In this Update:
Kiski Junction Bridge & Trail Project
I was pleased to attend the celebration held last week for the Kiski Junction Bridge and Trail Project.
Outdoor recreation and trails have provided a major spark to the economies of many communities throughout Pennsylvania.
The bridge and 14 miles of the former Kiski Junction Railroad are being developed into a trail, maintained by Armstrong Trails. They will connect 130-plus miles of continuous, off-road, ADA-compliant trails in Armstrong, Allegheny, Butler, Clarion and Westmoreland counties.
The trail connections this project will create will help to attract more tourism and important economic activity in the small towns along the Kiski and Allegheny rivers in areas such as Freeport, Leechburg, Gilpin, Ford City and Kittanning.
Thank you to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn; Chris Ziegler, Executive Director of Armstrong Trails; State Rep. Abby Major; PennDOT; the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission; the Armstrong County Commissioners; Kiski Junction Railroad; and Rosebud Mining for their combined efforts on this project. I am glad to support it.
Recognition of East Girls’ Ice Hockey 2022 PIHL Championship
This past week I was pleased to recognize the East Girls’ Ice Hockey team on the Senate floor for winning the 2022 inaugural PIHL Girls’ High School Ice Hockey Championship in June.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Jon Yackmack and Assistant Coaches Gregory O’Donnell and Scott Williams, they won the championship by defeating the Central Team in overtime by a score of 2 to 1.
The team was comprised of members from various high schools in our region and I am proud to say 5 of them are from my Senatorial district – they are: Leia Lewis, Leah O’Donnell, Emmery Taylor, Cora Williams and Olyvia Yackmack.
Great job girls!
Condolence Resolution for Former State Rep. Jeff Pyle
It was my great honor to offer a condolence resolution this week on the Senate floor for my colleague and dear friend, former State Rep. Jeff Pyle.
God bless you and your family – rest in peace my friend, forever a happy and beloved warrior!
Two Armstrong County Projects Receive RCAP Funding
Earlier this week, two Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants have been awarded to Armstrong County projects.
A $2 million grant was awarded to Butler County Community College (BC3) in Ford City Borough for the ongoing construction project of a new two-story building that will allow the college to offer sufficient instructional space and enhance current program offerings in Armstrong County. This is in addition to $1.75 million in prior RACP funding received by the project.
The new BC3 facility will address a critical need for dedicated classrooms, learning space, computer rooms and a science and chemistry laboratory. This state-of-the-art facility will not only benefit students, but it will be a major boost to downtown invigoration efforts, increase tax revenue and help to market Armstrong County.
The Armstrong County Memorial Hospital (ACMH), located in East Franklin Township, received a $500,000 grant to assist with its ongoing modernization of the hospital’s existing oncology wing, with the new construction nearly doubling the facility’s infusion capabilities. The lower level of the building will be expanded to include exam rooms, medical and support offices, clinical support areas and a spacious waiting room. A new drop-off lane with a canopy entry and immediate access to the elevator will also be added to the building.
As ACMH continues with its major expansion and modernization project, we are investing in this significant effort to protect and improve the health and well-being of our local residents. This grant follows a total of $1.5 million in prior RACP funding received for the Oncology Center project.
Both of these efforts were started by my friend and colleague, the late Rep. Jeff Pyle. While Jeff won’t be here to see those efforts come to fruition, they are just a small part of the legacy he has left to all of us.
RACP is administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects. RACP projects are authorized in the Redevelopment Assistance section of a Capital Budget Itemization Act, have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact, and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues, or other measures of economic activity.
Senate Approves Measures to Support Police and Crime Victims
Taking further action to stem the rise in violent crime in Pennsylvania, the Senate this week passed measures to support law enforcement and crime victims.
House Bill 103 seeks to better protect our law enforcement officers against harassment by strengthening penalties against criminals who intentionally spit on or throw bodily fluids at officers.
House Bill 1546 further protects law enforcement officers by prohibiting the release of a public safety official’s home address or telephone number.
While criminal prosecutions punish offenders, restitution for crime victims often falls short. When that happens, victims often turn to the civil justice system.
The Senate passed House Bill 2525 to make it easier for crime victims to obtain relevant information learned by law enforcement during the investigation of the crime. Crime victims can then use that information in civil legal actions to recover damages for their injuries.
In addition, the Senate approved House Bill 140 to help fight rampant crime in Philadelphia. It requires the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute crimes committed within its mass transit system.
These efforts build on the work that has been accomplished over the past two years to protect crime victims, prevent human trafficking and strengthen penalties for criminals who seek to elude officers.
Senate Acts to Add Sex Traffickers to Sex Offender Registry
A measure requiring offenders convicted of a sex trafficking-related crime to register as sex offenders received final legislative approval this week.
Senate Bill 118 adds these crimes to the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law. The law requires the State Police to maintain a public, online registry of persons who reside, work or attend school in the Commonwealth and who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to certain sexual offenses in Pennsylvania or another jurisdiction.
Most defendants in the FBI’s human trafficking cases had prior criminal records and are prone to recidivism. The Megan’s Law Registry has proven to be a deterrent to subsequent sexual offenses committed by those who are on it. The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
Measure to Improve Notification of Government Data Breaches Sent to Governor
Legislation requiring that state agencies, their contractors and local governments provide timely notification to victims of a data breach received final approval.
Breaches involving personally identifiable information must be reported within seven days of such a breach being determined, under Senate Bill 696.
In addition to timely notification, the measure requires the state Attorney General to be notified of a state-level breach and county district attorneys to be notified of county, municipal and school district breaches. The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
Health Care Reform Measure Receives Final Approval
The Senate gave final approval of a measure that would standardize and streamline the process of prior authorization and step therapy for medical services.
Prior authorization is the process in which health care providers obtain advance approval for purposes of payment coverage and reimbursement from an insurer before a specific procedure or service is delivered to the patient. Step therapy allows insurers to recommend different drug treatment option(s) to patients to address costs.
A recent survey of physicians found that 91% of doctors said prior authorization delays can lead to negative clinical impacts on patients, and 78% of doctors said that prior authorization delays can lead to their patients abandoning treatment plans.
Senate Bill 225 would create standards and timely feedback for commercial health insurance plans, as well as Medicaid plans, when health care providers seek prior authorization approval from insurers. The bill also reforms step therapy protocols. The bill was sent to the governor to be signed into law.
Mail-In Ballot Application Deadline is Nov. 1
Tuesday, Nov. 1, is the deadline to apply for mail and absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 General Election.
Instructions for preparing and returning your ballot can be found here. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Recognizing the Contributions of First Responders
We sometimes take for granted the sacrifice and dedication of first responders, without whom our communities could not safely function.
Thank you, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and everyone else who answers the call, anytime, day or night.
Time for Trick or Treaters
Communities will be holding Halloween nights between now and Oct. 31. In addition to stocking up on candy, please keep an eye out for distracted children crossing streets and scurrying about.
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