In this update:
Commonwealth Court: Education Funding System Unconstitutional
The Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s current system for funding schools violates our state constitution.
As the new Senate Education Committee chair, my staff and I are now reviewing the ruling to best determine the path forward for funding Pennsylvania’s schools—for our students and our taxpayers. Stay tuned!
Education Committee Reviews Teacher Shortages and Encourages Whole Milk in Schools
I chaired a public hearing and a voting meeting of the Senate Education Committee last week.
Tuesday’s public hearing reviewed teacher shortages in Pennsylvania. We heard testimony about why Pennsylvania is facing this shortage and what can be done to encourage more young people to pursue a career in teaching.
I’ve heard from many groups that the teacher shortages from today are different than what we’ve seen in the past. We need to ensure that whatever solution we pursue does not over-emphasize quantity and under-emphasize quality.
On Wednesday, I chaired a voting meeting where we approved two bills to encourage Pennsylvania schools to again offer whole milk in school lunches. In 2010, Congress passed a bill prohibiting whole milk from being served in schools, which President Barack Obama signed into law.
Senate Bill 297 would allow Pennsylvania schools to sell whole or reduced fat (2%) milk that is produced by Pennsylvanian dairy farms.
Senate Resolution 48 urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow whole and reduced fat milk to again be offered in schools across the country.
Curbing Welfare Abuse a Waste of Time?
Speaking through a spokesperson, the Senate Democratic Leader stated how any effort to provide safeguards in place to prevent welfare fraud is “a waste of time”. Perhaps he didn’t get the MEMO from former Auditor General DePasquale (a Democrat) that more needs to be done, especially by providing oversight to the Department responsible for issuing these benefits.
I can still remember a time when a Republican Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton were able to work out a compromise to provide for meaningful welfare reform. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both the Senate and the House to develop legislation for Governor Shapiro to sign which will ensure that the maximum amount of assistance is provided to those who truly need it – not fraudsters or the deceased.
March Argall Report: Letting the People Decide
The March edition of my local TV program features debate on Senate Bill 1, which proposed three separate and distinct amendments to the PA Constitution.
The sooner the citizens of Pennsylvania vote on these important issues, the better.
The first amendment would provide a two-year window for civil lawsuits for victims of childhood sexual abuse. The second amendment would provide for the General Assembly’s disapproval of a regulation which the Governor would be unable to veto. The third amendment asks if valid ID should be presented when voting in Pennsylvania.
Should the Death Penalty be Abolished?
I cosponsored Senator Mike Regan’s bill to require the death penalty for people convicted of killing law enforcement officials.
Governor Shapiro has stated that he will not support the use of the death penalty and called on the Senate and the House to abolish it for good.
I conducted an informal survey of the people of Schuylkill, Carbon, and Luzerne Counties on the issue of the death penalty. Of the 260 people who responded, 83% did not support abolishing the death penalty.
Senate Votes to Increase Funding for Roads and Bridges
The Senate passed a bill to increase funding to fix Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges—and halting the diversion of Motor License Fund dollars for “other” purposes. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 121 dedicates transportation charges to road and bridge safety projects, while ensuring the Pennsylvania State Police receive reliable, sustainable funding from sources beyond the susceptible Motor License Fund. The bill caps transfers from the Motor License Fund at $250 million in 2023-24 then reduces the transfer by $50 million annually. The bill seeks to end the transfers by 2028-29 and allocate all transportation fees for road and bridge improvements.
Senate Urges President Biden to Restart Keystone XL Pipeline
I joined with Senate colleagues in passing a resolution calling on President Biden to allow completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to create nearly 60,000 jobs and strengthen our energy independence in uncertain times.
Senate Resolution 9 urges the president to restart and expedite the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which had its permit canceled through an executive order on his first day in office.
A report from the U.S. Department of Energy showcased that the construction of the pipeline would have generated between 16,149-59,468 jobs annually and contributed $3.4 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product.
The resolution will now be transmitted to President Biden and members of Congress, including the entire Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.
Preventing PA Tax Dollars from Supporting the Russian Government
This month marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. In recognition of the continued bravery of the people of Ukraine, I reintroduced my bill to prevent companies with connections to the Russian government from receiving Pennsylvania tax dollars.
I hope to see this bill considered soon, to show the people of Ukraine that Pennsylvania supports their heroic efforts to defend their democracy.
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