Nov. 01, 2019 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
 The latest news from the State Capitol
Bringing Transparency to Local Elections

This week, alongside my House colleague, Rep. Matt Dowling (R-Fayette, Somerset), I gave remarks advocating for House Bill 1987, which would eliminate the option for candidates to cross-file in local elections.

Currently, candidates are permitted to file nomination petitions across multiple political parties at once, which often causes confusion among the electorate and can be used by individuals to obscure their true party affiliation. This bill, of which I am a co-sponsor, would necessitate that candidates for school board and other public offices declare an exclusive party affiliation.

You can view the full press conference here.

Click here to view video. 
House Advances Key Election Reforms

The General Assembly has once again sent to the governor’s desk a comprehensive election reform bill that also aims to relieve some of the financial burden placed on counties when the governor suddenly decertified all voting machines in the Commonwealth, requiring their replacement in time for the 2020 elections.

Senate Bill 421 was amended by the House to authorize $90 million in borrowing to provide counties with an approximately 60% reimbursement of their expenses related to upgraded voting machines. A similar funding proposal was approved earlier this year but was vetoed by the governor.

In addition to funding for counties, the bill makes the most significant changes to modernize and improve Pennsylvania’s elections since the 1930s. These changes include eliminating the straight-party ticket option from ballots, establishing mail-in voting and giving Pennsylvanians more time to register to vote ahead of elections.

The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.
Last Week’s Concealed Carry Seminar Was a Hit!

I would like to thank everyone who came out to last week’s Concealed Carry Seminar. As always, we had a great crowd and learned a lot. Special thanks to presenter Joshua Prince, Esq.
House ‘Helpers and Heroes’ Package Awaits Senate Action

The House continued its commitment to supporting first responders – the “helpers and heroes” of our communities – this week as we completed work on more than a dozen measures designed to boost volunteerism, offer more flexibility in funding and assure better access to training.

These changes are vital to shoring up our public safety infrastructure across the state, as fire and ambulance companies struggle to recruit both volunteers and staff and obtain the necessary financial support to keep their doors open.

Three of the bills aim to address financial issues. House Bill 1448 would expand the current loan program for volunteer first responder agencies to also include career and combination agencies that provide fire, ambulance or rescue squad services. House Bill 1758 would exempt volunteer fire and emergency medical services (EMS) companies from the $22 per copy fee for municipal police accident reports. House Bill 1834 would reauthorize the Fire and EMS Grant Program to allow funding to be put toward recruitment and retention, and allow the funding to be banked for up to five years for purchases or construction of a new facility.

Two bills focus on EMS. House Bill 1838 would increase funding available through the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund (EMSOF) and require at least 30% of funding to be used to provide training to underserved rural areas and 10% of the funds to be used for medical equipment for ambulances. House Bill 1869 would authorize staffing waivers on a case-by-case basis for Basic Life Support ambulances in fifth- through eighth-class counties.

Finally, House Bill 1459 would create the Emergency Responder Mental Wellness and Stress Management Program for first responders, including 911 dispatchers and coroners. The program is in response to statistics that show they experience higher rates of depression, alcohol abuse, sleep disturbances, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts

Learn more about the full package, which now awaits action in the Senate, here. 
Heating Assistance Program Opens Nov. 1

Residents who are struggling with their home heating bills can apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) beginning Friday, Nov. 1.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.

The income eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP are set at 150% of the federal poverty income level. For example, the income limit for an individual is $18,735; for a couple, the limit is $25,365; and for a family of four, it is $38,625.

Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the County Assistance Office in their county of residence.

Click here for additional information. 
Turn Those Clocks Back This Weekend

Daylight saving time will end at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3. Be sure to turn your clocks back one hour before going to bed on Saturday night.

It’s also a good time to check or change the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Experts say these items should be replaced every 10 years. They should be located near bedrooms and on each level of the residence.
Use Caution: Deer on the Move

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is reminding motorists to slow down and stay alert for deer on the roadways.

Deer become more active in the autumn with the lead-up to their fall breeding season, commonly referred to as the “rut.” Autumn also sees a number of people taking part in outdoor activities that might flush deer from forested areas or briar thickets, and deer are more actively feeding to store energy for winter months. Add to this the end of daylight saving time, which results in more traffic between dawn and dusk, and the chances of vehicle accidents with deer increase significantly.

In fact, Pennsylvania ranks third nationally in State Farm’s annual report on the likelihood drivers in each state will collide with a deer or other large animal. According to the report, Pennsylvania drivers have a 1-in-52 chance of experiencing a collision with a deer or other large animal.

Drivers can reduce their chances of collisions with deer by staying alert and better understanding deer behavior. Be especially alert in “Deer Crossing” areas, and remember deer tend to travel in family groups, so if you see one deer, more are likely coming.

To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD. If the deer is on a locally owned road, contact the appropriate municipality.
Specialty Crop Grant Program Accepting Applications

A grant program to support specialty crops grown by Pennsylvania farmers is now open.

Crops eligible for the state grant program include those not eligible under the federal specialty crop grant program, and those designated as high-priority crops in the state: hemp, hops, hardwoods and honey, as well as barley, rye and wheat for distilling, brewing and malting.

Eligible projects must enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crops. Examples could include increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control.

A percentage of funds will be designated to projects in rural communities with at least 20% of the population below the federal poverty line.

Click here for additional information.
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