Senator Cris Dush E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Bills Passed in 2021-22 to Improve Education
  • New Law Targets Repeat DUI Offenders
  • Enforcement of REAL ID Delayed Until 2025
  • Jefferson County Seniors Supply Some of the Ornaments for the PA Capitol Christmas Tree
  • A Visit to the PA Capitol from Oswayo Valley 
  • 41st Annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Dec. 9 through Dec. 11
  • Water, Sewer Project Grants Available; Application Deadline is Dec. 21
  • $50,000 Awarded to North Central for Comprehensive Plan Development
  • Fishing Licenses and Permits for 2023 Available Now
  • You Can Help Honor Those Who Gave All

Bills Passed in 2021-22 to Improve Education

Looking back on notable legislation we passed in the 2021-22 legislative session, some of the more important pieces were those that got students back into the classroom after the pandemic, expanded educational opportunity and better prepared students for success.

The General Assembly allocated $500 million in federal funds to help ensure schools safely reopened as soon as possible and addressed student needs resulting from the pandemic, and acted to help more students access tax credit scholarships by loosening the threshold for schools to be considered “economically disadvantaged.”

To get more teachers into the classroom, we passed legislation making permanent a temporary program that gave schools the option to use qualified individuals training to be teachers as substitute teachers, and helped ease Pennsylvania’s day-to-day substitute teacher shortage by providing schools with more hiring flexibility.

We also voted to improve workforce development initiatives and better prepare Pennsylvania students for jobs that will be in demand after they graduate. You can find a complete list of key education bills passed here.

New Law Targets Repeat DUI Offenders

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a good time to note that legislation we passed earlier this year has taken effect that increases penalties on repeat DUI offenders and hopefully reduces tragic deaths.

Under the new law, an individual charged with DUI with a BAC of .16 or higher or a DUI involving controlled substances, and already has the following number of prior offenses, commits:

  • A third-degree felony for two prior offenses (previously two or more prior offenses), punishable by up to seven years in prison.
  • A second-degree felony for three or more prior offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (Previously a third-degree felony.)

It also requires consecutive sentencing for certain repeat DUI offenders and imposes an 18-month driving privilege suspension for a second-degree DUI conviction.

The measure is named in honor of Deana DeRosa Eckman of Delaware County, who was killed in a 2019 head-on collision involving a truck operated by someone previously convicted of five DUIs.

Enforcement of REAL ID Delayed Until 2025

The deadline to obtain a REAL ID has been extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to May 7, 2025. The extension means you will continue to be able to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal building with a standard driver’s license until that date.

REAL ID is a federal law that dictates how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are going to be acceptable for federal purposes.

REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents. You will be able to get either a REAL ID driver’s license/identification card, or a standard driver’s license or identification card. If you do not get a REAL ID, you must have an alternate form of federally acceptable identification (valid passport, military ID, etc.) to board domestic commercial flights and enter certain federal facilities after May 7, 2025. You can find comprehensive information at PennDOT’s REAL ID page. (NOTE: The page has not been updated to reflect the new May 7, 2025 deadline.)

Jefferson County Seniors Supply Some of the Ornaments for the PA Capitol Christmas Tree

The four senior community centers in Jefferson County recently created handmade ornaments for the Harrisburg Capital Christmas tree. Participants at the Reynoldsville Foundry, Brockway Depot, Punxy Area and Brookville senior centers painted, glued, and sewed some great ornaments to be put on display.

In the picture above, the white circle on the left tree picture indicates where the Punxy Area ornaments are hung. The white circle on the right tree picture indicates where the Reynoldsville, Brockway and Brookville ornaments are hung. In the center, the pictures from top to bottom show the ornaments of Brockway, Brookville, Punxy and Reynoldsville, respectively.

A Visit to the PA Capitol from Oswayo Valley 

Last week, students from Oswayo Valley School District and members of the Oswayo Valley Senior Center, led by Senior Center Director Mary Jones, travelled from Shinglehouse to the State Capitol in Harrisburg for a tour.

The seniors made Christmas ornaments that were recently hung on the Capitol Christmas tree in the Main Rotunda.

It’s always great to have folks from the 25th Senatorial District come to visit the state Capitol!

41st Annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Dec. 9 through Dec. 11

If you want to get into the holiday spirit, the 41st Annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas will be held from Dec. 9 through Dec. 11 in beautiful Bellefonte, Centre County.

This holiday event has been one of Bellefonte’s most cherished Christmas traditions and has been enjoyed by children and adults for multiple generations.

There are celebrations and special events – including the new “Holiday Cookie Crawl” – to enjoy, a host of opportunities to find unique gifts at Bellefonte’s downtown merchants and craft show vendors, and plenty of options to have a tasty meal.

You can get more information about all you can do and experience at the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas here.

Water, Sewer Project Grants Available; Application Deadline is Dec. 21

Grants for drinking water, sewer, and storm water projects are still available for municipalities, but the deadline to apply for these grants is Dec. 21, 2022.

Infrastructure, and particularly the water and sewer systems we have that are well past their lifespans, (we have some that are over 100 years old) have been a top priority for me when it comes to getting our state and federal dollars to the 25th Senatorial District.  Businesses that are looking to come here and create the jobs want to be certain these services are reliable.  Every municipal government that has aging infrastructure or has a need to expand services in areas where we are experiencing growth need to look at these two programs.

The two grant programs are the COVID-19 ARPA PA Small Water and Sewer Program and the COVID-19 ARPA H2O PA – Water Supply, Sanitary Sewer and Storm Water Projects Program.

Using the links provided, please review both funding sources to determine whether your municipality has a potential eligible project.

$50,000 Awarded to North Central for Comprehensive Plan Development

The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission was recently awarded $50,000 in funding through Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Municipal Assistance Program (MAP), which seeks to assist local governments in seven counties with planning for zoning and updating of comprehensive plans.

North Central will use the MAP funding to develop a comprehensive plan that will outline how to leverage our region’s natural assets, federal grant money and community resources to enhance the well-being and quality of life in Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Elk, Cameron, Forest, Clearfield, Clarion, Jefferson and northern Centre counties.

Fishing Licenses and Permits for 2023 Available Now

Pennsylvania fishing licenses, permits and gift vouchers for 2023 are available now. Licenses are valid immediately and are good for 13 months.

They can be purchased through the HuntFishPA online portal on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, on your smartphone using the mobile app or by visiting a retail license issuing agent, which you can find here.

In addition to licenses and permits, such as the trout or Lake Erie permits, you can purchase vouchers that can be given as gifts and redeemed by recipients.

You Can Help Honor Those Who Gave All

Every year at this time, Wreaths Across America helps communities remember the fallen, honor those who served in the military and teach children about their country by laying wreaths on the graves of heroes. There is something heartwarming about watching one or two young people walking in a respectful manner to the grave of one they’ve never known to place a wreath because they have some understanding of the gravity of what that individual has done for them.

These acts of remembrance take place at Arlington National Cemetery, and more than 3,400 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

Ceremonies take place Dec. 17, and you can help by sponsoring a veterans’ wreath at a cemetery near you, volunteering or donating to a local sponsorship group. You can search for the nearest participating cemetery here.

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