Mastriano and Gebhard Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Election Security with Constitutional Amendments

HARRISBURG – Sens. Doug Mastriano (R-33) and Chris Gebhard (R-48) today introduced legislation, Senate Bill 292, that would enable voters to decide through a ballot referendum if the state Constitution should be amended to include several new election security reforms.

“Our current election laws are susceptible to unconstitutional changes that weaken their election security safeguards,” Mastriano said. “Millions of voters around our state have expressed skepticism about the security of our elections going forward. Significant doubt in the validity of a person’s vote has serious repercussions for our republic. The legislation we introduced would allow the people of Pennsylvania to have the final say on these important election security measures.”

If the constitutional amendments are approved by voters, the proposal would eliminate “no-excuse” mail-in voting, establish a mandatory deadline for mailed ballots to be received by 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, impose a mandatory signature verification for all mailed ballots., and eliminate the permanent mail-in and absentee voter list.

“The Pennsylvania Department of State did not implement previous election provisions as they were intended by the democratically elected General Assembly,” said Gebhard. “For instance, in-person voters and mail-in voters should be treated equally, and signature verification is a must. Everyone must be treated equally under the eyes of the law. There cannot be less stringent rules for mail-in voters than for the folks who show up at the polls. I am eager to have the citizens of the commonwealth weigh in on this subject.”

Mastriano and Gebhard introduced Senate Bill 292 in an effort to repeal some of the provisions in existing election law created through Act 77.

Sens. Scott Hutchinson (R-21), Pat Stefano (R-32), Judy Ward (R-30) and Cris Dush (R-25) all have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

The bill must be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives during two consecutive sessions for the constitutional amendments to appear on the May 2025 ballot.

The governor cannot veto legislation like Senate Bill 292, which seeks to amend the state constitution.

The bill has been referred to the Senate State Government Committee where it will await a vote.

 

CONTACT: Josh Herman (Mastriano)

                     Matthew Urban (Gebhard)

Vogel, Kinkead to co-chair bipartisan, bicameral Hunger Caucus

Caucus begins its 15th year working to fight food insecurity in PA

HARRISBURG, Feb. 2 – State Sen. Elder Vogel, Jr., R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence, announced today that he will once again serve as co-chair of the Legislative Hunger Caucus and will be joined by Rep. Emily Kinkead, D-Allegheny, as the House co-chair for the 2023-2024 Legislative Session.

“I’m excited to welcome Representative Kinkead as caucus co-chair this session and look forward to another successful growing season in our hunger garden, which harvested over 700 pounds of produce last season. I also hope to continue our momentum in September with the annual food drive, when we recognize Hunger Action Month across the state and highlight the critical importance of food banks in our communities,” said Vogel.

“Hunger is perhaps the least partisan issue Pennsylvanians face,” said Kinkead. “Despite our state’s reputation as a world leader in food production and processing, data shows that over 1.1 million of our state residents struggle with food insecurity in both rural and urban communities. If elected officials at all levels work together and prioritize this issue, I believe we can end hunger in Pennsylvania.”

The Hunger Caucus was founded in 2008 by former state Sen. Mike Brubaker, R-Chester/Lancaster, with the goal of educating legislators on food insecurity issues, improving access to nutrition programs, and combatting hunger across the state.

In 2010, the Hunger Caucus established the Capitol Hunger Garden, located on the grounds of the State Capitol, which continues to serve as a valuable teaching tool and a volunteer-driven source of fresh produce more than a decade later. Additionally, the Hunger Caucus has worked to support the annual Capitol All-Stars charity legislative softball game, which raises money for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s charitable food network.

Contact: Nate Clark nclark@pasen.gov

Senate Republican Leaders Congratulate Culver Following Special Election Victory Tuesday

HARRISBURG – Sen. President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39) and Sen. Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41) today congratulated current state representative and incoming state Sen.-elect Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-27), who won a special election on Tuesday to fill the vacancy left by the departure of former Sen. John Gordner.

“We are pleased to welcome Senator-elect Culver and look forward to working with her to advance policies and proposals that help Pennsylvania families,” Ward said. “Lynda’s experience from serving in the House and her second-to-none work ethic will be a real asset in the Senate.”

Once sworn into office, Culver will give Senate Republicans a 28-22 seat majority.

“State Senator-elect Culver is a welcome addition to our growing majority and we fully expect her to hit the ground running,” Pittman said. “She understands the legislative process, appreciates the importance of working together to accomplish a common goal and has worked hard to gain the trust of the people in the district she’ll serve.”

Culver is serving her seventh term in the House representing the people in the 108th District. Prior to be elected to the House, she served for more than 20 years as the staff leader in the office of former state Rep. Merle Phillips (R-108).

She will resign from her seat in the House prior to being sworn in to serve in the Senate. Culver is expected to be sworn into the Senate when it returns to session, which currently is scheduled for the last week in February.

“I’m excited about this new opportunity to serve the people in our area,” Culver said. “I am honored by the support I received from people across the 27th District. I’m committed to working with my colleagues to advance legislation and enact policies that will create more and better opportunities for workers, businesses and families across our commonwealth.”

Culver will serve the remainder of the term of former Sen. Gordner, who stepped down late last year to accept a position in the office of President Pro Tempore Ward. Culver’s Senate term will last until the end of November 2024.

The 27th District includes all of Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Snyder counties, and part of Luzerne County, including Black Creek, Butler, Conyngham, Dorrance, Fairview, Hollenback, Huntington, Nescopeck, Rice, Salem, Slocum, Sugarloaf and Wright townships, and Conyngham, Nescopeck, New Columbus, Nuangola and Shickshinny boroughs.

More information about Culver and the 27th District is available at https://27thdistrict.pasenategop.com/

 

Senator Ward Media Contact
Erica Clayton Wright
ewright@pasen.gov
717-787-6063

Senator Pittman Media Contact
Kate Eckhart Flessner
kflessner@pasen.gov
717-787-8724

 

Treasurer Garrity, Senator Yaw and Center for Rural Pennsylvania Announce Findings of PA 529 Report

The report focused on differences between rural and urban PA 529 account owners

Harrisburg, PA — Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), Center for Rural Pennsylvania Vice Chairman Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121), and Center for Rural Pennsylvania Executive Director Dr. Kyle C. Kopko today announced the findings of a study analyzing the differences in how residents of rural counties use and benefit from the PA 529 College & Career Savings Program compared to residents of urban counties.

The analysis, performed by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at the request of the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, concluded that urban county beneficiaries of PA 529 accounts have more savings for postsecondary education than rural account beneficiaries even after taking into account various statistical factors. Treasurer Garrity said the report shows the importance of emphasizing outreach to rural counties across Pennsylvania, which she has focused on since taking office.

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality postsecondary education opportunities – whether that means a four-year university, community college, technical school or an apprenticeship,” Treasurer Garrity said. “This report shows that we’re doing the right thing by increasing our outreach to our rural counties, which are all too often forgotten in Harrisburg. As a lifelong resident of Bradford County, one of our most rural counties, I’m committed to making sure every corner of the state understands the benefits of PA 529. I’ve visited every county in Pennsylvania each of the last two years, and I always talk about the benefits of PA 529 and how saving with PA 529 can help families reach their education goals.”

Between January 2018 and March 2022, more than 60 percent of all contributions to PA 529 accounts, went to PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) accounts in the 19 counties defined as urban by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

“The Center for Rural Pennsylvania was pleased to partner with the Treasury Department to analyze its data and publish this new research,” said Chairman Sen. Yaw. “This report will help raise awareness among rural residents about PA 529 accounts and how these accounts may be useful to them to save for future education and workforce training needs.”

“As a former teacher, I know how important a quality education is for a student’s long-term success,” said Vice Chairman Rep. Pashinski. “PA 529 savings accounts can make quality post-secondary education possible and affordable for more families.”

“The data presented in this report yield several important findings,” said Dr. Kyle C. Kopko, Center for Rural Pennsylvania Executive Director. “Chief among them is the finding that there is a gap in 529 plan contribution levels between rural and urban account holders – even after accounting for a range of statistical factors that may influence contributions.” 

The report, Differences in Rural and Urban PA 529 Education Savings Accounts, 2018-2022, also found a sharp increase in PA 529 contribution amounts during the third and fourth quarters of 2021. This followed action by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to offer advances on the Child Tax Credit, allowing parents making less than $400,000 filing jointly to receive part of their CTC reimbursement as monthly checks. However, the report concluded that more evidence is needed as to whether those policy changes contributed to the increase.

To better reach rural communities across the Commonwealth, Treasury expanded its outreach team in 2022 by adding a Director of Outreach and Marketing and creating three regionally located outreach positions. The outreach team attends county fairs, senior expositions, legislative programs, and other events to connect with people directly. They also connect with community organizations and educational institutions to establish stronger partnerships.

The Keystone Scholars program has helped increase new PA 529 accounts for families in rural counties. Keystone Scholars provides $100 investment to every baby born to or adopted by Pennsylvania families on or after January 1, 2019, using no taxpayer money. PA 529 account ownership has increased in nearly all rural counties since the program’s launch.

PA 529 accounts are designed to help Pennsylvania families steadily and strategically save for future educational expenses – including universities, community colleges, trade schools, apprenticeships, and K-12 education – with significant state and federal tax advantages.

Treasury offers two PA 529 plans; the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP), which allows families to save at today’s tuition rates to meet tomorrow’s tuition costs, and the Morningstar Silver-Rated PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), which offers a variety of investment options.

Treasurer Garrity has made many changes to ease access to PA 529 accounts and bolster savings for families using the program. She eliminated the minimum deposit to open a PA 529 account and lowered the minimum contribution to $1. PA 529 IP account owners have seen a state fee reduction, while PA 529 GSP account owners had asset-based fees waived for the current fiscal year and qualifying GSP accounts received a $100 deposit last summer funded by GSP fund surplus earnings.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It was created by Act 16 of 1987, the Rural Pennsylvania Revitalization Act. The Center works with the legislature, educators, state and federal executive branch agencies, and national, statewide, regional, and local organizations to maximize resources and strategies that can better serve Pennsylvania’s nearly 3.4 million rural residents.

For more information about PA 529 accounts, visit pa529.com.

 

Media Contacts:
Samantha Heckel, Press Secretary (Treasury), 717-418-0206 or sheckel@patreasury.gov
Christine Caldara Piatos, Communications Manager (Center for Rural Pennsylvania), 717-787-9555 or caldarac@rural.pa.gov

Nick Troutman, Chief of Staff
Office of State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23)
362 Main Capitol Building, Senate Box 203023
Harrisburg, PA  17120
T: (717) 787-3280
F: (717) 772-0575

Public Hearing on Teacher Shortages

Senate Education Committee

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 | 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Hearing Room 1, North Office Building


Agenda

Public Hearing on Teacher Shortages

Bartolotta, Martin Renew Efforts to Enact Child Reunification Legislation

HARRISBURG – State Sens. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington) and Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) renewed legislative efforts today to help provide a new tool to reunify lost children with their parents.

The senators announced they are seeking support for legislation that would provide parents with free identification kits that include fingerprinting materials, DNA collection swabs and other information that can be used to help identify the child in case of an emergency.

To protect the personal information of children and families, the information would be stored securely by parents and would not be entered in any sort of state or national database, the senators said.

“A child going missing is a nightmare scenario for parents, and families in this terrible situation need to provide personal identifying information about their child to law enforcement as quickly as possible,” Bartolotta said. “It is crucial for families to have this tool available, even if we hope they never need to use it.”

“When a child goes missing, every second and every detail counts,” Martin said. “Providing this resource to parents will give law enforcement every opportunity to locate a missing child and return them to their family to prevent future tragedies.”

The Child Reunification Act is part of a national grassroots effort to expand child identification programs. The community safety initiative was started by the American Football Coaches Association in 1997 in response to the abduction of Amber Hagerman, for whom the Amber Alert was named. 

Across the nation, these efforts have been known as the Greene-Trumka Child Reunification Act, honoring the longtime support of Pittsburgh Steelers legend Joe Greene and the late AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center, there were 30,618 active missing person records for juveniles under the age of 18 as of Dec. 31, 2019. More than 500,000 children in the United States go missing each year – one child every 40 seconds, on average.

 

CONTACT:     Jason Thompson (Martin)

                          Katrina Hanna (Bartolotta)

Hearing on Student Mental Health Services

Senate Appropriations Committee

Tuesday, February 21| 11 a.m.

Temple University
Fox School of Business – Alter Hall
MBA Commons, 7th Floor
1801 Liacouras Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19122


Agenda

Hearing on Student Mental Health Services

Meeting of the Members of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee

 

Legislative Budget and Finance Committee

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | 9:30 a.m.


Agenda

Welcome by Senator Brewster

Prescription Drug Pricing Under the Medical Assistance Managed Care Program, pursuant to Act 2020-120
     • Report Presenter:
        – Christopher Latta, MBA | Deputy Executive Director

A Study Pursuant to House Resolution 2021-68: Rural Dental Health
     • Report Presenter:
        – Stephen Fickes, MPA | Project Manager

 

Informational

PA 529 Savings and Investment Accounts

Watch Live Capitol Media Center

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity and Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), Vice Chair Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121) and Executive Director Dr. Kyle C. Kopko will announce the findings of the Differences in Rural and Urban PA 529 Education Savings Accounts, 2018-2022 Report, which focuses on differences between rural and urban PA 529 account owners.

WHAT:       Announcement of the Differences in Rural and Urban PA 529 Education Savings Accounts,
                  2018-2022 Report findings.

WHO:        Treasurer Stacy Garrity
                  Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23)
                  Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121)
                  Executive Director Dr. Kyle C. Kopko

WHEN:      Tuesday, January 31, 2023
                   11 a.m.

WHERE:    Capitol Media Center
                   East Wing, State Capitol Building
                   Harrisburg, PA

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Samantha Heckel, Press Secretary (Treasury), 717-418-0206 or sheckel@patreasury.gov
Christine Caldara Piatos, Communications Manager (Center for Rural Pennsylvania),
717-787-9555 or caldarac@rural.pa.gov

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