Following $600 Million Settlement, Mastriano, Vogel and Brooks Introduce Bill to let East Palestine Train Derailment Victims Keep More Money

HARRISBURG – In the wake of the recent $600 million settlement reached by Norfolk Southern in its class-action lawsuit related to its train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last year, state Sens. Doug Mastriano (R-33), Elder Vogel, Jr. (R-47), and Michele Brooks (R-50) today introduced legislation to provide a state tax deduction for Pennsylvanians who receive payments.

“Ohio has already established a deduction for their residents who received payments and I believe it’s fair to do the same for Pennsylvanians.,” said Mastriano, who serves as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, hosted a hearing immediately following the train wreck, and subpoenaed Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to appear before the committee. “Businesses have been shuttered, property values have plummeted, and personal medical expenses continue to accrue. This tax deduction will help put more money back into the pockets of the victims.”

Mastriano, Vogel and Brooks today introduced Senate Bill 1149 to provide a state income tax deduction for disaster relief payments provided to Pennsylvania residents by a government agency, Norfolk Southern or an insurer as the result of the Feb. 3, 2023, train wreck. The deduction would also be retroactive to any payments received by victims in 2023.

“I am pleased to be partnering with Sen. Mastriano and Sen. Brooks on this legislation,” Vogel said. “There are many residents still having to deal with negative, residual effects from the derailment, which have caused increased financial burdens on these hurting families. Through our proposal of establishing a state tax deduction for Pennsylvania residents who have or will receive future disaster relief payments, we aim to help alleviate some of the financial stress they are experiencing and continue to help these families as we navigate further through the aftermath of this tragic accident.”

The train wreck took place just across the western border of Pennsylvania and was followed two days later on Feb. 5, 2023, by the planned ignition and burning of five railroad cars carrying dangerous chemicals. The toxic plume resulted in residents reporting various medical problems including rashes, burning lips, sore throats, itchy eyes and other skin irritations. Residents reported additional medical concerns at a follow-up hearing held last month by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

“I’m committed to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to provide meaningful help to the hurting residents affected by this train wreck,” Brooks said. “This bill would enable these families to keep more of the money that is intended to help them begin to try to move on from this incident. I believe this tax deduction is the responsible thing to do for these residents.”

Senate Bill 1149 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Mastriano contact: Josh Herman

Vogel contact: Abby Chiumento

Brooks contact: Adam Gingrich

Laughlin To Introduce Legislation To Help Property Owners Deal with Squatters

HARRISBURG – State Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) today announced his plans to soon introduce legislation aimed at codifying Pennsylvania case law to establish more certainty for landlords, law enforcement and homeowners who encounter squatters.

“Squatters are a growing problem throughout our nation,” said Laughlin. “Trespassers unlawfully taking over homes is becoming an increasingly prevalent dilemma for property owners and poses a significant threat to the stability and security of our citizens and communities. Unfortunately, there is no standard approach to dealing with squatters across different states.”

For example, in New York, any occupant who has been in possession of a premises for thirty consecutive days or longer is granted tenancy rights. This means that even if a person or persons did not obtain possession legally from the owner, they would be considered tenants. Pursuing formal eviction procedures would be necessary to remove these squatters from the premises.

Under Pennsylvania law, such squatters would be considered trespassers once the landowner warns them they are not welcome and instructs them to vacate the property. Should the squatters remain in any place where they are not licensed or privileged to be, they commit the offense of defiant trespass.

Given the inconsistencies and lack of clarity in how different states address squatter concerns, Pennsylvania must establish clear and uniform guidelines for our state. The legislation to be proposed would clarify the legal status of squatters in Pennsylvania and streamline the process of removing them from residential properties.

“We must protect the rights of property owners while ensuring squatters are dealt with in a fair and timely manner,” Laughlin said.

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


Contact:           David Kozak   717-787-8927

Laughlin Introduces PA Uniform Firearms Act Update for Medical Marijuana

HARRISBURG – As the nation prepares to commemorate the significance of the Second Amendment on April 17th with 2A Day, Pennsylvania state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) has taken a bold step toward ensuring the rights of all citizens by introducing legislation, Senate Bill 1146, aimed at amending Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act to align with the state’s legalization of medical marijuana.

2A Day was established in 2019 and serves as an annual celebration dedicated to honoring the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. This special occasion acknowledges the importance of the right to bear arms, a fundamental aspect of American freedom.

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act was enacted allowing individuals to legally treat specific medical conditions with marijuana. Since enactment, many laws have been updated to include the lawful use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

However, some Pennsylvania laws, including the state’s Uniform Firearms Act, continue to view all marijuana use as unlawful. Consequently, even a person with a valid medical marijuana card is prohibited by existing law from having a license to carry a firearm.

“My legislation will make sure a valid medical marijuana cardholder is no longer considered an unlawful marijuana user,” said Laughlin. “Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, we should be updating Pennsylvania’s laws to ensure valid medical marijuana cardholders are not denied their rights.”

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

Contact:  David Kozak   717-787-8927

House Approves Culver Bill to Protect Domestic Animals as Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Quarantines Cattle to Prevent Avian Flu Spread

HARRISBURG – Today, the state House of Representatives approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-27) to help protect domestic animals and the food supply against dangerous transmissible diseases. This passage happens as a rise in reported avian flu outbreaks in dairy cattle has been seen in several states across the nation.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the House of Representative for their affirmative vote on Senate Bill 979,” said Culver. “When it is signed into law it will allow the Department of Agriculture to have individuals or businesses who deal in domestic animal, commercial feed, or pet food sales post on their premises departmental notices regarding dangerous transmissible diseases.”

The bill will now be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

Avian influenza has not been detected in Pennsylvanian cattle, but has been found in several western and midwestern states. Due to the rise in reported avian flu outbreaks in dairy cattle, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) is requiring any dairy cows coming into Pennsylvania from an outside state to be quarantined and tested for the virus.

The quarantine only affects dairy cattle from any state where avian influenza has been confirmed during the past 30 days. Among other requirements, the dairy cattle may not be imported to, stopped off in or unloaded in Pennsylvania without testing of nasal swabs and milk.

“I commend Secretary Redding and the Department of Agriculture for taking a proactive approach to the potential spread of avian influenza to cattle, which we are starting to see in other states,” said Culver. “A biosecurity plan is a great way to defend livestock from the spread of disease. We have seen how Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – HPAI – decimated many poultry farms across the state during the last few years.”

The PDA currently has the authority to issue quarantines and regulate the keeping of domestic animals to exclude or contain a dangerous transmissible disease. Culver’s bill would grant the department the ability to require any establishment in which domestic animals and feed are offered for public sale to post information about dangerous transmittable diseases.

More information about Culver is available online at Residents can follow her on Facebook at and on Instagram at for updates about legislative action in Harrisburg and news in the 27th District.


CONTACTBetsy Reichenbach 717-787-8928

Stefano Bill to Adjust Outdated Diesel Oil Requirement Now Law

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32) to adjust the outdated requirement for a qualified mechanic to perform an oil change every 100 hours on all diesel-powered equipment used by mining companies was signed into law yesterday.

Act 9, formerly Senate Bill 115, amended Pennsylvania’s Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act to more appropriately reflect the needs of equipment presently being used, as opposed to equipment from decades ago.

Mine operators can now request permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Mine Safety to extend the requirement for oil and oil filter changes from 100 to 200 hours.

“The old requirement was established 25 years ago when diesel engines were much less efficient. I’m glad the law now reflects the needs of current equipment so companies aren’t forced to take the time and pay the costs associated with unnecessary oil changes,” said Stefano. “It was a wasteful practice, and I’m hopeful this change leads to more efficient processes for mine operators.”

Watch Stefano’s remarks on the bill here.


CONTACT:    Amanda Cuteri, 717-787-7175

Senate Passes Brooks’ Bill to Protect Kids, Conserve Emergency Response Resources

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Michele Brooks (R-50) to introduce felony criminal penalties for falsely reporting threats at school entities and institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania passed the Senate today.

Senate Bill 975 would make it a felony of the third degree to knowingly report a false threat at a school or educational facility. In addition, it would allow courts to sentence anyone convicted to pay the costs of an evacuation or response that resulted from the threat.

These costs may include supplies, equipment or materials to respond to the threat, food that went unused because of the evacuation or diversion from standard operations of a school, and salary and wages – including overtime pay – for those who respond to the threat and any teacher, administrator or other educational facility employee who was paid despite the diversion.

“Last year, hoax callers falsely alerted law enforcement agencies of active school shooter situations across the state, including schools in Crawford, Mercer, and Lawrence counties.  These calls triggered a massive emergency response, causing tremendous stress for students their families and teachers, and using up valuable public safety resources,” Brooks said. “If we don’t take action to punish threats made to our schools, they will inevitably result in accidents, injuries and worse. This bill sends a clear message to perpetrators that reporting a false threat to schools and higher education institutions will result in serious criminal and financial consequences.”

Having received bipartisan Senate support, the bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Adam Gingrich, 717-787-1322

Republican Lawmakers Introduce “Grow PA” Higher Education Reform Plan to Support More Affordable Learning Opportunities, Pathways to PA Careers


HARRISBURG – Students in Pennsylvania would have access to more affordable post-secondary education options leading to quality careers in the state under a plan announced today by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), Senate Majority Whip Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster), Senate Education Committee Chair David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Senator Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery/Berks).

According to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, Pennsylvania is expected to have 12% fewer college students by 2029 than it did in 2013. Dwindling enrollment and migration of young people out of the state creates extremely difficult economic and demographic challenges that will put greater stress on the state budget and potentially lead to the loss of federal funding and representation, the lawmakers said.

The “Grow PA” plan would help make Pennsylvania more competitive in attracting and retaining students to attend college and complete certificate and job-training programs and would provide incentives for graduates to remain in the state after graduation.

“Pennsylvania needs a fresh approach to post-secondary education to ensure we can be more competitive and overcome the economic and demographic challenges that threaten our state’s future,” Martin said. “We need to encourage more students to learn here, put down roots here, work here, and grow here.”

“We cannot continue to invest more in our system without any respect to the outcomes that system is producing,” Aument said. “Instead, we should move to a performance-based funding model that will allow us to scrutinize the dollars we’re already spending and focus state resources on students and programs that align with career fields that are in demand in Pennsylvania. Creating a direct pipeline from Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to Pennsylvania jobs will not only help students to swiftly gain meaningful employment in a career field they’re passionate about, but it will also grow our population and our economy in a time when our working age population is diminishing.”

“Quality higher education has the potential to improve the lives of our students and their families and breathe new life into our communities, but it’s clear that Pennsylvania is falling behind the competition,” Argall said. “This much-needed legislation will guide students to high-demand careers and strengthen all of our colleges and universities, including our technical education colleges at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and Penn College.”

“A highly skilled workforce is the bedrock of any strong economy and the best way for Pennsylvania to invest in higher education is to fund the student, not systems,” Pennycuick said. “Grow PA promotes our economy’s future by ensuring that our students have the support they need to choose the path to success that is right for them.”

Grow PA includes the creation of two new programs to encourage students in Pennsylvania and from out-of-state to enroll in higher education programs on the condition that they remain and work in Pennsylvania after completing their studies.

The new Grow PA Scholarship Grant Program would provide funding to make college more affordable for students in high-demand industries, including agriculture, energy, health care, teachers, law enforcement, and more. The grants would be available for students attending any Pennsylvania school – including career and technical schools like Thaddeus Stevens College and Pennsylvania College of Technology – in one of the priority fields of study.

In addition, a new Merit Scholarship Program would help attract high-performing out-of-state students to Pennsylvania educational programs in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools.

For both new programs, students would be required to work in Pennsylvania for a period of time. Graduates who fail to remain in Pennsylvania after graduation would have the grants or scholarships converted to loans.

Grow PA also includes the expansion of several existing higher education assistance programs that are working, including the popular Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to high-achieving students to cover the cost of post-secondary education.

The Targeted Industry Support Program, which helps cover the cost of a wide variety of certificate programs in high-growth industries, would also be expanded.

Expanding the state’s existing Foster/Adopted Child Program nationwide is also included in the plan, as well as Increasing dual enrollment and further promoting career and technical opportunities.

In addition, Grow PA would encourage universal completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so students and families are fully aware of what financial aid packages are available to them and can make informed post-secondary education decisions.

The Senate already approved a bill mandating universal FAFSA completion in June 2023.

The plan also creates a performance-based funding model for state-related universities, adding accountability to the process of funding these schools and ensuring tax dollars provide the greatest benefit to Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Grow PA represents a responsible alternative to Governor Shapiro’s higher education plans, which have drawn criticism for a lack of attention to detail. The alternative plan presents a way to achieve the main post-secondary education goals of both parties at a lower cost than the governor’s concepts.

Representative Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), who is Republican Chair of the House Education Committee, helped create the plan and intends to lead introduction of the bills in the House of Representatives.


CONTACT:           Jason Thompson

Senate Committee Approves Mastriano Bill to Help Veterans’ Families Access Burial Benefits

HARRISBURG – The state Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Tuesday at a meeting chaired by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) approved three measures, including one bill to alert the family members of deceased veterans about federal burial benefits.

“Our veterans took care of us and our country while they were alive, so we want to take care of their families when they pass away,” Mastriano said.

The committee approved Mastriano’s Senate Bill 1139, which would require funeral directors, funeral parlors or cemetery companies to notify the director of the county veterans assistance office when a veteran living in the county dies. They also would have to provide the deceased veteran’s family with contact information for the county director The goal is to ensure veterans’ family members become aware of federal Department of Veterans Affairs burial benefits.

“Our veterans earned their burial benefits by serving our nation,” Mastriano said. “Burial benefits are one of the final ways our nation can show appreciation to our veterans. Fostering communication between surviving family members, funeral directors and county directors of veterans affairs offices will ensure the family gains access to the veteran’s records and the veteran receives a proper farewell.”

The committee also approved Senate Bill 973, which is modeled after the federal Korean American Vietnam Allies Long Overdue Relief (VALOR) Act. The bill would create the Pennsylvania Korean VALOR Act and grant the same rights, benefits and privileges of United States military veterans to any Pennsylvania resident who is both a Vietnam War veteran of the Korean armed forces and a naturalized citizen of the United States.

There are more than 3,000 naturalized Korean American citizens who served in the Vietnam War as part of the Korean armed forces. Hundreds of these veterans, who fought alongside U.S. military forces, reside in Pennsylvania.

“The president signed into law the Korean American VALOR Act in 2023,” Mastriano said. “This federal law – and the state equivalent we are advancing – offers long-overdue benefits to allies who fought alongside American veterans.”

The third measure approved by the committee – Senate Resolution 263 – was introduced by Mastriano and would signal the Senate’s support and encouragement for the Pennsylvania National Guard to enter a partner agreement with Sweden through the U.S. State Partnership Program.

“The National Guard Bureau is looking for a state national guard to partner with Sweden through the U.S. State Partnership Program, and I believe the Pennsylvania National Guard should pursue this opportunity,” Mastriano said. “Pennsylvania National Guard has enjoyed a successful relationship with Lithuania for more than three decades. The partnership with Sweden could strengthen our Pennsylvania National Guard by enabling members to train in unique environments and scenarios while fostering mutual growth and security.”

All three bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

Constituents of the 33rd District can learn more about Mastriano by visiting his website at or following him on Facebook at

Media contact: Josh Herman

Senate Approves Measure Requiring Prosecutors to Notify ICE of Illegal Migrants Violating State Law

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Senate has approved legislation, Senate Bill 1127, that would require prosecutors across the state to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whenever illegal migrants are charged with violating state law, according to bill sponsors Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) and Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35).

Earlier this year, two NYPD officers were assaulted in broad daylight by illegal migrants. Several of the offenders had been previously arrested but not reported to ICE and were released back on the streets. The shocking crime prompted New York City Mayor Eric Adams to call for ICE to be informed when illegal migrants have been charged with violations of state law.  

“We have seen far too many murders and violent crimes committed by illegal migrants with multiple prior arrests by various law enforcement agencies across the country,” said Laughlin. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows hundreds of homicides and thousands of other serious crimes committed by illegal migrants – some of whom were already facing criminal charges or had previous convictions – during just the past three years. This is unconscionable and must be remedied.”

Currently in Pennsylvania, violations of state law by illegal migrants are not required to be reported to ICE, but Senate Bill 1127 would change that to ensure illegal migrants who violate our laws are held accountable.

“This legislation is common sense. If you’re in our country illegally, and you violate the laws, you will be held accountable,” said Langerholc.

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

CONTACTS:   David Kozak (Sen. Laughlin)  717-787-8927
                       Gwenn Dando (Sen. Langerholc)       717-787-5400

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