Senator Mastriano E-Newsletter

View this email in a browser

In this Update:

  • Senate Hearing Stresses Need for Western Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Team
  • Death Penalty for Convicted Human Traffickers of Children 
  • Senate Sends Budget Bill to Governor’s Desk
  • Share Your Opinion about Broadband in Pennsylvania
  • Report Abuse of Adults Living with a Disability
  • Recognizing National Farmers Market Week
  • Free Tool to Relate Military Experience to Civilian Job Requirements
  • Submit or Search for a Veteran Job
  • Improved Dashboard Better Tracks PA Homeowner Assistance Fund

Senate Hearing Stresses Need for Western Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Team

Western Pennsylvania needs its own top-tier urban search and rescue task force in Allegheny County. That was the major theme of a Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hearing Tuesday in Coraopolis Borough chaired by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33), which focused on legislation introduced by Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37) to address the problem.

“People in western Pennsylvania deserve the same timely response in emergency search and rescue operations that is available in the eastern side of the commonwealth,” Mastriano said. “Access to critical emergency services should not depend on which side of Pennsylvania you live in.”

Mastriano organized the joint hearing with the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee to review Robinson’s Senate Bill 792.

Pennsylvania currently has a patchwork of regional emergency response operations with the primary urban search and rescue task force located in Philadelphia. During search and rescue operations – like the Fern Hollow Bridge Collapse on Jan. 28, 2022 – when timely response is critical, western Pennsylvanians may have to wait hours for personnel and resources to arrive from the central or eastern regions of the commonwealth.

Robinson’s bill would establish a second urban search and rescue task force in Allegheny County.

“We want to establish an urban search and rescue capacity in Allegheny County to supplement the existing task force already available in Philadelphia,” Robinson said. “A western Pennsylvania urban search and rescue task force could serve this side of the commonwealth, without taking away resources or funding from Philadelphia task force’s efforts in the central and eastern regions.”

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield testified before the committee and – when questioned by Robinson – confirmed the new western Pennsylvania urban search and rescue task force would in no way take financial resources away from the existing Philadelphia task force.

“We want to add to the commonwealth’s existing urban search and rescue capacity, which currently is concentrated primarily in Philadelphia,” Mastriano said. “We want to enhance the commonwealth’s ability to respond to these critical emergency situations.”

The committee also heard testimony from Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Assistant Chief Brian Kokkila, Allegheny County Chief Fire Marshal Matt Brown and Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Kim Houser.

Death Penalty for Convicted Human Traffickers of Children

In the near future, I will introduce legislation to allow juries to impose a death penalty against those convicted of trafficking in minors to sexual servitude.

The smash hit film “Sound of Freedom” has brought much needed increased national attention to the scourge of human trafficking in America.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Pennsylvania currently ranks within the top 10 states for most reported cases of human trafficking.

While the General Assembly has taken numerous actions in recent years to crack down on this heinous crime, there is still so much more we can do to punish those who have stolen the innocence of our children.

Under existing statute, convicted child traffickers may only receive a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

My legislation will amend Title 18 and Title 42 to allow for the option of a death penalty sentence.

Victims who have had their lives stolen from them deserve justice and the peace of mind that their barbaric perpetrators are no longer on earth to possibly terrorize others.

God’s children are not for sale.

Senate Sends Budget Bill to Governor’s Desk

The Senate reconvened this week to send the 2023-24 General Appropriations bill to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk to be signed into law. This action maintains our commitment to moving Pennsylvania forward and will prevent disruptions to the many critical services Pennsylvanians rely on every day. Advancing this legislation ensures funding can be released to schools, counties and nonprofits without interruption as the final components of the budget are negotiated and completed.

The $45.45 billion budget spends approximately $400 million less than what Gov. Shapiro proposed in March. I am pleased we were able to pass a budget that holds the line on taxes, promotes job growth, continues historic support for schools and sets aside money to prevent future tax hikes.

It is important to note this step does not complete the budget process, as certain programs require implementation language before funding can be released. These include key priorities like mental health grants for schools, emergency relief for hospitals and increases to EMS reimbursement rates. We are continuing our work to negotiate these items to ensure a full budget is put in place to help all Pennsylvanians.

The Senate also signed and sent to Gov. Shapiro’s desk a bill that would expand eligibility and rebate amounts available through the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, providing more assistance to low-income seniors and Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

With the recent resignation of a member of the House, their chamber now stands deadlocked, with an even number of Republicans and Democrats. Having a chamber with a 101 to 101 split makes it very hard to see how some of these important pieces of legislation can be advanced until the vacancy in the House is filled again. The Senate stands ready to return to session and complete the steps necessary to bring this year’s budget to a close as soon as possible.

Share Your Opinion about Broadband in Pennsylvania

Rather than a luxury, high-speed internet is a necessity to participate in today’s economy. Access to high-speed internet helps to ensure public safety, benefits employers and Pennsylvania’s workforce, and provides an equal opportunity for students.

Pennsylvania has been awarded $1.16 billion in federal funding to expand internet access across the commonwealth. Community members – including residents, businesses and organizations – are invited to comment on the draft five-year implementation plan via an online survey available through Aug. 8.

Report Abuse of Adults Living with a Disability

Sadly, adults living with a disability are more likely to face abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment.

Common signs of abuse include bruises or broken bones, weight loss, memory loss, personality changes, social isolation and changes in banking habits.

If you suspect abuse, report it by calling the Protective Services Hotline at 1-800-490-8505. A report can be made on behalf of the adult whether they live in their home or in a care facility such as a nursing facility, group home or hospital. Reporters can remain anonymous and have legal protection from retaliation, discrimination, and civil and criminal prosecution.

Recognizing National Farmers Market Week

Aug. 6-12 is National Farmers Market Week, and there are so many places to celebrate in Pennsylvania. With agriculture as the state’s top industry, farmers markets can be found all across the commonwealth.

Farmers markets offer more than the freshest produce. You can also find delicious baked goods, cheeses and craft coffees. Some even offer how-to classes and the opportunity to pick your own produce.

Find a farmers market to enjoy here.

Free Tool to Relate Military Experience to Civilian Job Requirements

The Department of State has an innovative tool to help veterans and service members translate their military experience into civilian career opportunities. The military occupational crosswalk is a series of charts for each occupation licensed by the department that compare licensing requirements with typical duties, training, qualifications and related credentials with military occupations.

Created after Act 35 of 2022 received unanimous support from the General Assembly, the crosswalk defines a military applicant as a service member, veteran or military spouse; provides initial licensure fee waivers for military spouses who must relocate because of a service member’s military orders; allows service members to reactivate an expired professional or occupational license without penalty if the reactivation coincides with a deployment and is completed within one month of returning from the deployment; and more.

Read more here about professional and occupational licensing in the commonwealth.

Submit or Search for a Veteran Job

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs offers a job listing as a service to individuals and organizations to promote their veteran and military-oriented events being held in Pennsylvania. It is a comprehensive resource for the state’s more than 700,000 veterans as they consider new employment opportunities.

Submit a job or view the current listings – which include roles for nurses, police officers, recovery specialists and more – here.

Improved Dashboard Better Tracks PA Homeowner Assistance Fund

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) launched an updated program dashboard to track the status of the Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund, a pandemic-relief program that provides financial assistance to qualified homeowners for mortgage and housing-related expenses.

The new dashboard, which will be updated at least monthly, includes:

  • Total funds disbursed to Pennsylvania households
  • Total funds remaining for assistance to Pennsylvania homeowners
  • Total households that submitted applications
  • Total number of households that received assistance to date
  • A map identifying the amount of funds disbursed by Pennsylvania county

The initial dashboard presents the data in a static image format, but in the coming weeks, PHFA will introduce additional interactive capabilities including the ability to see more detailed information by county and details by the various assistance types. The changes will provide increased accountability and transparency in the program’s operations.

Facebook Twitter/X Instagram Website

2024 © Senate of Pennsylvania | | Privacy Policy