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In this update:
- Mastriano: Pennsylvania Budget Delivers Supplemental Property Tax and Rent Rebate Recovery
- Mastriano and Robinson Bill to Fund the Police enacted into law as part of Pennsylvania Budget
- Proposed Constitutional Amendments One Step Closer to Voter Input
- Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Abortion
- Crime Victims will Receive More Support Under New Law
- New Laws Aim to Improve Information Sharing and Health Outcomes
- Call 988 for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Support
- National Guard Needs Mentors for At-Risk Teens
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania seniors and individuals living with disabilities will receive a supplemental property tax or rent rebate this year as part of the 2022-23 General Fund Budget, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) said.
“As record-breaking inflation continues on an upward trajectory with no end in sight, it’s vital we support residents who live on fixed incomes and are most vulnerable to the unsustainable pressure of skyrocketing costs,” Mastriano said. “I’m grateful that my proposal to enhance the annual rebates seniors and adults with disabilities receive was prioritized in this year’s spending plan and I hope it can provide some relief to these communities as we navigate this growing economic crisis.”
The state will use $140 million from the American Rescue Plan Act stimulus to pay households supplemental rebates worth 70% of the amount received in 2021. On average, eligible participants receive a $475 rebate each year, with more than $7.3 billion awarded to senior citizens and disabled adults since 1971.
Mastriano introduced the rebate enhancement in Senate Bill 1297 earlier this year. Some 2.2 million people over the age of 65 live in Pennsylvania and 8% of them live below the poverty line, according to state data.
“We cannot allow residents to fall deeper into poverty as a result of disastrous federal economic policy that’s beyond their control,” Mastriano said. “This immediate relief will reach hundreds of thousands of seniors and individuals with disabilities at a time when they need it most. Meanwhile, I will continue fighting for responsible fiscal policies that will ease the extraordinary inflationary pressures we all face.”
Mastriano and Robinson Bill to Fund the Police enacted into law as part of Pennsylvania Budget
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania 2022-23 budget invested $135 million into a brand-new law enforcement grant recovery program designed to help agencies protect neighborhoods from violent crime and drugs, said Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33).
Mastriano co-sponsored the original legislation with Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37) in June after months of raising awareness about the devastating impact the pandemic and anti-police sentiment had on police recruitment, retention, and crime prevention efforts.
“We know law enforcement agencies have faced a unique set of challenges since 2020,” Mastriano said. “Rising crime, influx of deadly drugs like fentanyl, staff turnover, and dwindling resources have only exacerbated these problems. This investment signifies our commitment to helping officers protect and serve their communities, ultimately saving lives.”
Law enforcement agencies can use the grants to offer incentives to attract new recruits, retain current officers, expand training, and update equipment and other technologies.
The Law Enforcement Recovery Grant Program will be administered by the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, who will determine awards for applicants. To ensure transparency and oversight, annual public reports and performance metrics will be required to detail how agencies used the money.
In addition to the grant program, the 2022-23 budget also provided for additional funding for the Pennsylvania State Troopers to hire 200 more officers to combat rising violent crime.
Proposed Constitutional Amendments One Step Closer to Voter Input
To ensure that citizens are heard, the General Assembly approved a measure that would put five proposed amendments to the state constitution on the ballot for voters to decide. The measure must be approved again in the 2023-24 legislative session to go before the voters.
The proposed amendments would:
- Require proof of valid IDs for in-person and mail voting.
- Require the Auditor General to conduct audits of the administration of elections and election results.
- Require nominees for governor to select a candidate for lieutenant governor, rather than having lieutenant governor candidates run separately.
- Allow the General Assembly to reject burdensome proposed regulations without the approval of the governor.
- State that the Pennsylvania Constitution does not grant the right to taxpayer-funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.
The process of amending the constitution is lengthy and deliberative, and will give citizens across the commonwealth the appropriate time to weigh the merits of the proposals and have their voices heard.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Abortion
One of the constitutional amendments approved by the General Assembly would clarify the state does not guarantee any right to abortion or public funding of abortion.
It would ensure that abortion policy in Pennsylvania comes from the people’s elected representatives. It does not ban, criminalize or otherwise prohibit a woman from seeking an abortion in Pennsylvania.
Federal courts have long held that the federal constitution does not require taxpayer funding of abortion. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held in 1985 that the state constitution also does not require such taxpayer funding.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade doesn’t mean abortion is banned nationwide. It means abortion laws will return to the purview of the individual states. The proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution is simply the state legislature, and ultimately voters, determining if public money should fund abortions.
The measure must be approved by the General Assembly again in the next legislative session before the proposed amendment can go before the voters.
Crime Victims will Receive More Support Under New Law
Legislation passed by the Senate and signed into law this month gives crime victims legal standing in court, updates crime victim compensation, provides notice of events in the judicial process and enhances victim confidentiality for domestic and sexual violence crimes.
Act 77 of 2022 ensures victims can now stand in court and assert their own rights and it gives them recourse when their rights are ignored.
Giving victims standing was part of Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment to guarantee crime victims’ rights. More than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians voted in favor of the amendment in 2019. However, the outcome was set aside by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court due to a technicality with the ballot question.
New Laws Aim to Improve Information Sharing and Health Outcomes
Bipartisan legislation designed to improve the ability of health care providers to treat the overall health of patients is now law.
Act 32 and Act 33 of 2022 amend the Mental Health Procedures Act and the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act to allow for sharing of patient information among providers, facilities and insurers. The changes would also meet existing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements to ensure patient confidentiality.
Under current law, mental health and physical health information cannot be fully shared among providers in Pennsylvania. The proposed changes would bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of states that already share this information and are seeing improved patient outcomes.
Call 988 for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Support
Pennsylvanians now have an easier way to connect to behavioral or mental health crisis services. Dialing 988 will connect callers directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The Lifeline’s trained crisis response professionals support individuals considering suicide, self-harm, or any behavioral or mental health need for themselves or people looking for help for a loved one. Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to the caller.
988 counselors located at 13 crisis call centers around Pennsylvania can immediately provide phone-based support and connections to local resources.
National Guard Needs Mentors for At-Risk Teens
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs needs adult mentors to work with at-risk teens in the Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy (KSCA) at Ft. Indiantown Gap.
The program provides Pennsylvania teens who are struggling an opportunity to achieve the discipline and skills necessary to succeed as productive and responsible citizens through an engaging and structured residential experience. Cadets will be guided to improve their academic standing and increase their potential for future employment or further education.
Each mentor will be counted on to meet with a cadet on a routine basis to ensure they are progressing in residency and then achieving their post-residency goals. Mentors will participate in training sessions during the residential phase to ensure they are fully prepared for their critical role. All mentors will be required to pass state and federal level background checks as a condition of volunteering. You can read more about the program and volunteer here.