|Supporting Our National Guard Members and Their Families
A new initiative to help our Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families has been signed into law.
Act 32 of 2019 extends the current Pennsylvania National Guard Military Education Program by including a Guard member’s spouse or child in this benefit program. The benefit will be offered in exchange for a Guard member’s six-year reenlistment.
Under the law, the educational benefit can be used at any Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) institution or any institution of higher learning approved by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. If the approved institution costs less than the annual tuition rate charged by the state system schools, the student would not pay anything. If it costs more than PASSHE’s annual tuition rate, the student would only pay expenses in excess of PASSHE’s annual tuition rate.
Pennsylvania National Guard members will be eligible for the benefit beginning July 1. Their family members may begin claiming the benefit on Aug. 1, 2020.
2019-20 Budget Invests in Future Workers, Leaders
One of the most important responsibilities of state government is to support the education and development of our children who will become the future workers and leaders of our Commonwealth.
The 2019-20 state budget, which was recently signed into law, again makes record investments in our schools.
PreK-12 education funding is increased by $432 million, making this year’s state budget investment the highest in Pennsylvania’s history. This includes $160 million more for Basic Education Funding, $50 million more for special education and $25 million more for PreK Counts.
An additional $10 million goes to support career and technical education, to help prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The budget also provides $60 million in funding for school safety grants.
To ensure students and their families have options, the budget also includes $25 million more for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program.
Finally, our community colleges, state system universities and state-related institutions (Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) each received a 2% funding increase.
To learn more about this year’s state budget, click here.
New Law to Save Taxpayers Money
Working to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, the General Assembly passed a new law that will enable the Commonwealth to pay off state debt more quickly and save on interest costs.
Act 43 of 2019 will change the way state bonds are issued to accelerate the retirement of Pennsylvania’s General Obligation debt, reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of state-issued bonds, and help the Commonwealth improve its bond rating.
The law requires the principal for new issuances of state debt to be repaid in equal amounts over the term of the bond – usually 20 years – rather than front loading interest payments with lower principal payments that grow as the bonds mature.
Bills to Support Crime Victims Signed into Law
Delivering on our commitment to help support victims of crime and ensure justice is served, I’m pleased to report several new crime victim protection bills were signed into law by the governor. The House focused heavily on these issues back in April.
• Act 21 of 2019 criminalizes the act of female genital mutilation by making it a first-degree felony.
• Act 23 of 2019 ensures a victim is permitted to be present in any criminal proceeding unless the court determines the victim's own testimony would be altered by hearing other witnesses.
• Act 24 of 2019 helps protect victims of rape by preventing prosecutors from bringing up the victim's sexual history or prior allegations of sexual abuse while prosecuting certain crimes.
• Act 29 of 2019 makes updates to the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, including requiring the Pennsylvania State Police to create procedures for anonymous victims and establishing timelines for submitting, testing and storing rape kits.
• Acts 30 and 31 of 2019 expands the circumstances under which out-of-court statements may be used by including victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder (Act 30) and adding new crimes to the list that allows such statements made by a child under age 12.
In addition to these new laws, the General Assembly has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to include a Victim’s Bill of Rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Voters will have the opportunity to approve the proposed amendment in the upcoming November election.
For more about House Republican efforts to support crime victims, click here.
New Laws Will Help Grow PA Agriculture
A series of bills to support Pennsylvania farmers and help grow the state’s top industry were signed into law by the governor before the Fourth of July holiday.
The measures aim to address several current challenges facing our farmers by creating a special account to help fund the state’s response to threats to livestock or crops, such as African swine fever and spotted lanternfly; providing technical and financial support to farmers for implementing best management practices; and establishing the Dairy Investment Program to provide grants for the struggling dairy industry.
The measures also address the future of the industry by reviving programs to educate school children about the importance of agriculture and healthy eating; raising awareness about career opportunities in the industry; providing tax credits to existing farmers or landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers; and creating the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan, helping to ensure farm operations continue to thrive through ownership changes.
To learn more about the efforts to support Pennsylvania agriculture, click here.
Wolf Bypasses Legislature to Fund Voting Machine Replacement
After vetoing a key election reform bill that would have also provided $90 million in funding to help counties replace their voting machines, the governor announced this week he would simply go around the Legislature and supply the funding unilaterally.
Leaders in both the House and Senate question the governor’s authority to take such action without legislative authorization.
The need for the funding was brought about by the governor’s decision to decertify every type of voting machine currently in use in the Commonwealth. It is estimated to cost $150 million to replace machines in all 67 counties, a significant burden on taxpayers across the state.
By vetoing the legislation, the governor is also robbing voters of other needed election improvements, including extending the deadline for submission of absentee ballots to ensure all votes count and creating a commission to manage the process for election machine decertification in the future.
Finally, the bill would have brought Pennsylvania in line with more than 40 other states by eliminating the “straight party” voting option, the measure most strongly opposed by the governor. The change could have opened the door to more minor party candidates and encouraged voters to cast their ballots for a person rather than a party.
You can read the statement condemning the governor’s unilateral action from House State Government Committee Chairman Garth Everett HERE.
PennDOT Accepting Applications for Winter Maintenance Positions
Individuals seeking seasonal employment are encouraged to apply for a variety of winter maintenance positions now open through PennDOT.
The program runs from September through April, and includes positions for transportation equipment operators, diesel and construction equipment mechanics, automotive mechanics, tradesman helpers, clerks, clerk typists, stock clerks, welders, semi-skilled laborers and custodial workers.
Individuals in these positions supplement the permanent workforce and have the potential to lead to permanent full-time employment. Additional details about the positions, along with the job application, are available at employment.pa.gov. Click on “Open Jobs” and then go to “PennDOT Winter Program.
Marking 30-Year Anniversary of Adopt-A-Highway
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) this week marked the 30th Anniversary of their Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) program, where volunteers “adopt” a highway to collect litter. Started in 1990, the program currently has over 4,900 participating groups, more than 100,000 volunteers, and over 10,000 miles of adopted state-maintained roadways.
The savings generated by these programs – over $5 million annually that the department would have spent to pick up litter – allows PennDOT to redirect money toward maintaining safe roadways.
If you or a group in Lebanon County you are associated with would like to explore Adopt-A-Highway opportunities in our area, you can do so by contacting George Reigel of PennDOT at 717-787-7600.
Antlerless Licenses Now on Sale
Application for the purchase of antlerless deer licenses began Monday, July 8, for Pennsylvania residents who already hold a 2019-20 hunting license.
Hunters wishing to apply may do so by sending a paper application with a check or money order to their local county treasurer’s office. Cost of a license is $6.90. Please click here to view contact information for your local county treasurer.
Nonresidents may submit their first applications a week later, beginning Monday, July 15.
Hunters are limited to purchasing one license at this time. In any Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) where antlerless licenses remain, resident and nonresident applicants may apply for a second license beginning Aug. 5.
Information on how many licenses have been allotted to each WMU, as well as how many have been purchased, is available by clicking here.
All successful applicants will receive their antlerless deer licenses after the second Monday in September.