Senate Passes Resolution Urging D.C. to Avoid Worsening Housing Crisis

HARRISBURG – The Senate of Pennsylvania approved a resolution today urging the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) to rescind  its recent fee increases on borrowers with good credit, according to the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Devlin Robinson (R-37) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28).

Senate Resolution 134 would require the secretary of the Senate of Pennsylvania to send a letter to President Joe Biden, leaders of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, and the FHFA to rescind the fee increases that went into effect May 1 of this year for single-family mortgages.

“I have spoken to many Pennsylvanians who want to buy a home, but simply cannot afford to due to the extremely high inflation and interest rates. The policy that went into effect earlier this year has increased the financial hurdle for many borrowers   on their path to pursue the American dream,” Robinson said. “We should encourage and support hard-working citizens – not burden them with higher government fees. I am pleased that my Senate colleagues agree, and I urge the federal government to listen.”

The FHFA unilaterally adopted a policy earlier this year that would increase fees on homebuyers with good credit who make large down payments on home purchases, while decreasing fees for borrowers with lower credit scores and small down payments. The FHFA has since retracted its debt-to-income ratio fee for home mortgages in May and accepted public comments on fee increases based on a borrower’s credit score throughout the summer.

“The mortgage crisis is only getting worse with lending rates exceeding 7%, more than double where it was two short years ago, plus never-ending inflation on home prices,” Phillips-Hill said. “Families that are trying to do the responsible thing by saving for their dream home should not be punished due to Washington’s failed policies that make homeownership more and more difficult. This resolution sends a very clear message from Pennsylvania to Washington D.C.: stop imperiling the American dream.”

The Senate adopted the resolution with bipartisan support.

Baker: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bills Regarding Ransomware, Organized Retail Theft and Harassment of Sports Officials

HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), today approved legislation regarding ransomware attacks, organized retail thefts and the harassment of sports officials in Pennsylvania.

The first bill considered – Senate Bill 563 – would ensure that Commonwealth agencies have necessary capabilities to discourage, combat and recover from ransomware attacks.

“In recent weeks, we have all seen media coverage about the rise and intelligence of ransomware attacks,” Baker said. “While this is a devastating experience for anyone, it is especially disruptive for governments, businesses and institutions that cannot afford to have their systems shut down for any amount of time.”

The committee also considered a bill to combat large-scale organized retail theft rings in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 596 would establish a division within the Attorney General’s Office dedicated to prosecuting organized retail theft throughout Pennsylvania. The legislation would also lower the current monetary thresholds of thefts that would qualify for the crime of organized retail theft.

“Ask any merchant in Pennsylvania and they will share concerns about retail theft and the cost of added security measures,” Baker said. “Some believe this is a victimless crime, but we all pay higher prices because of it. In areas where law enforcement is understaffed and personnel are tied up with violent crimes, drug trafficking and overdoses, assaults, arson, and other dangerous acts, retail theft can come in low on the checklist. There is merit in reinforcing the message that dealing with retail theft is serious business.”

The last bill considered – Senate Bill 842 – would create a separate offense of harassment toward an official of a sporting event.

“Among the many distasteful trends in our society is the targeting of sports officials who make decisions or calls that someone dislikes. There is simply no justification for attacking or harassing an official who is supervising and bringing order to the competitive sports our kids enjoy,” Baker said. “Sports provide many health and social benefits for children. To have this experience marred by boorish and criminal behavior by adults primarily is truly unfortunate, which is why I support this bill.”

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

Watch the full committee meeting here.

Cara Laudenslager

Langerholc Bill to Provide New Career Paths for Individuals in Recovery Approved by Senate

HARRISBURG – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) that would help individuals in recovery from substance use obtain and maintain meaningful employment.

Senate Bill 69 would create a Recovery to Work pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with high-priority occupations through local workforce development boards.

“Steady, meaningful employment is essential to an individual’s long-term recovery because it provides stability and a renewed sense of purpose. This bill further takes people away from government dependency and allows them to become contributors to our community,” Langerholc said. “We’ve lost too many lives to the heroin and opioid crisis. We must do all we can to offer a path forward.”

The pilot program would be led by the Department of Labor and Industry with the assistance of the departments of Health, Community and Economic Development, and Drug and Alcohol Programs, as well as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Local workforce development boards would work with the treatment and recovery community as well as local employers and training providers to find job training and employment opportunities.

Langerholc has championed Recovery to Work in several legislative sessions. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.


CONTACT: Gwenn Dando

Sen. Yaw Defends Small Businesses Against Greedy Casino Moguls

HARRISBURG – Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) blasted operators from the Pennsylvania casino industry for their remarks made yesterday during a Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee public hearing on gaming in the Commonwealth.

The hearing, the first of two set to focus on the issue, included a panel of representatives from Parx Casino, The Cordish Companies, and PENN Entertainment. Yaw’s criticism came after one panelist described the growing popularity of games of skill, which help support small businesses, fraternal clubs, veterans’ organizations, and taverns, as an “infestation.”

“Many of these games are made in my district and several hundred people work in that industry,” Sen. Yaw said. “I don’t consider my constituents as being part of an infestation. That’s insulting to them and its insulting to me.”

During their testimony, representatives from the casino industry claimed skill games impact their revenue. In reality, the lottery has hit record profits of more than $1 billion for 11 consecutive years. In August 2023, the Pennsylvania casino industry set a monthly record by earning over $400 million.

“The casino industry has been the biggest display of corporate greed that I have seen in my time in the Senate,” Yaw continued. “I walk into a casino, and I see hundreds of slot machines and table games. Then, I look at the VFW or a mom and pop grocery store with two or three machines and I just don’t see competition. I don’t have a problem with casinos making money. I do have a problem with the greed involved.”

Yaw asked the panel if they had read Senate Bill 706, legislation he sponsored to establish a regulatory framework and taxing structure on skill video games in the Commonwealth. Under the proposed measure, all games will be required to be connected to a terminal collection and control system that allows the Commonwealth to monitor all transactions and ensure that all taxes are accrued and paid. Additionally, the legislation will strengthen penalties for those who operate unlicensed and illegal games and gambling devices. It also includes a valid ID requirement to play and a limit on the number of machines per establishment.

“The focus of my legislation is taxing and regulating,” Yaw told the panel. “It seems to me that would be something the casino industry would be in favor of. My legislation would prevent everything they complain about.”

“It is clear to me that the false premise promoted by casinos assumes every skill game player is also a potential casino game player,” Yaw said following the hearing. “That is simply not true.”

On Wednesday, October 4, the committee will hold its second hearing on gaming in the Commonwealth which will include representatives from the skill game industry and several of the small businesses it supports.

For more state-related news and information, constituents can visit Senator Yaw’s website at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.


Elizabeth Weitzel

Public hearing on skill games in the Commonwealth

Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee

Wednesday, October 4, 2023 | 9 a.m.

Hearing Room 1, NOB


I. Call to Order

II. Introductions

Senator Christopher Gebhard, Chairman

Senator Anthony Williams, Minority Chairman   

III. Skill Game Panel

Testimony from Skill Gaming Representatives.

Paul Goldean, President and CEO Pace-O-Matic – Testimony

Matt Haverstick, Managing Partner, Kleinbard LLC – Testimony

Rick Goodling, National Director of Compliance, Pace-O-Matic – Testimony

Peter Zaleski, Professor of Economics, Villanova University – Testimony

Brian Carr, Senior Consultant, Pace-O-Matic – Testimony

Mike Barley, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Pace-O-Matic

IV. Community Organizations Panel

Testimony from Veteran’s Organizations, Restaurants, and Volunteers. 

Commander Stephen Holmes, American Legion Post 733 (Dauphin County) – Testimony

Mary Jo Bishop, Owner, Steggie’s Bar (Lebanon County) – Testimony

Tom Olewick, Volunteer Firefighter (Clearfield County) – Testimony

V. Closing Remarks

Senate committee approves Phillips-Hill’s measure keeping taxpayer dollars from paying ransomware

HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee passed significant reforms today as to how state government entities must address ransomware attacks, according to Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), who sponsored the measure.

“We continue to see ransomware attacks on governmental entities grow as technology used by criminals becomes more sophisticated,” Phillips-Hill said. “It is important that we use this legislation to draw a line in the sand to say taxpayers will not be paying the ransom request by entities seeking to illegally extort money from hard-working Pennsylvanians.”

Under the legislation, Senate Bill 563, the act of possessing, using, developing, selling or threatening to use ransomware is defined and made illegal in the Commonwealth. The measure would subject criminals who use ransomware to a range of penalties – first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony – depending on the monetary amount exploited.

Phillips-Hill shared that the measure would require near immediate notification of a ransomware attack within state government entities.

The Office of Administration (OA) would be required to produce an annual report detailing the number of ransomware attacks, along with the nature and impact of each attack. To mitigate vulnerabilities, OA would be required to study the state’s IT weaknesses and ability to respond to ransomware attacks. Following the review, OA would develop guidelines featuring best practices and response to potential future ransomware attacks.

The legislation will be presented to the full Senate for consideration.




Kiersten Laird

Mastriano to Host Operation Enduring Freedom Remembrance Ceremony Wednesday

HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, will host a ceremony to remember and recognize the heroic sacrifices made by U.S. military men and women during Operation Enduring Freedom at an event on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. at Soldier’s Grove behind the state Capitol, Harrisburg.

Operation Enduring Freedom was the U.S.-led military response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa. The response began on Oct. 7, 2001, when U.S. and British warplanes attacked Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan with the support of cruise missiles fired from warships. The U.S. led a broad and diverse coalition of countries in what became the opening salvo in the worldwide War on Terrorism. Operation Enduring Freedom concluded in Afghanistan on Dec. 28, 2014, with additional activity in that country taking place under the banner of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Participants will include:

  • Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37);
  • Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-24);
  • Sen. Greg Rothman (R-34);
  • Rep. Dane Watro (R-116);
  • Lt. Col. Schaun Myers, Pennsylvania National Guard chaplain;
  • Pennsylvania National Guard Ceremonial Band.

Watch the service live at


Josh Herman

Bill to Crack Down on Organized Retail Theft Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee

HARRISBURG – A bill to increase penalties on criminals who steal from retail stores was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today, according to Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), the bill’s prime sponsor.

“As we saw in Philadelphia last week when mobs of people ransacked dozens of stores, our retailers are under siege,” said Argall. “The increase in retail theft we’ve seen in recent years is a slap in the face of every hardworking Pennsylvanian trying to provide for themselves and their families.”

According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, organized retail theft has resulted in the loss of almost 700,000 jobs nationwide due to over $125 billion in economic losses.

Senate Bill 596 would lower the monetary threshold for felony charges for the perpetrators of organized retail theft. There must be an intent to resell the stolen goods to be charged under the provisions of this bill.

The bill would also create the Office of Deputy Attorney General for Organized Retail Crime Theft. The office would consist of five prosecuting attorneys placed in different regions across the state to hold these criminals accountable.

The bill now advances to the full Senate for consideration.


CONTACT: Jim Brugger, 717-787-2637

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