Parental Rights Must Be Fortified in Pennsylvania

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

Should a middle school student in Pennsylvania be taught he’s partially to blame for racism in America simply because of the color of his skin? Should an elementary school student be taught it’s OK for her to choose her own gender?

Perhaps most importantly, how can parents stand up for their students if they don’t know what is being taught in our schools?

Parents across Pennsylvania have become outraged by the recent movement by activists to indoctrinate, rather than educate, our children.

Opponents of traditional values used to argue that school was no place to teach morality. They claimed schools should focus on teaching students their ABCs and 123s, and leave moral teaching to the parents.

That was the excuse they used to kick traditional values out the front door of our schools. Now, they’re trying to sneak cultural Marxism through the back door.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) concepts have become commonplace in school districts across Pennsylvania. These concepts are sometimes disguised as “diversity, equity and inclusion” as a way to sound less controversial.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education actively promotes a “toolkit” for teachers on its public website as a guide for them to discuss racial and ethnic identity. The toolkit includes a long list of radical resources that encourage students to evaluate their peers based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

An elementary school teacher in Montgomery County was exposed for having children participate in “privilege walks” as part of a broader CRT curriculum. The walks teach children that some of them are “privileged” based on the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation or economic status.

In Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, a lawsuit revealed school officials participated in exercises on “walking through the barriers to teach CRT at your school” and “CRT is a vital step in your school transformation action plan.”

CRT isn’t the only threat facing students and parents. Gender theory also is spreading across the commonwealth.

Gender theory is a dangerous philosophy that teaches gender is a “social construct,” labels of male and female are not assigned at birth, and children may choose to identify with whatever gender they prefer.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (DOE) website last year listed different lesson plans for teachers to discuss the difference between assigned gender, binary gender and biological sex.

The “preferred personal pronouns” definition introduces gender-neutral pronouns such as “ne, ve, ze/zie and xe.” Teachers are advised to ask students which pronouns they prefer. The department has since deleted the page after outcry from concerned parents.

Great Valley School District last year instructed its elementary school teachers to withhold information from parents about children questioning their gender.

Greater Johnstown School District recently created a “gender transition plan” and a “gender support plan” for students, which encourages schools to keep students’ gender identity information secret from their parents.

DOE also is ensuring the next generation of teachers is fully trained in CRT and gender theory before they begin their first day in the classroom. It published new regulations last year regarding teacher certification guidelines.

The new rules require teachers to know and acknowledge racial biases exist in the educational system. Teachers must understand the importance of social markers, such as race, skin color, ethnicity, gender identity, age, nationality, language, class, economic status, ability, sexual orientation and religion. Teachers also must be able to identify systems, structures, practices and policies that exclude and marginalize minority and multilingual families and families with varying sexual orientations and gender identities.

With all of this going on, parents must be armed with fundamental rights to be informed about the ever-evolving radical theories being advanced in school districts across the commonwealth.

That is why I recently introduced Senate Bill 340 to require schools to post on a publicly accessible website an internet link or title from every textbook used, a course syllabus and the state academic standards for each instructional course it offers.

Schools would be required to update this information no later than 30 days after any revision to ensure parents are aware of any changes during the school year.

I’ve heard from many parents who have no idea what is being taught until they see their children’s homework. This legislation would provide parents with the tools they need to be informed.

I also introduced Senate Bill 444 to make it clear that state government and its political subdivisions – including school districts – may not infringe on the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.

This bill would provide parents with the legal protection they need when overreaching bureaucrats attempt to overrule their voice. Similar parental rights provisions already exist in 15 other states.

As activists continue to invade academia with their divisive politics, parents need these tools to help them stand up and fight for their sons and daughters.

Parental rights must be fortified in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Doug Mastriano represents the 33rd Senatorial District, covering Adams and Franklin counties.


Media contact: Josh Herman


Pennsylvanians Deserve Answers about the East Palestine Environmental Disaster

By. Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

On 3 February, 2023, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a 53-car train derailment occurred near the border of Pennsylvania in East Palestine, Ohio and Beaver County, PA. According to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), emergency aid crews from Beaver County responded to the scene where railcars had “caught fire throughout the wreckage.”

Highly toxic chemicals of vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride were part of the burning wreckage in at least “five railcars.” Around 11:30 p.m, PEMA reports a federal EPA official telephoned them advising “there was no current impact to PA” from the burning wreckage. However, toxic chemicals were burning into the air of the surrounding area. Millions of affected residents deserve immediate answers.

On 6 February, 2023, three days after the derailment and burning wreckage, authorities decided to fully release and burn the vinyl chloride, sending a massive plume of hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air. Not only is Vinyl chloride flammable, but it’s also a vital organ carcinogen. A sick recipe for cancer-causing diseases.

On the same date, Governor DeWine of Ohio issued evacuation recommendations for residents within a 1-mile by 2-mile area surrounding East Palestine. DeWine stated at the time that this was a matter of “life or death.” Two days later, officials stated residents could safely return home.

Environmental regulators have been monitoring the air and water in surrounding communities and have claimed so far, the air quality remains safe and drinking water supplies have not been affected. Residents both in and outside of the 1–2-mile radius are telling a different story.

One farmer 10 miles from the radius published a video of the sudden death of her chickens shortly after the controlled chemical burn. Another farmer posted pictures of discolored eggs laid by chickens after the derailment. Nearby residents have taken to social media documenting lung issues and intense headaches. Others have reported scores of dead fish in their local waterways. The Ohio River runs nearby, which is used for a water source by some municipalities including down-state regions.

One of the biproducts of the controlled chemical burning is hydrogen chloride which easily binds onto water such as the vapor of the atmosphere. Atmospheric winds have the potential to blow these toxic chemicals across a 200-mile radius according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. On February 10, the EPA confirmed that chemicals from this incident and chemical burn have entered the Ohio River Basin which is home to 25 million people.

To date, officials have not released any data or charts on the water quality for the evacuation area or the various waterways connected to the Ohio River. The public deserves to be immediately informed about the quality of drinking water.

Instead, Governor Shapiro has not issued any emergency declaration nor guidance for water and air safety and has been in Arizona this past weekend, while federal officials such as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Peter Buttigieg spoke today to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. and refused to even discuss this major disaster, while joking about the “safety risks of balloons.”

Returning citizens to the evacuation zone have been left in the dark. What sort of chemical fallout remains after the explosion, detonation and burn plumes? Can residents and school children be exposed to carcinogens through HVAC systems in their homes, schools and businesses? What are the effects on pets and livestock and what is the radius of those effects? What kind of air and water samples have been taken by officials so far and what is considered “safe?”

For those in the area of a one-mile radius from East Palestine, Norfolk Southern Railroad has hired an independent contractor to work with local law enforcement, the U.S. EPA, and state officials to take air and water quality samples and provide results at no charge to residents. In the interim, officials are urging those with private water wells to use bottled water, which will be supplied free by Norfolk Southern for those within that one-mile radius. It is a question of concern, however, that the one-mile radius is woefully inadequate to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania impacted by this disaster.

In the meantime, although PEMA does not appear to yet have a website about this incident for Pennsylvanians, citizens can go to: for more information and updates. Many questions about the scope of this environmental disaster remain unanswered. Transparency is a must and lives are potentially at stake. As the Chair of the Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee, I am seeking answers and will report our findings as they are discovered.

So Long, Gov. Wolf

By. Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

During the past few weeks, publications across the commonwealth have chosen to view with rose-colored glasses the past eight years of Gov. Tom Wolf’s tenure in Pennsylvania.

Most Pennsylvanians outside of the Harrisburg bubble remember it differently.

Let’s start with Wolf’s handling of the budget. He likes to take credit for the current budget surplus. What he doesn’t disclose is that all annual budgets are approved by the General Assembly.  Republicans held the line on Wolf’s budget proposals that would have inflated the budget and hiked taxes. For instance, he called for a 6% spending increase in 2020. In his last proposed budget, he wanted a 10.9% increase in spending. This would have resulted in a $1.3 billion deficit for the 2023-24 fiscal year and a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27. Pennsylvania’s fiscal house is in order because of smart stewardship of taxpayer dollars in the General Assembly.

Wolf did his best to stifle economic growth and job growth. He proposed 14 tax hikes throughout his tenure, including a $4.6 billion tax hike in his first budget address.  He used unelected bureaucrats to create costly regulations on businesses, entrepreneurs and non-government schools. 

Wolf did all he could to stifle one of Pennsylvania’s most promising paths to economic prosperity, energy production. One of his first acts was a mortarium on drilling leases on state lands. Almost every single one of his budget proposals included a tax on natural gas companies. These thankfully were thwarted by the General Assembly.

Wolf’s parting gift to the people of Pennsylvania was his unilateral decision to join the commonwealth into the Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI).  This northeast version of the Paris Climate Accords will cost the people of Pennsylvania an estimated $461 million dollars a year and quadruple energy bills. RGGI is projected to result in skyrocketing energy costs, plant closures and job loss on a mass scale.

With the ongoing war in Ukraine, Pennsylvania could have been positioned to be a premier natural gas exporter. Instead, Wolf’s war against Pennsylvania energy turned away prospective investments. Imagine how strong our economy would be if there was growth in our energy sector.

Wolf’s most damaging legacy, however, was his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. He exercised unprecedented authority during the crisis to shutter small businesses, declare essential and non-essential jobs, shut down schools, impose unilateral restrictions on commerce, keep people in their homes, spend public resources without the approval of the people and restrict the very freedoms we hold dear.

The governor’s measures widened the gap between the haves and the have nots in our commonwealth. Big corporations were never forced to shut down and instead profited off the closure of their competition. Wealthier parents were able to place their children in private schools or hire tutors. Under Wolf, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer.

Meanwhile, we still see the many empty storefronts in our communities that used to be home to small businesses. Students from low-income households, especially those without the means to pay for high-speed internet access, fell behind their peers in the world of virtual classrooms.

On March 18, 2020, the Wolf administration issued the now famous directive to long-term care facilities to accept COVID-positive residents after release from hospitals. The ensuing fallout from the March 18 directive was predictable and tragic. This exposed our commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents to severe illness and death. By May, cases of the virus in nursing homes spread like wildfire. Roughly two-thirds of COVID deaths then were residents of long-term care facilities. In several counties, 100% of all COVID deaths at the time were in these very facilities.

Around the nation, we saw examples of other governors who took a different path to dealing with the pandemic. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis followed the science by protecting those in nursing homes and prioritizing the vulnerable for care and personal protective equipment distribution. He re-opened businesses and schools well before Pennsylvania. In September 2020, he lifted all capacity restrictions on small businesses and required all school districts to offer in-class instruction.

Florida’s economic output in 2020 shrank by only approximately 3% while Pennsylvania’s shrunk by 4.4%. The current unemployment rate in Florida is 2.6% compared to 4% in Pennsylvania.

In May 2021, the people of Pennsylvania had enough and voted to limit the governor’s emergency declaration powers. Never again shall a governor have unilateral power to mandate edicts without the General Assembly. The power was rightfully returned to the people and their representatives in the General Assembly.

Wolf’s record-breaking 60 vetoes throughout his eight years was emblematic of his refusal to work with others. Among those vetoes include commonsense bills to limit parole for violent offenders, ban discrimination against the unvaccinated, increase transparency in school curriculum and expand scholarship programs for poor families to escape failing schools. He even vetoed legislation that would have protected women’s rights not to be oppressed by male patriarchal domination in sports.

The new administration can chart a different path. Will Gov. Josh Shapiro work with the General Assembly or will he act unilaterally? Time will only tell.

Bio: Doug Mastriano is senator for Pennsylvania’s 33rd District. Prior to his election, Mastriano served 30 years in the U.S Army before retiring as a colonel.


Media contact: Josh Herman


A Christmas Miracle

It was the summer of 1776 in New York when Commander in Chief George Washington readied his troops for an attack by the British. The attack came on August 27th, 1776. British General William Howe won that battle, resulting in heavy losses for Washington’s Continental Army.  

Though the situation had seemingly crippled Washington’s Army, on the night of August 29th, George Washington successfully led his troops out of Brooklyn Heights. It was a miracle: not a single life was lost that night. The Continental Army had survived.

The British closely followed, driving Washington’s Army across New Jersey.  Washington managed to cross the Delaware River to found relative safety in Pennsylvania for the winter.   

All hope appeared to be lost.

With most of his men’s enlistments running out, Washington had to act, and chose to make his move on Christmas day in 1776.  The plan was to cross the Delaware River on a bitterly cold night to strike a Hessian (mercenary) garrison headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey.

Moral was low, supplies dwindled, and the Army had seen better days. But alas, on that cold winter night, Washington and his soldiers pushed on– determined to change the course of human events.

And then, the impossible became possible once more. The Hessian garrison of 1500 succumbed under the surprise attack and the attack became a turning point of the Revolutionary War. The Army’s hope was restored and their defeat in New York, forgotten.

Fast forward to Belgium, 1944.

With the Allies overrunning occupied Europe from the east and west, Hitler gambled on a surprise attack through the dense Ardennes Forest of Belgium.  The shock of the assault caught the Americans by surprise, with enemy tanks and infantry striking deep into their lines.  The Nazi forces threatened to capture Bastogne, a key town and intersection in the center of their axis of advance.  The capitulation of Bastogne would spell doom for the Americans. It would create access to roads that would enable the Germans to continue their rapid advance west.

Surrounded and beset with persistent German assaults as well as miserable weather, the condition of the troops, both physically and mentally, dwindled. Ammunition, food, and medical supplies became scarce, and so did the vigor of the soldiers. The heavy overcast deprived the Americans of air support, enabling the Germans to advance unmolested across the Belgium countryside. 

All hope appeared to be lost. 

But, as the Germans rejoiced in their seemingly triumph, General George Patton had his chaplain write a prayer that would change the course of history.  The prayer was issued to each member of his Third Army to likewise recite.  Patton’s prayer read as follows,

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”

Not long after the prayer was issued, the weather cleared. And not only did the weather clear, but so did the path to victory.

Within days, General Patton drove back the Germans, and the beleaguered men of Bastogne were relieved.

The impossible became possible, just as it had in 1776.

Today, we are facing battles deemed ‘impossible’ to overcome. With near record inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, war in Ukraine, conflict looming with China and relentless pressure on our jobs, kids, schools, and homes, it seems that the words of Thomas Paine echo to us today, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Yet there is hope.  Although the obstacles that we face are different from 1776 and 1944, we have the same hope to embrace borne forth 2,000 years ago in Israel’s ancient city of Bethlehem recounted in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 2,

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, good will toward men.  

The same hope given to the Shepherds in Bethlehem two millennia ago, echoes across the generations for us today.  Although the darkness is real, the forgiveness and salvation that we are reminded of this Christmas season, through Jesus Christ, shines like a beacon of hope and light upon each and every one of us that the best is yet to come.

Op-Ed: There’s Always More We Can Do

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

Reports of murders, robberies, car jackings and property destruction dominate headlines these days as Pennsylvania communities fall deeper into chaos and lawlessness.  Federal statistics show violent crimes reported across the state increased in 2021, outpacing the national average.

According to the 2022 State of Safety report, nearly half of Pennsylvanians say the COVID-19 pandemic affected their personal safety.

It’s a trend that’s repeated in a survey my office recently distributed asking residents to describe their concerns about rising crime. Many told me they feel less safe and blame drug addiction, above all else, for fueling the increase.

We recognize the layered and complex reasons people abuse drugs and commit crimes, though some triggers have been worse than others in recent years. Statistics from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show roughly one third of Americans struggled to cover living expenses last year, while more than 20 million people worried about putting food on the table.

Opioid overdoses also spiked as isolation and desperation from prolonged pandemic restrictions kept families and friends apart. In 2021 alone, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said more than 100,000 people died across the country from fentanyl and opioid overdoses, a 15% increase over the year before. Pennsylvania ranks third nationwide for these fatalities.

The opioid epidemic has laid waste to this nation and Pennsylvania is clearly no exception. Fentanyl-laced drugs spill over our borders and find passage along a network of highways that reach every corner of the country. 

Over the summer, law enforcement in Oregon sounded the alarm over more potent rainbow-colored pills laced with fentanyl that began circulating along the West Coast. The alarming news proves exactly why drug dealers must pay for the lives they take every single day – something for which Pennsylvania’s existing laws fall woefully short.

Under the existing “drug delivery resulting in death” statute, defendants often cut deals for lenient sentencing and little to no jail time. It’s a horrific miscarriage of justice that allows dealers to walk away scot-free for callously profiting off the escalating opioid epidemic.

That’s why I introduced Tyler’s Law in June to impose mandatory 25-year minimum sentences for fentanyl distribution that results in death. It’s a necessary step to save lives and hold dealers accountable for the destruction and pain caused by their ruthless greed.

But it’s not just about punishing those who sell drugs. Thanks to the Overdose Mapping Act, which became law just this month, first responders – including law enforcement and emergency medical services – will now report overdoses into an electronic statewide system.

Standardizing use such a system will help local officials identify emerging trends, mobilize an emergency response and alert law enforcement and EMS to the existence of fentanyl-laced drugs in a particular region.

We can’t put out fires that we can’t see and consistently using a mapping tool like this will give our first responders the visibility they need to act quickly, save lives and make communities safer.

Although overdose mapping will be a game changer for our communities, it’s certainly not the end of what we, as lawmakers, can do to support our first responders on the front lines trying to save lives every day.

That’s why we established the $135 million Law Enforcement Recovery Grant Program in the 2022-23 budget to ensure police departments have the resources and staffing necessary to fight rising crime, tackle the opioid crisis and ease the mental and physical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I championed the legislation this summer after months of raising awareness about the devastating impact the pandemic and anti-police sentiment had on recruitment, retention and crime prevention efforts. This investment will help our state get back onto a path of safety and prosperity, though admittedly, it will be an arduous journey.

And it’s one law enforcement can’t complete alone. That’s why I recently sponsored the Fighting Chance Act, which would reduce the obstacles individuals convicted for nonviolent offenses face when reentering society.

These people deserve a chance at economic security and freedom, which would reduce recidivism and lower the state’s overall crime rate. Overcoming poverty can end the destructive cycles that often spiral into drug addiction, illegal activity and violent crime.

And while I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken to address the systemic links between substance abuse and rising crime, I’m painfully aware there’s always so much more we can, and should, do.

Pennsylvania Cruelty Laws Ignore Test Lab Animals

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

Last week, we learned the strength of Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws rank 15th nationwide – representing a triumphant climb from the bottom 10 just eight years ago.

But we still have a long way to go before we reach the summit – and I intend to make sure we get there.

The cruelty inflicted on lab animals under the guise of medical experimentation, although around for decades, found its way back into headlines last year when members of Congress demanded answers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – and Dr. Anthony Fauci – about inhumane and unspeakable abuse inflicted on puppies and monkeys.

Researchers on South Carolina’s Morgan Island, for example, routinely inject up to 600 monkeys with debilitating viruses and withhold pain medication.

Reports also surfaced that at least 44 beagle puppies suffered and died after lab workers locked their heads in cages and allowed hungry sandflies to eat them alive. Others were injected with experimental drugs and all of them had vocal cords removed so workers wouldn’t be subjected to their pained cries.

This is torture – plain and simple – and Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spent at least $1.68 million in taxpayer money to fund it.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which gave Pennsylvania its esteemed ranking, notes that data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirms just 8% of drugs tested on animals are deemed safe and effective for human use.

The organization also claims research labs experiment on more than 1 million animals across the United States annually. The NIH spends around $14.5 billion in public funding for these barbaric tests – and that figure doesn’t even consider costs borne by other federal agencies and private companies.

So, it’s equally disturbing to me that Pennsylvania’s existing animal cruelty statute exempts medical research labs, so long as they meet a short list of regulations deeming their facilities “lawful.”

Pennsylvania has taken massive strides to protect animals from cruelty, neglect and abuse that culminated in the landmark Libre’s Law in 2017. This comprehensive bill strengthened penalties against perpetrators of these sickening crimes, catapulting Pennsylvania from its dismal bottom 10 ranking at the time to 24th.

Since then, we’ve improved our standing even further. Now, it’s time we take the next big step to protect animals in this state from these torturous lab experiments – especially when safer, more humane options exist. That’s why I will soon introduce legislation banning scientific experiments on live domestic dogs and cats within Pennsylvania.

These painful and deadly procedures inflict unimaginable and never-ending pain on these animals that not even human beings can endure.  

This issue cuts across partisan lies, rises above sensationalism and demands action. Subjecting our domestic companions to this kind of suffering, distress and lasting harm has no place in Pennsylvania.

The Human Cost of the Governor’s Carbon Tax

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

By now, just about everyone feels the squeeze of rising utility bills. It’s an inescapable reality, bolstered by ineffective domestic and foreign energy policies, a deepening economic crisis and mounting distrust in our government here at home.

Legislators warned this was coming. In June, and again in September, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) advised residents that electricity rates across the state would increase by double digits in some regions. This, just as the Commonwealth Court pressed pause on Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), scheduled for July 1.

RGGI, as it’s often called, uses carbon taxes to artificially limit emissions from the power sector in 11 other states in the mid-Atlantic. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration views its hasty entry into the program as the pinnacle of its climate legacy – a flimsy house of cards constructed without any input from the legislators tasked with representing Pennsylvania’s 13 million residents.

And all of this, despite zero concrete evidence RGGI actually reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions in any meaningful way – and plenty of demonstrable negative economic impacts writ-large.

The most obvious consequence of RGGI is increased energy costs. Some electric companies have admitted these additional expenses are already baked into the newest base rates, recalculated every few months to reflect market conditions. Even the Department of Environmental Protection’s initial estimate of RGGI’s cost had to be revised upward by nearly 300% earlier this year.

Roughly 300 of my constituents reported, in a survey administered by our office, they’re struggling to pay their electricity bills, even during what electrical grid operators call a “shoulder season” – a period where milder weather reduces overall demand for heating and cooling.

The pain is borne out by data from the Center for Biological Diversity and the PUC. The latter confirmed the number of residents seeking payment plans for overdue utility bills spiked 158% this year alone.

Just 1% of the roughly 10,700 customers seeking service reconnection got approved for these plans – and only if their credit reports and payment histories passed muster. The process can take as long as seven days, during which time service could remain shut off. Electric companies disconnected more than 108,000 residents through June, representing a 10% increase over 2021.

Even worse, the PUC’s income limits for preventing shut-offs in the colder months mean customers earning more than $14 per hour don’t qualify for relief. That leaves a wide swath of residents on modest incomes choosing between heat and food in the dead of winter.

Many electric companies will soon announce revised customer rates and all signs point to more double-digit increases – and that’s before the court decides the fate of RGGI in Pennsylvania.

We are already paying the administration’s carbon tax and it’s not even officially enacted yet. How much worse will things get?

We must abandon these destructive energy policies built on nothing more than delusions of grandeur. We are losing jobs. We are losing communities. We are losing lives.

When will the human cost of progressive ideology be enough?

Op-Ed: Cash for Seniors? Pennsylvania’s Adult Guardianships Lack Oversight

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

Lately, I’ve heard from distressed constituents who say that, ever year, Pennsylvania courts deem an untold number of senior citizens incompetent, imprison them in far-flung institutions and cut off their communication with the outside world, all for the sake of seizing billions of dollars from the estates they now control.

Don’t believe them? Annually, Pennsylvania collects estate funds worth roughly $2 billion after assuming guardianships for seniors. This, despite state laws and recommendations from the Department of Aging to pursue guardianship “as a last resort.”

The statistics regarding just how many seniors live under guardianships is unclear, according to a 2016 report on elder abuse from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) to better track instances of abuse and neglect. A NAMRS analysis from 2020 reported nearly 38,000 instances of financial exploitation from across all 50 states. About 16% of those cases were substantiated, according to the report.

Overall, NAMRS investigated nearly 776,000 suspected cases of elder abuse and neglect, of which one-third were corroborated by evidence. About 14% of these victims lived in nursing homes or residential facilities when these investigations were first initiated.

Still skeptical? Take it from Katherine Johnson, the former administrator for the Area Agency on Aging in Westmoreland County, who told a congressional Special Committee on Aging in 2018 she knew of at least one guardianship agency that mismanaged the assets of one of its clients, resulting in the senior’s eviction from a personal care home and $25,000 in lost income over a 22-month period.

Despite this, Johnson testified, the agency continued collecting guardianship and attorney fees, while leaving a balance for life insurance unpaid and ignoring its responsibility to liquidate the senior’s assets.

Worst of all, despite this egregious conduct, this investigation closed after the allegations went unsubstantiated. Johnson said Westmoreland County courts stopped appointing the agency as a guardian, however.

And this is far from the only case of exploitation and neglect. My office has received reports from family members who say the state makes sweeping claims of incompetency, takes control of assets and sequesters the senior in a far-off facility. Some say their family members can’t call home, receive visits or go outside for fresh air.

Courts appear reluctant, or downright refuse, to grant hearings for appeals or appoint attorneys for the families seeking relief. Judges have no obligation to consider expert testimony, review medical records or contemplate other suitable placements for the senior citizen, no matter how hard the family protests.

Johnson, in her testimony, agreed that the state’s guardianship system fails on multiple fronts. We leave incapacitated residents, with few or no family members, “at the mercy of” whatever agency agrees to handle their assets and medical care.

There’s no checks and balances to monitor whether a guardian agency is performing the duties required. State-required reports of financial activity often go unfiled, while many of the agencies themselves operate without performing background checks, establishing minimum training requirements or withstanding oversight from regulators or courts.

While family members routinely abuse, neglect and exploit seniors, Johnson said the risk increases “exponentially” with professional guardianship agencies.

This situation warrants further investigation. Our senior citizens are some of the most vulnerable among us. Who, if not their guardians, will give them a voice?  Who is going to investigate this cruel scheme?

We’ve seen power structures in this state abuse their authority for financial gain before. The infamous “Cash for Kids” scandal revealed that judges in Luzerne County accepted $2.6 million in alleged kickbacks from two for-profit facilities for sending juvenile delinquents – many of whom were wrongly adjudicated – to their care.

Those involved were later found guilty on a litany of federal charges, leaving a scar on the state’s juvenile justice system and instigating reforms at the state level to prevent such an egregious abuse of power from happening again.

Except that it can happen again and maybe, it already has.

Pennsylvania’s Utility Disconnections Spike Amid Energy Affordability Crisis

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

Pennsylvania earned a dubious distinction recently that underscores the economic pain wreaking havoc statewide for millions of residents struggling to make ends meet.

We, along with four other states, account for 69% of all 3.6 million utility disconnections between January 2020 and December 2021, according to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity.

It gets worse.

The number of residents seeking payment plans for overdue utility bills spiked 158% this year alone, according to data from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), amid unprecedented increases in energy costs doomed to climb even higher in the coming months.

Just 1% of the roughly 10,700 customers seeking service reconnection got approved for these plans – and only if their credit reports and payment histories passed muster. The process can take as long as seven days, during which times service could remain shut off. Electric companies disconnected more than 108,000 residents through June, representing a 10% increase over 2021.

Even worse still, the PUC’s income limits for preventing shut-offs in the colder months mean customers earning more than $14 per hour don’t qualify for relief. A Wall Street Journal analysis from December 2020 purports roughly half of families – of whom the report considers “middle class” – make between $26,000 and $122,000 annually.

That means the vast majority don’t fall under the PUC’s automatic shut-off moratorium and must overcome often insurmountable financial hurdles and additional charges to restore service during the dead of winter. It’s a recipe for disaster that will cause an untold number of preventable deaths and seal a fate many lawmakers, including myself, warned of when Gov. Tom Wolf began implementing short-sighted environmental policies via executive fiat.

The worst offender of Wolf’s climate legacy is the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s hurried effort to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The program uses carbon taxes to artificially limit emissions from the power sector, awarding the Wolf administration brownie points among the progressive arm of the Democratic party while saddling utility customers with skyrocketing electricity costs during an unfolding economic crisis.

Earlier this year, the Independent Fiscal Office’s analysis confirmed RGGI would cost nearly four times more than the DEP first projected, quadrupling energy costs for utility companies. Despite the pause on Pennsylvania’s entry into RGGI amid a legal challenge, electric suppliers said the program’s impact accounted for some of the double-digit rate increases implemented on June 1.

It’s important to note here that the Center for Biological Diversity said this “massive wave” of power shut-offs across the country predated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though the resulting volatility in oil and gas prices only made utility bills more unaffordable.

The report also pointed to a dozen companies that instigated over 3 million disconnections in 2020 and 2021 that then increased shareholder payouts by $1.9 billion. At least two of those suppliers, Exelon and First Energy, operate in Pennsylvania.

Colder weather is right around the corner and so, too, are guarantees that energy costs will keep climbing. Geopolitical instability coupled with skewed energy policies at the state and federal level mean residents will struggle to heat their homes and keep the lights on this winter.

All the while, shareholders will grow richer and their government friends will continue subsidizing tax breaks for greener technologies – like electric cars and solar panels – that few can afford.

It’s unconscionable that electricity rates in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s top energy producers, have grown so wildly unaffordable that our residents can’t keep up anymore. The Wolf administration owns this policy failure and would rather sacrifice lives than admit its mistake – and that’s not hyperbole

We must abandon RGGI and focus on policies that support Pennsylvania’s energy production, create jobs and raise incomes so Pennsylvanians can thrive – not merely survive – in the years to come.

Senator Doug Mastriano represents Pennsylvania’s 33rd district in Adams and Franklin counties.

Families Want Education, Not Indoctrination, for Pennsylvania’s Kids

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

Educational choice in Pennsylvania was, at one time, a narrow debate over state funding of charter schools versus their traditional district counterparts.

For the last two years, however, “choice” has encompassed a range of decisions once left exclusively to families. When I began my Senate career four years ago, few could imagine a Pennsylvania where students were forced to wear masks, given access to explicit materials and exposed to advanced gender theory without consent. The relationship between families and teachers, more often than not, enhanced the educational experience, instead of hindering it.

Now, residents across my district tell me the dissolution of their faith in our state-run education system is at an all-time high. Recently, roughly 2,000 people responded to my office’s survey about what concerned them most about our public schools. The vast majority lamented the pervasiveness of political indoctrination and the lack of practical education spreading across our 500 districts like wildfire.

Others worried about worsening teacher shortages, the growing animosity between residents and elected district officials, the lack of support for families choosing homeschooling and the fear of violence leaving their children forever traumatized.

No longer does funding take center stage in our decades-long debate over how best to serve Pennsylvania’s students. Rather, families feel forcibly removed from their children’s educational journey – one they have the right to guide and protect above all else.

That’s why I supported legislation this year to prevent the governor’s administration from imposing regulations on charter schools that would hamstring their ability to serve more students as demand for more choice grows. I also stand opposed to their dogmatic commitment to slashing funding for public charters, most of which serve underprivileged and minority children in our largest cities.

Instead, we boosted funding for disadvantaged families seeking refuge from failing districts by opting for private schools instead. We invested a historic $200 million into school security and behavioral health support to provide a safer learning environment and give families peace of mind. We also made it easier for out-of-state teachers to get certified in Pennsylvania – a crucial step that will ease our shortage and attract more quality educators from across the country.

More must be done.

That’s why I introduced Senate Bill 996 earlier this year, which would establish a Parental Bill of Rights. A dozen other states have enshrined these rights via statutes, though no such protections exist in Pennsylvania.

We need this now more than ever after the constant erosion of parental rights over the past two years. We saw schools shuttered and families left without in-person learning alternatives. Parents have been labeled as domestic terrorists simply for advocating for what they felt was best for their child.

My legislation protects us from overreaching bureaucrats who attempt to silence their voice. When it comes to raising children, families know better than the government.


CONTACT: Doug Zubeck