In this update:
Eliminating Drop Boxes and Dark Money Grants for Elections
After I chaired three recent hearings of the Senate State Government Committee reviewing security concerns with drop boxes and dark money grants funneled to select counties, the Senate voted to prevent the future use of unsecured ballot drop boxes and ban the use of private money to fund election operations.
Senate Bill 982 would ban any state employee or county from accepting money from outside groups to pay for the administration of elections in Pennsylvania. The bill received strong bipartisan support on the floor of the Senate, passing with a vote of 37-12. I wrote an op-ed for Broad + Liberty about why passing this bill is so important to ensuring the integrity of our elections.
Senate Bill 1200 would require mail-in ballots that are not returned in the mail to be returned only to the County Board of Elections office, effectively eliminating drop boxes in Pennsylvania. There have been many documented cases of misuse of ballot drop boxes since they were created by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just months before the 2020 election. Watch my remarks in support of this bill below.
Learn more about these bills and the hearings I chaired reviewing them on the Senate State Government Committee’s website.
Governor Wolf’s Unprecedented Cabinet Turnover
Recent weeks have seen a continuation of the turmoil at the most senior levels of Governor Wolf’s executive branch. Secretary of Education Noe Ortega and Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter have both stepped down from their roles, leaving unvetted acting secretaries to run these incredibly impactful departments of Pennsylvania’s state government. A recent editorial from the Williamsport Sun-Gazette highlighted how unusual and harmful this instability is for Pennsylvania.
This turnover can be seen throughout the administration – the Department of State has now been led by five different secretaries since Governor Wolf took office. This stands in stark contrast to the two previous Governors, who each only had one Secretary of State for their entire term.
Carbon Tax Debate Continues; Courts Weigh In
I voted to override the governor’s veto to block Pennsylvania from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regressive tax on carbon that will increase electricity costs, eliminate family-sustaining jobs, and make the United States more reliant on fossil fuels from hostile nations. Unfortunately, despite some bipartisan support, the effort failed by one vote. The final vote was 32-17.
Joining RGGI could nearly quadruple electricity rates for consumers in Pennsylvania, according to analysis by the impartial Independent Fiscal Office. The governor’s actions have been met with a wave of opposition from groups across the state, many of whom testified at a hearing of the Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee I attended. Learn more about the hearing on the committee’s website.
The fight against RGGI is not over. The state Commonwealth Court recently paused Pennsylvania’s entry into the program pending their final verdict. Learn more here.
Curbing Waste and Abuse in State Government
Two bills I introduced to prevent waste and fraud in Pennsylvania’s medical assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
These bills will ensure that taxpayer dollars are going to those in genuine need of assistance, not to bad actors trying to take advantage of the system or mistakenly to people who don’t need it. Visit these links to learn more about Senate Bill 1121 and Senate Bill 1124.
How Were Luzerne County Mail-In Ballots Delayed?
I recently chaired a hearing of the Senate State Government Committee in Hazleton reviewing an error that caused 300 voters’ mail-in ballots to be delayed.
We need to ensure that the mistakes made during the special election for the 116th state House district are not repeated in the future. Learn more about the issue here.
The committee then reviewed Senate Bill 690, sponsored by Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), which would allow over 911,000 registered voters with no party affiliation to participate in Pennsylvania’s primary elections. The Committee of Seventy testified in support of the bill and featured a pre-recorded message from Vietnam veteran and former Pittsburgh Steeler Robert “Rocky” Bleier, which you can watch above.
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