Senator Devlin Robinson E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Committee Approves my Bill to Increase Public-Private Partnerships, Increase Employment
  • Honoring our Constitution
  • Local Elections Officials, Advocates Testify on Bipartisan Election Reform Bill
  • Senate Hearing on School COVID Policy Reveals Ongoing Frustration with State Agencies
  • Legislative Reapportionment Commission Alters Decision on Counting of Prisoners
  • Senate Acts to Extend Ida State Disaster Emergency, Access to Recovery Aid
  • Celebrating 250 Years of Marine Corps and Navy
  • Senate Votes to Implement Low-Interest Loans to Fire Companies Approved by Voters
  • Bill Limiting Firefighter Exposure to PFAS, Safeguarding Environment Approved by Senate
  • Out and About in the 37th

Senate Committee Approves my Bill to Increase Public-Private Partnerships, Increase Employment

My bill to increase public-private partnerships and increase employment opportunities was approved this week by the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.

The manufacturing industry in the United States produces more than four trillion dollars annually. We have seen this industry turn to innovation and collaboration to meet its needs. In the heart of my district at Pittsburgh International Airport, progress is being made at Neighborhood 91, which is a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh.

It is the first development in the world to condense and connect all components of the additive manufacturing and 3D printing supply chain into one powerful production epicenter. This is the first post-Covid project coming out of the gate in this capacity.

Senate Bill 706 establishes the Max Manufacturing Initiative Fund and Max Manufacturing Endeavor Loan Fund. This bill aims to create stronger public-private partnerships between state universities and private entities, and maximizes research capabilities with cutting edge technologies. It is projected to make Pennsylvania more friendly to the manufacturing industry, and also increase employment opportunities.

Under this bill, the possibilities for innovation are endless. It provides a vision for opportunities across the Commonwealth.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Honoring our Constitution

9/22/21 - Constitution Week in Pennsylvania

I was honored to help commemorate the Constitution on the floor of the Senate this week. Our constitution is one of – if not the most – important documents to our nation. It is an enduring document that provides the framework for our nation and even the business we do here each day in Harrisburg.

Local Elections Officials, Advocates Testify on Bipartisan Election Reform Bill

Local elections officials and members of advocacy groups testified before the Senate State Government Committee regarding Senate Bill 878, a bipartisan election reform bill.

The proposed changes originated from the bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, which was created to make recommendations on how Pennsylvania’s election code could be improved. The committee included members of the Senate from both parties and all regions of Pennsylvania and heard testimony from a variety of stakeholders, including election officials from Pennsylvania and other states around the nation.

The proposed changes include:

  • Pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots at least three days before the election.
  • Tracking mail-in ballots through a barcode system.
  • Livestreaming the counting of mail-in ballots.
  • Updated application deadlines for mail-in ballots.
  • New security measures for drop boxes.
  • Real-time reporting of deceased voters.
  • New requirements for training election workers.

The panel heard testimony from the County Commissioners Association, local elections officials Common Cause PA, the Committee of Seventy and the PA League of Women Voters. You can watch the hearing and read testimony here.

Senate Hearing on School COVID Policy Reveals Ongoing Frustration with State Agencies

Saying state agencies overseeing schools are slow to respond to COVID-19 questions while providing conflicting guidance on the virus to schools, educators from all levels testified before the Senate Education Committee about their ongoing frustrations with the Wolf Administration’s oversight.

The Department of Health and Department of Education declined to participate, citing pending litigation.

A Lancaster County superintendent testified that the current mask orders from the state agencies conflict with the FAQs and emails that the district has received. The director of a career center in Jefferson County testified schools are the target of frustrations from parents as “threats from the government pile on to an already intense situation.” 

A child care worker said the communication from the state Office of Child Development and Early Learning has ranged from vague to intimidating, with threats to remove the facility employees if the young children in daycare do not comply.

The Education Committee will continue to press the Wolf Administration for answers. You can view hearing video and written testimony here.

Legislative Reapportionment Commission Alters Decision on Counting of Prisoners

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission made an adjustment to an earlier policy change regarding how the residency of prison inmates will be counted when developing new district maps for the state Senate and House of Representatives.

At its Aug. 24 meeting, over Republican objections that the commission was exceeding its authority, the panel voted to adopt a prisoner reallocation proposal that changes the long-standing practice of having state inmates counted where they eat, sleep and live at the time of the census — like every other Pennsylvanian — and instead count them where they resided prior to incarceration for their crimes.

Noting that not all currently incarcerated individuals remain in prison for less than 10 years from the time new district maps are drawn, the decision was altered by majority vote to count state prison inmates with a minimum sentence expiring after April 1, 2030, in the prison in which they reside, not the community from where they came.

Senate Acts to Extend Ida State Disaster Emergency, Access to Recovery Aid

The Senate approved extending the state disaster emergency declared in response to Hurricane Ida until Oct. 27, giving Pennsylvanians more time to apply for recovery assistance.

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a 21-day proclamation declaring the disaster emergency on Aug. 31.  Following extended pandemic emergency declarations over the last year, and the governor’s unilateral actions throwing Pennsylvanians out of work, voters in May stripped him of the authority he commandeered to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly.

Action by the General Assembly to extend the emergency declaration will help communities with their recovery efforts, which are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida brought historic rainfall to Pennsylvania, causing record flooding and widespread damage in many places. Nearly 400 roads were closed statewide, while downed trees and limbs disrupted utilities and left more than 15 major interstates, roadways and expressways closed.

Celebrating 250 Years of Marine Corps and Navy

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee unanimously passed Senate Resolution 164, which I prime sponsored and commemorates the United States Marine Corps and United States Navy on their 250th anniversaries, established by the Second Continental Congress.

It also urges the Secretary of the Navy to designate Philadelphia and portions of the Delaware River as the site of the celebrations in October and November 2025.

This resolution will shine a well-deserved light on our commonwealth as we recognize these important events.

Senate Votes to Implement Low-Interest Loans to Fire Companies Approved by Voters

The Senate voted to implement aid to Pennsylvania fire departments approved by voters in a May referendum. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 739 would permit municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies to participate in the Emergency Services Loan Assistance Program, which has been historically limited to volunteer fire companies.

Expanding the assistance program was one of several ballot questions decided by voters in the 2021 Primary Election.

Bill Limiting Firefighter Exposure to PFAS, Safeguarding Environment Approved by Senate

A bill restricting the use of “Class B” firefighting foams containing added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for training purposes and testing was approved by the Senate. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

Some PFAS linger in the environment and in the human body – they don’t break down and can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

Senate Bill 302 would restrict the use of foam containing PFAS chemicals beginning July 1, 2022 and direct the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, in consultation with the State Fire Commissioner, to assist firefighting entities with evaluating and determining how to transition to the use of Class B firefighting foam that does not contain a PFAS chemical. The legislation would not impact the continued use of firefighting foams during emergency situations.

Out and About in the 37th

Congratulations to Aaron Brown from Troop 1017 on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout!

My staff and I stopped by Robinson Township’s Autumn Fest. Wonderful event!

I attended the ALCOSAN annual open house and Clean Water Champion Awards ceremony

Stopped at RMU’s Island Sports Center for the annual Veterans Place cornhole tournament.

Pittsburgh boasts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. After 2 years without the annual parade, we came together for a halfway to St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

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