Senator Pittman E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Punxsutawney Phil’s Epic Transit Authority
  • $2 Million Budget Designation for IUP Proposed College of Osteopathic
  • Securing the Border
  • Increase In Taxpayer Support for SEPTA Warrants Serious Scrutiny
  • Protecting PA’s Local Governments from Cyberattacks
  • 2023 Accomplishments: Supporting PA Seniors
  • Improving Pennsylvanians’ Experiences by Increasing Broadband Access
  • PA VETConnect Helps Veterans Access Programs and Services
  • Grants Available to Support Student Safety, Behavioral Health Needs
  • Preventing Cancer by Increasing Access to Screenings

Punxsutawney Phil’s Epic Transit Authority

It was a great 2024 Groundhog Day. Gobbler’s Knob is the place to be – especially when Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring is coming!

And even more exciting news is ‘Phil’s Epic Transit Authority’ is coming too! The County Commissioners have supported this effort through their tourism money, and I’m pleased to have worked with Rep. Brian Smith and Gov. Shapiro to realize state support for the Philmobile, which will soon be hitting the road. With his own bus, Phil will be able to be well cared for as he visits citizens throughout the commonwealth.

People from all across the state, country and around the world spend Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob. Now during the rest of the year, Phil can hit the road!

$2 Million Budget Designation for IUP Proposed College of Osteopathic

This past Wednesday, during a public reception welcoming Dr. Miko Rose, the founding dean of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s proposed college of osteopathic medicine, I was pleased to announce that as part of the 2023-24 state budget which was just completed in December, $2 million was set aside for IUP’s new college of osteopathic medicine.

These new dollars are an investment above and beyond what IUP receives in the budget. This funding will be used largely to support the operations at the start of the medical school. This is tremendously exciting for IUP, our region and the future of rural healthcare.

I am proud to have worked in collaboration with state Reps. Jim Struzzi and Brian Smith to advocate for this substantial investment, which will help to advance the long-term goals of this dynamic new medical school. There is a real opportunity for this region to become the hub of rural health care delivery for the state, and to also serve as a model for the whole country.

Our area is primed for this osteopathic school and, combined with the work Indiana Regional Medical Center has done with their residency program as well as likely partnership between Punxsutawney Area Hospital and Armstrong County Memorial Hospital, there is a very unique opportunity for the program to stand out among others in the state.

This funding will not only play a key role in the expansion of rural health care but also help to foster greater economic opportunity as we welcome a new student body, university employees and visitors, all focused on improving quality of life to the region.

Find out all the details about this announcement here.

Securing the Border

The security of our nation’s border must be a focus of all 50 states.

Last week, Pennsylvania Senate Republicans publicly voiced support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s defense of the southern border.

Our efforts to take a stand in securing America’s border will continue with a Pennsylvania Senate resolution.

The resolution I am working on with Sens. Kim Ward, Scott Martin and Ryan Aument will express our support for Texas in its efforts, call on Gov. Josh Shapiro to join with governors from across the country in support of Gov. Abbott, and call on President Biden and our federal officials to stop fighting against Texas’ efforts and instead commit resources to support Texas in securing the border.

Check out our co-sponsorship memo here.

Increase in Taxpayer Support for SEPTA Warrants Serious Scrutiny

Earlier this week, I circulated the following statement regarding the Shapiro Administration’s proposed increase in state funding for public transit as part of the 2024-2025 state budget:

“Supporting SEPTA’s request for increased state subsidy is a challenging argument to make, especially in light of Philadelphia District Attorney Krasner’s inability to maintain law and order throughout America’s 6th largest city. No amount of increased subsidy can restore customer confidence in making use of the network given the raging crime crisis Krasner perpetuates.

“Looking at increased investments in public transit requires a closer examination of transportation infrastructure across the commonwealth. All areas of our state, rural, suburban and urban, must have a strong and reliable transportation network.

“As part of this conversation, we must also look at evolving transportation methods. It is long past time electric vehicles begin to pay their fair share for transportation infrastructure and services before asking taxpayers for more.”

Protecting PA’s Local Governments from Cyberattacks

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee and the Senate Local Government Committee this week examined cybersecurity threats faced by local governments and municipal authorities.

Recent cyberattacks targeting the Bucks County emergency dispatch system and the Aliquippa Water Authority highlight the vulnerability of Pennsylvania’s more than 2,500 local governments and authorities.

While exposure of residents’ personal information is a serious concern, these attacks can also interfere with ways people satisfy basic needs, such as the delivery of clean drinking water to their homes and being able to call for help in the case of an emergency. Learn more from the cybersecurity experts and local government officials who took part in the hearing.

2023 Accomplishments: Supporting PA Seniors

As part of Senate Republicans’ commitment to healthy and safe communities, we are focused on supporting Pennsylvania seniors. This means making sure they have access to the health care they need and preventing their exploitation.

One new law adjusts Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes so the facilities can continue to meet the needs of vulnerable patients. Another law ensures seniors do not lose access to Pennsylvania’s prescription drug programs due to an increase in their Social Security payments.

A third piece of legislation recently signed into law aims to prevent elder abuse by strengthening guardianship laws. It protects vulnerable adults within the guardianship system from fraud, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Improving Pennsylvanians’ Experiences by Increasing Broadband Access

Federal grants are available to improve the experiences Pennsylvanians have at medical care facilities, schools and libraries. The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s Capital Projects Fund allows for investment in high-quality broadband infrastructure as well as other connectivity infrastructure, devices and equipment.

The $45 million of competitive grants can be used for community projects to construct, acquire or improve facilities that will enable work, education and health monitoring.

Grants will be awarded in amounts ranging from $250,000 to $2 million. Apply online through April 20. While the grant funding was awarded through a federal program, it supports Senate Republicans’ priority of infrastructure advancement.

PA VETConnect Helps Veterans Access Programs and Services

Because of legislation supported by Senate Republicans, PA VETConnect makes it easier for Pennsylvania’s 700,000 veterans to access the programs and services available to help them.

Administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, PA VETConnect benefits service members, veterans and their families. The database of resources enables local veteran advocates to point veterans to information, resources, programs and services in their area and across the commonwealth.

Resource areas include benefits, employment, financial assistance, post-traumatic stress, mental wellness and substance use.

Grants Available to Support Student Safety, Behavioral Health Needs

Grants are available through a few different state programs to support the physical security and behavioral health needs of students in the commonwealth. All grant applications must be received by Feb. 29.

School Mental Health Grants make $90 million available for school districts, intermediate units, area career and technical schools, charter schools, regional charter schools and cyber charter schools.

Approximately $32 million is available through Competitive School Safety Grants for school resource officers, security-related technology and violence prevention programs that address safety and security. As part of Senate Republican efforts to ensure safe schools and communities, a budget measure passed in December included provisions to consolidate and streamline school safety and security programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The School District Meritorious Grant Program is specifically for school districts and approximately $18.6 million is available. Individual awards to address physical safety and security range from $30,000 to $45,000.

Preventing Cancer by Increasing Access to Screenings

The federal government estimated that nearly two million Americans would be diagnosed with cancer and that more than 600,000 would die from their disease in 2023. Research shows that more than 40% of those cases can be attributed to preventable causes such as smoking, physical inactivity, excessive exposure to the sun and excess body weight.

Making healthier choices can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. Learn how you can put yourself on a better path and test your cancer prevention knowledge here.

Senate Republicans passed legislation that is now law to help Pennsylvanians get the preventative cancer testing they need. Specifically, it eliminates out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women at high risk of developing breast cancer.


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