In this Update:
Highlights from the 47th
The Pennsylvania FFA Association held a legislative breakfast last week which brought to Harrisburg numerous FFA chapters from across our state to meet with their senators and representatives. It was great getting to meet up with some of our local FFA members from Beaver and Lawrence counties as well as speak with Callie Whiting who serves as the FFA state treasurer!
Recently, I was pleased to virtually read to kindergarten students from PA Virtual Charter School taught by Ms. Janese Claar! The book of choice was the Little Rabbit’s New Tail.
On March 25, I had the opportunity to attend The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce’s Gala and offer a few words during the event. The Chamber continues to work diligently on various priorities in our area such as expanded broadband and workforce development support! Their dedication to our community does not go unnoticed and is much appreciated!
It was great getting to join members of the Beaver-Lawrence Farm Bureau for their spring meeting where I was able to provide an update about agriculture in Pennsylvania as well as share information pertaining to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal.
Health Resources Available for Those Affected by the East Palestine Train Derailment
Governor Shapiro recently announced that staff from the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection (DEP) and Health (DOH) will be onsite at the Darlington Township Building every Thursday from Noon to 5 p.m. to meet with residents as well as hold open house events Thursday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. to offer one-on-one discussion to individuals who attend, as well as provide resources and information.
Senate Concludes Week Two of Budget Hearings
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued public hearings this week on the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion budget seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget. Projections indicate it will nearly wipe out the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
Among the highlights:
The Department of Education hearing focused on the largest proposed Basic Education Funding increase in Pennsylvania history as well as Gov. Shapiro’s failure to follow through on his promise to fund Lifeline Scholarships, a key provision to help provide families with greater options to meet their educational needs.
At the Department of State budget hearing, the committee sought details about federal and private election funding, county election grants, funding outreach to unregistered voters and publishing constitutional amendments.
At the hearing for the Department of Labor and Industry, members discussed the potential for major job losses if Pennsylvania enters the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Persistent concerns about Unemployment Compensation (UC) claims processing and preventing UC fraud were also leading topics.
The Department of Agriculture hearing included acknowledgment that the Norfolk Southern train derailment impacted many residents at Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio, including farmers. Testing of livestock and crops will continue following that incident.
During the Pennsylvania State Police hearing, there was discussion about funding methods, as the state police currently receives money out of the Motor License Fund. The governor proposed phasing in a new Public Safety and Protection Fund.
Find full hearing recaps, video, livestreams and upcoming schedule at PASenateGOP.com.
Addressing Livestock Health Concerns with Sec. Redding
During last week’s budget hearing with the Department of Agriculture, I touched upon the struggles farmers are seeing with livestock sales following the East Palestine train derailment and potential testing of livestock tissues and crops while questioning Acting Secretary Russell Redding.
Sec. Redding stated livestock tissue sampling will be conducted in cooperation with the Ohio State Department of Agriculture and with Ohio State and Penn State universities. He added that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is willing to assist with this process as well.
In response to loss of livestock sales seen by Beaver County farmers, Sec. Redding agreed farmers should be compensated for the agricultural losses and said his department has been advocating to Norfolk Southern and Governor Shapiro’s office to include these losses in the reimbursement program they are organizing.
To view my questions to the various department leaders from the first two weeks of our budget hearings click here.
Help Our Struggling Military Members
Anyone who is owed a Pennsylvania personal income tax return has a convenient opportunity to support our military members, veterans and their families who are facing tough times.
You can help those who serve our nation and commonwealth by making a gift to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program. All donations will benefit those with a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control.
On lines 32 through 36 of the Personal Income Tax Return, fill out Code C. If you do not have an overpayment on your return, you may make a donation by sending a check directly to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program, c/o Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Building 0-47, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003-5002.
Veterans: Town Hall about PACT Act on April 4
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) will hold an in-person Veteran Town Hall on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act on Tuesday, April 4, from 6-8 p.m. at the West View VFW Post 2754, 386 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh. The town hall will also be available by phone.
The new federal PACT Act law expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. The town hall will enable veterans and their advocates to learn and ask questions about eligibility and applying for benefits related to the PACT Act.
In-person attendees may arrive early to enjoy a dedicated resource fair from 5-6 p.m. People who will be attending any portion of the event in person are asked to register by calling 717-644-3890.
Anyone joining the town hall by phone should call 267-332-8737 and enter Conference ID: 989503340# to participate. Both in-person attendees and callers will be able to ask questions during the town hall.
State Offers Free Motorcycle Safety Training
PennDOT offers free motorcycle training through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program.
Free courses for novice through seasoned riders are offered to Pennsylvania residents who have a motorcycle learner’s permit or motorcycle license. Four levels of courses are available – including the 16-hour Basic Rider Course, the eight-hour Intermediate Rider Course, the one-day Advanced Rider Course and the 3 Wheel Rider Course.
For more information or to enroll in a course, visit www.pamsp.com.
$25,000 Fishing and Boating Grants Available
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is seeking applicants for grants to support education programs that promote new and renewed interest in fishing and boating. The grants aim to connect Pennsylvanians with the fun of commonwealth waterways by teaching fishing and boating skills and providing quality places for these recreational opportunities.
PFBC will reimburse qualifying organizations up to $25,000 for eligible expenses from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. The grants require a minimum 25% match of total project costs. Grant applications must be submitted here by April 14.
Please contact me to provide input on any state-related matter, or to receive help in dealing with a state agency.