In this Update:
Senate Accomplishments: Education
Building on last year’s efforts, Senate Republicans will continue their work in 2022 to ensure students receive a proper education during the shifting elements of the pandemic.
In 2021, the Senate acted to allocate $500 million in federal funds to help ensure schools reopened, sustained safe operation and addressed student needs resulting from the pandemic. For students who experienced learning loss, the Senate passed a new law allowing parents the option to have their child repeat a grade level during the 2021-22 school year due to COVID-19.
Other legislation passed by the Senate eased school staffing shortages by making permanent a temporary program that gave schools an option to use teachers-in-training as substitutes and providing schools with more hiring flexibility for day-to-day substitutes.
You can find more key education bills passed by the Senate here.
Farmers and Mental Health Discussed by Senate Committee
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee this week held a discussion about mental health in agriculture at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
The panel heard from Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, mental health professionals and others about the unique challenges faced by farmers.
Pennsylvania recently received a two-year, $500,000 federal grant to bolster mental health services and resources for the agricultural community, and the Department of Agriculture is launching a statewide education and awareness campaign in February. The department is working with the national AgriSafe Network to provide a 24/7 mental health hotline for agricultural producers in the near future.
Sen. Dush Talks with Ag Sec. Redding During PA Farm Show
Agriculture is such an integral part of the 25th Senatorial District, so I always enjoy Pennsylvania Farm Show week and the spotlight we put on all of Pennsylvania’s agricultural diversity and offerings.
I had a chance to talk with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding earlier this week during the Farm Show and we covered a variety of topics, including invasive species, the state’s dairy industry, meat processing, and agriculture workforce development.
While we still have many challenges related to each of those issues, Pennsylvania is doing a better job educating everyone about invasive species and how to help control them; the dairy industry is in a better place than it was the last two years; the Commonwealth is looking to support small, local meat processing operations; and efforts continue to provide the necessary training for available agriculture jobs.
The Farm Show continues to be a great educational opportunity for people to see the scope, the breadth of all the different jobs available in the agricultural community – it’s also a fun learning opportunity for the kids and grandkids!
While this year’s show will end this weekend, I would encourage everyone, if they have a chance, to either get there this weekend or make a trip to a future PA Farm Show to see the massive showcase of what Pennsylvania agriculture has to offer.
Noell Nichols of Dubois, Clearfield County, Receives PA Farm Show Scholarships
Noell Nichols, of Dubois, Clearfield County, received two scholarship awards this past week at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Noell is a junior at Penn State University where she is majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Equine Science at Penn State University. She received a $3,500 scholarship through the Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation, and Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science awarded her an additional $2,000 for receiving the Farm Show Scholarship.
The daughter of Lori Andruchowsky and the late Ronald Nichols, Noell grew up in Potter County’s Ulysses, PA, and was an officer in her local 4-H Club, a leader in the Headwaters Future Farmers of America in Potter County, and she has been a six-year participant in the PA Farm Show, where she exhibited market hogs and market lambs.
Following graduation from Penn State, Noell plans to go to veterinary school to study to practice large animal veterinary medicine.
“I think there is a big need [for veterinarians] everywhere,” Noell told me following the scholarship awards ceremony. “I want to be a large animal vet, and there are not a lot of people that want to go out the farm at 3 a.m., but you do what you have to do … and people need to understand it’s a 24-hour job when you’re a vet, and you need to be willing to do that, and I’m 100% willing to do that.”
The fact that Noell won both of these scholarships is a great reflection on her and I think she’s got a bright future ahead of her.
Central Mountain High School FFA-Restored Tractor on Display at PA Farm Show
Members of the Future Farmer of America (FFA) Club at Central Mountain High School, along with instructor Paul Bohnert, spent the last two years restoring a 1952 McCormick Farmall Cub to enter in the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg, and this past week I was able to see the fruits of their work.
The restoration process began in January 2020 with a tractor generously donated by Dotterer Equipment. The tractor had to be made before 1975 and have an internal combustion engine.
Students rebuilt the valve train, replaced the manifold, installed new tires, which were donated by Titan Tire, and repaired all the body parts and repainted the entire tractor. The project was completed in December 2021, and the tractor was ready to haul to the Farm Show.
The FFA team received $800, with the Farm Show awarding $200 and Lancaster Farming and the Friends of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Foundation awarding $600.
The students also have an opportunity to win $250 in Best Presentation, Most Authentic, Best Video, Most Improved, Best Presentation, and Best Record Book.
To view and vote for the Central Mountain High School video, visit the Lancaster Farming website at lancasterfarming.com. Awards will be presented at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, on the Lancaster Farming Stage. The tractor will be on display at the Farm Show from Jan. 8 through Jan. 15.
This type of hands-on training and instruction is beneficial to the future careers of these young people.
Congratulations to the Central Mountain FFA Chapter!
Sen. Dush’s Team Takes Blue Ribbon in PA Farm Show Celebrity Feed Scurry Competition
This week at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, I participated in the “Celebrity” Feed Scurry Competition (I have a hard time with that moniker), and my team finished first out of over 20 participants.
Competitors have to drive a team of draft horses pulling a feed scurry through an obstacle course; at different points along the course, there are stations for loading and unloading straw bales.
I’ve always loved the competition (thanks Mom for raising our family around horses and livestock), and I had a great team – my “mucker” was Washington County’s Trevor Maxwell, the state treasurer for the Future Farmers of America (FFA) – and an outstanding sponsor, Lancaster Farming.
The competition was set up as a fundraising event for the Farm Show in the name of late state Sen. Mike Waugh, who was a strong advocate for Pennsylvania Agriculture and the educational opportunities the Farm Show presented to the people of Pennsylvania. Sadly, Sen. Waugh contracted Leukemia and passed in 2014 while he was the executive director of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
It’s fitting that Duke, the horse closest to the camera in the photo, had belonged to Sen. Waugh and went out a winner in his final competition. Duke is 20 years old and this was his last PA Farm Show competition. It was an honor to be at the reins for his final triumph.
Transition To 5G Cellular Service Will Cause Older 3G Phones to Stop Operating in 2022
Pennsylvania residents with older cell phones are being urged by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to prepare for the phase out of 3G cellular networks and service in 2022.
If your mobile phone is more than a few years old, you may need to upgrade your device before your provider shuts down its 3G network and you lose service – including the ability to call 911. You should contact your cellular service provider to determine if your devices are compliant to ensure you don’t lose connectivity.
The nation’s three major wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile) have announced plans to shut down their 3G networks to accommodate more advanced services, including 5G, as early as February 2022. That will cause many older phones to be unable to make or receive calls and text messages or use data services. It could also affect other devices that rely on 3G connectivity, such as medical alert devices, tablets, smart watches, home security systems, and in-vehicle safety, security, and roadside assistance systems.
While most users of these services will be notified directly by the carriers if this discontinuation affects them, users of older phones that are used only for 911 connectivity may not receive the notification if they do not have active service with a carrier.
Low-income individuals concerned their 911-only phones will no longer be supported should consider applying for service through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program. Information about eligibility, participating providers, and the application process can be found at https://www.lifelinesupport.org/.
Homeowner Assistance Program Opens Feb. 1
Beginning Feb. 1, income-eligible Pennsylvania homeowners facing unforeseen financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for assistance.
The Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund (PAHAF) will help Pennsylvania homeowners whose household income is at or below 150% of the area median to prevent or ease mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, displacement and utility disconnection.
The General Assembly allocated $350 million in federal funds for the program. The legislature also established a Construction Cost Relief Program to support the production of developments by addressing financial deficiencies directly attributed to the effects of the pandemic.
Homeowners can learn about PAHAF and see a list of organizations that can assist them by visiting www.pahaf.org or by calling the PAHAF call center at 888-987-2423 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Applications Being Accepted for PennDOT Summer Employment Program
As in years past, PennDOT will sponsor a summer employment program for students who are registered as fulltime college students for the Fall 2022 semester.
The deadline for receiving summer applications is Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, so I encourage anyone interested in the program to contact my office.
In addition to contacting my office, those interested must also fill out an online application with the PennDOT College Student Summer Worker posting at www.employment.pa.gov under the Open Jobs section of the website. You must complete the online application to be considered for employment.
Regarding the program, the hourly rate is $14.61, applicants must be enrolled as a fulltime college student for the Fall 2022 semester, and applicants must have a valid PA driver’s license and be 18 years of age before beginning work.
Corporal David Powell Retires from Pennsylvania State Police
On Jan. 5, Corporal David Powell retired from a distinguished career with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).
I had the opportunity to personally congratulate him and present him with a citation from the Pennsylvania Senate recognizing his achievements.
Corporal Powell Began his career with Troop C at the Mount Jewett Station. He went on to the Computer Crime Unit at the Punxsutawney Barracks before being selected to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in the Computer Crime Division. He has worked at other PSP stations and distinguished himself in operations, including the response to the United Flight 93 crash in 2001. He’s received numerous accolades from county, state and federal agencies throughout his career, especially in his pursuit of child predators.
It was an honor to be asked to participate in recognizing the accomplishments of this dedicated public servant, to thank his wife and daughters for their sacrifices during his career and to personally wish him well in his future endeavors.
Caring for Dogs in Winter: The Law
Now that cold weather is upon us, I’d like to remind you of the 2017 law designed to prevent animal cruelty in harsh conditions, particularly involving dogs.
Under Act 10 of 2017, an unattended dog may be tethered for no more than nine hours in a 24-hour period and must meet the following criteria:
Penalties range from up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine for neglect to seven years in jail and/or a $15,000 for aggravated cruelty. You can read more about Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws here.
Jan. 21 Transportation “Innovations Challenge” Deadline
High school students have until Jan. 21 to submit entries in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s latest Innovations Challenge. The contest encourages students to use their problem-solving and creative abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges in a competition among their peers.
This year’s Innovations Challenge asks students to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective public engagement strategy, beyond the current public engagement procedures (outlined in Publication 295) that uses innovative technologies and tools that PennDOT can implement to more effectively engage and connect with all age groups during the transportation planning and project development process.
Regional challenge winners will be selected and invited to compete for the state championship, which will be held in spring. The first-place team wins $4,000.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day across America. It’s a day set aside for us to rededicate ourselves to bridging divides and fostering true racial harmony.
There is one race, the human race, in this world. Dr. King peaceably stood against those who would use the color of our skin (on either side) to divide us.
“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.” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
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