In this Update:
Bill Would Divest PA from Companies Benefitting Chinese Government
As the state of California and City of San Francisco this week welcomed communist Chinese President Xi Jinping, here in Pennsylvania, I sent a different message by introducing a bill to divest all commonwealth holdings in companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Jinping arrived Tuesday in San Francisco to take part in a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Leaders from the 21-member APEC group are meeting to promote investment, trade and economic development in nations around the Pacific Ocean.
My bill would require the state treasurer and the commonwealth’s two largest public pension systems – the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) – to gradually divest from holdings in companies controlled by the CCP.
Learn more about China’s record of atrocities and human rights violations and its role as the source of fentanyl that is killing Pennsylvania residents by reading the full article on my website.
Senate Committee Approves Bill to Create Jobs and Opportunity through Regulatory Reduction
The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee Monday approved a bill I introduced that would promote private-sector job creation by eliminating costly, ineffective state regulations that hamper economic growth.
Senate Bill 259 would establish a three-year regulatory reduction pilot program in the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. Specifically, the bill will aim to reduce barriers for small business owners, workers, and reformed formerly incarcerated individuals in Pennsylvania who wish to enter the workforce in an occupation requiring a license as a condition of employment.
The bill sets a goal of a 25% reduction of regulatory requirements and compliance costs within a three-year period.
Both entities would have to produce a comprehensive catalog detailing the number and type of existing regulations and regulatory requirements. This would be used as a baseline to determine if the 25% reduction target is met within the appointed timeframe.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Learn more about how a similar bipartisan bill in Virginia helped reduce regulations by reading the full article on my website.
Senate Committee Approve Bills to Help Veterans and Extend 911 Law
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which I chair, on Monday advanced three bills to help veterans obtain or maintain certain benefits and also extend Pennsylvania’s law governing 911 emergency responses across the commonwealth.
Senate Bill 194 would exempt a disabled veteran’s VA Aid and Attendance benefits from being calculated into their income when applying for the Disabled Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption Program.
House Bill 1086 would permit information from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Registry to be shared with county directors of veterans affairs to ensure veterans are obtaining the benefits and services they’ve earned.
The committee also amended and approved House Bill 1304, which would extend the authorization of the 911 Law until Sept. 30, 2025. In the meantime, the bill would require a study of several areas and provide a roadmap to potential savings.
All three measures now proceed to the full Senate for consideration.
Read the full news article for more information.
Capitol Ceremony Honors Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients
Our nation commemorated Veterans Day on Saturday and I followed it up by hosting a ceremony in the state Capitol with my colleagues to recognize a small number of unique and distinguished Pennsylvania veterans.
We gathered in the Main Rotunda of the state Capitol to draw attention to Pennsylvania’s 55 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. The Congressional Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest award for military valor in action.
I had the distinct honor and privilege of introducing one of the Pennsylvanians who earned this prestigious award, Col Walter J. “Joe” Marm Jr., U.S. Army-retired. Read the next article to learn more about Marm, who also was honored that day in the Pennsylvania Senate.
Senate Honors Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
In addition to the ceremony I hosted Monday to honor all 55 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from Pennsylvania, I also introduced one of the recipients – Col Walter J. “Joe” Marm Jr., U.S. Army-retired – in the Pennsylvania Senate. His story truly is inspiring.
Marm was a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army and was serving in the La Drang Valley in Vietnam. He was a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. His company was moving through the valley to relieve a friendly unit surrounded by an enemy force. The platoon came under heavy fire and was forced to take cover.
Marm realized his platoon could not hold for very long.
He saw four enemy soldiers moving into his position. Marm moved quickly under enemy fire and neutralized all four threats. He then noticed his platoon was under intense fire from a concealed machine gun. Risking his own life, he deliberately exposed himself to draw its fire. Once he identified its location, he attempted to destroy it with an antitank weapon.
His attack inflicted casualties, but did not end the enemy fire. He again put his life on the line, charging 30 meters across open ground to hurl grenades into the enemy position. His heroic effort killed eight of the enemy insurgents manning the position.
Having used all his grenades and armed only with his rifle, Marm continued the assault until all the remaining enemy combatants were eliminated.
His heroic action reduced the fire on his platoon, broke the enemy’s attack and rallied his unit to complete its mission.
For his bravery and risking his own life, 1st Lt. Marm was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor on Dec. 19, 1966.
Assistance Event Helps Veterans Get Benefits They Earned
I hosted a Veterans Assistance Event Thursday at the World War II American Experience Museum, 845 Crooked Creek Road, Gettysburg, to help veterans access programs, services and benefits they earned through their service to our country. I co-hosted the event with Congressman John Joyce (PA-13).
Representatives from the federal U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Administration, Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and Adams County Veterans Affairs were there.
The Veterans Assistance Event was free to attend, featured guest speakers and included a guided tour of the World War II American Experience Museum.
Foster Care and Adoption Webinar
In honor of National Adoption Month, Senator Mastriano hosted a webinar on foster care and adoption on November 14. If you missed it, you can still watch it here.
Senate Advances Key Education, School Safety Budget Priorities
The Senate approved budget implementation language that will drive out critical funding to schools and present a more streamlined approach to school safety.
House Bill 301 allocates funding for several critical priorities that were included in the 2023-24 state budget, including:
The bill would also ensure greater collaboration in keeping children safe in the classroom by consolidating school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), which currently manages the highly successful School Safety and Security Grant Program created by Senate Republicans in 2018.
Learn more about other ways the bill helps students and schools here.
Funding for State-Related Universities Approved by Senate
The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to support funding and additional transparency for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities. Because the House then also passed both bills, they are set for enactment.
Under House Bill 1461, general support for Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University would remain at the previous year’s levels. Lincoln University and Penn College of Technology would receive increases of more than $3.2 million.
In addition, the Senate approved House Bill 1556, which would require greater transparency from state-related universities. The bill would ensure the institutions provide additional information in its annual Right-to-Know Law filing, including information related to contracts, financial statements, faculty, compensation, enrollment, courses and meeting minutes.
According to existing law, funding in the bill is directed to provide tuition discounts for in-state students, and universities are required to meet strict financial reporting requirements as a condition of receiving the money. The leaders of the state-related universities support the funding bill.
Tax Revenues and PIT Collections Above Monthly Estimate
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares an update about the state’s financial health. The most recent report shows that General Fund tax revenues were $118.6 million, or 3.9%, above the monthly estimate. However, total General Fund revenue collections for the first four months of the fiscal year are still below estimate by $47.5 million.
Personal Income Tax collections exceeded October’s estimate by $35.6 million, or 2.8%, but remain below estimate for the fiscal year by $77 million, or 1.5%.
The full update, including the monthly revenue report, is available here.
Loans Available for Businesses Creating and Retaining Jobs
Low-interest loans and lines of credit are available to eligible businesses that commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs and for the development of industrial parks and multi-tenant facilities.
The money can be used for land and building acquisitions, machinery and equipment purchases, working capital and accounts receivable lines of credit, multi-tenant facility projects and industrial park projects.
Learn more and apply online here.
Protect Yourself with Free Weekly Credit Reports
The three national credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – permanently extended a program allowing you to check your credit report at each agency once a week for free.
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request free copies of your credit reports. Other sites may charge you or be fraudulent sites set up to steal your personal information.
By reviewing your credit report, you can easily discover if information has been mistakenly reported about you or if someone opened credit in your name. Reporting mistakes and identity theft can help you build a strong credit score that will benefit you when you need to borrow money, secure a rental home and even apply for a job.
Recognizing National Child Safety and Protection Month
National Child Safety and Protection Month is dedicated to recognizing the dangers children may face and taking steps to prevent those challenges.
We have passed bills to provide child identification kits to parents to help identify and return missing children and to allow parents to surrender their unharmed baby at participating urgent care centers.
Other bills would protect them on their way to school by increasing penalties for drivers who refuse to stop for school buses and extending and revamping the school bus stop arm automated enforcement program.
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