In this Update:
Meetings in New Kensington
The 41st Senatorial District now includes New Kensington and I had the pleasure of visiting several locations in the area last week. New Kensington-Arnold School District was my first stop to view the unique planetarium room which is currently being updated. My thanks to Dr. Sefcheck and team for the tour and information on this exciting project. I enjoyed lunch and good conversation with several area business owners at KNEAD Community Cafe. Valos Chocolates was my last stop – what a wonderful shop filled with lots of delicious treats! I appreciate everyone taking some time out of their busy day to welcome us!
My district office in New Kensington opened in January and is located at 2400 Leechburg Road, Suite 102, New Kensington, PA 15068. Assistance is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For the location and contact information for each of my offices providing constituent services, please visit my website.
Senate Welcomes FFA Officers
Earlier this week, the state officers of the Pennsylvania FFA Association, more commonly known as the Pennsylvania Future Farmers of America, visited the state Capitol and I had a chance to meet with them. My constituent James Winklosky is the current President who is from Derry Township in Westmoreland County. The other officers this year include Benjamin Torrey – Vice President, Callie Whiting – Treasurer, Grace Benton – Secretary, Jeremy Rose – Reporter, and Zaleigh Wade – Chaplain.
Their visit comes a week after National FFA Week (Feb. 18 through Feb. 25), a week-long tradition that always encompasses George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22. The tradition began in 1948, recognizing Washington’s legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. A group of young farmers founded FFA in 1928, and the organization has been influencing generations that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting — it involves science, business and more.
The Pennsylvania FFA Association is part of FFA, which isn’t just for students who want to be in production agriculture. FFA also welcomes members who aspire to careers as doctors, lawyers, scientists, business owners and more. For this reason, the name of the organization was updated – to FFA – in 1988 to reflect the growing diversity and new opportunities in the agriculture industry. Today, there are over 900,000 FFA members, ages 12 to 21, in almost 9,000 chapters throughout our nation – there are nearly 14,000 FFA student members in Pennsylvania’s four FFA regions.
It was great meeting the FFA state officers and I wish them well in all their future endeavors.
Senate Republicans Announce Priorities and Principles for 2023-24 Session
With the two-year legislative session getting into full swing, I joined colleagues this week in announcing Senate Republican priorities and principles for 2023-24.
Our legislative efforts will be focused on protecting jobs, empowering families and defending freedoms.
Protecting Pennsylvania jobs requires a comprehensive approach that includes ensuring energy independence, promoting workforce development and continued improvement of our infrastructure.
Empowering Pennsylvania families means providing healthy and safe communities, addressing mental and behavioral health needs, and guaranteeing access to high-quality educational opportunities.
Defending freedom means keeping government out of the lives and pockets of citizens as much as possible, and instilling confidence in the electoral process.
Senate Republicans will build on our successful efforts last session that were focused on:
Committee Votes to Eliminate Costs for Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer Screenings
Legislation to eliminate all out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental breast screenings for women with a high lifetime-risk of developing breast cancer took a step toward Senate passage this week.
Senate Bill 8, a bipartisan, first-of-its-kind, comprehensive breast cancer screening and testing bill was approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and is poised for consideration by the full Senate.
Genetic testing often leads to early cancer detection or preventive treatments and procedures. It not only informs the tested individual, but also provides vital information to family members who may have a high likelihood of inheriting a gene mutation.
Senate Bill 8 expands on a 2020 law that secured insurance coverage for breast MRIs by removing any applicable patient copays, deductible and coinsurance for this preventive screening. A supplemental screening is necessary because of failed early detection by screening mammography among women with dense breasts and those at high lifetime risk of breast cancer.
Senate Votes to Restrict Diversion of Transportation Funding
To bolster funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure, the Senate passed legislation to restrict the diversion of transportation funding out of the Motor License Fund. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The Motor License Fund obtains revenue from transportation charges, including the gas tax, vehicle registration fees and driver license fees. These funds are required by the Pennsylvania Constitution for the design, construction and maintenance of the state and local highway network. However, a large portion is transferred to the Pennsylvania State Police for statewide highway patrol operations.
Senate Bill 121 dedicates the transportation charges to road and bridge safety projects, while ensuring the Pennsylvania State Police receive reliable, sustainable funding from sources beyond the susceptible Motor License Fund. The bill caps transfers from the Motor License Fund at $250 million in 2023-24 then reduces the transfer by $50 million annually. The bill seeks to end the transfers by 2028-29 and allocate all transportation fees for road and bridge improvements.
Senate Urges President Biden to Restart Keystone XL Pipeline
I joined with Senate colleagues in passing a resolution calling on President Biden to allow completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to create nearly 60,000 jobs and strengthen our energy independence in uncertain times.
Senate Resolution 9 urges the president to restart and expedite the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which had its permit canceled through an executive order on his first day in office. You can view my recent video clip about the need for energy independence here.
A report from the U.S. Department of Energy showcased that the construction of the pipeline would have generated between 16,149-59,468 jobs annually and contributed $3.4 billion to the United States Gross Domestic Product. Incredibly, while President Biden blocked American jobs, he waived sanctions on the Russian firm responsible for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
The resolution will now be transmitted to President Biden and members of Congress, including the entire Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.
Homeowner Septic Program Helps Cover Cost of Septic Systems, Sewer Hook-ups
Functioning on-lot septic systems, laterals and connections to a public sewer system are essential for public health but are expensive to repair or replace.
The Homeowner Septic Program offers affordable loans for the repair or replacement of on-lot septic systems and sewer laterals, or a first-time sewer connection from an existing home. The revamped program now features:
The program is funded and administered by Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).
For more information or to start the PENNVEST application process, homeowners should contact a participating lender or PHFA at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466), then press “0” to be connected with the Customer Solutions Center. Information on the program is also available here. Lenders interested in participating should visit the PHFA website for more details.
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