In this update:
My New Role as Chair of the Senate Education Committee
I have been appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward to serve as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
My Grandfather Argall once taught in a rural one-room schoolhouse where he was paid partially in vegetables. My mother was discriminated against because young mothers in the 1950s were told to “stay home, teach later.” We’ve made considerable progress since those days, but our students, parents, teachers, and staff still face significant obstacles in too many of our schools, public and nonpublic.
My goal is to further improve the education of all Pennsylvania students, from pre-school to grad school, in our smallest towns and villages to our largest cities.
As part of this new role, I was also appointed to serve as one of the Senate’s representatives on the Board of Governors for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
I come from a family of PASSHE graduates – my mother graduated from Bloomsburg and my father and grandfather Argall graduated from Kutztown – so this appointment is very significant to me. I look forward to assisting our ten state universities in meeting the many challenges now before them.
I will also serve as the Vice Chair of the Senate State Government Committee and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Finance, Rules and Executive Nominations, Transportation, and Urban Affairs and Housing Committees.
These roles, as well my responsibilities as the Senator for the 260,000 people of Carbon, Luzerne, and Schuylkill Counties, will keep me very busy in 2023-24!
Voter ID: Time for PA to Catch Up with Other States, Nations
A proposed constitutional amendment passed by the Senate earlier this month to require ID verification at polling places remains in the House of Representatives. The bill has seen no action in the House for almost three weeks. If Speaker Rozzi (D-Berks) would return the House to session promptly, it could be placed on the May primary ballot for approval by Pennsylvania voters.
Pennsylvania’s failure to enact this key component of election integrity has put us behind not only a vast majority of states and most developed countries, but behind many developing nations as well.
Every excuse used to block this rational election reform has been shown to be false. Requiring proof of identification before voting does not suppress turnout, and acceptable IDs are not difficult to obtain.
Nationally, the calls for voter ID come from Democrats and Republicans alike. Eighty percent of Americans favor voter ID as do 74% of Pennsylvanians. Now is the time to pass Senate Bill 1 and let the voters decide.
Restoring Checks and Balances in Pennsylvania Government
In addition to letting citizens decide whether voters should be required to show ID, Senate Bill 1 includes a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the people’s representatives in the General Assembly to overturn any government regulation that conflicts with the will of the people.
The need for this change was made clear by the Wolf administration’s unilateral decisions during the pandemic, closing businesses and schools with no input from the people. Despite the clear design of our government with three co-equal parts, the executive branch elevated itself above the legislative and judicial branches in an obvious violation of the checks and balances afforded by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
No governor of any party should be permitted to wield such unchecked power again. If the House of Representatives follows the Senate’s lead and passes Senate Bill 1, voters will be empowered to restore this crucial balance of power.
Training New Firefighters and Protecting the First Amendment Rights of Teachers
The Senate sent two bipartisan bills to the House that were approved during my first meeting as the new Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Senate Bill 84 would eliminate the prohibition on teachers from wearing any dress, mark, emblem, or insignia reflecting their faith or denomination. It would align Pennsylvania with every other state in the nation in preserving and protecting First Amendment rights for educators.
Senate Bill 114 would award grants to one higher education school each in eastern, central, and western Pennsylvania to establish fire training programs for students in high school, with the hope they will remain firefighters for years to come. The number of Pennsylvania volunteer firefighters has plummeted from 300,000 in the 1970s to fewer than 37,000. Senate Bill 114 was sent to the House of Representatives.
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