In this Update:
Senate Committee Subpoenas Norfolk Southern CEO
Pennsylvania Senate committee becomes first in nation to subpoena the top executive to appear
HARRISBURG – The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee this morning in Harrisburg approved with bipartisan support a measure introduced by Chairman Doug Mastriano (R-33) to subpoena Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to appear before the committee in a hearing on Wednesday, March 8. The final vote was 9-1 in favor of issuing the subpoena.
The subpoena was delivered this afternoon.
The move comes less than a week after Shaw was invited, but failed to appear, at a hearing Mastriano hosted on Thursday, Feb. 23, in Monaca, Beaver County. Mastriano held last week’s gathering to hear from residents, state officials and emergency responders in the wake of the train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3.
“We tried asking – and now we are demanding – answers for the people who have been devastated by the Norfolk Southern train wreck,” Mastriano said. “The Norfolk Southern CEO failed to voluntarily appear before the committee, so we aren’t giving him a choice next time. This company and its CEO must be held legally and publicly accountable for their actions.”
This is the first time a legislative body has subpoenaed the Norfolk Southern CEO since his company’s train wreck unleashed havoc on several western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio communities less than a month ago.
Mastriano met with affected residents along the western Pennsylvania border in the days and weeks after the train derailed and caught fire on Feb. 3. Norfolk Southern on Feb. 5 intentionally ignited five railroad cars carrying dangerous chemicals.
Nearby Pennsylvania residents reported burning lips, itchy eyes, rashes, headaches, diarrhea and other symptoms after large amounts of dangerous chemicals were released into the air, water and land in the aftermath of the crash.
“The people who breathed in these chemicals or drank them in their water want and deserve answers,” Mastriano said.
Mastriano announced the subpoena will call for Shaw to appear before the committee at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, March 8, in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building, Capitol Complex, Harrisburg.
A copy of the subpoena is available here.
Additional information about Mastriano and his efforts in response to the East Palestine train wreck is available at SenatorMastriano.com or by following him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SenatorDougMastriano.
PA Health Clinic Opens for Residents Affected by Norfolk Southern Train Wreck
Senator asks why Pennsylvanians had to wait so much longer than Ohioans for a clinic
HARRISBURG – State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) hosted a Senate committee hearing last week in Monaca, Beaver County, to hear from residents impacted by the Norfolk Southern train wreck. Less than a week after learning at the hearing that local families need a health clinic to serve Pennsylvania residents, Mastriano asked the administration to commit to deploying a clinic to the area, replete with toxicologists and other specialists to provide free and immediate help to the residents. In response, the administration announced Monday that the PA Department of Health finally has plans to open a clinic today.
“I’m pleased the administration is opening a health clinic, but it shouldn’t have taken nearly a month and a Senate committee hearing to get them to do this,” said Mastriano, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. “Local residents began reporting health concerns within days following the train wreck, but it has taken nearly a month to meet their needs. These people needed and deserved help sooner than this.”
Mastriano and his colleagues learned at the hearing that Ohio residents have had access to a health clinic in their state, but it would not serve Pennsylvania residents. Several Pennsylvanians affected by the train wreck asked why Pennsylvania has not offered the same service to its residents.
“This is one of the reasons I held the hearing and gave a voice to Pennsylvanians who have been harmed by this train wreck and its aftermath,” Mastriano said. “I can’t help but ask why Ohio was able to open a clinic for its residents so much faster than Pennsylvania. The delayed response to help Pennsylvanians has a long way to go. Residents are still waiting for filtered water in sufficient quantities to provide to their animals, a need that only our National Guard can and should have been directed to provide a month ago.”
The health clinic is scheduled to open Tuesday, Feb. 28 and will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The clinic will be at the Darlington Township Building, 3590 Darlington Road, Darlington.
Senate Republicans Announce Priorities and Principles for 2023-24 Session
With the two-year legislative session getting into full swing, I joined colleagues this week in announcing Senate Republican priorities and principles for 2023-24.
Our legislative efforts will be focused on protecting jobs, empowering families and defending freedoms.
Protecting Pennsylvania jobs requires a comprehensive approach that includes ensuring energy independence, promoting workforce development and continued improvement of our infrastructure.
Empowering Pennsylvania families means providing healthy and safe communities, addressing mental and behavioral health needs, and guaranteeing access to high-quality educational opportunities.
Defending freedom means keeping government out of the lives and pockets of citizens as much as possible, and instilling confidence in the electoral process.
Senate Republicans will build on our successful efforts last session that were focused on:
Senate Republican leaders discussed our 2023-24 priorities and principles here.
Committee Votes to Eliminate Costs for Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer Screenings
Legislation I’m co-sponsoring to eliminate all out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women with a high lifetime-risk of developing breast cancer took a step toward Senate passage this week.
Senate Bill 8, a bipartisan, first-of-its-kind, comprehensive breast cancer screening and testing bill was approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and is poised for consideration by the full Senate.
Genetic testing often leads to early cancer detection or preventive treatments and procedures. It not only informs the tested individual, but also provides vital information to family members who may have a high likelihood of inheriting a gene mutation.
Senate Bill 8 expands on a 2020 law that secured insurance coverage for breast MRIs by removing any applicable patient copays, deductible and coinsurance for this preventive screening. A supplemental screening is necessary because of failed early detection by screening mammography among women with dense breasts and those at high lifetime risk of breast cancer.
Senate Votes to Restrict Diversion of Transportation Funding
To bolster funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure, the Senate passed legislation to restrict the diversion of transportation funding out of the Motor License Fund. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Motor License Fund obtains revenue from transportation charges, including the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver license fees. These funds are required by the Pennsylvania Constitution for the design, construction and maintenance of the state and local highway network. However, a large portion is transferred to the Pennsylvania State Police for statewide highway patrol operations.
Senate Bill 121 dedicates the 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. Incredibly, while President Biden blocked American jobs, he waived sanctions on the Russian firm responsible for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
The resolution will now be transmitted to President Biden and members of Congress, including the entire Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.
Homeowner Septic Program Helps Cover Cost of Septic Systems, Sewer Hook-ups
Functioning on-lot septic systems, laterals and connections to a public sewer system are essential for public health but are expensive to repair or replace.
The Homeowner Septic Program offers affordable loans for the repair or replacement of on-lot septic systems and sewer laterals, or a first-time sewer connection from an existing home. The revamped program now features:
The program is funded and administered by Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).
For more information or to start the PENNVEST application process, homeowners should contact a participating lender or PHFA at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466), then press “0” to be connected with the Customer Solutions Center. Information on the program is also available here. Lenders interested in participating should visit the PHFA website for more details.
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