In this Update:
Telephone Town Hall Monday
On Monday, June 26th from 6:00-7:00pm., I will be hosting a Telephone Town Hall via telephone and audio stream because I want to give you, the people, an opportunity to have your opinions heard and your concerns addressed. This type of meeting allows you to listen in and ask questions from the comfort of your home. You can sign up to be called (register) or audio stream live at the time of the event. www.senatormastriano.com/access-live. This will also be live streamed on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SenatorDougMastriano/.
Senate Committee Approve Bill to Support Veteran Businesses
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which I chair, this week approved three measures, including one aimed at helping veteran-owned businesses in the commonwealth.
The committee approved Senate Bill 438, which calls for the creation of a special logo to recognize and promote veteran-owned businesses in Pennsylvania.
To learn more about the logo and the other two bills approved by the committee, read the rest of this article.
Sept. 11 Hero Watches as Senate Approves Bill Requiring Remembrance of 9/11 in Schools
With the former New York City policeman captured in an iconic Sept. 11 photograph standing in the balcony, the state Senate on Monday approved legislation I introduced that would require Pennsylvania schools to observe a moment of silence commemorating the anniversary of the terrorist attack on America.
I was joined by former New York City Policeman and current Pennsylvania resident Dave Camisa, who was photographed on Sept. 11 covered in dust following the collapse of the first World Trade Center tower. The photograph quickly became an iconic image capturing both the horror and heroism of the day.
Learn more about the bill and how it would work by reading the rest of this article.
Senate Committee Approves Bill to Expand Fentanyl Testing
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week approved legislation I introduced that could save lives by expanding fentanyl testing in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 683 would require general acute care hospitals to test for fentanyl and xylazine when treating a person who is receiving a standard, five-panel urine drug screening. A regular opioid test does not currently test for fentanyl and xylazine.
Fentanyl is the No. 1 cause of death for Americans ages 18-45. The fentanyl overdose crisis has affected communities across Pennsylvania.
Xylazine is a lethal tranquilizer that is increasingly being mixed with other illegal drugs – including methamphetamines, cocaine and counterfeit drugs such as Xanax – leading to additional overdose deaths.
A recent Epic Research study showed only 5% of toxicology screens currently test overdose patients for fentanyl. The percentage is even smaller for xylazine testing.
Learn more about how the bill woud work by reading the rest of this article.
Senate Bill Fights Porch Pirating
Legislation cracking down on “porch pirating” was approved by the Senate this week.
In Pennsylvania, theft of mail – also known as porch pirating – is currently charged under other theft offenses based solely on the value of the item taken. The average cost of a package stolen in Pennsylvania is $43, and nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians have been victimized by a porch pirate.
Senate Bill 527 would implement specific penalties for theft of mail, which includes a package, bag or letter. The grading of this offense would increase if the person had prior convictions for theft of mail.
Ensuring Adequate Funding for Roads and Bridges
To ensure sound funding for Pennsylvania roads and bridges, the Senate approved Senate Bill 656 to replace the state Alternative Fuels Tax on electric vehicle owners with a flat annual fee of $290.
The fee was calculated based on the average annual gas taxes paid by owners of gas-powered vehicles. Like the gas tax, the revenue from the flat fee will be deposited into the Motor License Fund for highway maintenance and construction.
Currently, owners of electric vehicles are required to file monthly statements with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and remit the alternative fuels tax on how much electricity their vehicle uses. However, most electric vehicle owners do not do this, or are inconsistent at doing so, due to the cumbersome process or simply being unaware.
Senate Passes Bill Protecting Prescription Coverage for Social Security Recipients
The Senate passed Senate Bill 607 to protect PACE and PACENET participants who may be pushed beyond the eligibility limits due solely to a cost-of-living increase in Social Security payments.
The PACE and PACENET programs help Pennsylvanians age 65 or older to afford their prescription medications. Eligibility for the programs is based on income, and Pennsylvanians on Social Security received an 8.7% cost-of-living increase in their benefits for 2023.
Single older Pennsylvanians earning $14,500 or less are eligible for PACE, while those earning between $14,500 and $33,500 are eligible for PACENET. Married couples earning $17,700 or less are eligible for PACE. Those earning between $17,700 and $41,500 are eligible for PACENET.
Bill to Prevent Distracted Driving Deaths Passes Senate
Legislation prohibiting the handheld use of cellular and other devices while driving passed this week in the Senate.
Senate Bill 37 would enhance driver responsibility by prohibiting the handheld use of cell phones or other communication devices while operating a motor vehicle on a Pennsylvania highway or trafficway. A driver could only use their wireless device while holding or supporting it when the vehicle is parked on the side or shoulder of a roadway and the vehicle is safely able to remain stationary.
To help educate drivers of the change in the law, this legislation includes a provision directing law enforcement to issue warnings for violations for the first 12 months following the signing of the bill.
Senate Acts to Exempt Newer Vehicles from Emissions Test
To relieve motorists from outdated and unnecessary emissions testing, the Senate approved Senate Bill 561 to exempt the five newest model-year vehicles.
Pennsylvania is mandated by the federal government to implement an emissions inspection and maintenance program to comply with federal 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Pennsylvania’s program requires motorists in 25 counties to participate in an annual emissions test.
As fuel-efficient cars have become more widespread, a vehicle emissions test has proven to be less effective at reducing air pollution. Between 2010-19, there were more than 21 million newer vehicles that passed the emissions test 99.65% of the time. Newer vehicles consistently pass emissions tests due to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles on the market.
Senate Approves Expanding Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners
To provide comprehensive, trauma-informed quality care to survivors of sexual assault, the Senate passed Senate Bill 414 to improve access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs).
SANEs collect critical forensic evidence when a sexual assault survivor seeks medical attention after an attack. In addition to conducting forensic exams or rape kits, SANEs may provide expert testimony if a case goes to trial.
There are less than 50 certified SANEs across Pennsylvania despite the state having about 280 hospitals. Most hospitals do not offer access to a SANE.
The bill would improve SANE availability as it identifies a funding stream for hospitals to establish and maintain operation of SANE programs; and directs the Department of Health to compile a list of all hospitals in the commonwealth that offer SANE services and to make that information available statewide.
Prioritizing Workforce Development and Job Opportunities
The Senate has approved legislation to help establish Pennsylvania as an international leader in the development, testing and implementation of cutting-edge technologies.
Senate Bill 497 establishes the Max Manufacturing Initiative Act, which provides grants and loans to state universities so they can partner with engineering entities to enhance research capabilities, promote business alliances, produce high-value products and create family-sustaining jobs.
Advanced manufacturing is the use of innovative technologies to create and enhance products and is utilized in most industries. The manufacturing industry in the United States produces more than $4 trillion annually and thousands of job opportunities in the commonwealth.
Women Veterans to Benefit from Health Care Task Force
To provide care for the unique health needs of women veterans, the Senate approved a measure establishing the Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care in Pennsylvania.
The task force will study health issues facing women veterans and make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly. The panel will be composed of individuals with relevant specialties, including the chair of the State Veterans’ Commission and health care providers.
Senate Resolution 46 would also pave the way for Pennsylvania to potentially receive additional federal funding to address women veterans’ health care issues.
Recognizing National Cancer Survivor Month
National Cancer Survivor Month, celebrated every June, recognizes those who have fought cancer and those who are still in treatment.
Because of the advancement of treatment and the increased accessibility to it, there are more than 18 million cancer survivors in the United States.
To provide Pennsylvanians with important tools to fight cancer, the Senate passed Act 1 of 2023, which eliminates out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. Learn more here.
For anyone who hasn’t already signed up to receive e-newsletters, you can get on the e-newsletter mailing list here.
If you do not wish to receive this email, click here to unsubscribe.