Senator Pittman E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Acts to Meet PA’s Power Needs
  • Team from Lenape Technical School in Armstrong County Wins PennDOT Innovations Challenge
  • Armstrong, Indiana and Punxsutawney Hospitals to Receive $3.7 Million in State Funding
  • Pennsylvania Senate Guest Chaplain Pastor Joe Spack
  • Senate Approves Bill to Get Pennsylvanians Off UC and Back to Work
  • PA Bankers Day at the Capitol Meeting
  • Senate Leaders Issue Statement on Biden Administration’s Disastrous New Power Plant Emission Rules
  • Bill to Improve Safety, Combat Illegal Street Racing Passes Senate
  • Groundbreaking in Punxsutawney
  • Beware of Ticks and Lyme Disease

Senate Acts to Meet PA’s Power Needs

Acting to establish a sweeping, new energy framework for Pennsylvania, the Senate approved legislation this week creating the Independent Energy Office (IEO) and Pennsylvania’s Opportunity with Energy Reliability (POWER) Board. Click here to view a video of my Senate Floor remarks on the bill which has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Under Senate Bill 832, the IEO will provide data-driven analysis and ensure lawmakers have the reliable information necessary to review and implement current energy strategies as well as be on the forefront of new innovative technologies. The POWER Board will be a public clearinghouse for energy development in Pennsylvania and allow residents to see public accountability on decisions that impact energy prices in Pennsylvania.

The federal government has passed legislation to provide funding for states to grow solar, wind, hydro and nuclear capacities. Pennsylvania must apply for these funds and provide a framework to distribute funding throughout the state. The General Assembly has not yet established this framework, and statutory authority is needed.

Team from Lenape Technical School in Armstrong County Wins PennDOT Innovations Challenge

Congratulations to Lenape Tech students Olyvia Burns, Leia Lewis-Ziembicki and Kiley Held and their teacher/mentors, Mr. Jason Zimmerman and Ms. Marla Betts, for being selected as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 10 Innovations Challenge Regional winner!

The winning regional teams traveled to Harrisburg this week to present their innovation challenge before judges who were selecting a statewide winner. I was happy to be able to relay my congratulations to the team from Lenape during their visit to the Capitol.

The PennDOT Innovations Challenge invites high school students from around the commonwealth to develop creative solutions to real-world transportation challenges. The goal of the Innovations Challenge is to help students explore actual challenges PennDOT and the transportation industry are facing as well as consider the possibility of working in the industry following graduation.

Armstrong, Indiana and Punxsutawney Hospitals to Receive $3.7 Million in State Funding

The Hospital and Health System Emergency Relief (HHSER) Program grant application period is now open.

As part of the current Fiscal Year 2023-24 state budget, $50 million was included for HHSER, which is overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The program was established to provide critical working capital to help stabilize hospitals across the entire commonwealth as they continue to recover from lasting pandemic-era disruptions and are being adversely impacted by financial constraints, well-documented workforce shortages and dual mental health and opioid crises.

Hospitals are economic drivers within the communities they serve making this support for local healthcare needs one of my top priorities. Three hospitals in the 41st Senatorial District will be able to apply for the funding: ACMH Hospital is eligible for $1,226,000, IRMC is eligible for $1,341,000 and Punxsutawney Area Hospital is eligible for $1,181,000.

This funding will go a long way toward strengthening access to healthcare services within our area, by helping to support all three Pennsylvania Mountains Care Network (PMCN) partners. Establishing this program was a collective effort and I was pleased to work with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, Reps. Brian Smith, Jim Struzzi, Donna Oberlander and Abby Major. I remain fully committed to the success of PMCN and will continue to do all I can to support their growth during my time in office.

Pennsylvania Senate Guest Chaplain Joe Spack

It was an honor to have one of my constituents from Jefferson County serve as the Pennsylvania Senate guest chaplain. Senior Pastor Joe Spack of Chestnut Grove Independent Church offered the opening prayer for session on Monday this past week.

Pastor Spack was accompanied at the Capitol by his wife Paula. They are lifelong residents of Punxsutawney and have two children. Also joining them in Harrisburg was their son and daughter-in-law, Luke and Nicole Spack, and sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Colleen and Scott Bochelman.

It was a pleasure to welcome Pastor Spack and his family to the Senate chamber!

Senate Approves Bill to Get Pennsylvanians Off UC and Back to Work

Unemployed Pennsylvanians who engage in job dodging by sabotaging their own efforts to get hired would jeopardize their Unemployment Compensation benefits under a bill approved by the Senate.

Job dodging is the process used by some Unemployment Compensation recipients to avoid obtaining a job and to continue to collect benefits. Job dodgers may skip a job interview or refuse employment or a referral for employment to continue receiving Unemployment Compensation benefits.

Senate Bill 1109 is intended to prevent Unemployment Compensation recipients who apply for a job from unreasonably discouraging their own hiring. It would require the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to create or update forms enabling employers to report Unemployment Compensation claimants who discourage their own hiring through job dodging. The bill moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

PA Bankers Day at the Capitol Meeting

I was pleased to meet with several bankers from my senatorial district and from across the state, who were in Harrisburg on Tuesday for the annual “PA Bankers Day at the Capitol.”

This day is an opportunity for bankers to meet with legislators to share ideas, priorities and advocate for the banking industry and the numerous ways it works to help our local communities.

Senate Leaders Issue Statement on Biden Administration’s Disastrous New Power Plant Emission Rules

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new power plant emission rules that will harm energy consumers and reduce grid reliability.

My Senate leadership colleagues and I find it deeply shortsighted that the Biden administration is pushing yet another disastrous policy that will hurt electricity consumers and make our grid less reliable. We have already received dire warnings from PJM that we could face rolling blackouts just a few years down the road because energy production cannot keep up with future demand. Taking more power plants offline will only accelerate these problems and hurt our energy independence and national security.

The new emissions rules will cost Pennsylvania thousands of family-sustaining jobs in the energy industry at a time when we are working as hard as we can to fight back against the state’s economic and demographic decline. We join many of our colleagues in encouraging Pennsylvania’s federal lawmakers and Gov. Josh Shapiro to do everything in their power to reverse this decision and prevent our grid from being crippled by the Biden administration’s poor decision-making.

Bill to Improve Safety, Combat Illegal Street Racing Passes Senate

To address how the erratic driving of illegal street racers endangers the safety of other motorists and pedestrians, the Senate passed legislation that would increase street racing fines for first offenses to $500 and all additional infractions to $2,000. Senate Bill 998 also calls for impoundment orders for vehicles used in the offense and would hold event organizers accountable using fines, suspension of driving privileges, classification as habitual offenders, impoundment of vehicles and imprisonment.

Additionally, the bill would impose penalties for drifting on highways or trafficways and for organizing street racing or drifting events. Drifting is a driving technique that involves steering a car to make a controlled skid sideways through a turn.

Senate Bill 998 is part of the Senate Republican effort to improve community safety across Pennsylvania. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Groundbreaking in Punxsutawney

A groundbreaking ceremony was held recently for a substantial improvement project at Punxsutawney Area Hospital.

This improvement initiative includes expansion and renovations of many of the hospital’s essential services, including a new emergency department, new laboratory, an expanded radiology department and more.

A project this large requires significant funding and partnership between local, state and federal entities. Most impressive was the fundraising efforts and commitment of the hospital employees who contributed more than $600,000, confirming their investment in rural healthcare.

For me, this is about the future of Punxsutawney Area Hospital, the local economy and providing quality health care in rural communities. Congratulations and well done to everyone involved!

Beware of Ticks and Lyme Disease

Pennsylvania leads the nation with the number of Lyme disease cases. While we are lucky to have access to the many outdoor recreational opportunities in the commonwealth, they come with the risks of tickborne diseases.

National Lyme Disease Awareness Month is an opportunity to learn how to protect your family and pets against Lyme. Use insect repellent when spending time outdoors, treat your clothing and gear with permethrin and conduct a tick check when you come inside.

There are three stages of Lyme disease with distinct signs and symptoms occurring in each stage, including a bullseye rash, headaches, nerve pain, heart palpitations and fever. If you discover a tick, safely remove it, put it in a plastic bag and mail it to the Pennsylvania Tick Research Lab for free testing. Within three business days, you will know if the tick carried Lyme disease and other diseases – valuable information for you and your health care provider.

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