Robinson Bill Allowing Doorless Driving of Jeeps, Broncos Becomes Law

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37) to allow doorless driving in Pennsylvania for vehicles such as Jeeps and Broncos was signed into law today.

Senate Bill 298 – now Act 61 of 2024 – adheres to logistical and safety standards important to residents and law enforcement, including requiring side view mirrors when doors are removed and upholding the seatbelt protections in place for minors.

“Today marks a significant milestone as the governor has signed Senate Bill 298 into law,” said Robinson. “This legislation brings Pennsylvania in line with the rest of the country regarding doorless driving. I am deeply thankful for the bipartisan support from my colleagues in both chambers. This new law not only grants vehicle owners greater freedom and enjoyment but also upholds the essential safety standards. It’s a victory for both adventure enthusiasts and those who prioritize safety.”

Drivers will be able to remove doors beginning mid-September.

Allison Dutrey

Aument Proposal to Limit Student Smartphone Use During School Signed into Law

The proposal aims to improve student mental health, academic performance, and social skills.

HARRISBURG – The General Assembly passed and the Governor signed a proposal championed by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) to improve students’ mental health and academic performance by giving schools the resources they need to effectively limit student smartphone use during the school day. The proposal incorporates the use of secure, lockable smartphone bags in which students would deposit their mobile devices until the end of the school day.

Specifically, Senate Bill 700 included Aument’s proposal to amend the School Safety & Mental Health grant program to allow for the purchase of these smartphone bags as an eligible use of the funding. The bill funded the program at $100 million and provided each school district with an automatic base grant of $100,000 and each intermediate unit, area career and technical school, charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school with an automatic base grant of $70,000.

“This funding is a huge opportunity for any school district looking to address one of the major root causes of the mental health crisis plaguing our kids – smartphones and social media,” said Aument. “Now that this proposal has been signed into law, I intend to work towards ensuring that every school district in Pennsylvania knows this funding is available to them and that a robust cellphone policy has the power to help them regain their students’ focus in class, restore the social environment on campus, and boost academic performance.”

Since the early 2010s, there has been a steep decline in mental health in children, and their academic performance is suffering. This decline directly correlates to the rise of smartphones and social media apps.

“Kids spend so much time on social media and using their smartphones that it’s taking a toll on them mentally, emotionally, and academically. Smartphone restrictions have proved successful in reversing these trends. Students deserve to learn without a constant distraction in their pockets, and my proposal would give them that.”

Senate Bill 700 also requires schools to develop and adopt an official policy to prohibit the use of cellphones during the school day in exchange for the grant funding to purchase the smartphone bags. While this requirement and the funding tied to it are currently voluntary for school districts, Aument says that moving forward he plans to pursue a statewide prohibition on cellphone use during school hours.

Senate Bill 700 is now Act 55 of 2024.

Learn more about Sen. Aument’s initiative to create smartphone-free schools in Pennsylvania and the research supporting it at

CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate

Regan Armed School Security Legislation Achieves Final Passage, Heads to Governor

HARRISBURG – Every school district across the commonwealth will have an armed school security officer thanks to the passage of legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Regan (R-31).

“This has been a 12-year process to get this important initiative across the finish line,” Regan said. “I am pleased that my colleagues this session recognized the value and necessity of having armed school security personnel in each of our schools.”

Regan’s first legislative proposal when he was a member of the House of Representatives was to require an armed officer in every school building in Pennsylvania. This was prompted by hearing the news of the Sandy Hook shooting just hours after he had welcomed a group of fourth graders to the Capitol at the end of 2012, before he was even sworn into office.

“I knew in that moment that with my background and experience in securing federal courthouses as a U.S. Marshal, I could offer a plan to protect our schools in Pennsylvania,” Regan said.

School security has been a top priority for Regan since then, and he has been a leader working with his caucus, including Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-35), a former assistant district attorney in Cambria County, to establish the School Safety and Security Committee at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and the School Safety and Security Grants Program.

“I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve for our schools to better protect students and staff,” Regan said. “But until now, there has been a major piece missing and that has been uniformity across the commonwealth with having armed security at our schools.”

Regan’s legislation, Senate Bill 907, was amended into Senate Bill 700, an omnibus School Code bill that was passed as part of the budget.  The school security personnel component requires each school entity – defined as a school district, an intermediate unit, an area career and technical school, a charter school or a private residential rehabilitative institution – to have one full-time, trained school security personnel, defined as school resource officers, school police officers, and school security guards. Additional funding is also being made available to assist schools with the hiring of an armed officer.

“As I prepare to bid farewell to my service in the Legislature, it gives me great pride to see this particular issue come to fruition,” said Regan. “My first piece of legislation is also one of my last, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to Senate leadership and my colleagues for their confidence in me on this issue and for their support for the bill.”


CONTACT: Bruce McLanahan

Senate Passes Stefano, Costa Bill Offering New Option to Reinstate Driving Privilege

HARRISBURG – The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Sens. Pat Stefano (R-32) and Jay Costa (D-43) that would allow magisterial district judges to give Pennsylvania drivers who are unable to pay the fees and fines of their suspended license the option to pursue community service as a payment alternative.

It would only apply to drivers whose suspension resulted from routine violations.

“In rural communities, residents are incredibly dependent on their vehicles to get anywhere they need to go: work, the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, school and even the hospital. Living in these areas without the ability to drive is beyond inconvenient. It’s debilitating,” Stefano said. “Drivers burdened with debt from traffic offenses deserve a solution to retain their license so that they can get back on the road and continue to contribute to our communities.”

Senate Bill 1118 would also allow those who currently have suspended licenses – due to violations of driving without a license, failure to appear in court or failure to pay fines – to be provided with the option of community service if a judge sees fit. The community service payment alternative could additionally apply to suspensions related to driving with a suspended license.

“The importance of reducing financial burdens on low-income drivers cannot be overstated, particularly when license suspensions related to an inability to pay traffic violations keep people from gainful employment, the pursuit of educational opportunities, and access to healthcare for themselves and their families. Particularly for young people who get caught in a cycle of indefinite license suspension, the results can be debilitating to their future prospects in school and the workforce,” Costa said. “Our bill is a win for drivers, employers and the state’s economic viability moving forward.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.


CONTACT:     Amanda Cuteri, (Stefano’s office), 717-787-7175

                        Savannah Thorpe, (Costa’s office), 717-787-7683

Argall: Bipartisan Budget Support Students

HARRISBURG – Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) voted to support the 2024-25 state budget, which cuts $740 million from Governor Shapiro’s original proposal and adds nearly $740 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund to protect against future economic downturns, when it was approved by a strongly bipartisan vote of 44-5 by the state Senate.

“As the chair of the Senate Education Committee, I’m very pleased to see this state budget includes significant funding increases for all of our local students in Carbon, Luzerne, and Schuylkill counties at all levels, from Pre-K to grad school,” said Argall.

Career and technical schools, community colleges, and dual enrollment programs, which allow students in high school to take college courses, all received significant new investments.

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General received more than $2.7 million for a new task force to prosecute perpetrators of organized retail theft. Act 42 of 2023, authored by Argall, created this new team to crack down on these thieves and strengthened the criminal penalties for organized retail theft.


CONTACT: Jim Brugger

Yaw Measure Establishing Carbon Capture Framework in PA Headed to Governor’s Desk

HARRISBURG – Legislation to establish the legal and regulatory framework for potential carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) in Pennsylvania is headed to the governor’s desk, according to Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), sponsor of the measure.

The Senate concurred on Senate Bill 831 after it was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives.

“This legislation is a proactive step to secure Pennsylvania’s future as a hub for carbon capture and sequestration,” Yaw said. “It’s a pragmatic solution to a problem that we all want to solve – reducing our carbon emissions without crippling the reliability of our existing power grid.”

Currently, only the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims authority for CCUS, a process that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere emitted from industrial sites for reuse or storage underground. The Great Plains Institute, using data from a 2009 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources report, estimates the state could store about 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide underground. This is equivalent to the level of greenhouse gases emitted from 517 million gas-powered passenger vehicles annually, according to the EPA.

Yaw noted the legislation received support from the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, as well as the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. It is also supported by the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, the Allegheny-Fayette County Labor Council, the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council, the AFL-CIO and numerous other labor and environmental groups and industry representatives.

“Carbon capture technology has the potential to create a significant number of good paying jobs in the construction industry while simultaneously creating family-sustaining permanent jobs for the citizens of our commonwealth,” Robert Bair, Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council president, said. 

The bill now awaits the governor’s approval.

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

Senate Finalizes Empowering, Fiscally Responsible, Pro-Growth 2024-25 State Budget

HARRISBURG – Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39), Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41) and Appropriations Committee Chair Scott Martin (R-13) announced the approval of a fiscally responsible 2024-25 state budget today that is honest with taxpayers, creates new job opportunities for state residents, includes no new taxes and addresses the economic and demographic challenges the state faces in the years ahead.

The $47.59 billion spending plan is $740 million less than the proposal Gov. Josh Shapiro presented in February and allocates $740 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund – a key priority for Senate Republicans to avoid painful tax hikes or service cuts in future years. The budget includes crucial measures to boost Pennsylvania’s economy by continuing to phase out the Corporate Net Income Tax, a significant barrier to business expansion, and initiating the process of eliminating the Start-Up Penalty, which hampers businesses from relocating to the commonwealth.

“The governor and House Democrats started this budget process calling for unicorns and rainbows in the form of new spending on radically progressive programs and increased school funding in a few select locations across the state,” Ward said. “Instead, Senate Republicans prioritized funding for programs that are showing results so our residents get real benefits while serving as a backstop against tax increases that would have been forced by the Democrat agenda.”

“This budget is built on two fundamental principles – honesty and empowerment. It’s honest about the realities and the limitations of divided government. It’s honest about finding new ways to fund educational opportunities, helping those who provide health care and human services, and paying our commonwealth’s bills with no tricks, gimmicks or games,” Pittman said. “This is also a budget that empowers. It empowers parents to make decisions to benefit their children, job creators through permitting reforms and improving our state’s tax policies, law enforcement to maintain law and order, and taxpayers with $700 million more committed to our Rainy Day Fund.”

“I am thankful we reached a budget agreement that recognizes the need to address Pennsylvania’s economic and demographic challenges in the years ahead. In addition to making our state more competitive for job growth, the budget’s Grow PA plan will help young people train for high-demand careers while taking on less debt and providing a strong incentive for them to put down roots here in our commonwealth,” Martin said. “I’m also extremely proud that we fought to empower students and families so children can learn in the environment that best suits their unique educational needs.”

Significant resources are included to empower parents and families to make the best decisions possible on how to meet the unique educational needs of their children. The highly successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program, which provides scholarships to help families attend schools that best meet student needs, will receive an additional $75 million, bringing the total funding for the program to a record $630 million.

The plan also increases K-12 education funding by more than $1 billion, one of the largest funding increases in Pennsylvania’s history. New funding for the Basic Education subsidy ($285 million), Ready to Learn Block Grant program ($526 million) and school facility improvements ($100 million) will help meet Pennsylvania’s Constitutional mandate to provide a thorough and efficient system of education.

Senate Republicans fought to ensure these dollars are allocated fairly in a manner that benefits students throughout the commonwealth, not just those students who attend a small number of select schools.

Additional funding is also included for:

  • Special education ($100 million increase).
  • School safety and security and mental health ($50 million increase).
  • Career and technical education (CTE) ($25 million increase).
  • CTE equipment grants ($5 million increase).

School districts will also see reduced cyber charter school special education costs of approximately $34.5 million by transitioning to a state-funded reimbursement system that preserves educational options for families.

To help attract and retain more students to Pennsylvania schools and connect them with quality careers in their communities after graduation, the budget includes important components of the Grow PA post-secondary education and career preparation plan championed by Senate Republicans.

Under the plan, Grow PA scholarships of $5,000 would be available to students enrolled in high-demand education programs if they agree to live and work in these industries in Pennsylvania after graduation. In addition, $36 million in new funding for the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program will allow more students to qualify for assistance.

An additional $25 million is also included for career and technical education programs to ensure more young people are prepared for the challenges of today’s workforce.

Significant new resources will also be available for transportation infrastructure. The budget continues the process to phase out the State Police from the Motor License Fund and includes an additional $80.5 million in one-time dollars, making more resources available to help repair our roads and bridges.

Additional funding is also included to empower law enforcement and ensure healthier communities.

New funding is included for county mental health ($20 million) and rate increases for nursing facilities ($134 million), intellectual disability/autism services ($278 million) and LIFE providers ($16.7 million). Funding is also included to ensure nursing facilities receive reimbursement for care from day one ($11 million increase) and for a new initiative to provide intellectual disability/autism services to an additional 1,500 Pennsylvanians ($76 million).

The budget also continues Senate Republicans’ record of leadership on improving water quality by including $50 million for the Clean Streams Fund. The program, created in 2022, has supported the agriculture community in making significant improvements to water quality in communities throughout the state.

Funding is also included to continue to deal with the threat of avian influenza, including a new Agricultural Innovation and Development program funded at $10 million.

Lawmakers also addressed the persistent problem of permitting delays that have chased jobs and investment to other states. A new Streamlining Permits for Economic Expansion and Development (SPEED) Program will be created to establish permit review timelines by DEP and conservation districts. Additionally, a new permit tracking system will be implemented, and applicants will now have the option for third-party review of air, earth disturbance and water permit applications.

The Attorney General’s Office will also receive nearly $5 million in new funding to improve the safety of our communities through new law enforcement initiatives targeting human trafficking ($1 million), organized retail theft ($2.7 million) and appointing a special prosecutor for crimes on SEPTA properties ($1.2 million).

Video of News Conference


Erica Clayton Wright (Sen. Ward) 
Kate Flessner (Sen. Pittman) 
Jason Thompson (Sen. Martin) 

Bartolotta Tax Bill Helping Landowners with Mineral Rights Set for Enactment

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved Sen. Camera Bartolotta’s (R-46) bill today to give hardworking Pennsylvanians the same tax benefits afforded to investors. The bill was also amended to include language describing the tax code for the state budget.

Senate Bill 654 would bring Pennsylvania law in line with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax laws relating to the depletion of wells and mines. It would allow long-time landowners to claim the same depletion rate on their royalties as businesses that purchased mineral rights.

Investors who buy mineral rights have the appraised value of gas as the basis for the well depletion allowance provided in Pennsylvania while most landowners do not, as appraisals are cost-prohibitive.

Because of this, the IRS and some states, including neighboring West Virginia and Ohio, allow a simple percentage depletion allowance that is accessible to everyone paying tax on 85% of royalties.

“A retired public school teacher and farmer living in Washington County brought this important issue to my attention and deserves the credit for the financial benefits families will soon enjoy that investors already claim,” Bartolotta said. “Special thanks to him for taking the time to advocate for this change. I hope others are inspired to share their state-related concerns too.”

Currently, Pennsylvania law does not provide this kind of depletion deduction. While a regulation adopted in 2006 appears to provide for a cost-depletion method for mines, oil and gas wells, other natural deposits, and timber, the documents required by the regulation make it unworkable for most taxpayers who otherwise would be able to take the deduction.

The bill was also amended to include legislative language Bartolotta originally drafted as Senate Bill 629 that would exempt the removal of waste grease from various facilities, including from grease traps, from Sales and Use Tax (SUT). Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue determined this to be a form of maintenance and therefore subject to SUT. Unlike maintenance, the hauling and removal of general waste from building sites is exempt.

The bill also received approval from the House of Representatives and advances to the governor’s desk for consideration.


CONTACT: Katrina Hanna, 717-787-1463

Phillips-Hill’s Regulatory Reform Bill Incorporated into State Budget

Expedited Review Process, Greater Transparency for Permit Applications

HARRISBURG – In a significant move toward cutting government red tape, the state budget approved by the General Assembly included major regulatory reform efforts championed by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York).

As part of the comprehensive amendments to the state’s Fiscal Code, the measure includes an overhaul of the permitting process for land, air and water-related permits required by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and county conservation districts for development.

“This is a major win for the future of our Commonwealth,” Phillips-Hill said. “By cutting through the red tape, we’re not only supporting our current businesses and communities, but also laying the groundwork for future growth and prosperity in Pennsylvania. I am tired of losing jobs and economic opportunity to other states because Pennsylvania’s regulatory delays are too burdensome and make us uncompetitive. This effort will ensure that, regardless of whoever occupies the governor’s mansion or serves in the legislature, Pennsylvania is always open for business.”

The measure – Streamlining Permits for Economic Expansion and Development (SPEED) Program – contains a sweeping overhaul to expedite the permitting process utilized by DEP and county conservation districts, including:

  • Expedited Permit Review by a Third-Party: Applicants will be able to utilize third-party entities approved by the state to expedite the review process for air, land and water permits issued by DEP and county conservation districts. 
  • Permit Application Tracking System: Applicants will be able to check the status of their permits online, including processing times, review dates, and estimated time remaining for each phase.
  • Increased Accountability for DEP: The department will be held accountable for costs incurred by permit applicant for a priority review for failure of permit decision within allotted time period.

The language includes key elements from Senate Bill 350, sponsored by Sens. Phillips-Hill and Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry), which the Senate approved earlier this session with bipartisan support, as well as Gov. Josh Shapiro’s 2023 executive order.

“Growing our economy, creating new jobs, and putting Pennsylvania on a path to prosperity is not partisan, it’s commonsense. I am glad we were able to get this across the finish line,” Phillips-Hill added.


VIDEO (Discussion on the measure)
VIDEO (Senate floor remarks)

Pennycuick Bill Ensuring Educational Opportunities for Children of National Guard and Reserve Members Receives Final Legislative Approval

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-24) to reduce the educational challenges faced by children of National Guard and Reserve members was approved by the House of Representatives today and is set to become law. Senate Bill 209 was unanimously approved by the Senate in June.

Military families face frequent reassignments, posing educational challenges for children transitioning between schools in different states. Senate Bill 209 will give children of National Guard and Reserve members the same help provided to those of active-duty military families through the Military Interstate Children’s Compact. The compact provides a consistent set of policies that make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities, facilitating enrollment and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children.

“I raised young children during my military service and know firsthand the challenges military families can face,” Pennycuick said. “Military families often move, and children of National Guard and Reserve members can have a difficult time adjusting to new schools and new rules. By extending the benefits of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact, we will minimize educational disruption and help these families make the challenge of relocating a little less stressful.”

Pennycuick, a U.S. Army combat veteran, was appointed to the State Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children in 2023.

The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.


CONTACT: Matt Szuchyt

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