In this Update:
Senate Concludes Hearings on State Budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week concluded four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by FY 2026-27.
Among the key points from the series of hearings, which began Feb. 22:
The Senate will use findings from the hearings to craft an alternative spending plan to the governor’s, with the aim of enacting a final 2022-23 state budget by the June 30 constitutional deadline.
You can find video and recaps of every budget hearing at PASenateGOP.com.
Legislative District Lines Now Set
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court earlier this week rejected legal challenges to the legislative district lines drawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) for both the state House of Representatives and Senate.
The court ruling means the LRC-produced district maps are set and candidates can begin circulating nominating petitions to get on the spring primary ballot starting Friday, March 18. The signature collection period ends on March 28, and the primary election will be held on May 17.
More details about the redistricting process and the new legislative district maps can be found HERE.
Bear Visit in the 25th Senatorial District
Legislators are expected to know, or be able to learn, about virtually anything which impacts our constituents. As a result, we are afforded a lot of opportunities to see for ourselves what is going on with government agencies, businesses, etc.
On Monday March 7th, several legislators and staff were given one of the most unique of these opportunities.
Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) Bear Biologist Emily Carrollo is studying bears around the commonwealth. She brought us together here, in the 25th District, to visit a mama bear and four cubs and watch some of the data collection the PGC has been doing with this sow since she was born 11 years ago. The sow is nursing two of her own cubs and two additional adoptees.
We met the evening before the trip to the “den” and Ms. Carrollo provided us with information on what to expect as well as some excellent information on human/bear interactions.
One of the most interesting things I learned (and which surprised me given the time I’ve spent in the woods) is that many bear “dens” where the hibernation takes place are not in the caves people mostly associate with their hibernation. Many, this sow included, are more like bird’s nests on the ground in an area of thick vegetation that still makes it difficult to find them. This can include treetops that have been left on the ground after an area has been timbered.
Anyone who has been out hunting in such areas can relate to what can be seen in the photos which show her “den.” It’s one thing I wanted to pass along now, because even when “hibernating” these bears are attentive to what’s going on around them. Even though the sow is losing a lot of the fat stores she built up through summer and fall, unlike other mammals who lose muscle mass during long periods of not eating, bears do not and are fully capable of defending themselves and their cubs.
These dens are easy to come on without knowing what they are. The one thing to remember is to not go poking around in these in late winter and early spring.
The cubs are absolutely adorable and although they look like puppies, they are not, so don’t try to “adopt” one. Mama Bear will definitely have something to say about it!
We were there with professionals who have learned from the mistakes of others in the past and have developed the procedures necessary to ensure we all were able to witness this blessing that God has created and we get to see around the 25th Senatorial District more frequently than was the case when I was growing up, thanks to the work of the PGC.
My thanks to the Game Commission for this opportunity.
Winter Utility Disconnection Moratorium to End on March 31
As a reminder to residential electricity customers, the winter utility disconnection moratorium will end on March 31, meaning on April 1 shut-offs for nonpayment of bills will resume.
Penelec and its parent company FirstEnergy are reminding their customers that if they are experiencing financial hardship, there are utility bill assistance programs available to avoid loss of service.
Customers can learn more about such programs as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Pennsylvania Customer Assistance Program (PCAP), the Dollar Energy Fund, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), the PA Homeowners Assistance Fund (PA HAF) and the WARM Program by contacting Penelec’s customer service team (1-800-545-7741), who are available to walk customers through the process of taking advantage of those programs, or visit the website https://www.firstenergycorp.com/help/billingpayments/assistance_serviceprogram.html.
Residential customers also can manage their electric bills through the Equal Payment Plan (EPP), which allows customers to make consistent monthly payments to avoid seasonal highs and lows in their electric bills. A Medical Certification program is available to prevent for up to 30 days disconnection of electric service due to bill nonpayment if it is determined the loss of electric service would be especially dangerous to the health of a permanent member of a customer’s household.
And if you know of someone within the community who is on a fixed income or facing a financial hardship that makes paying their utility bills difficult, please help spread the word that a variety of assistance and payment options are available to help them overcome a challenging time.
How to Protect Yourself Against Tick-Borne Diseases
Lyme disease and the rare but dangerous Deer Tick Virus (DTV) have been found in ticks at high levels for the first time in multiple locations around the state.
The Deer Tick Virus is rare in the United States, but positive cases have increased in recent years. Initial symptoms of a DTV infection may include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. Some people who are infected with DTV experience no symptoms, and therefore infection may go undetected. However, 91% of patients treated for DTV infections develop severe neuroinvasive disease.
Recommended precautions for anyone venturing outdoors include:
For more information about tickborne disease prevention, visit Department of Health’s Tickborne Diseases website.
Access Nursing Home Inspections Online
Pennsylvanians with loved ones in long-term care can access a searchable database of nursing homes to view the results of inspections and complaint investigations.
The database includes patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The Department of Health oversees 688 nursing homes with more than 88,000 beds.
If you see something that may jeopardize patients’ safety or well-being, you can file an anonymous complaint by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out an online form, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a letter in the mail.
Saint Marys Area School District Awarded $200,000 for Student-Run Manufacturing Enterprise
Through Pennsylvania’s Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career Program (MTTC), Saint Marys Area School District was awarded a $200,000 grant to launch a student-run program and boost awareness of available opportunities in the manufacturing industry.
The funding will be used to create a student-run manufacturing enterprise – to be known as Dutch Manufacturing – that will begin during the 2022-23 school year. The pilot program will give qualifying students the opportunity to participate in a manufacturing enterprise that will make actual parts, deliver services and be a part of the supply chain for local manufacturers.
During the grant period, 210 students are expected to learn about and perform different job functions in manufacturing, develop essential skills, utilize advanced manufacturing technologies and build relationships with local companies.
According to the Department of Community and Economic Development, which oversees the program, MTTC grants support projects that result in short-term work-readiness, job placement, or the advancement of manufacturing. The program works collaboratively with local manufacturers to identify and teach missing essential skills for entry level applicants seeking manufacturing employment, engage youth or those with barriers to career opportunities in manufacturing, and or advance capacity for local or regional manufacturers.
Meeting with the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford and American Refining Group
On Thursday March 10th, I along with state Rep. Marty Causer, McKean County Commissioners and Bradford City Councilman Fred Proper had an opportunity to meet with the staff at the American Refining Group (ARG) and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (UPB).
The relationship these two entities have shared over the years has afforded many students from UPB internships at ARG which ultimately turned into lifelong careers and lifelong sustaining jobs right here in the 25th Senatorial District.
I want to thank those from ARG and UPB for taking the time to remind us just how fortunate we are to be living in rural Pennsylvania. We truly are a blessed region. We are not only positivity impacting the lives right here in the 25th Senatorial District but also lives from around the world.
March is National Kidney Month
More than 37 million people in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease and nearly 90% of them are unaware.
If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you are at higher risk for developing kidney disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has useful information during National Kidney Month and year-round.
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