an infected, quarantined farm. Poultry owners in Control Areas are subject to testing requirements and must have permits to transport poultry, poultry products, and related equipment. Anyone within three kilometers of the infected farm may not transport any poultry or egg products.

The Department of Agriculture reminds backyard bird owners and poultry and egg producers to stay vigilant, especially as wild bird migration season continues.

  • Practice excellent biosecurity every day.
  • Everyone on the farm should clean clothes, scrub boots or shoes with disinfectant, and wash hands before and after contact with animals. 
  • Keep equipment and vehicles clean, including all those entering your property. 
  • Control birds and rodents who can carry and spread disease. 
  • Keep your birds inside whenever possible and minimize the chance of contact with wild birds.
  • Clean under barn soffits and eliminate possible entry points for wild birds.
  • Eliminate standing water that may attract wild birds.

The budget Governor Shapiro signed increased funding for the Department of Agriculture by nearly 6.4%, supporting agricultural emergency preparedness and response, including $31 million to help poultry farmers impacted by the HPAI crisis to cover testing costs and assist with reimbursed for losses to their flocks.  

Recognize signs of disease. Report suspected cases and any unusual deaths to the department at 717-772-2852. A veterinarian is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 610-926-3136 or pgc-wildlifehealth@pa.gov

For a complete listing of confirmed infections in the U.S. visit the USDA’s website, aphis.usda.gov

To learn more about avian influenza, including whether your farm is within the Control Area of an infected farm, visit the department’s website, agriculture.pa.gov.   

The American Legion Opposes the PLUS Act, Proposes GUARD Act to Protect Veterans

The American Legion, a leading veterans’ organization, strongly opposes the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services for Veterans (PLUS) Act, citing concerns about the safety and well-being of disabled veterans navigating the claims process. The PLUS Act, if enacted, would transition the current system of accredited veteran benefits representation to an unregulated market, potentially opening the door for ‘actors’ to exploit veterans in their pursuit of earned benefits.

Currently, unaccredited third parties often misrepresent themselves as legitimate claims service providers, preying on vulnerable veterans in need of assistance. The PLUS Act proposes automatic accreditation for these companies after 90 days, regardless of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) completing its vetting process. This raises concerns that unqualified and potentially predatory players could gain access to vulnerable veterans, jeopardizing their claims and financial security.

The American Legion believes the VA’s existing accreditation program is crucial in ensuring veterans receive qualified and ethical representation. They strongly oppose the PLUS Act’s potential to dismantle this safeguard and expose veterans to exploitation.

In response, the American Legion actively advocates for the Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act. This legislation would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge unauthorized fees while assisting veterans with disability compensation claims. The Legion views the GUARD Act as a vital tool in holding bad actors accountable and protecting veterans from financial harm.

The American Legion is committed to safeguarding the interests of all veterans and their families. They urge Congress to reject the PLUS Act and instead support the GUARD Act, safeguarding veterans from fraudulent claims services and ensuring they receive the benefits they deserve.

PA Public Utility Commission seeks input on EV charging rates

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) alerts consumers and other interested parties about the start of a public comment period for a proposed PUC policy statement regarding electric utility rate design for electric vehicle (EV) charging.

In October 2023 the Commission unanimously approved a motion by PUC Chairman Stephen M. DeFrank which began the process for developing a policy statement – seeking comments from Pennsylvania’s electric distribution companies (EDCs) and other interested parties about the factors that the Commission should consider, including, but not limited to, key policy issues related to EV-charging rate tariffs, rate design, and rate equity for distribution services and default service generation.

In initiating this discussion, Chairman DeFrank highlighted the opportunity to utilize the portfolio of new technologies such as, advanced metering, advanced grid monitoring, energy efficiency, demand response, and smart devices to better accommodate the evolving demand profiles created by a new energy landscape.

The move to craft a policy statement on EV charging comes following extensive study of the issue by a PUC-convened EV Charging Rate Design Working Group, along with review of input and comments generated in response to a petition filed in 2022 by a coalition focused on EV adoption and development in Pennsylvania. 

The proposed EV charging policy statement was published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Dec. 23, 2023, which began the period for public comments and reply comments. 

Interested parties may submit written comments through Jan. 22, 2024. Following that, parties have an opportunity to file written reply comments through Feb. 21, 2024.

Both comments and reply comments should reference PUC docket number M-2023-3040755.

Comments and/or reply comments should be filed using the Commission’s electronic filing system (eFile).  A free eFiling account may be opened and used through the Commission’s website, which also includes instructions for filing comments. 

Legislation to Fund Emergency Services Now Law

The Senate passed legislation that is now law to preserve the availability of life-saving services for Pennsylvanians. It supports the 911 emergency communications service by reauthorizing a fee assessed to wireless lines.

Costs for equipment, operations and new technology continue to rise, threatening the availability of these critical services. The reauthorization helps to offset operation and maintenance costs associated with the state’s emergency response infrastructure.

The law has been extended until Jan. 31, 2029.   

PA Farm Show Runs Jan. 6-13

As a state where agriculture is one of the top industries, Pennsylvania is proud to host the largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof in the nation. The 108th Pennsylvania Farm Show runs from Jan. 6-13 in Harrisburg.

The Farm Show features nearly 6,000 animals and more than 10,000 exhibits. There are also thousands of competitions and educational and entertaining events – and of course the famed Food Court, offering Farm Show milkshakes, fried cheese and so much more. Admission is free, and parking is $15 per car. Make the most of your trip with the visitor’s guide.

Agriculture in PA employs nearly half a million people and contributes $132.5 billion to the state’s economy annually.

Mature Drivers: Take a Course, Save on Insurance

Mature drivers who would like to brush up on their driving skills and save money on car insurance are invited to take a Basic or Refresher Mature Driver Improvement course.

The approved courses provide information about how aging affects driving abilities and insight into driving on today’s roadways. There are no written or practical driving tests.

By completing the Basic Mature Driver Improvement Course, drivers are eligible for a 5% discount on their vehicle insurance. Check course fees and availability here.

Resources to Help Quit Using Tobacco

As we approach the New Year, many people are thinking about changes they can make in 2024. If one of your resolutions is to stop smoking – or to give up tobacco use in any form – resources are available.

Learning tobacco-free coping skills is safe and achievable; improves physical and mental health; and aids long-term success. Access free online resources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers a free support hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

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