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In this Update:
- Mastriano Sends Letter to State-related Universities Urging a Freeze to Planned Tuition Hikes
- Strengthening the Integrity of Pennsylvania’s Elections
- Special Education Additional School Year Notification Deadline is Monday
- New Law Improves Access to Home Health Care Services
- Help for Veterans and Beneficiaries Facing Unexpected Hardships
- Watch Out for Energy Marketing Scams
- Please Support Local Independent Retailers
HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) asked leaders on Monday at the four state-related universities to freeze tuition for Pennsylvania residents for the upcoming academic year.
In a letter addressed to the top officials at the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University, Mastriano said the 5% funding boost from a portion of federal stimulus funds – coupled with the nearly $600 million appropriated by the General Assembly in the 2022-23 state budget – should be sufficient to freeze tuition for tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families.
A budget summary shows the specific funding amounts as follows, though the administration has indicated it will distribute $40 million in total:
- Pennsylvania University: $12.1 million for general support; $1.3 million for the Pennsylvania College of Technology
- University of Pittsburgh: $7.5 million for general support; $167,000 for rural education outreach
- Temple University: $7.9 million
- Lincoln University: $758,000
“Pennsylvania’s families simply cannot afford a tuition hike in addition to the rising costs in other parts of the economy,” Mastriano said. “These universities have received enough supplemental funding from the state for the upcoming year to avoid unnecessary tuition increases.”
A study of anonymous tax records published in the New York Times in 2017 revealed the median family income for students at Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University ranged from nearly $46,000 to just under $112,000. The proposed increases on these households could impact more than 122,000 students in the coming academic year.
“I realize the economic forces at work have not spared higher education,” Mastriano said. “Although a tuition hike offers a straightforward solution, it will cost Pennsylvania far more in the long run in lost economic opportunity.”
Strengthening the Integrity of Pennsylvania’s Elections
Most Pennsylvanians say they are dissatisfied with the way elections are conducted in the state, according to a recent poll. To address this, the General Assembly passed one of the most significant election integrity packages in America.
The General Assembly passed two proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution addressing elections. If approved again in the 2023-24 legislative session, the questions will be put on the ballot for voters to decide.
One of these amendments would require all voters to present a valid form of identification prior to voting in person or by mail. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvanians support requiring voters to present identification to vote.
A separate proposed amendment would require the General Assembly to provide for audits of elections, including the administration of elections and the results. This crucial work would be performed by the state Auditor General.
In addition to moving these constitutional questions one step closer to voters, the General Assembly passed Act 88 of 2022 to get private money out of the administration of our elections. The legislation was created after certain counties received millions of dollars from a group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during the 2020 Election.
The new law creates grants for counties to cover costs such as hiring and training staff, printing ballots and managing voting machines and tabulation equipment. In return, counties who accept the money are required to take several critical steps to ensure the integrity of the process.
Pennsylvanians have advocated for real and meaningful changes that will promote confidence in the fairness of our election system. As elected officials, it is our responsibility to ensure every part of our voting system is above reproach.
Special Education Additional School Year Notification Deadline is Monday
The General Assembly recently passed a proposal to provide an additional year of instruction to special education students who reached the age of 21 during the 2021-22 school year or before the 2022-23 school year starts.
Due to COVID-19, many of these students suffered immense learning loss and need a bridge before aging out of the public school system.
Information about this provision is available here. Parents must submit the Act 55 of 2022 Student Enrollment Notification Form to their school district by this Monday, Aug. 1.
New Law Improves Access to Home Health Care Services
Legislation recently passed by the General Assembly and enacted into law will help improve access to home health care services by making permanent two regulations waived during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, non-physician practitioners were unable to order or oversee orders for home health care services. Additionally, registered nurses were not able to perform remote visits to patients in need of home health care services.
Due to great need, those regulations were waived during the pandemic. Act 30 of 2022 makes these exceptions permanent, so health care services are more accessible to those individuals who cannot leave their homes to obtain care or treatment.
Help for Veterans and Beneficiaries Facing Unexpected Hardships
Pennsylvania veterans and beneficiaries facing a crisis can receive financial relief for necessities of life such as food, shelter, fuel and clothing through the Veterans Temporary Assistance program.
Eligible veterans or their beneficiaries can qualify for up to $1,600 in a 12-month period. Eligibility requirements include: a person who served in the U.S. Armed Forces (discharged under honorable conditions), died in service or was killed in action, or suffered a service-connected disability.
To apply, contact the County Veterans Affairs Director in your county.
Watch Out for Energy Marketing Scams
Consumers should be alert for potential energy marketing scams, especially unsolicited telemarketing calls requesting immediate action and promising far-reaching savings on energy bills.
One type of misleading solicitation involves robocalls from unidentified sources making vague and potentially misleading statements about customer discounts, refunds, rebates and bonuses if the customer acts now. The calls often appear as a local telephone number on recipients’ caller ID, which is often fake or “spoofed,” or the calls fail to display any number at all.
According to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, if the sales agent fails to immediately identify themselves and the reason for the call, the consumer should end the call. Find out more about scammers and how to avoid them here.
Please Support Local Independent Retailers
Local, independent retailers reinvest more of their revenues than chain retailers and much more of their revenues than Amazon. Shopping local and supporting independent retailers contributes to the health and prosperity of our communities. I hope you give them a chance to earn your business year-round.