In this email edition:
Can we turn Loud Partisanship into Calm Bipartisanship?
The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, met again on Wednesday. During the meeting, Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), the Democratic minority chair of the committee and I both made remarks on the direction of the committee for the coming year. The committee plans to work in a bipartisan fashion on a variety of important issues, such as making improvements to our election processes to restore the trust of voters and increasing government transparency by reforming our Right to Know and Sunshine laws. The committee will also hold a series of hearings on the process of redrawing congressional districts, as required by our constitution, before passing the necessary legislation.
Senator Street noted the importance of this bipartisan spirit and stated that he “looks forward to working with the committee members and doing this in a way that makes all Pennsylvanians proud of the work we’ve done.” I could not agree more!
Senate Panel on Election Integrity holds First Hearing
The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform held its first hearing on Monday. The hearing reviewed best practices other states use to ensure the security of their results and featured officials from Colorado, Utah and Florida. Visit this link to watch the full hearing.
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Fair Wording needed for State Ballot Questions
A recent editorial brought attention to the questions that will appear on the ballot for the May primary election regarding proposed constitutional amendments to limit the length of future emergency declarations. As the editorial states, “they include language that sounds like the governor making his arguments for why he thinks these amendments are a bad idea.”
The editorial proposes some rewording to the questions to make them more balanced:
“Question 1: Should the General Assembly be permitted by a majority vote of both houses to end a governor’s disaster declaration without requiring the governor’s approval to do so? Question 2: Should a governor’s disaster declaration be limited to a maximum of 21 days unless the general assembly, by majority vote of both houses, grants an extension? We think the answer to both is yes because our government’s system of check and balances is important.”
I supported the legislation to place the question on the ballot in May because I believe the existing law regarding emergencies gives way too much power to one person—the Governor!
Voters should not be subjected to misleading ballot questions when dealing with topics as important as our system of checks and balances during future emergency declarations. Read the full article here.
Recognizing the Importance of Open Government
Why do we celebrate “Sunshine Week” from March 14 to 20 this year?
Imagine this: What would the reaction be today, if State Senators and Representatives voted in secret to approve Governor Wolf’s multi-billion-dollar income tax and spending increases? While this may seem like the “dark ages,” it was not that long ago that these debates and votes took place with no one from the public or the media in the room.
If this last year of living under COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has taught us anything, remember this: A free society can only exist as long as its institutions remain free and transparent to the public. We have made considerable progress in the past 40 years to “let the sun shine in” but, as we have seen throughout the last 12 months, there is still more work to be done!
Senate Committee approves Amendment for Child Sex Abuse Survivors to correct the Secretary of State’s Terrible Mistake
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill this week that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to establish a window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to bring their claims to court, after an egregious error by the Department of State derailed the progress of the amendment earlier this year. The Department of State failed the simple step of advertising the amendment before it is placed on the ballot, which led to the resignation of Secretary Boockvar.
The Department of State must do better when dealing with future constitutional amendments.
Packaging Company brings 80 New Jobs to Bethel Township
Pregis, a global manufacturing company that makes packaging products, recently announced they will be opening a facility in Bethel Township in Berks County that will create 80 new manufacturing jobs for local residents. The new facility will be located at the freshly completed LogistiCenter at Midway South along Old Route 22. Creating new jobs and promoting the economic recovery of Pennsylvania after the long-term shutdown of our economy are two of my top priorities in the Senate, so this was very welcome news!
Visit this link to view the available positions at this new facility.
Labor and Industry provides Next Steps for Individuals Reaching “Benefit Year End”
The Department of Labor & Industry is reminding Pennsylvanians who applied for unemployment benefits on or after March 15, 2020 that they may need to reapply and have their financial determination renewed if they are still receiving benefits. In previous years, most people were only eligible for benefits for one year. However, many people are eligible for extended benefits due to many of the pandemic unemployment programs.
To learn more, visit this link to the Department of Labor and Industry’s website.