In this Update:
State Court Blocks Gov. Wolf’s $781 Million Carbon Tax Pending Further Order
In a win for Pennsylvania consumers and workers, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court this week ruled Gov. Tom Wolf’s $781 million carbon tax could not take effect pending a full order from the court.
The ruling came a day after Republicans stood united in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of the resolution that disapproves of Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The effort came up one vote short when Democrats voted against the state’s economic interests in favor of a policy that will spike residential electricity bills 30% and kill 22,000 jobs.
Just last week, impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) concluded RGGI could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers above the administration’s own year-old projections for the program. The IFO also warned members “those costs would be pushed through to final customers.”
As for environmental benefits, multiple independent reports show emissions from Pennsylvania’s power sector declined at a comparable rate to the other 10 RGGI states over the last decade.
The Wolf Administration is attempting to enter this pact through the regulatory process without the approval of the legislature. Every other participating state entered RGGI through the legislative process – not unilateral executive action. A bipartisan majority of legislators has consistently voted against RGGI when the issue has been brought to the floor for a vote.
Senate Votes to Expand Sexual Assault Law to Cover Crimes Against Care-Dependent Pennsylvanians
The Senate voted to expand the law against institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care-dependent individuals, closing a loophole that allows perpetrators to escape punishment.
Current law against sexual assault applies to institutions such as prisons, schools and law enforcement. It is premised on the fact that truly consensual sexual acts are not possible where someone is in a position of power over another.
Passage of Senate Bill 704 recognizes the same power disparity exists between caretakers and those in their care. Such individuals face additional challenges to reporting sexual abuse due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles.
Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault eliminates the loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim the victim consented. Senate Bill 704 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault is just the latest action taken by the General Assembly to stand together against this vile crime.
In recent years, lawmakers enacted measures strengthening the rights of sexual assault survivors and bolstering their ability to obtain justice.
Need help? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider.
Safe Exchange Zones Could Come to More PA Communities with Senate Vote
Legislation to create a grant program to establish Safe Exchange Zones throughout Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 881 would provide a safe area for individuals to exchange goods bought and sold through an online marketplace, as well as serving as a safe place for child custody exchanges, among other practices.
The Safe Exchange Zones would be voluntary and require the agreement of the participating law enforcement agencies. The zones would be equipped with video surveillance and are either within 100 feet of a law enforcement office or located near a public area with an active public presence. Passage came a year to the day that Cambria County resident Denise Williams was murdered after she attempted to finalize the purchase of an item found through Facebook Marketplace.
Senate Local Government Committee Reports Out Two Bills
Earlier this week, I chaired a meeting of the Senate Local Government Committee during which the committee voted to report to the full Senate two bills:
SB 1058 is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and HB 1184 was passed by the full Senate and is awaiting concurrence in the House.
A “How to Shop for Energy Suppliers” Event in Bradford on May 21
If you have questions about how to shop for a new energy supplier, I will be holding an event [INSERT link, using the word “event,” to the uploaded Dush power supplier event.pdf] at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, in the Bromeley Family Theater on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford, located at 300 Campus Drive, Bradford, PA 16701.
I’ve invited to the event PUC educators who can answer your questions, as well as provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding shopping for gas and electric suppliers, such as:
Please call 814-646-7272 to RSVP or register online at https://senatorcrisdushpa.com/puc-education.
If you are unable to attend in person, this seminar will be simultaneously broadcast at senatorcrisdushpa.com/puc-education and at https://www.facebook.com/SenatorCrisDushPA. Prior to the event you are invited email your question for the PUC educators to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PennDOT Accepting Unsolicited Public-Private Partnership Proposals Until April 30
Now through April 30, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Office of Public-Private Partnerships (P3) is accepting unsolicited proposals for transportation projects from the private sector.
Done annually in April and October, the submission period applies to PennDOT-owned projects, infrastructure and services.
During this period, the private sector can submit proposals offering innovative ways to deliver transportation projects across a variety of modes including roads, bridges, rail, aviation, and ports.
Proposals can also include more efficient models to manage existing transportation-related services and programs.
The private sector may also submit applications for non-PennDOT-owned assets directly to the P3 board during this time. Transportation entities outside of the governor’s jurisdiction, such as transit authorities and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, may establish their own timelines or accept proposals year-round.
Instructions about how to submit a project and information on the unsolicited proposal review process can be found on the state’s P3 website.
Applications Now Being Accepted for Federal Transportation Grant Programs
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity for three discretionary grant programs, with applications due by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on May 23, 2022.
The programs are the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (also referred to as the Mega program), with up to $1 billion available for Fiscal Year 2022; the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects (also referred to as the INFRA program), with up to $1.55 billion available for Fiscal Year 2022; and the Rural Surface Transportation (also referred to as the Rural program), with up to $300 million available for Fiscal Year 2022.
For the Rural program funding, 25% will be reserved for projects that further the completion of designated routes of the Appalachian Development Highway System.
To apply for one, two or three of the programs, the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant common application can be used. Applying for multiple programs will maximize your potential of receiving a grant.
Grants for the INFRA, Mega, and Rural programs will be awarded on a competitive basis for surface transportation infrastructure projects – will include highway and bridge, intercity passenger rail, railway-highway grade crossing or separation, wildlife crossing, public transportation, marine highway, and freight projects, or groups of such projects – with significant national or regional impact, or to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas.
For more about the program and application requirements, see the 94-page Notice of Funding Opportunity.
Ben Franklin Learning Center Offering Help for Businesses Looking to Hire
The labor market for employers is anything but easy to navigate right now.
Zoom meetings will be held with career services professionals from the following institutes of higher education:
You can attend all the sessions, or just pick and choose the ones that may be of most interest.
For more information contact: Mary Kay Williams, Ben Franklin Talent Scout: email@example.com, 814-360-9337
Grants Available to Help Drug and Alcohol Recovery Houses
Effective treatment for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder is essential for healthy communities. State grants are available to help recovery houses with facility upgrades to comply with federal, state, and local laws and receive a state license.
Grants up to $50,000 for a 12-month period beginning July 1 will be awarded to eligible applicants for health and safety upgrades including demolition, debris removal, rehabilitation improvements, environmental remediation costs, and construction and inspections to comply with state regulations.
Applicants must meet several qualifications to be eligible. More information is available here.
Saturday is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day
It’s commemorated on April 9 because that day in 1942 was the prelude to the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of up to 80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war. Up to 650 American and 10,000 Filipino soldiers died during the brutal, 65-mile march.
We must never forget the ordeal faced by prisoners of war during captivity and the emotional toll on those fortunate enough to survive.
Electronics Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste Collection in Jefferson County on May 7
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