In this Update:
Senate Honors 20th Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom
The Senate marked the upcoming 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a resolution this week.
In 2003, the United States and coalition forces began the mission to liberate Iraq from dictator Saddam Hussein and extend freedom and democracy throughout the region. I was proud to serve as a U.S. Marine and speak about the Battle of An-Nasiriyah, and stand alongside my fellow Iraq veterans this week to commemorate this important time in our nation’s history.
Read more here.
Governor’s Budget Proposal Recap
Gov. Josh Shapiro started the 2023-24 state budget process this week with the introduction of his spending plan, which contains some significant areas of concern.
While the governor’s support for Senate Republican priorities such as workforce development, infrastructure advancement, safe communities and mental/behavioral health are appreciated, the plan still boosts state government spending to unsustainable levels.
The $45.8 billion plan seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget and would almost completely deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund by 2028.
In addition to the many spending proposals, the budget includes no indication the governor will remove Pennsylvania from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which will burden all Pennsylvanians with an annual tax on electricity of nearly $670 million.
This is just the beginning of the budget process. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin a series of public hearings in which I will be participating beginning March 20, after which work will continue to create a final spending plan. I will work with my colleagues to enact a responsible budget that respects taxpayers and funds essential services by the June 30 constitutional deadline.
Historic Breast Cancer Screening Bill Unanimously Passes Senate
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 8, a bill I co-authored with Senators Ward and Pennycuick, which is a comprehensive breast cancer screening and genetic testing bill. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill eliminates out-of-pocket costs associated with BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling, as well as supplemental screening such as breast MRIs and ultrasound for women at high-risk. High-risk conditions covered by the bill include dense breast tissue, a personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition and prior radiation therapy.
The legislation expands on Act 52 of 2020, which required insurers to cover breast MRIs and ultrasounds for women with high-risk factors. Senate Bill 8 is step two, eliminating costs including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance for those screenings and BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling.
Read more about Senate Bill 8 here.
Doorless Driving Legislation Passes Senate, On Track to Join 49 Other States
This week, the Senate passed unanimously SB298 which I prime sponsored allowing doorless driving for vehicles such as Jeeps and Broncos in Pennsylvania! Thankful to my constituents who brought this idea to me, and glad to see it fully supported by my colleagues. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration
Read my press release here.
Senate Acts to Protect Citizen Data with State Employee TikTok Ban
The Senate approved legislation to shield citizen data from unauthorized access by prohibiting state-owned devices and networks from downloading and using TikTok. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Pennsylvania state government holds sensitive information in the form of birth certificates, driver’s licenses, occupation certificates, taxes and more.
Senate Bill 379 would mandate that all state agencies, departments and commissions remove the application from state networks. It would also require that policies are put in place to block application installation, as well as network-based restrictions to prevent its use and access.
Across the nation, both Democrats and Republicans have voiced growing concerns about the security and potential manipulation of the popular social media app TikTok. At least 29 states have addressed the risk to government systems posed by TikTok, and Congress prohibited its use across a wide array of federal agencies and departments.
Senate Approves Legislation to Increase PA National Guard Health Care Providers
The Senate approved legislation that would allow more health professionals to participate in the Medical Officer Health Incentive Program, helping to ease the shortage of medical specialists in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The Medical Officer or Health Officer Incentive Program was created in 2014 to provide a tuition reimbursement incentive to those who qualified through their time in the armed services. Even though the program was successful in attracting health care providers into National Guard service, some health professionals, like dentists and physician assistants, were inadvertently left out of the program.
Senate Bill 162, which fixes that oversight, now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
2023 Big 33 Players Visited the Capitol
It was great meeting the 2023 Big 33 roster of players, especially the three young men in my district from Bethel Park High School, North Allegheny High School and Upper St. Clair High School. Congratulations, guys!
First Labor and Industry Committee Meeting
What a privilege to serve as chairman of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee! We had our first meeting of the new 2023-2024 session this week and unanimously reported out two bills. Thanks to my executive director, Eric, Democratic chair Sen. John Kane, and all the committee members for a successful meeting!
Moon Township High School Jazz Band Visited Capitol
I was happy to join PA State Rep. Valerie Gaydos and welcome the Moon Area High School Jazz Band to the Capitol this week! I brought these talented kids to the Senate floor and we had a great discussion about history, government and good music! If your school would like to come to Harrisburg, please call my office. I’d love to host you!
Enjoying Spending Time with Constituents
I stopped by the Annual Rotary Club of Bethel Park/St. Clair Pancake Festival last week. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast and great conversations with constituents!
Open Hours for Business Counseling
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