In this update:
Giving Voters a Voice in Election Integrity
I wrote this op-ed about recent efforts by the Senate to improve election integrity.
We advanced two potential constitutional amendments that will allow the people to decide whether additional safeguards are necessary. The amendments would create voter ID standards and provide for election audits. We also banned “Zuckerbucks” and other outside money from the administration of our elections.
If we want people to trust the process again, we must show that we’re willing to make changes. Most importantly, we must make the voters part of the reform process and allow them to vote upon these important issues.
Public Hearing Highlights Impact of Anthracite Industry on Northeast PA
I joined Senator John Yudichak, the Senate’s only Independent member, and the Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee in Hazleton City Hall this week to review the impact of the anthracite industry on Pennsylvania’s economy and environment. This may have been the most important public hearing I attended all year.
I grew up 500 yards from one of the many abandoned mines that were once so common across our region. Now, thanks to the efforts of so many people including our coal refuse plants, countless black hills and pits have been transformed into green fields and forests.
A few years ago, Senator Yudichak and I worked together on a bipartisan effort to expand the Coal Refuse Energy and Reclamation Tax Credit, which helped protect hundreds of local jobs so that our local coal refuse electric power plants could continue to operate. Jason Kelso of Reading Anthracite and Jarrett Gibbons of ARIPPA testified that without this new law, it’s likely that a majority of the ten coal refuse plants in Pennsylvania would have closed their doors.
In addition, Greg Driscoll of Blaschak Coal testified that because of the war in Ukraine and the ban on Russian anthracite in the United States and Europe, anthracite production in northeastern Pennsylvania could double in the near future. The result: hundreds of new jobs and bigger paychecks for anthracite employees in Pennsylvania!
Lt. Governor Fetterman’s Health Issues Could Have Caused Constitutional Crisis
Lt. Governor Fetterman’s failure to properly disclose the severity of his stroke could have caused a constitutional crisis in Pennsylvania had the governor also been incapacitated by a medical issue, according to an op-ed written by Senator Jake Corman, the President Pro Tempore of the state Senate.
As the Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, I have invited the lt. governor to testify about how he notified the governor of his disability, to ensure that the proper procedures were followed, and the current law is sound. To date, he has yet to respond.
If the lt. governor is now healthy enough to resume his public schedule, he should be able to work in a bipartisan manner with my committee to ensure the continuity of our state executive branch is never again in question.
House Votes to Hold Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in Contempt
The state House voted 162-38 to hold Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in contempt for refusing to cooperate with subpoenas from a House investigation into his office’s response to the record levels of violent crime in the city. This strongly bipartisan vote included 10 Democratic state representatives from the city.
If DA Krasner continues to refuse to cooperate with this investigation, the General Assembly may have no choice but to proceed with impeachment.
Report: Two Thirds of Released Prisoners Reenter Legal System
A new report from the PA Department of Corrections shows that 64.7% of prisoners released from state prisons are rearrested or return to DOC custody within 3 years of release.
As Pennsylvania continues to grapple with a severe rise in crime, it’s clear we need to do more to reduce this cycle.
Pennsylvania Employers Face Serious Labor Shortage
A recent article from the Morning Call highlights the severity of the labor shortage facing employers in Pennsylvania. According to the Independent Fiscal Office, Pennsylvania currently has an “unusually high demand for 105,000 additional workers.”
The industries with the biggest declines in employment in the past three years include nursing homes, which lost 27,500 employees, full-service restaurants, which lost 20,300 employees, and manufacturing, which lost 13,000 employees.
This shortage is contrasted with Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate, which ranks 44th out of the 50 states and has not yet fully recovered from the Governor’s shutdown of the economy.
Strong Bipartisan Support for My Bills to Stop Pennsylvania Support for Putin & Protect Small Employers
Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars should NOT support the actions of a tyrant like Vladimir Putin. My bill to ban companies with connections to the Russian government from receiving any PA taxpayer dollars was approved by an overwhelming vote of 47-2.
I represent some of the most concentrated communities of Ukrainian Americans in the United States, and they want our state government to take a strong stand against the aggression of the Russian government. Many Lithuanian and Polish Americans are also worried that if Ukraine falls, their cousins could be in grave danger due to Putin’s violent actions.
The Senate Labor and Industry Committee advanced another of my bills with unanimous, bipartisan support that will protect small business owners. Recently, a local employer brought to my attention that his unemployment compensation tax rate increased because he kept his business closed during the COVID-19 shutdown. At a public hearing near Pottsville, Representative Tim Twardzik and I determined that this issue affected small employers across the state.
I’m thankful the committee and the Department of Labor and Industry have been working with us to address this important issue, so we can ensure that employers are not unfairly punished.
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