In this Update:
Inside the Election Investigation
The primary election in Pennsylvania has spared no opportunity in perpetuating “fake news.”
From Democrats paying for Republican attack ads, to people in our own party spreading misinformation as demonstrated in a recent post in AND Magazine.
Make no mistake, the fight to determine the Republican nominee for the State Senate race in the 16th district has been cut-throat and remains undetermined. But the ugliness of the race has somehow falsely transferred itself from the election playing field to blaming the Senate GOP and classifying them as so called “swampers.”
As lead of the Pennsylvania Election Investigation, it would be remiss on my part if I did not point out how this false and unsourced information from AND Magazine is damaging to the integrity of our election process by accusing “Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward… of pulling together funds and discussing how to file a lawsuit to challenge the results of the election in which Browne lost.”
Nothing could be further from the truth as demonstrated by the actions of the Senate. The Senate and its members are engaged in an election investigation only. We are the only chamber to elevate the review of the Pennsylvania election process to investigation status. In fact, the investigation would not be continuing without the support of leadership as noted in a recent PennLive article.
And I can say unequivocally that Majority Leader Kim Ward has been a direct supporter of the IGOC efforts to ensure the law is followed and there is integrity to ensuring only qualified electors who lawfully submit ballots are counted in the process. The unsourced allegations suggested by AND Magazine are not only untruthful, but contradict the legal actions taken by Senate and House leadership on at least two occasions.
One of the most disturbing actions involving election integrity are the actions of the courts regarding tampering of evidence. Ballots are evidence, evidence of a qualified elector’s selections as to whom they want to represent them. As evidence they require a chain of custody. That chain of custody is spelled out in the law. Unfortunately, both state and federal courts, both of which should know better, have taken actions which break the chain of custody making it impossible to determine if the voter is a qualified elector or if the ballot was submitted by a qualified elector.
If you are interested in learning more about the election investigation and the actions already taken as a result of our investigation, please check out our election integrity site. To continue to follow our progress, you can sign-up for updates as well.
It is important that we put the integrity of our election process above the politics of elections.
Declining Revenue Projections Highlight the Risk of Gov. Wolf’s Budget Plan
The state Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its initial revenue estimate for 2022-23 and warns that tax revenue is likely to fall in the coming fiscal year. The IFO’s projection for General Fund revenue next year is $42.26 billion – about an 11.5% drop from 2021-22.
The new numbers further highlight the risk of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state budget and emphasize what Senate Republicans have been saying all along: the governor’s bloated spending plan is unrealistic and unsustainable. His plan to increase spending by more than $4.5 billion next year would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security.
The new figures from the IFO build on previous analysis that shows the potential for Gov. Wolf’s $45.7 billion budget to create multi-billion-dollar deficits for years to come.
As the June 30 deadline for enacting a state budget approaches, Senate Republicans will work to draft a more responsible plan that protects taxpayers already struggling with staggering inflation and an uncertain financial future.
Bill Establishing Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer Approved by Senate
Legislation establishing the position of Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer was approved by the Senate, recognizing the crucial role that registered nurses play in the delivery of health care.
Senate Bill 848 would establish the Office of Chief Nursing Officer, modeled after the role and confirmation process of the Physician General. The duties of the Pennsylvania Chief Nursing Officer would include:
Senate Bill 848 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Acts to Improve Access to Property Tax and Rent Rebates
The Senate acted to close a loophole that made many senior citizens ineligible for the state Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The bill moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The problem arose when senior citizens transferred retirement funds into other retirement accounts, which would show up as available income on an application and make the individual ineligible for help lowering their property taxes.
Senate Bill 230 would allow retirees to transfer those retirement account investments between accounts within 60 days without counting toward income when applying for property tax or rent relief. If those funds are not invested into another qualified retirement plan within 60 days, the funds will be considered income.
Grant Applications Now Being Accepted for Programs and Services Benefitting PA Veterans
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) has announced that the 2021-22 Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF) is accepting supplemental grant applications for programs and services benefiting Pennsylvania veterans.
The DMVA will award VTF grants to non-profit organizations and veteran service organizations across the state. Grant applications must be received no later than 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday June 1, 2022.
VTF funding is available to veteran service organizations with 501(c)(19) status and non-profit organizations with a mission of serving Pennsylvania veterans granted 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code. Funding priorities for applicants in this category are employment and education, behavioral health initiatives and other programs or services that address unmet needs of veterans and their families.
More Than $1 Million Awarded to Clinton County Boroughs to Complete Freshwater Infrastructure System
Community Block Grant Development (CDBG) funding totaling $1,019,386 has been awarded to complete a freshwater infrastructure system between the boroughs of South Renovo and Renovo, benefiting 302 customers.
The water infrastructure in both boroughs was installed in the early 1900s and the entire 1,670-foot waterline under Pine Street from the eastern side of 4th Street will be replaced.
Upon completion, South Renovo Borough will consolidate the water system with Renovo Borough, which will allow residents of South Renovo Borough to have lower user rates.
CDBG funds enable communities to effectively address local community development needs by providing federal funds to develop viable communities through the provision of modest housing and a suitable living environment. Funds are also used to expand economic opportunities geared to low-and moderate-income individuals and to improve infrastructure critical to community health and welfare.
PUC Offers Tips for Dealing with June Electric Rate Hikes
With costs for electric generation increasing on June 1 for many utility customers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding consumers they have options to manage anticipated higher bills.
According to the PUC, the best response for those struggling to pay energy bills is to call utilities and ask about assistance programs, manage energy use and shop for competitive electric generation suppliers. You can find more from the PUC about consumer options here.
The rate increase will occur even before Gov. Tom Wolf’s carbon tax kicks in, which could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers. The carbon tax is part of Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was enacted by the governor without legislative approval.
Further Extension of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to June 17
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended a second time to June 17, allowing additional households to apply for help.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the state that provides assistance for home heating bills. Assistance is available for renters and homeowners.
Applications Now Being Accepted for Grant Program Seeking to Boost Child Care
Applications are now being accepted for grants targeted to support certified child care providers seeking to recognize staff dedication through retention bonuses, as well as help with personnel development and recruitment.
The deadline to submit applications is June 17, 2022. Funds will be disbursed to approved providers beginning July 1 until Sept. 30.
More information about how to apply for this funding is available at www.pakeys.org.
Applications Being Accepted for Federal Dollars to Expand Broadband Internet Access
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced Internet for All, a $65 billion investment effort by the federal government with the goal of connecting all Americans to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.
The federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration has opened the application window for several programs that will support efforts in states and U.S. territories to close the digital gap in areas with little or no high-speed internet.
A separate program, the Affordable Connectivity Program, helps low-income households pay for monthly internet service and provides discounts for laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.
In a Center for Rural Pennsylvania hearing last Friday members of the committee were able to listen to testimony from various providers, customers telecom experts and other stakeholders on what the issues are in utilizing these resources to ensure rural Pennsylvania receives the money and that it is effectively put to use.
Watershed Implementation Plan Project Grants Now Available
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting applications now through June 24 for Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Grants that fund projects identified in Watershed Implementation Plans.
Examples include agricultural best management practices; projects that address storm water runoff, stream channel degradation, and flood plain restoration; and new watershed implementation plan development in Pennsylvania environmental justice areas.
For more information about the grant application process, see the DEP’s website.
North Central PA Housing Public Survey
The North Central PA Regional Planning & Development Commission is undergoing a Regional Housing Needs Assessment & Market Strategy for the 6-county region (Elk, Cameron, Clearfield, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties) and has joined forces for that effort with Fourth Economy Consulting, an economic development firm out of Pittsburgh.
As part of the public input phase of the study, a short two-minute survey has been created for local individuals to share their vision for the future of housing in the region – the survey can be found HERE.
One of the things I’ve learned since being in the legislature is how important it is to get as many views on things like this as possible before making decisions. I strongly encourage everyone to take a few minutes, think about what you would like to see to improve our communities in the region and let these leaders know.
The survey is live and will be active for eight weeks, and all those who live in the region are urged to participate.
PA Wilds Experiments with Ways to Attract, Keep Remote Workers
Because of the COVID-19 lockdowns, remote working has become a desire by many within or looking to enter the workforce.
A new program started by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, entitled “The Wilds Are Working: A Remote Lifestyle Experience,” seeks to capitalize on that desire by many workers, luring them to rural areas of Pennsylvania.
According to the PA Wilds Center, the Wilds Are Working campaign seeks to empower workers to try out living, working and giving in the PA Wilds communities for 2-4 weeks with the hope that some of those participants will decide to work in the region full-time.
Modeled after case studies emerging from across Appalachia and the nation, this program is one of many that rural communities are implementing to incentivize and stimulate revitalization. Building on the movement, the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act looks to allocate $50 million annually to fund infrastructure improvements and similar marketing campaigns to help towns across the country plan and build recreation-based economies. These so-called “Zoom towns” are popping up around the nation, with some communities providing workers with $10,000 to relocate there for one year.
One town participating in the PA Wilds Center program is McKean County’s Borough of Kane. Kane, a town of 3,500 on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest, and Bellefonte, a town of 6,276 about 10 miles north of Penn State, were chosen as the pilots for the program.
Kane is still accepting applications for its remote working residency, which will run from Sept. 14 to Oct. 14.
Paying for College and Career Training with 529 Accounts
Sunday is College and Career Savings Day to promote the savings opportunities offered by 529 accounts, such as the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program.
The PA 529 College and Career Savings Program offers two plans, the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP). PA 529 GSP account earnings are based on college tuition inflation rates, while PA 529 IP account earnings are tied to investment choice and financial market performance.
PA 529 accounts can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, equipment and room and board at technical schools, apprenticeship programs, community colleges and four-year colleges nationwide. Through Tuesday, May 31, families can take advantage of special PA 529 promotions at pa529.com/529day.
Memorial Day: Our Duty to Remember
We celebrate three days each year for those who have served our nation in the profession of arms. Memorial Day is the day we pause and remember those who sacrificed their lives, who never made it home to family and friends.
I hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend with your family and friends and that you take some time to remember the profound sacrifice of those who died fighting for our nation.
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