Senate Approves Judy Ward’s Voter Verification Constitutional Amendment

Listen

(HARRISBURG) – A plan by state Senator Judy Ward (R-30) that allows voters to decide if the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to require identification each time a voter casts a ballot was approved today by the Pennsylvania Senate.

“I have a responsibility to ensure that voters trust the election process,” Senator Ward said. “Everyone who voted by mail-in or absentee ballot in the last election had to supply proof of identification in order to receive their ballot. This isn’t any additional burden. Asking voters to decide if requiring identification every time voters go to the ballot box will build on that and restore that trust. I hear from constituents who want to know why they need identification to buy cold medicine, buy a cell phone, get married or adopt a pet but not to choose their next Senator, township supervisor, judge or President.”

Currently, voters are required to show identification the first time they vote at a polling place. Senate Bill 735, which was approved by a bipartisan vote of 30 to 20, asks voters to decide if some form of verification should be required every time a ballot is cast, including when voting by mail. The bill also proposes amending the voting age in the Pennsylvania Constitution from 21 to 18, making it consistent the U.S. Constitution.

A recent poll by Franklin & Marshall College showed that 74% of Pennsylvanians who responded favored requirements that all voters show a photo ID, compared with 25% opposed. Nationally, that number climbs to 80% in support of some sort of identification to vote and 18% opposed, according to a Monmouth University poll.

“I was elected to serve as the voice of my friends and neighbors in Harrisburg,” Senator Ward said. “With the Governor’s refusal to even consider having voters provide verification to vote every time, we were left with no choice but to place the issue on the ballot in the form of a Constitutional amendment.”

The Senate passed bill places the issue on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment so voters can decide. Unlike a piece of legislation, constitutional amendments do not need the governor’s approval.

The language must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can be placed on the ballot. The earliest this proposed amendment could reach voters for consideration is May 2023.

Forms of photo identification currently approved by the PA Department of State include:

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID card
  • ID issued by any Commonwealth agency
  • ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • S. passport
  • S. Armed Forces ID
  • Student ID
  • Employee ID

Voters without a photo ID, currently, can use a non-photo identification that includes name and address such as:  

  • Confirmation issued by the county voter registration office
  • Non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth
  • Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • Firearm permit
  • Current utility bill
  • Current bank statement
  • Current paycheck
  • Government check

CONTACT:   Cheryl Schriner

Senate Special Committee Releases Report on Election Reforms

HARRISBURG — The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform released a report today detailing its findings and recommendations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s election system.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-34) called for the creation of the committee in December to review all aspects of the November 2020 election. The committee 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. The recommendations include:

  • Allowing pre-canvassing of ballots three days prior to Election Day.
  • Creating a tracking system for mail-in ballots.
  • Improving transparency of mail-in ballot counting through livestreaming.
  • Changing the voter registration deadline from 15 to 21 days before Election Day.
  • Changing the mail-in ballot application deadline from one to two weeks before Election Day.
  • Applicants can register to vote or apply for a mail-in ballot in person under the current timeline outlined in the Election Code.
  • Improving the accuracy of voter rolls, including real-time reporting of deceased individuals.
  • Implementing best practices from other states for voter verification for voting in-person and by mail.
  • Ensures that if the General Assembly acts to permit the use of drop boxes in future elections, proper security measures are in place.
  • Ensuring adequate funding for the administration of elections.

“I am extremely proud of the members of this committee for working together across party lines to approach these issues in an open and honest way,” Corman said. “In all my time in the legislature, I cannot recall an issue as difficult and politically charged as this. I am hopeful that we can build upon their efforts to enact real and meaningful reforms to ensure all Pennsylvanians have an election system they can believe in.”

The Senate State Government Committee, chaired by Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), is expected to consider legislation implementing the recommendations in the near future.

“Now that the bipartisan report has been approved, the Senate State Government will aggressively pursue legislation regarding voter access and voter integrity. This final report from the Special Committee gives us a realistic blueprint to push forward,” Argall said.

The full report and all testimony gathered during the hearings is available at https://pasenelectioncommittee.com/.

AUDIO

 

CONATCT:           Jason Thompson (Corman)

                              Josh Paul (Argall)

 

Sen. Brooks Bill to Re-Examine Costly Regulations Passes Senate

HARRISBURG—May 26, 2021 — State Senator Michele Brooks’ legislation to reduce the burden of costly regulations has passed the Senate.   

Under Senate Bill 126, regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, to its political subdivisions, and to the private sector exceeding $1 million annually would be reviewed for their need, effectiveness and efficiency three years after implementation.

This one-time, automatic review would help protect businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and individuals from costly, burdensome regulations and hold state regulators accountable, Brooks said.

“This legislation upholds important constitutional checks and balances by ensuring that executive branch actions follow legislative intent and are having the desired effect without placing steep costs and administrative demands on farmers, businesses, nonprofits and, ultimately, taxpayers,” Brooks said. “Too often, regulations have unintended consequences that impede growth.”

In addition to Senate Bill 126, the Senate approved these other regulatory reform measures:

  • Senate Bill 28 – Ensures transparency in permitting. The bill would require all agencies that issue permits to post information about the permits on an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications.
  • Senate Bill 426 – Provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process. The goal of the legislation is to ensure state agencies are implementing the law and not trying to make the laws themselves.
  • Senate Bill 520 – Requires the General Assembly to approve all regulations with an economic impact or cost to the Commonwealth, local governments and the private sector exceeding $1 million.

The regulatory reform bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“I consistently hear that overly prescriptive regulations and mandates create undue burdens on our farmers, local governments, and business owners. This legislation is an important step in identifying and rolling back bureaucratic red tape that stifles our agriculture industry, communities, and job growth,” Brooks said. “By loosening the grip of government, we can free innovators and investors and cultivate growth and new jobs.”

CONTACT: Diane McNaughton

Phone: (717) 787-1322

Email: dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov                      

Senate President Pro Tempore Corman, Speaker Cutler Unveil New Transparency, Ethical Standards for Lobbyists

HARRISBURG – Lobbyists would be subject to new openness, transparency and ethical conduct requirements and would have less influence in state government under a legislative proposal unveiled today by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) and Speaker of House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).

The lobbying reform package would deliver on an important promise that both legislative leaders made when they were elected to their posts by their colleagues in January. The bills would build on the state’s Lobbyist Disclosure Act and close existing loopholes that have been exploited by lobbying and campaign consulting firms since the last significant update to the law in 2006.

“There is a tangled web of money and influence between the people who lobby the General Assembly and the people who run political campaigns,” Corman said. “This package of bills would help untangle that web and sever the ties between those two entities, while ensuring the public has more access to information about the individuals and organizations who are seeking to influence public policy.”

“Every Pennsylvanian, whether they realize it or not, has a lobbyist working for them inside the Capitol,” Cutler said. “The voters elected us to carry their voices and their interests, we are their lobbyists. The voices of the people we represent cannot be shouted down by those with power and influence, and these reforms will help ensure all voices are on an equal playing field in Harrisburg.”

In order to promote greater openness and transparency, the package would include measures to require lobbyists to disclose more information, including any client conflicts and equity they may hold in any entity they are representing. In addition, campaign consultants would also be required to register with the Department of State.

The package also includes measures to limit the influence of lobbyists by prohibiting campaign consultants from being registered lobbyists or engaging in lobbying elected officials for two years. The bills would also prohibit lobbyists from receiving or paying referral payments to another individual, lobbying firm or campaign consultant – essentially preventing kick-backs from one firm or individual to another.

Lobbyists and campaign consultants would also be prohibited from being hired or employed by a state entity for the purpose of influencing any branch of government.

New ethical conduct standards for lobbyists are also included in the package, such as mandatory annual ethics training, new registration requirements for lobbyists whose clients are seeking financial assistance or grants, and prohibitions on collecting an inducement or performance bonus through a third-party affiliate when securing taxpayer-funded grants.

The bills are expected to be introduced in the General Assembly in the weeks ahead.

AUDIO (Corman)

AUDIO (Cutler)

 

CONTACT:           Jason Thompson (Corman)
Mike Straub (Cutler)

Langerholc Supports New Protections for Sexual Abuse Survivors Including Statute of Limitations Reforms

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a comprehensive package of bills today to support survivors of sexual abuse, including legislation to reform the statute of limitations to give survivors a retroactive two- year civil window to file claims, according to Senator Wayne Langerholc Jr, (R-35) who strongly supported the bills.

During remarks on the Senate floor, Langerholc said his district was “ground zero for clergy sex abuse” and urged his colleagues “to act on truly historic reforms for victims that will reflect all four of the recommendations of a grand jury report released to the public last year,” opining that this legislation was clearly constitutional.

“We are here to do the right thing for the victims,” Langerholc said.  “Nothing will bring immediate justice, but we can build a solid foundation of action to enable every Pennsylvanian to vote on this legislation and ensure that it meets constitutional standards.”

The bills are designed to ensure victims are supported and all perpetrators of sexual crimes against children are held responsible for their heinous actions, Langerholc said.

The bills include:

  • House Bill 962, which would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of a child, as well as associated crimes such as human trafficking. The bill also extends the deadline for civil actions from age 30 to age 55.
  • House Bill 963, which would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to create a two-year window of time for retroactive lawsuits for victims whose statute of limitations has already expired.
  • House Bill 1051, which clarifies mandatory reporting standards for suspected cases of abuse and increases penalties for mandated reporters who continue to fail to report suspected child abuse.
  • House Bill 1171, which ensures survivors who sign non-disclosure statements are not prohibited from speaking with law enforcement regarding their abuse.

The bills are a culmination of years of effort to create effective and permanent laws to ensure perpetrators of sexual offenses against young people are held accountable by the legal system.

 

CONTACT:

Gwenn Dando
(717) 787-5400
gdando@pasen.gov 

Senate Passes Statute of Limitations Child Sexual Abuse Reform Package

(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) issued the following statement on Senate passage of the Statute of Limitations Child Sexual Abuse Reform Package. Today, the Senate approved four bills that will address the four recommendations of the 40th grand jury report. These bills include House Bill 962 (Rozzi), House Bill 963 (Gregory), House Bill 1051 (Stephens) and House Bill 1171 (Toohil)

This package of bills will address all four recommendations of the grand jury:

  • Eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.
  • Creates a two-year “civil window” for child sex abuse victims who couldn’t file lawsuits before.
  • Clarifies the penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
  • Prohibits “non-disclosure” agreements regarding cooperation with law enforcement.

“Today is unquestionably an historic day in Pennsylvania. The brave men and women who have come forward to shed light on child sexual abuse are no doubt courageous survivors who deserve our support.  It is also crucial that we do all we can to prevent abuse from happening in the future.

“The package of bills passed today protects any future victims and would allow for a constitutionally sound civil window for past victims.  By eliminating the criminal statute of limitations, we are addressing the severity of this crime and elevating child sexual abuse to the same prosecution level as murder.

“Throughout this long debate I have always said that any changes we make must be constitutional. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for working together to pass this important package and especially to Senator Lisa Baker for working to strengthen the package by increasing counseling support for victims and further protecting college students from abuse. I also thank Representative Mark Rozzi and Representative Jim Gregory for coming to the table to develop strong legislation that helps victims and upholds the Constitution.”

Bartolotta Touts Responsible Increase in Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage

 

HARRISBURG – Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) issued the following statement today regarding passage of legislation to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage incrementally from $7.25 to $9.50 by January 1, 2022:

”As Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, I was pleased to be part of the effort to move a reasonable, bipartisan minimum wage proposal forward.  The key to any debate on the minimum wage is balancing the needs of employees with the needs of employers. If the scale tips too far in either direction, there can be severe consequences for all Pennsylvanians. The graduated increase to $9.50 over the next two years is a responsible approach that puts our state on a competitive footing with neighboring states.

“I believe most people feel comfortable in raising the minimum wage, but not to an astronomical amount that would disrupt small businesses across Pennsylvania and put untold thousands of low-skilled workers out of a job. This legislation reflects a reasonable agreement among all stakeholders, thus enabling Pennsylvania to remain competitive in the global marketplace and ensure a boost for those working at the minimum wage.”

 

CONTACT: Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463

Corman Votes to Make Online Training Available to Firefighters

The State Senate today gave final approval to a measure that is intended to make firefighter training more accessible and affordable through online courses, according to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34).

Senate Bill 146 ensures that online training would be voluntary and free to both career and volunteer firefighters. All available courses would be listed online, and developed under the leadership of the state Fire Commissioner.

“State-of-the-art training for firefighters saves lives – those of the firefighters and the people they help,” Senator Corman said.

Training requirements are often cited as a barrier to recruitment and retention, particularly for volunteers, because they can be costly and time-consuming, often demanding travel and time away from work and family.

The Senate Resolution 6 Commission recommended online training as one of its core suggestions to ease the staffing burden on today’s firefighters. 

Senate Bill 146 now goes to the governor for his signature.

CONTACT: Jenn Kocher (717) 787-1377 or jkocher@pasen.gov

Leaders Join Together to Accomplish Statute of Limitations Child Sexual Abuse Reform Package

(HARRISBURG) – Today Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Representative Mark Rozzi (D-126) and Representative Jim Gregory (R-80) announced their agreement to work together to ensure child sexual abuse reform legislation reaches the Governor’s desk.

There are currently four bills in the Senate that will address the four recommendations of the 40th grand jury report. These bills include House Bill 962 (Rozzi), House Bill 963 (Gregory), House Bill 1051 (Stephens) and House Bill 1171 (Toohil).  The legislators emphasized the importance of passing these four measures as they are currently written.

This package of bills will address all four recommendations of the grand jury:

  • Eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.
  • Creates a two-year “civil window” for child sex abuse victims who couldn’t file lawsuits before.
  • Clarifies the penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
  • Prohibits “non-disclosure” agreements regarding cooperation with law enforcement.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25): “Victims’ compensation funds that have been set up by the dioceses in Pennsylvania have helped many victims as they attempt to move forward, however it is clear that these funds cannot help everyone and more work must be done. I have expressed my commitment to working with my colleagues to address the House bills currently in the Senate pertaining to child sexual abuse. I thank Senator Lisa Baker and Senator John DiSanto for advancing these measures out of their committees today.  The full Senate will be voting on these important bills later this week. I am grateful for the willingness of all parties to come to the table to ensure this important package of constitutionally sound bills reaches the Governor’s desk.” 

Representative Mark Rozzi (D-126): “From day one I’ve fought relentlessly to provide victims of child sex abuse with the justice they deserve. The path to statutes of limitation reform has been challenging and ongoing for over 15 years.  I was the first legislator to get a comprehensive reform bill passed in the House in 2016 and again in 2018. With the bipartisan and bicameral commitment between myself, Sen. Scarnati and Rep. Gregory to pass my prospective SOL HB 962 and Rep. Gregory’s HB 963 by the end of the year, I am optimistic that a historic moment for all victims of childhood sexual abuse in Pennsylvania…past, present and future…is imminent.”

Representative Jim Gregory (R-80): “Victims often spend far too much time living with shame and guilt. As elected leaders, I believe we must do everything we can to give victims a voice against their abusers. I speak for myself, and victims everywhere when I express my gratitude to Senate Leadership and Senator Lisa Baker for moving the constitutional amendment plan forward and wanting to give the voters of Pennsylvania the ability to speak up on behalf of victims.” 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Senator Scarnati – Kate Flessner kflessner@pasen.gov 717-787-7084

Representative Gregory – Mike Straub mstraub@pahousegop.com 717-260-6397

Representative Rozzi – Pam Oddo poddo@pahouse.net 717-783-3290

DiSanto Nonprofit Security Grant Program Becomes Law

Harrisburg—Senator John DiSanto’s (Dauphin/Perry) proposal to provide for a new nonprofit security grant to enhance safety for faith-based institutions and nonprofit organizations was signed into law today by Governor Tom Wolf as part of  Act 83 of 2019.

Act 83 authorizes a $5 million budget transfer of unexpended and unencumbered funds for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to make grant awards to any nonprofit that services individuals, groups, or institutions that are included within a bias motivation category for hate from incidents identified by the FBI in its 2017 hate crime statistics publication.

The FBI defines hate crimes as those motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. Eligible applicants will not only include all faith-based institutions, but also many other 501(c)3 public charities that serve the community.

The program will begin accepting applications on a rolling basis beginning no later than March 1, 2020 with the Commission required to approve or deny each application within 90 days. Grant awards will range from $5,000 to as high as $150,000—with larger grant amounts contingent upon the organization committing non-state matching funds.

DiSanto participated in today’s bill signing ceremony. Afterwards he commented, “I appreciate that my legislative colleagues and the governor came together in a bipartisan manner to offer these additional safeguards to our nonprofits and faith-based organizations that are too often the targets of violent threats and acts. Beyond just the dollars and safety improvements, my hope is that the creation of this program sends the message that all of Pennsylvania stands with our charitable and religious institutions against those who would do them harm. I encourage all eligible organizations to consider their security needs and, if appropriate, prepare to submit a grant application.”

Senator DiSanto joins in bill signing for new nonprofit grant program. Pictured (seated l-r): Senator John DiSanto, Governor Tom Wolf, Representative Stephen Barrar.

 

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801