In this email update:
Senate’s state budget hearings continue
I continued to dig deeper into Governor Wolf’s budget request this week during the Senate Appropriation Committee’s series of budget hearings. Some of the questions I sought to address include:
Is the Governor’s Emergency Declaration on opioid abuse helping small towns?
The opioid epidemic is affecting the entire state of Pennsylvania. I asked Secretary Levine how the governor’s emergency declaration on opioid abuse is affecting small towns, where the crisis is particularly severe.
Welfare Gerrymandering: What is it and why is it happening in Pennsylvania?
In November 2018, the Department of Human Services requested a waiver for able-bodied adults without dependents in 63 counties, almost the entire state, so that they would not have to adhere to the work requirements to gain SNAP benefits-food stamps.
It is my understanding that waivers were intended to provide a temporary pause of work requirements during economic crisis, but loopholes have allowed states to game the system, keeping millions of able-bodied adults trapped in dependency.
Over the last three years, while economic conditions have improved significantly, these maps show that the number of counties where you have requested waivers has grown each year.
So, a person between the ages of 18 and 49 who has no dependents and is not disabled, who lives on one side of the welfare gerrymander does not have to meet the work requirements in order to receive SNAP benefits, but an identical person who lives on the other side of the welfare gerrymander must follow the SNAP work requirements.
How are state related universities handling the decline in enrollment?
By the year 2026, it is estimated that enrollment will be down by 15% in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Universities. I asked the heads of Penn State University, the University of Pittsburg, Temple University, and Lincoln University how the decline of PA college-age population and higher education enrollment will affect them.
How did several thousand non-U.S. citizens illegally register to vote in Pennsylvania?
A constituent recently shared a report that several thousand citizens from other countries have registered and voted in Pennsylvania. I asked how the department differentiated between citizen and non-citizen drivers licenses that are shared with the Department of State.
Why are taxpayers paying for vacant state office space?
Sometimes taxpayers are stuck with the costs of empty state offices and other buildings. I have introduced legislation to require the state to report vacant office space to the Department of General Services. I asked Secretary Topper for an update on this issue.
How can we connect job-seekers to new employment opportunities?
In Pennsylvania, we currently have a dilemma of having many open jobs without people, but are hearing from people struggling to find employment. I discussed the importance of helping able-bodied Medicaid recipients find long-term employment.
The third week and final week of budget hearings will begin on Monday. Video and summaries of all of the hearings is available here.
Schuylkill Technology Center North & South Host Open House
The Schuylkill Technology Center will host an Open House on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 (Snow Date of March 13, 2019) from 6-8pm at both the North and South Campuses. The theme for this event is “Collecting 21st Century Skills.” Parents will have a chance to learn more about from various industry partners, such as Hydro, Millers Bros. Construction, Auto Zone and the Central Pennsylvania’s Carpenter Union who work closely with STC as cooperative educational sites and advisory committee members.
For more information, please contact Shannon Brennan at (570) 544-4748 ext. 3115.
WBRE was in Mahanoy City to talk about a new initiative I am pushing to tighten requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania
Senator Scott Martin (Lancaster) and I are working on a proposal that would require non-disabled, non-elderly Medicaid recipients to meet certain work requirements in order to receive benefits. WBRE visited Mahanoy City recently to do a story about our bill.
As we have said in the past, we do not want to place new burdens on people who legitimately are unable to work. We are not trying to drag somebody out of a treatment facility or force great-grandma to work in a coal mine. We only want to make sure that the system is not overburdened with people who are capable of holding a job.
Last session Governor Wolf vetoed work requirements for Medicaid. Our goal is to keep working on this issue so that we can come up with a real bipartisan solution to help lift Pennsylvanians out of the cycle of poverty.
You can watch the full story here.
Thoughts on legalizing recreational marijuana? I want to hear from you!
On Saturday March 2nd, Lt. Governor John Fetterman will be in Pottsville as part of his 67 county informational tour on recreational marijuana legalization. Area residents can come to the Majestic Theater at 209 N. Centre Street from 1:00 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. to express their support or concerns regarding the legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania.
I want to hear your opinions on this issue. Please take a moment and share your views as it may come before the Pennsylvania State Senate during the 2019-2020 legislative session. Please take a few minutes to complete my legislative survey, which is available here.