In this Update:
TELETOWN HALL Dec. 5
I am planning a telephone town hall on Thursday, Dec. 5th to gather feedback from residents of the 33rd Senate District. The hour-long event begins at 6 p.m., and the format encourages local citizens to ask questions, or simply remain on the line and listen to the conversation.
My first telephone town hall in September featured more than 20 callers, included three interactive polls and was streamed live on Facebook. Questions and topics from my first telephone town hall ranged from property tax reform, the 2nd Amendment, the state’s opioid crisis, robo-calls, veterans’ issues, the inheritance tax, red flag laws and recreational marijuana. After receiving a significant number of inquiries about property tax reform, I have invited Senator David Argall (R-29) to participate in the opening segment of the program. Argall is sponsoring legislation (SB76) that would eliminate school property taxes. Residents of the 33rd Senate District – which includes Adams County, and portions of Franklin, York and Cumberland counties – can register for the telephone town hall at https://redesign.senatormastriano.com/tele-town-hall/. The event will also be streamed on Facebook Live.
As a retired combat veteran, there are very few things that I enjoy more than meeting fellow veterans. I had the opportunity to interact with dozens of American patriots at a pair of veterans events, held Oct. 19th at American Legion Post #202 in Gettysburg, and November 16th at American Legion Post 223 in Shippensburg. During the special events, I presented Vietnam War veterans with a special pin. Our state is home to more than 800,000 heroes that have served our country with distinction and valor. The open houses featured exhibitors from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the PA Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs, as well as non-profits representing Roots for Boots, the PA Wounded Warriors and the Veterans Multi-Service Center.
As the chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, I am tasked with reviewing proposals to streamline government operations, enhance efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars. Regulatory review, bureaucratic red tape and PA’s business climate have evolved out of those priorities.
I am pleased to announce that the committee will hold a hearing on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. at Martin’s Potato Rolls in Chambersburg to receive testimony on regulatory reform. If you or agency have experienced regulatory red tape in by the Pennsylvania government, I would like to hear from you.
How can the regulatory review process be improved moving forward, what is working – and what isn’t working – with the system, and what actions would you like to see the committee take to improve the state’s business climate? There are numerous pieces of legislation assigned to the committee that would update and modernize the regulatory review process. Testimony provided at the hearing will be a valuable tool as the committee reviews, considers and deliberates this legislation. If you are interested in participated in the hearing, please contact executive director Scot Pitzer at email@example.com or 717-787-4651.
REGULATORY REFORM: I am constantly hearing from businesses about how they are impacted by the state’s 153,000 regulations. The Senate recently approved a bill that would strengthen the review process for government regulations and enhance legislative oversight. Senate Bill 398 would ensure state agencies are implementing the law and not trying to make the laws themselves. Government regulations can have an enormous impact on industries, employees and families if they are not implemented properly. The bill was originally assigned to the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which I chair. I was pleased to advance the bill out of committee to the Senate floor. The legislation is now being considered by the House.
ELECTION REFORM: After nearly eight decades, a comprehensive overhaul is coming to the state’s electoral system. Recently signed into law by the Governor, Senate Bill 421 will provide $90 million in much-needed funding to replace county voting machines, boost election security and ensure that local taxpayers do not have to pick up the tab for the required upgrades.
The comprehensive election reform package will make it easier for all residents to participate in the election process. Commonwealth citizens deserve an election system that is fair, accessible and efficient. The changes made by the legislature will promote a stronger electoral system in which every voter can be certain that their vote counts, without creating any unnecessary delays or barriers to exercise their right to vote. Additionally, the legislation eliminates the antiquated practice of straight-party voting, something that 40 states have already done. This encourages voters to consider individual candidates based on merit (not solely on their political affiliation), empower third-party and independent candidates, and diminish the impact of political polarization in our elections.
Among its provisions, the bill would also: extend the deadline for voters to submit an absentee ballot, from the Friday before Election Day until 8 p.m. on Election Day; push back the voter registration deadline from 30 days before an election to 15 days; allow voters to request and submit an absentee ballot by mail without providing a reason; and create a permanent mail-in voter list.
FIRE & EMS RE-AUTHORIZATION: As a lawmaker, it is a priority to provide our first responders with the help they need to provide their essential services. That is why I am sponsoring Senate Bill 910, which would re-authorize the popular Fire & EMS Grant program until June 30, 2024.
The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee recently supported this piece of legislation, by a unanimous vote. As a result, the legislation moved to the full Senate for consideration. The grant program is currently $30 million, with $25 million coming from the State Gaming Fund and $5 million from the Property Tax Relief Fund. Overall, the program provides up to $14,000 in grants to fire companies and nearly $7,000 in grants to EMS agencies for construction or renovation of a fire or ambulance company facility, purchase or repair of equipment, training and reduction of existing debt.
The Fire and EMS Grant initiative has been a vital program for our fire, ambulance and rescue companies, many of which are made up of dedicated volunteers. I have seen first-hand how important these funds are for our first responders in the 33rd Senate District. We must always remember the bravery and dedication that it takes to keep our communities safe, as well as the cost associated with that effort. These grants help fund training, as well as pay for much-needed equipment. Anything that we can do as a legislature to help these dedicated men and women do their jobs is imperative.
FIREFIGHTER TRAINING: The state Senate recently gave final approval to a measure that is intended to make firefighter training more accessible and affordable through online courses. Senate Bill 146 ensures that online training would be voluntary and free to both career and volunteer firefighters. All available courses would be listed online and developed under the leadership of the Fire Commissioner.
Studies on firefighter recruitment and retention challenges have consistently shown that volunteers are pointing to training requirements and fundraising demands as factors that take a significant toll on their time, money and availability. Additionally, training requirements are often cited as a barrier to recruitment and retention, particularly for volunteers, because they can be costly and time-consuming, often demanding travel and time away from work and family. There were more than 300,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania in 1970, but fewer than 40,000 today. This legislation is intended to make firefighter training more accessible and affordable through online courses.
STATE FACILITY STUDY: How many state facilities are owned or leased? Are those facilities occupied or vacant? As taxpayers, what are the annual expenditures at those facilities, including rental fees and utilities?
After taking office in June, I was astonished that this information is not readily available to lawmakers…or constituents!
An important piece of legislation (SB327), authored by Senator David Argall, would require state-affiliated entities to report their space usage to the Department of General Services on an annual basis.
The bill passed the Senate recently via a 48-1 vote, and I was thrilled to support it.
ENDING DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME: Senate Resolution 179 urges Congress to end the archaic tradition of changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time in the United States. Some studies show that the twice-a-year change actually leads to an increase of car accidents, work-related injuries, risk of stroke and heart attacks, and a loss of productivity costing the United States economy over $400 million a year. The resolution recently received unanimous support from the Senate State Government Committee, which I serve on, and advanced to the full Senate for consideration.
MOVING THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY: Changes may be coming to the way Pennsylvania voters participate in the presidential primary. Senate Bill 779 would move up the date of the Presidential Primary Election in PA. Under existing law, the primary takes place on the fourth Tuesday of April – in most Presidential elections, the outcome is largely decided before Keystone State residents have a chance to cast their vote. This piece of legislation would move our Presidential Primary to the third Tuesday of March, allowing our voters to have a significant say in the outcome of this important democratic process. It is important to note that this legislation, if it is OK’d by the Senate and House – and signed by the governor – would not take effect until 2024.
VETERANS DESIGNATION: Legislation I am championing that would streamline the process for veterans seeking a driver’s license designation recently received a unanimous vote from the Senate Transportation Committee. Senate Bill 927 makes it easier for veterans to secure a designation on their driver’s license, while also reducing Harrisburg red tape. It is a win-win for all of us!
LT. GOVERNOR’S MANSION: The underutilized Lieutenant Governor’s residence could be getting new life, following a unanimous Senate vote. Senate Bill 750 would require that the mansion, located in Indiantown Gap, be used to support veterans and active military. As part of the legislation, the state’s Dept. of General Services would transfer the authority over the Lt. Governor’s residence to the Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs, to be used for the purposes of supporting Pennsylvania’s veterans programs and supporting the National Guard, including current and survivor families. The bill is now under consideration in the House.
MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY: It was a distinct privilege to offer a resolution this week recognizing November 10, 2019 as the United States Marine Corps 244th birthday. God Bless America!
STATEWIDE VIDEO COMPETITION CHALLENGES STUDENTS to SHARE IDEAS on FARMING: Pennsylvania has a rich heritage of farming that dates back centuries, and agriculture remains the state’s top industry today. However, that heritage is threatened by difficult market conditions and an aging population of farmers. For every four farmers in Pennsylvania over the age of 65, there is only one farmer under the age of 35.
The third annual “Talk To Your State Senator” statewide video competition challenges middle and high school students to share their ideas about how Pennsylvania can reverse these trends and ensure the agriculture industry will have a bright future in our Commonwealth.
The contest, which is sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania and Rutter’s, is open to Pennsylvania students in grades 6 through 12, including all public school, private school and home school students. Participants are encouraged to submit video entries of no longer than three minutes that promote the future of farming in Pennsylvania.
A total of $10,000 in prizes will be awarded through the PA 529 college savings program administered by the Pa. Dept. of Treasury. Contest entries must be submitted by January 31, 2020.
Learn more about the 3rd Annual Talk to your State Senator video contest here.
VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM MEMORIAL: Along with Senator David Argall, I sponsored a resolution designating November 2019 as “Victims of Communism Memorial Month.” During a State Government Committee meeting, I offered remarks about this important resolution (SR272). The resolution received unanimous support from Senate colleagues. As someone that was on the front-lines, SR272 is very important to me. Over 100 million people lost their lives in the 20th Century to governments modeled after the teachings of philosopher Karl Marx, the father of Communism.
While the promises of equality for all can be tantalizing, communist regimes have historically held power by restricting the flow of information, limiting civil liberties, and silencing those who spoke out against their injustices.
Around the 33rd District
CHRISTMAS with the PUPPIES: The Adams County SPCA is holding a donation event on Thursday, December 12th from 5-8 pm. I am helping collect donations for the shelter. Other state and county officials have been invited to attend. Libre, a Boston Terrier whose shocking case of neglect and subsequent recovery served as the inspiration behind PA’s stronger animal abuse statute that was signed in to law 2017, will be the special guest. All items needed are on our website at adamscountyspca.org. The address of the ACSPCA is 11 Goldenville Road Gettysburg.
It is always a genuine pleasure welcoming visitors to my office. Zanbeni Prasad and K Benny Prasad recently visited the Capitol office. Benny has been to 257 countries – his travels have earned him a world record. His journeys have taken him near and far, including the Pitcairn Islands.
I recently welcomed two American heroes to the Senate floor in honor of the 244th birthday of the US Marine Corps: Col. Joe Allena, who served in Korea & Afghanistan; and Col. G.K. Cunningham, who served in the post-Vietnam era, Cold War & operations after 9/11.
It was an honor to present World War II veteran John Kinney with a Senate Citation for his 102nd birthday. Happy birthday, John!!
The LetterKenny Army Depot near Chambersburg is a significant job-supplier in our region. In fact, they are the second largest employer in the county. I recently had the opportunity to tour the property with my staff.
I enjoyed participating in the annual Veterans Day program at James Gettys Elementary in Gettysburg. The students were engaging and loved learning about my service to our nation.