In this Update:
Senate Votes to Let Citizens Decide Voter ID, Legal Relief for Sexual Abuse Victims, Regulatory Reform
The Senate passed legislation this week that will let voters decide whether the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to create a voter ID requirement, provide sexual abuse victims with a way to sue their abusers and reform the state regulatory review process.
Ballots are evidence of a qualified elector’s decision as to who they want to represent or work for them and voter ID is the best way to initiate the chain of custody of that evidence. Thirty-five states, the world’s developed countries and many developing ones have voter photo ID requirements, and a 2021 Franklin and Marshall College poll found that 74% of Pennsylvania voters said the commonwealth should join them in making elections more secure.
In addition, Senate Bill 1 includes a separate proposed amendment that would allow the General Assembly to reject a regulation by majority approval, as opposed to a two-thirds vote, in both legislative chambers. As most of my long-time constituents know, I’ve been fighting the overreach of unelected bureaucrats who have been regulating classrooms, townships, boroughs, homeowners and businesses against the intent of legislation their elected officials (whom they can fire if they aren’t doing their jobs unlike the bureaucrats) have passed into law.
Under Pennsylvania’s current regulatory review process, the executive branch has circumvented the General Assembly and the normal legislative process, ignoring any legislative or public input that runs counter to executive branch regulatory goals. This is costing all of us extra money as well as causing us to lose time and interfering with our jobs and lives. The voters will be able to tell the bureaucrats that enough is enough.
Senate Bill 1 also includes a proposed constitutional amendment that will create a two-year window to allow sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers. Victims of sexual abuse who were abused as children have been unable to seek justice after the age of 30 due to a statute of limitations provision in Pennsylvania law.
In addition, Senate Bill 1 includes a separate proposed amendment that would allow the General Assembly to reject a regulation by majority approval, as opposed to a two-thirds vote, in both legislative chambers.
Under Pennsylvania’s current regulatory review process, the executive branch has circumvented the General Assembly and the normal legislative process, ignoring any legislative or public input that runs counter to executive branch regulatory goals.
The General Assembly previously approved the amendments in the 2021-22 legislative session. Approval of Senate Bill 1 this session would let voters have their say.
Senate Approves Bill to Eliminate Gas Tax Increase, Help Pennsylvanians at the Pump
Taking significant action to protect Pennsylvanians’ wallets, the Senate approved a bill to stop the automatic gas tax increase for 2023. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
For the first time, the average wholesale price of gasoline exceeded $2.99 per gallon last year, triggering an automatic increase in Pennsylvania’s gas tax that went into effect Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 35 would eliminate the automatic gas tax increase for 2023 moving forward, preventing what would produce the second-highest gas tax in the nation behind California, and permanently set the average wholesale price at $2.99 per gallon. The bill also requires the Department of Revenue to reassess this year’s gas tax structure.
Projections indicate the average Pennsylvania household will spend nearly $2,500 at the gas pump in 2023. This includes approximately $380 per driver in gas taxes alone.
Sen. Wayne Langerholc is the chair of the Transportation Committee and his remarks spell out the need for this effort and lays out why those who are arguing to keep the increase are in error.
Miniseries of Human Trafficking Interviews
January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month (Jan. 11 was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day).
To draw further attention to this important issue, I have produced a series of interviews (four) that I will release this month, one per week. Every Thursday, I will post on my website a background discussion about human trafficking, a short bio of the anti-human trafficking CEO I interviewed and a five-minute interview with this human trafficking expert.
This week, the second interview features the founder and CEO of Green Light Operation, Ms. Jordan Pine.
Jordan received her B.A. in Politics with a minor in Criminal Justice from Messiah University and holds years of experience in the anti-human trafficking movement, nonprofit leadership, business management and interagency collaboration. She is a leading voice in Pennsylvania on the issue of human trafficking, having educated thousands about this criminal industry. Her passion to see freedom for all is stronger than ever.
I introduced a three-pronged approach to dealing with human trafficking during the anti-human trafficking conference held at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in October 2022. This approach includes communications/education of human trafficking, rescuing victims and restoration/reintegration of body and soul of survivors.
Brookville’s Tayler Rafferty Receives 2023 PA Farm Show Scholarship
Tayler Rafferty of Brookville, Jefferson County, was one of 13 recipients of a 2023 Pennsylvania Farm Show scholarship, recognized for her outstanding leadership and achievements through both horse and livestock clubs as part of Jefferson County 4-H.
Tayler is a freshman at Penn State Dubois majoring in Agricultural and Extension Education and Wildlife Technology. She intends to become a high school agriculture education teacher. A special thank you to Jefferson County’s 4H Extension Educator Amanda Kanouff, who has been an inspiration.
She received a $4,000 scholarship, and because she’s attending Penn State she’ll receive an additional $2,000 scholarship, all to help her with the costs of her ongoing education.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation was established in 1993 through the vision and generous support of several key leaders in agriculture and three companies that contributed more than $11,000 toward scholarships. Current scholarship funding comes from Farm Show champion animal sales, corporate membership dues, individual contributions, proceeds from hotel and restaurant listings in the annual “Farm Show Accommodations Brochure,” buyer contributions from the Farm Show’s Junior Livestock Sale and the foundation’s annual benefit dinner and auction. Since its founding, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 million scholarships to 395 worthy 4-H and FFA youth.
I have enjoyed watching Tayler’s journey for my entire eight years as an elected official (in both the state House and Senate), and I’m thrilled she’s following in the footsteps of those who encouraged and supported her on her journey.
Good luck in your future endeavors, Tayler! You’ll make an awesome ag teacher someday.
Counties Can Create Suicide and Overdose Death Review Teams
As incidents of suicide and overdose deaths continue to rise, recent changes to state law (Act 101 of 2022) now allow counties to establish suicide death review teams, overdose death review teams or both, all with the goal of preventing future overdose and suicide deaths by identifying patterns, improving data accuracy, enhancing local service coordination and providing recommendations to inform policies and programs.
Act 101 also provides that Single County Authorities, substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers and other SUD-related organizations may be asked to serve on a death review team and that they may be asked to provide records as part of a death review team’s duties pursuant to Act 101.
The overdose and suicide crises are not abating and are rapidly shifting, which means we need timely, in-depth data and actionable recommendations. These teams can help with that.
Virtual Job Fair Set for Wednesday, Jan. 18
The Pennsylvania National Guard Associations will be holding a virtual job fair Wednesday, Jan. 18.
Jobseekers should be prepared to interview online with hiring managers and recruiters from top hiring companies. This online chat will connect the public directly with organizations.
After signing in, participants will be able to explore the available information and opportunities and participate in live one-on-one, text-based chats with representatives from participating organizations. Participants may also visit the job fair before and after the live event to continue making connections with top employers.
Assistance Available for Local Historic Preservation
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is now accepting applications from nonprofit organizations and local governments for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program.
Grants support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for the benefit of the public and community revitalization.
Two categories of grants – construction and planning – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania that are listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Applicants may apply for only one type of grant. Prospective applicants for construction grants can attend a webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. A planning grant webinar will be held Thursday, Jan. 19 at 1 p.m.
Anti-Litter Contest Open to K-6 Students
Entries are now being accepted for the Litter Hawk Youth Award Program being run by the Keep PA Beautiful organization. It is a way for students in kindergarten through sixth grade to promote anti-littering efforts through art, words or video.
Two entries will be selected as winners in each grade level. First place will receive a $50 gift card. First runner-up will receive a $25 gift card. All participants will be recognized with certificates. The deadline to participate is Jan. 31. Winners will be announced in April.
Kids can participate individually or as part of a lesson initiated by schools, home-schools, scout troops, 4-H clubs, environmental clubs or other organized groups. More information and entry forms are available here.
Online Voting Open for Paint the Plow Program in District 2
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 2 would like the public to vote on nine plows decorated by high school students Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk and Potter counties as part of the annual Paint the Plow program.
Paint the Plow seeks to promote winter driving safety and foster appreciation for high school art programs and student creativity.
This year’s painting theme is “Put Down the Device in Snow and Ice.” The theme was chosen to draw attention to the need for motorists to give driving their full attention and eliminate distractions, like cell phones, especially during winter weather events.
Students from Bucktail Area High School, Central Mountain High School, Clearfield Area High School, Coudersport High School, DuBois Area High School, DuBois Central Catholic School, Elk County Catholic School, Galeton Area School District, Harmony Area High School, Philipsburg Osceola Area High School and Sugar Valley Rural Charter School participated.
You can vote for your favorite plow on the PennDOT website www.penndot.pa.gov/District2. Voters should click on the Paint the Plow icon which will redirect them to a survey site where they can pick their favorite plow.
The plow photo that receives the most votes between Monday, Jan. 9, and midnight on Sunday, Jan. 15, will be deemed the fan favorite. PennDOT will also post the pictures on statewide and regional Facebook and Twitter accounts, however responses on social media will not count toward the voting totals.
January is National Blood Donor Month
The first observance of January as National Blood Donor Month was in 1970, and ever since we’ve used the month as an opportunity to recognize the roughly 3% of the U.S. population donates blood each year.
A blood transfusion occurs every two seconds in America and a single donation can save multiple lives.
To find a blood donation location close to you, you can use this website.
If you’re a professional football fan, donating blood in January could win you a trip to Super Bowl 57 in Arizona on Feb. 12, 2023, thanks to a partnership of the American Red Cross and the NFL – you can schedule your next blood, platelet or plasma donation appointment today using this American Red Cross tool to find blood drives in your area.
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I say “AMEN” to that statement!
Nearly 60 years after he shared his dream in an Aug. 28, 1963, Washington, D.C. speech, Martin Luther King Jr.’s wish is shared by the overwhelming number of Americans of all backgrounds. We must defend this unifying ideal for the well-being of our children and nation.
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