In this Update:
Mastriano reacts to Act 77 court ruling; reiterates call for immediate vote on election integrity package legislation
January 28, 2021
HARRISBURG – Senator Doug Mastriano (PA-33) issued the following statement following last week’s ruling from the Commonwealth Court that found Act 77 to be unconstitutional:
“I welcome the eventual end of “no-excuse” mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. I`ve introduced legislation earlier this session that does just that.
“Following its passage in 2019, Act 77 was unconstitutionally rewritten by the Democrat majority Supreme Court, Governor Wolf, and Secretary of State Boockvar. Those changes removed critical safeguards prior to the 2020 election.
“All mail-in ballots were to be signature verified and turned in by Election Day to count. “Defective” mail-in ballots were not to be counted and poll watchers were expected to be permitted to adequately observe the counting of all mail-in ballots at every location.
“In the aftermath of the chaotic 2020 election, I drafted, introduced, and co-primed several bills to restore integrity to our elections.
“It’s important that we get these bills out of the Senate and over to the House for consideration. We have waited long enough to take meaningful action to adequately secure future elections.”
The Commonwealth Court decision will be appealed by the Wolf Administration and Act 77 will remain in place pending a decision from the State Supreme Court.
Co-Sponsor: Increasing Access to COVID-19 Early Treatment Drugs
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to ensure patients can easily access early treatment drugs following prescription from a licensed provider. The bill will be similar to HB 1741 introduced by Representative Keefer.
Studies from across the globe have increasingly shown that the use of off-label FDA approved medications in the early or preventative stages of COVID infection significantly lowers the chance of hospitalization and death.
For example, a peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents found that an early treatment drug combination (hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin) decreased hospitalizations by 84% and resulted in a 5-fold reduction in death.
Another peer reviewed study conducted by physicians in Brazil between July 2020 and December 2020 examined over 150,000 participants in the city of Itajai and found that those who took Ivermectin (compared to those who did not) had a 56% reduction in hospitalization and a 68% reduction in death.
Despite a record of success, it is increasingly difficult for a patient in Pennsylvania to obtain these early treatment drugs following prescription from a provider. I`ve heard from many constituents who are encountering pharmacies that refuse to dispense these drugs even with a valid prescription note from a doctor.
A combination of politics, bureaucracy, and profit margin motivations is driving pressure on doctors and pharmacists to reject the use of these proven off-label drugs.
My legislation will allow physicians and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense drugs already approved by the FDA for off-label use in the treatment or prevention of COVID, without penalty from licensing boards. My bill will also clarify that a pharmacy may not decline to fill a prescription of a COVID early treatment drug based solely on an opinion of the drug.
Please join me as a co-sponsor for this lifesaving legislation.
Schools Have New Tool to Ease Substitute Teacher Shortage
The General Assembly recently passed Act 91 to help schools find substitute teachers to fill critical staffing shortages caused by the pandemic. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released guidelines for schools to follow in taking advantage of the law.
Act 91 provides additional pathways for quality individuals to pursue and complete certifications and enter the educator workforce. Specifically, the law creates a new Classroom Monitor Permit for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. A classroom monitor may be employed to provide coverage and deliver preplanned assignments in classrooms. A classroom monitor may not plan lessons or create or grade student work.
An individual receiving a Classroom Monitor Permit must satisfy the following requirements as outlined in Act 91:
Additional consideration should be taken when determining if a classroom monitor should work with students with disabilities. Schools can find more information and resources about the changes under Act 91 on the department’s Certification Services website.
Grants Available for Community Learning Centers
Organizations may now submit their intent to apply for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program, which provides funding to support community learning centers that provide academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families.
Eligible organizations include public school districts, charter schools, private schools, nonprofit agencies, city or county government agencies, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, for-profit corporations and others.
Programs must take place during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session to help students attending high-poverty and low-performing schools to meet state and local standards in core academic subjects. Centers must also offer students a broad array of activities that can complement their regular academic programs and literacy and other educational services to their families. How to apply.
Help for Students to Acquire Skills in High Demand by Employers
Financial assistance is available to help students learn skills in high demand by today’s employers in energy, health, advanced materials and diversified manufacturing, and agriculture and food production.
The PA Targeted Industry Program, created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2012, provides need-based awards up to $5,000. Approved veteran applicants may receive up to 100% of the student’s total educational costs or the max award, whichever is less. Awards can be used to cover tuition, books, fees, supplies and a $4,000 living expense allowance.
Students must have received a high school diploma, GED or recognized homeschool certificate. Students who have completed a bachelor’s or graduate degree are still eligible to apply for assistance. Information and Applications
Senate Committee Activity is Streamed and Stored Online
Last year, the Senate held nearly 330 public meetings and hearings that were streamed live from the Capitol and locations across Pennsylvania. You can find them all, plus 2022’s committee activity, here.
The Senate’s 23 standing committees, ranging from Aging and Youth to Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness, are where legislation is vetted, debated and, if necessary, altered before being considered by the full Senate. Committee hearings bring citizens, experts and other interested parties together for public presentations on various topics.
Now Online: 2022 Trout Stocking Schedule
The 2022 adult trout stocking schedule is now available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The trout stocking schedule is searchable by county, lists the waterways in alphabetical order, and indicates stocking dates, meeting locations for volunteers and the species of trout that will be stocked.
In 2022, Pennsylvania will return to a single, statewide Opening Day of Trout Season on the first Saturday in April, which is April 2. A single, statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day will take place on Saturday, March 26. Under this change, which will result in a longer regular season for trout statewide, the practice of holding a separate regional opening day and mentored youth day for Pennsylvania’s 18 southeastern counties will no longer occur.
To accommodate the earlier statewide trout season, preseason trout stocking operations are set to begin the week of Feb. 21.