In this Update:
Gebhard Committee Assignments for 2021 Session
I was assigned to serve on six standing Senate committees during the remainder of the 2021-22 Legislative Session: Appropriations; Banking and Insurance; Game and Fisheries; Intergovernmental Operations; Urban Affairs and Housing; and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness.
I am eager to use the knowledge I’ve gained as an employer to represent the views of district residents as our state budget is developed and debated. I understand the unique challenges employers are facing now as they fight to stay in business despite the struggles they faced because of the governor’s persistent. We have real work to do, and I’m ready.
Senate Bill 624
The 2nd Amendment is clear, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. That is why I was happy to support and co-sponsor SB624, the Right to Bear Arms Act, which will prohibit the enforcement of any new federal restriction, prohibition, or registration requirement for firearms, magazines and ammunition. I fully support this measure and was happy to join with Senator Mastriano on this effort.
Senate Bill 119
Also, this week, I voted in support of Senate Bill 119, which creates the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act. The Senate approved the bill (June 14) by a solid 35-15 bipartisan, veto-proof vote. This would specifically prohibit the state Department of Environmental Protection from joining RGGI-or any similar pact-without Legislative approval. A carbon tax is a major energy and fiscal policy, which would have major impacts on Pennsylvanians, and should have to go through the checks and balances between co-equal branches of government.
Senate Special Committee Releases Report on Election Reforms
The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform released a report this week detailing its findings and recommendations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s election system.
The committee was created to review all aspects of the November 2020 election. The panel held a series of hearings in March and April to review election security and best practices in other states, state and local perspectives on the administration of elections, and the management of elections in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.
In addition, the committee created a webpage to encourage Pennsylvanians to share their experiences in the 2020 General Election. The survey generated more than 20,000 responses.
The testimony and feedback received by the committee led to a series of recommendations to boost election security, improve voter access and support counties in the efficient administration of elections. You can read the report here.
Bill to Improve Safety in Daycare Facilities Approved by Senate
The Senate approved a bill to improve safety in state-regulated daycare facilities and sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The legislation designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
The measure was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie on August 11, 2019. Only one smoke detector was found in the building and it was located in the attic.
Senate Votes to Permit “Mixed Drinks to Go” Permanently and Enacts Other Steps to Help Hospitality Sector Employers
In the ongoing effort to help employers in the hospitality sector get back on their feet following COVID-19 restrictions, the Senate voted to permanently allow “mixed drinks to go” from restaurants and hotels, extend sales for outdoor dining and expand the number of locations where ready-to-drink mixed drinks can be sold.
The measure makes permanent the sale of mixed drinks to-go by restaurant or hotel licensees for off-premises consumption. Originally, mixed drinks to-go was a temporary measure allowed during the COVID-19 disaster declaration. It also allows larger outdoor dining spaces, off-premises catering permits without restrictions, and more.
It also allows a different type of product called Ready-to-Drink cocktails to be sold by restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and beer distributors for off-premises consumption. Restrictions are set on alcohol-by-volume content and container size.
Legislation Preserving Nursing Home Visits During a Pandemic Approved by General Assembly
Legislation to allow family members to safely visit long-term care facilities as essential caregivers for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor for enactment.
During the pandemic, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were closed to visits from friends and family. The prolonged separation negatively impacted the overall health and well-being of facility residents.
The measure would allow a designated essential family caregiver to be named for each resident of a licensed long-term care facility. Protocols would be put in place to screen the essential caregivers and require additional steps to gain access to the facilities.
Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal
In a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved legislation requiring legislative approval before Gov. Tom Wolf can have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Under the measure, the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to provide a public comment period of at least 180 days and hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.
Following the public comment period, DEP would be mandated to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI and imposing a carbon tax would have on affected communities, the PJM Interconnection region and ratepayers. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Observes Juneteenth Holiday
Senate offices will be closed Friday to observe the Juneteenth holiday.
The June 19 holiday honors the end of slavery by commemorating the date in 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Granger’s proclamation came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Happy Father’s Day
To all fathers: I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day this Sunday. This is the day when we celebrate your essential role in family and community. May your day be filled with love and gratitude.