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Elder Vogel Jr.
As we start a new year, a new legislative session and a new Senate term, I wanted to reach out to all of you with my first e-newsletter of 2021 and say “THANK YOU!” for the continued support to represent you in the 47th Senatorial District. It has been my privilege to serve as your Pennsylvania Senator and I am excited for the challenges and opportunities another four years brings. With this letter, I want to let everyone know what positions I will be holding within the State Senate and what our goals are moving forward into this new session.
Committees and Leadership Positions:
It is with great pride that I will remain the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee considers legislation and holds hearings on issues pertaining to agriculture in Pennsylvania – a worldwide leader in agricultural, food and lumber production – while providing review and oversight on regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This is a committee I have chaired since 2011 and look forward to continuing our efforts to support agriculture in the Commonwealth, promote Pennsylvania-made farm products, and address the diverse issues facing the state’s rural communities.
As of January 7th, I was also given the great honor of being named Deputy Senate President Pro-Tempore, a newly created position, to assist President Pro-Tempore Corman as part of the Senate Leadership team in the General Assembly. With this position, I shall serve as the presiding officer of the Senate in the absence of the President Pro Tempore and work with my fellow Senators to ensure our legislative duties are carried out as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Finally, I am humbled to share that I have also been appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I have served on the Senate Appropriations Committee for some time now, and to be promoted to Vice Chairman is a welcome surprise. The Senate Appropriations Committee is the panel within the Senate that works most closely with the state budget each year and reviews state spending. I will also serve as a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and the Transportation Committee. Overall, my committee assignments cover a wide range of issues that have a direct impact on the lives of the people of western Pennsylvania. The Environmental Resources & Energy Committee certainly has a major role in shaping the future of the Commonwealth and our region with the continued development of the cracker plant and the Marcellus Shale industry.
While we are starting a new year and new session, a few things have followed us from 2019-20. First and foremost, among them is the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic and what that means for our Commonwealth. The pandemic and the mitigation efforts have had a devastating impact on our economy, locally and statewide. From vaccine distribution to unemployment, this pandemic is affecting everyone in many ways. I recently met with the Acting Secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry, head of the Department that runs unemployment, and she has assured me that they are doing all that they can to fix any outstanding issues with our different UC systems. Between Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), etc., the Department is dealing with many problems that have never before seen.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is likewise facing a daunting task with vaccine distribution. While DOH waits for vaccines from the Federal Government, they have created groupings, which can be found by clicking here, to distribute the vaccine to those in need as fast as possible. We are still hopeful that the distribution will improve as our vaccine allocation from the Federal Government increases.
My continued fight over Telemedicine in Pennsylvania came to a head again last year, as we managed to pass the hurdles within the House and the Senate and pass my legislation, Senate Bill 857 of 2019-20, to the desk of Governor Wolf. Amid a global pandemic, and with the dramatic increase in Telemedicine usage due to the pandemic, I was disheartened that the Governor decided to veto this important piece of legislation. Despite this setback, I refuse to give up on what is of vital importance to the residents of our Commonwealth. With renewed focus I will be re-introducing this legislation in our new 2021-22 legislative session.
After the Governors budget proposal on February 3rd 2021, we will be having our Senate Appropriation Committee hearings to discuss his proposal, analyze the finances of the State, and deliberate with each State Department on what has gone well and poorly over the past year. The Governors proposed budget has many alarming features in it, many of which involve dramatic spending and tax increases as well as cuts to many Departments and programs he feels to be either overfunded or unnecessary. To see a few videos of my discussion about his budget proposal, please click here to go to my website.
These have been challenging times in our Commonwealth and there will be more challenges ahead, but I am confident that we can work together to recover from the effects of Covid-19 and push Pennsylvania forward. It is, and will continue to be, an immense privilege to serve as your State Senator.
Please contact me to provide input on any state-related matter, or to receive help in dealing with a state agency.