In this Update:
Mastriano introduces legislation to limit CDC and WHO influence in Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG – Senator Mastriano announced the introduction of legislation to prohibit the jurisdiction of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization within the Commonwealth.
SB 618 states that neither organization may be used for justification for any requirement or coercion for wearing a mask, receiving a vaccine, or medical testing. Furthermore, the organizations will be clearly prohibited from implementing any rules, regulations, or laws within Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvanians will never forget having their constitutional rights trampled upon by unelected bureaucrats from outside our state and outside of our nation during COVID,” said Mastriano. The Wolf Administration time and time again referred to CDC and WHO guidance for their oppressive business lockdowns, school shutdowns, and mask mandates. SB 618 will ensure that in the future, the CDC and WHO will never have that kind of influence over Pennsylvania ever again.”
On August 20, 2022, the federal PACT Act (“Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022”) was signed into law. The PACT Act expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. The new law empowers the VA to provide generations of Veterans – and their survivors – with the care and benefits they have earned. Key components include:
*Expands VA health care eligibility for toxic-exposed Veterans and extends enhanced eligibility for Vietnam era, Gulf War era, and Post-9/11 combat Veterans.
*Adds more than 20 burn pit and toxic-exposure-related conditions to VA’s service presumption list.
*Improves VA’s decision-making process for determining what medical conditions will be considered for presumptive status.
*Every enrolled Veteran will receive an initial toxic exposure screening and a follow-up screening at least every 5 years. Veterans who are not enrolled, but who meet eligibility requirements, will have an opportunity to enroll and receive the screening.
*VA health care and claims processors will receive toxic exposure-related education and training.
*Requires research studies on mortality of Veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War, Post-9/11 Veteran health trends, and Veteran cancer rates.
*Helps VA build a stronger, more skilled workforce to meet the growing demand for benefits and services.
*Authorizes funding for 31 VA new facilities across the country
For more information you can go to: The PACT Act And Your VA Benefits | Veterans Affairs
Meanwhile, the PA Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA) in conjunction with VA staff are hosting presentations to provide veterans and their advocates with a convenient platform to learn and ask questions about eligibility and applying for benefits related to the PACT Act.
*June 14, 2023 – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Billy Simpson VFW Post 470 1808 W. 26th St. Erie, PA 16508
*August 9, 2023 – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Williamsport Penn College Gilmore Center 990 Hagan Way. Williamsport, PA 17701
*September 13, 2023 – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Where: Lackawanna College Theatre 501 Vine St. Scranton, PA 18509
*October 11, 2023 – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Location TBD
There is an option for individuals to call in at 267-332-8737 and entering Conference ID: 989503340#.
Senate Concludes State Budget Hearings
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week finished three weeks of public hearings about the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed a $45.8 billion budget that would increase spending by $1.3 billion and all but deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
Among the key points from this week’s hearings:
Workforce issues, the state’s tax structure and the need to help businesses grow and stay in Pennsylvania drove the conversation during the Department of Community and Economic Development hearing.
The Department of Corrections/Pennsylvania Parole Board hearing covered the state’s recidivism rate and declining inmate population. The costs associated with the 750 vacancies in the Department of Corrections – which results in increased use of overtime – and efforts to protect inmates from human trafficking were also discussed.
Questions about how the Department of Human Services is handling reduced federal emergency funding were raised during the hearing. The conversation also covered the Shapiro Administration’s request for state taxpayers to backfill millions of dollars cut by the Biden Administration.
The Senate will use findings from the hearings to craft an alternative spending plan to the governor’s, with the aim of enacting a final 2023-24 state budget.
You can find video and recaps of every budget hearing at PASenateGOP.com.
Monthly Appropriations Update Shows Lagging Sales Tax Collections
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares an update about the state’s financial health. The most recent report shows that sales and use tax (SUT) collections were $25 million, or 2.3%, below estimate for the month. Perhaps more importantly, March’s SUT collections were below March 2022’s collections.
SUT is the second-largest source of revenue for the General Fund and is mostly due on a “pay-as-you-go” basis throughout the year. Closely monitoring these collections for continued weakness could help signify any potential slowing of the economy.
The full update, including the monthly revenue report, is available here.
Safely Dispose of Unused Prescriptions on April 22
Conveniently remove opioids and other unused medicines from your home on Saturday, April 22, as part of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
More than 13 tons of prescription drugs were disposed of across Pennsylvania in the Prescription Drug Take Back Day held last October.
Find a location to safely dispose of unused drugs here.
Farmers, Help PA Claim Federal Funding
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is collecting responses for the 2022 Census of Agriculture, which impacts funding priorities for numerous programs. Any farmers who have not returned their questionnaires are encouraged to respond by mail or online here.
In addition to directing the use of tax dollars, the census data also informs decisions about policy, farm and conservation programs, infrastructure and rural development, research, education and more.
State Grant Deadline is May 1 for PA College Students
The deadline for students and families to submit their applications for the 2023-24 Pennsylvania State Grant program is May 1. This deadline applies to all renewal applicants and first-time applicants who plan to enroll in a degree program or other college or university (excluding community colleges).
To apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2023-24 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants can access the FAFSA online at www.PHEAA.org/FAFSA or www.fafsa.gov. Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.
Students and families with questions about the FAFSA or the State Grant Program can call 800-692-7392 for personal assistance.
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