In this Update:
Join Me at My Upcoming Veterans Assistance Event
Attention local veterans, their spouses and caregivers! You are invited to join me on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m., for a Veterans Assistance Event I am co-hosting with Congressman John Joyce (PA-13) at the World War II American Experience Museum, 845 Crooked Creek Road, Gettysburg.
As chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and a U.S. Army combat veteran, I appreciate the sacrifices our veterans made while serving our nation. You served America and Pennsylvania. Now it is our turn to serve you!
My Veterans Assistance Event will provide information about programs, services and benefits available to U.S. military veterans. Through your service to our country, you have earned access to many of these important resources.
The event is free to attend and will feature guest speakers and a guided tour of the World War II American Experience Museum. Parking is available in a large, off-street lot at the museum. Light refreshments will be served.
If you are able to join me at this event, please R.S.V.P. by Friday, Nov. 10, by emailing Melissa Cruys (MCruys@PaSen.Gov) in my office.
Senate Approves Mastriano Resolution Backing Israel, Condemning Hamas
The state Senate today unanimously approved a resolution introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) that condemns the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas and pledges support for Israel and its people.
“This resolution tells the people of Israel that Pennsylvania supports them in their effort to defend their families and expel terrorists from the region,” Mastriano said. “We stand with the Jewish people, who have a fundamental right to exist and defend themselves against this terrorist threat.”
Mastriano’s Senate Resolution 185 says Pennsylvania stands “firmly with the people of Israel and their right to defend themselves.” It labels the attacks by Hamas as “shocking, barbaric and evil,” further adding they “amount to war crimes of the worst kind.”
The resolution further stipulates, “Israel has every right to defend itself with all due force” and noted Pennsylvania’s “special relationship” with Israel since the country declared independence in 1948.
“We continue to pray for the people of Israel and want to see the restoration of peace and an end to the killing of innocent civilians,” Mastriano said. “The carnage and trauma unleashed on the people of Israel is inhumane.”
Senate Approves Mastriano Bill to Enhance Care at State Veterans Homes
The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, that would enhance care by increasing oversight at Pennsylvania’s six state veterans homes.
“Our state veterans homes provide an incredible service by delivering care to veterans and their families when they need it the most,” said Mastriano, who chairs the committee and is a U.S. Army combat veteran. “My legislation would help to ensure the standard of care at our veterans homes does not diminish.”
Mastriano’s Senate Bill 933 would reform the composition and responsibilities of the six veterans homes’ advisory councils.
The bill calls for veterans home advisory councils to make recommendations to the state adjutant general about resident care, management, operations and facility compliance to ensure veterans receive high-quality health care and maintain their wellbeing.
The bill would revamp the advisory councils by expanding them to comprise 15 members, including a family member of a current or past resident. Nominations for this position on the advisory council would come from veterans organizations surrounding each of the veterans homes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs would make a subject matter expert available for each of the advisory council meetings and provide an annual report to the state Legislature.
The bill also calls for advisory councils to comply with open meeting requirements.
Senate Bill 933 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Advances Critical Support for EMS, Hospitals and Nursing Homes
This week, the Senate approved legislation advancing critical public health components of the budget process.
Passage of House Bill 1351 addresses the crucial public health needs for emergency medical services, hospitals and nursing homes and ensures Pennsylvanians continue to receive access to needed health care services.
Empowering Parents to Control Sexually Explicit Content for Their Children
The Senate Education Committee advanced a bill to provide parental control of student exposure to sexually explicit content, which Pennsylvanians over the age of 18 can view examples of here, in schools. Prior to the vote, the committee held a public hearing on the measure.
Senate Bill 7 would require schools to:
Importantly, Senate Bill 7 would not ban any books from any Pennsylvania school curriculum or library, but rather empower parents to control only what their own children have access to in school. Empowering parents and families is a priority of the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans.
Senate Votes to Increase Access to Addiction Treatment Programs
To combat prevalent opioid addiction, the Senate unanimously passed legislation increasing access to licensed addiction treatment programs for Pennsylvanians.
Senate Bill 941 would provide regulatory flexibilities that can be used during an opioid epidemic to create real solutions to workforce shortages and directly help those in need of treatment get access quicker.
Additionally, Senate Bill 941 would establish annual reporting requirements to the General Assembly regarding unnecessary barriers to workforce recruitment and access to treatment.
Bill Enhancing School Bus Safety Receives Senate Support
The Senate passed a bill to improve school bus safety by increasing penalties for those refusing to follow the law.
Senate Bill 897 would give judges the discretion to increase fines above the current $250 for refusing to stop for a school bus when red lights are flashing or a stop arm is extended. It would also require repeat offenders to complete a PennDOT Driving Improvement School. Additionally, it would establish a new penalty for individuals who fail to proceed with caution past a school bus with flashing amber lights.
According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, approximately 1,000 drivers annually are convicted of passing a stopped school bus with signals flashing. Many more citations are issued without resulting in a conviction.
Grants Available to Ready PA for New Businesses
To attract and retain more businesses in the commonwealth, PA SITES (Pennsylvania Strategic Investments to Enhance Sites) will make $10 million in grant funding available to help locations become “shovel ready.”
Eligible projects must be in Pennsylvania and support the development of competitive sites. These include undeveloped sites and sites that were previously utilized or underutilized – such as former industrial, commercial, military, school, or hospital sites or buildings.
Municipalities, economic development organizations, redevelopment authorities, municipal authorities and industrial development agencies may apply for the funding here through Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Last Chance to Register to Vote in the Nov. 7 Election
If you wish to vote on Election Day on Nov. 7, you must be registered to vote by Monday, Oct. 23.
There are four ways to register to vote: online, by mail, in person at your county voter registration office and at PennDOT and some other government agencies.
Find the details about each of these methods here.
Recognizing National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
In October, we focus on staying safe online by taking steps to protect personal data. Simple steps you can take include using strong passwords, using multifactor authentication, recognizing and reporting phishing, and updating software.
My colleagues and I are also working to put measures in place that will better shield you from online threats. Senate Bill 565 would protect students’ personal data from unauthorized or inappropriate disclosure.
Other legislative measures would safeguard the state’s online assets. Senate Bill 563 would establish that commonwealth agencies have strong capabilities in place to discourage, combat and recover from ransomware attacks. Senate Bill 284 would establish a standalone Office of Information Technology (OIT) under the Office of Administration. The OIT would create a strategic plan for future IT projects across state government, as well as manage and maintain all future IT procurement within state agencies.
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