Senator Mastriano E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Sen. Doug Mastriano, SB 139 remarks: 9/11 Observance, Curriculum in Schools
  • Mastriano Bill Updating Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law Approved in Committee 
  • Senate Expands Right to Know Law to State-Related Universities
  • Hearing Highlights Ideas to Combat Lyme Disease in PA
  • Promise of Carbon Capture Technology in Pennsylvania Explored by Committee
  • September is Suicide Prevention Month
  • Rosh Hashanah Begins Sunday
  • Collecting Items for Area Food Banks Continues

Sen. Doug Mastriano, SB 139 remarks: 9/11 Observance, Curriculum in Schools

092022- Senate Bill 139  

It’s been just over 21 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks extinguished nearly 3,000 lives and left a deep scar on this nation and in the hearts and minds of generations of Americans.

None of today’s K-12 students were alive when these horrific events unfolded. For some of them, 9/11 is a dark chapter in our recent history they’ve learned about through video footage and photographs that circulate on social media. Maybe they’ve seen the memorial tributes broadcasted on television or stood in the once empty field in Shanksville to pay respects to the 44 lives sacrificed there that day.

It’s shocking to me that this defining moment in world history goes unnoticed each year in public schools and receives zero mention in the state academic standards for history, civics and government.

This legislation would change that. SB 139 requires schools to observe a moment of silence every Sept. 11, to honor the fallen lives and the families and friends they left behind. And thanks to an amendment from my colleague, Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, current and future generations of students will learn about the events and significance of 9/11 though a state-developed model curriculum.

I think I can speak for most of us when I say Sept. 11 had a profound impact on my life. The world still grapples with the aftermath day in and day out as we fight terrorism at home and abroad. We cannot let the tragedy of these events fade from our collective memories, nor can we forge a brighter future for our children and grandchildren without learning from the tragedies of the past.

SB 139 ensures that Pennsylvania’s students will never forget.

Mastriano Bill Updating Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law Approved in Committee

The Senate State Government Committee approved a bill today that will strengthen the state’s open records law, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) said.

“Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law is one of the most important tools the public can use to hold its government accountable,” Mastriano said. “This legislation expands the scope of the open records law to fix oversights and make other improvements long overdue.”

Mastriano introduced Senate Bill 492 last year as the continuance of a multi-year effort to update the 2008 Right to Know Law. Some of the improvements proposed in the legislation include:

  • Add “campus police” to the definition of “location agency” so that they are covered by in the same manner as municipal police departments;
  • Requires agencies to maintain all records involved in a Right-to-Know request until the request has been responded to and any related appeals have been exhausted;
  • Clarifies that the non-criminal investigative exception does not apply to final safety inspection reports made pursuant to law or regulation or final agency decisions;
  • Allow a court to impose a civil penalty of up to $500 per day if an agency or public official fails to comply with an order under the Right-to-Know Law, including a final determination issued by the OOR;
  • Clarifies that if a public record exists in a specific computer file format, the agency must provide the record in that format upon request;
  • Clarify that certain tax forms (e.g., federal Form W-2) are “personal financial information” and not public;
  • Expand the definition of “local agency” to clarify that entities such as economic development authorities and industrial development authorities are covered;
  • Change the time frame for responses depending on how the original request was submitted;
  • Make changes to the time frame for the appeal process, reflecting the real-world experience of the OOR and ensuring the ability to conduct hearings when appropriate;
  • Require the OOR to abstain from public comment on pending proceedings. Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, established in 2008, created an Office of Open Records to process requests for documents from public agencies, such as the governor’s administration, legislative and judicial agencies and local organizations.

Senate Bill 492 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Expands Right to Know Law to State-Related Universities

Seeking to shine light on costs driving college tuition increases, the Senate approved legislation to expand Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law to provide greater access to public records at state-related universities.

Senate Bill 488 would create an online searchable database that details information about budgets and contracts approved by Penn State University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University. The legislation also increases the amount of university personnel salary information subject to public disclosure.

State-related universities receive more than $600 million in taxpayer dollars.

Under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, the Office of Open Records processes requests for documents from public agencies, such as the governor’s administration, legislative and judicial agencies and local organizations. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Among other measures passed by the Senate this week was Senate Bill 1203, which prevents companies from receiving state contracts, grants or tax credits if they are owned, controlled by, or acting on behalf of the Russian government.

Hearing Highlights Ideas to Combat Lyme Disease in PA

Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases, with children making up the largest demographic affected.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a public hearing to increase understanding of tick-borne diseases, tick testing and mitigation, testing options for physicians and patients, and guidelines for treatment options.

The panel heard testimony from Physician General and Acting Health Secretary Denise Johnson, as well as the director of the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg University, an infectious disease physician, and the president of the PA Lyme Resource Network.

Promise of Carbon Capture Technology in Pennsylvania Explored by Committee

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held an informational briefing Tuesday on Pennsylvania’s potential as a carbon capture, utilization and storage hub.

Wolf administration officials and the carbon capture and storage business opportunity manager for Shell USA, Inc. took part to discuss the region’s promise as a premier hub for both carbon capture and clean hydrogen.

The Great Plains Institute, using data from a 2009 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources report, estimates the state could store about 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide underground. This is equivalent to the level of greenhouse gases emitted from 517 million gas-powered passenger vehicles annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

Approximately 1.2 million adults attempt suicide annually in the United States, with more than 85% reporting having made a suicide plan prior to their attempt. In 2020, the most recent year that data is available, approximately 1,700 people died by suicide in Pennsylvania.

Suicide Prevention Month provides an opportunity to remind Pennsylvanians that help is always available. This summer, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline officially launched nationwide, streamlining call and text access to the national lifeline that provides no-cost crisis response support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In addition to 988, many other resources also remain available to Pennsylvanians in need of support, including:

  • Crisis Text Line: Text “PA” to 741-741
  • Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Mothers: 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS
  • Farmers AgriStress mental health hotline: 833-897-2474
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
  • Get Help Now Hotline (for substance use disorders): 1-800-662-4357

Rosh Hashanah Begins Sunday

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at nightfall Tuesday evening. For all who observe this Jewish holiday, I wish you a wonderful new year.

Collecting Items for Area Food Banks Continues

Throughout Hunger Action Month, my district offices (addresses are listed below) are collecting non-perishable items to be given to food banks in our communities.

Neighbors helping neighbors is the best form of charity and it’s one of the many traditions that make our country great. Please consider making a donation to help a family in need.

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