In this Update:
Senate Votes to Ban Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes and Private Funding of Election Operations
The Senate voted this week to safeguard the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections by approving two bills that would prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban private money to fund election operations. The measures were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
No More Unsecured Ballot Drop Boxes
I introduced Senate Bill 1200 to require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania.
In September 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made a decision based on a stand that they took where they had their feet firmly planted in midair: they did not have the constitutional authority to create something called “drop boxes,” something nobody had ever heard of before here in the commonwealth.
In my capacity as chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, we have been able to show through our election investigation that even in 2021, there were illegally placed ballots, that is to say there were more ballots placed in the drop box than there were people who showed up to place them there. Under the law that’s ballot harvesting and it’s illegal.
Numerous examples of drop boxes being misused have been discovered throughout the state, including:
Eliminating unsecured ballot drop boxes will not negatively impact voter access. There are more than 10,000 publicly available locations across the Commonwealth that voters can use to return their ballots.
The steps that we’re taking are intended to correct an overreach by the Supreme Court and get our elections headed in a direction that allows us to build a sense of integrity in the system for the people of Pennsylvania.
Keep Outside Money Away from PA Election Process
Senate Bill 982 would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania.
The legislation was created in response to the use of grant money from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) during the 2020 Election. Correspondence between CTCL officials, the Wolf Administration and county officials demonstrates that funding was intentionally directed predominantly to counties that favor Democrats.
Democrat-leaning counties were selectively invited to apply for the grants before Republican-leaning counties were even made aware of the funding. Philadelphia and its surrounding counties received more than $18 million from CTCL in the 2020 Election, while other counties received significantly less.
For example, Philadelphia received $8.83 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020. On the other side of the state, Venango County, with a Republican voter registration advantage, received only $.64 per voter in CTCL funding in 2020.
It was never the intent of the legislature to establish rogue election facilities on public street corners with pop-up tents, or in cars, trucks, and vans and without Board of Elections oversight while allowing outside third party entities to pay for them in areas of their choice.
The steps the Senate took with SB 1200 and SB 982 are a significant step towards ensuring the vote of Pennsylvanians is secure.
Senate Boosts Crime Victim Protection and Support
The Senate approved a package of bills aiding crime victims by providing stronger protections, increasing support and improving access to services. The bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 1179 extends the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act to give victims of child abduction and human trafficking access to substitute mailing addresses and allows applications for address confidentiality to be submitted electronically.
Senate Bill 118 expands Megan’s Law to require offenders convicted of any sex trafficking-related offenses to register.
Senate Bill 1040 requires law enforcement to make reasonable efforts to ensure a murder victim’s family has been notified before releasing the victim’s identity to the public and media.
Senate Bill 1172 expands access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to better provide quality care for victims. SANEs have specialized training in trauma and forensic nursing and are vital to a complete care system for survivors of sexual assault.
Legislation to Aid Rural Remote Working Passes Senate
Legislation to help more rural Pennsylvania communities establish remote workplace facilities was approved by the Senate. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 962 would create the Rural Co-Working and Innovation Centers Grant Program within the Department of Community and Economic Development to help rural communities create facilities equipped with high-speed broadband, furniture, and security systems for teleworkers.
According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 48 out of 67 counties and 1,592 municipalities are rural and could benefit from this program.
Senate Approves Measure to Encourage Responsible Solar Development, Protect Property Owners
The Senate approved a proposal that would establish decommissioning and financial requirements for solar generation projects going out of service and offer better protections for landowners.
Senate Bill 284 includes a graduated, phase-in process for financial assurances, setting up five-year benchmarks using third-party professional engineers to assess and calculate fair market value of the project and costs to decommission it.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Committee Advances Measure to Protect Women’s Sports
Earlier this week, the Senate Education Committee advanced a measure, Senate Bill 1191, to establish the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which would prohibit students of the male sex, which the bill defines as the biological distinction between male and female based on reproductive biology and genetic make-up, from participating in athletic teams or sports that are designed for women or girls.
The bill would also prohibit a government entity or licensing, accrediting or athletic organization from entertaining a complaint, opening an investigation, or taking adverse action against a school entity or public institution of higher education for maintaining separate teams or sports for students of the female sex.
Senate Bill 1191 is a commonsense bill. God created us wonderfully and distinctly as male and female and this bill supports it.
The bill is now in the hands of the full Senate for consideration.
New Opportunity for Small Businesses to Expand Their Markets, Grow Sales
The pandemic has hit all of our small businesses hard, and to help them rebound, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has created a new online e-commerce directory: CommonGoods.
The goal is to connect PA small businesses with consumers, especially those who want to shop local.
According to the DCED’s directory, there are currently a total of five businesses listed for Cameron, Clinton and Elk counties, but no businesses, as yet, listed for Clearfield, Jefferson, McKean, Potter or Tioga counties.
You could be one of the first to start connecting with customers through this new e-commerce opportunity.
Good News for PA Employers About Workers Compensation
Given how difficult things have been for Pennsylvania employers the past two years, anything that help to reduce their costs is helpful.
That’s why the news coming out of the Pennsylvania Insurance Commission is so welcomed: the commission has approved of a loss-cost filing that includes a 6.25% reduction in loss costs.
Loss-costs are a component in determining workers’ compensation insurance rates paid by businesses, and this reduction should lead to lower premiums for many Pennsylvania businesses.
Kenneth Burkett, Recipient of the Society for American Archaeology’s 2022 Crabtree Award
Last week I had the honor to introduce in the Pennsylvania Senate Kenneth Burkett, who is the recipient of the Society for American Archaeology’s 2022 Crabtree Award.
Kenneth is a graduate of Brookville Area High School in Jefferson County, and he is a Carnegie Museum of Natural History Field Associate, as well as a Society of Pennsylvania Archeology (SPA) since 1983. He has made several important archeological discoveries in Pennsylvania, starting in 1975 at the early age of 23, when, in Elk County, he made a sensational excavation of a Native American burial with artifacts – dating back to 1330 AD – that are now housed at Carnegie, as well as authored many archaeology publications and a book, The Scripture Rocks.
He’s also very active serving his community, having been the Clarion Hospital Paramedic/EMS director, and now, since 2008, he’s the executive director of the Jefferson County History Center (JCHS). Kenneth led the JCHS (Scripture Rocks) Heritage Park project in 2012, opened in 2016 a hiking park and historic cultural education resource and directed excavation of a Native American rockshelter in the park. He serves as a Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau Board members, president and treasurer of the SPA North Fork Chapter 29 Board (he started the chapter), past Lumber Heritage Region Board member, past treasurer of the Brookville Chamber of Commerce and former SPA president, first vice president and the current SPA treasurer.
The Society for American Archaeology presents the Crabtree Award annually to an outstanding avocational archaeologist who has made significant contributions to advance understandings of local, regional, or national archaeology through excavation, research, publication, site or collections reservation, collaboration with the professional community, and/or public outreach.
Honoring Randy Coleman on His Retirement from PennDOT
I had the pleasure this week to introduce Randy Coleman on the Senate floor to celebrate his retirement from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation after over 31 years of dedicated service to the Commonwealth.
Randy began his career with the Pennsylvania Game Commission before he transitioned to PennDOT in 1992. He worked in multiple locations until 2001 when he was named Driver License Supervisor in Punxsutawney, the position from which he is retiring.
During my time in the House of Representatives and Senate, my team and I have worked closely with Randy to help countless constituents with such things as renewing a driver’s license or checking the status of filed paperwork, as well as be a resource for our senior expos, where he and his team have been able to answer numerous transportation-related questions.
My office could always count on Randy to get us – and the constituents we serve – whatever was needed to help clarify the issue at hand.
He has become a good friend and he will be missed.
New Resource for Information about PA Outdoors, Wildlife
The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee has created a new Facebook page on which it’s posting about all the things that make Pennsylvania’s great outdoors so great.
I have the privilege to be a member of the committee and our mission with the new page is to provide a greater appreciation and understanding of the natural world around us that will resonate with every Pennsylvanian.
Using the tools and guidance provided to us by some of the great agencies in this state, we will strive to reach past the traditional groups that utilize the outdoors and capture the interest of people who have not yet discovered their love of the flora and fauna found in Pennsylvania and bring them a deeper and a more profound connection to nature.
From the tiniest freshwater species to the majestic Pennsylvanian Elk, the new Facebook page will cover it all and share all of it with you.
8-Week National Hardwood Lumber Association Inspector Training School
The National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) will be offering their 8-week Inspector Training School program from June 6, 2022 through July 29, 2022 at the Clearfield County Career & Technology Center.
The program, which will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each instruction day, is a mix of hands-on training and testing, in-class lectures, group study, one-on-one training with the instructor and more. Students who successfully fulfill all the program requirements will receive a certificate of completion.
The summer class is made possible through a grant award through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (DOA) Commonwealth Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
Companies who send a student or individual non-sponsored students who reside in Pennsylvania and successfully complete this program will receive a 50% tuition reimbursement. The reimbursement will be provided from the PA DOA grant.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter
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