In this email edition:
Senate Majority Leadership Team for 2021-22
I’m honored to begin my seventh year as a member of the Senate Majority Leadership team, the first member from the 29th District to serve in a leadership position in the State Senate since 1861. The leadership team for this session includes Senators Jake Corman, Kim Ward, Pat Browne, John Gordner, Mario Scavello, Camera Bartolotta, Bob Mensch, Elder Vogel, and Ryan Aument.
All voters, including Independents and Third-Party Voters Can Participate in May 18 Primary Election
While many of Pennsylvania’s independent and third-party voters are not eligible to vote in primary elections, all registered voters are eligible to weigh in on Constitutional amendments in any election: Here’s why I voted YES, YES, YES, YES
Three proposed amendments to the state Constitution will appear on the May 18 ballot, including a measure to prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and two amendments to limit the length of emergency declarations and require more collaboration between the different branches of government during a disaster. A fourth ballot question will also allow voters to decide whether paid fire and rescue organizations should have additional borrowing power.
I was pleased to VOTE YES on each of these bills, but they only can become final with the support of the voters of Pennsylvania.
More information about these Constitutional amendments is available here. Visit this link to watch a press conference held this week by President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and Majority Leader Kim Ward on why these ballot questions were approved by the House and the Senate, and why we’re disturbed with how the Governor’s officers worded the ballot questions, contrary to the intent of their authors.
Meeting with the League of Women Voters of Berks County on Gerrymandering
I recently spoke with the League of Women Voters of Berks County to discuss proposals to eliminate gerrymandering.
The practice of gerrymandering dates back to the 1600s and has been weaponized by both Democrats and Republicans alike over the years. This week, I even learned that it was practiced by the earliest legislators in PA—Quakers in unusual hats and powdered wigs!
The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, has already passed my bill to establish new, nonpartisan qualifications for the Legislative Reapportionment Chair with unanimous, bipartisan support. This was one small step to begin to roll back the sins of the past. I am committed to working in a bipartisan manner to curb the practice of gerrymandering as my committee prepares to draft new congressional districts in the coming months.
Watch my full conversation, which aired on Berk Community Television (BCTV), at this link.
Policy Committee Hearing on Impact of Governor Wolf’s Business Closures on Tourism and Hospitality, and Small Business
The Senate Majority Policy Committee, now chaired by Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton), recently held a hearing on the impact of COVID-19 and the long-term shutdown of our economy on Pennsylvania’s tourism and hospitality industries. This hearing featured senior officials from county chambers of commerce, tourism development organizations, amusement parks, and restaurants.
I asked the three Chamber of Commerce officials that testified at the hearing if they could share examples of businesses that adapted to the pandemic and survived as well as businesses that unfortunately did not make it through. Bob Carl, the President and CEO of the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce, mentioned a local success story: Kepner Scott Shoe Company. When the pandemic started, they began manufacturing cloth masks instead of their typical product, children’s shoes. They ultimately thrived throughout the past year despite the enormous difficulties facing their main product line.
Not all small business owners were as fortunate though. As Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Baldrige stated, if businesses were on the edge before, they were much more vulnerable to going out of business during the pandemic. The Independent Fiscal Office, a non-partisan entity, stated during the hearing that revenue for small businesses in the leisure and hospitality industries fell by 55.1% when the shutdown took effect.
As we begin to move forward from the lengthy shutdown of our economy, we need to be doing everything we can to support our small businesses so no one else is forced from their livelihood due to circumstances out of their control.
Visit this link to view the full hearing.
Solving our State Government’s Overspending Problem
In recent years, Governor Wolf and his administration have spent far more money than was allocated to them in the budget using a work-around known as supplemental spending. The Pennsylvania Constitution requires the annual budget passed by the legislature and signed by the governor must be balanced, or in other words, the money spent must not exceed the money that comes in.
Throughout Governor Wolf’s time in office, his administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the amount of the budget and then has submitted these costs the following year for approval. This has led to massive deficits that are increasing, and Pennsylvania taxpayers will be required to foot the bill.
Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) has introduced a constitutional amendment that would correct this problem and make our budget process more transparent. I’m a strong supporter of this bill because all state government spending should be approved by the legislature, and because the voices of all Pennsylvanians should be heard when it comes to how much taxpayer money should be spent. Learn more here.
Bipartisan Senators to Governor Wolf: Let the Reading Fightin’ Phils Play Ball!
A bipartisan group of Senators recently sent a letter to Governor Wolf requesting that he amend the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place for Minor League Baseball. Under current restrictions, they are required to operate at 50% capacity with a 6-foot buffer between seats. The problem is, the 6-foot buffer makes it impossible for many stadiums to reach 50% capacity.
These organizations, including the Reading Fightin’ Phils, missed the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic. We should not be overburdening them with restrictions now as fans return and they begin to recover from the long-term shutdown of our economy.
Crime Victims’ Rights Week
This week was recognized as Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Pennsylvania by the Senate. This bipartisan recognition of the millions in our country who fall victim to violent crime every year was introduced by Senator Bob Mensch (R-Berks/Bucks/Montgomery) and Senator John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia). It is important that we recognize that all survivors of crime, especially violent crime, deserve justice, rights, resources, restoration, and rehabilitation after the trauma they experienced. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor and supporter of this important effort to raise awareness. Learn more here.
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