School Mandate Relief Reviewed by Senate Education Committee

ALLENTOWN – The burden of state mandates on public schools was reviewed in depth during a public hearing of the Senate Education Committee today, according to Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), who chairs the committee.

“We ask our educators to do many things on a daily basis – it’s no surprise this leads to overburdened workers and ever-increasing costs,” said Argall. “As we continue to consider a better way to fund our public schools, making school operations more efficient must be part of the conversation.”

The hearing was requested by Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-16), who introduced Senate Bill 569 to reinstitute a mandate waiver program that operated from 2000 to 2010. Over 700 applications were approved during the previous program, saving a significant amount of local taxpayer dollars.

The committee heard testimony from representatives of public schools including Dr. Mark Madson, the Superintendent of Parkland School District, and Andy Christ, the Senior Director of Education Policy at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The committee then heard testimony from Dr. Tina Chekan, the CEO and Superintendent of Propel Charter Schools, and Dr. Michael Herrera, the Executive Director of Upper Bucks Technical School about how mandates affect their institutions.

Their testimony focused on many of the most burdensome requirements schools face, citing examples regarding school construction, advertising, and requests for information via the Right-to-Know law.

“Education is the most important item in our entire state budget,” Argall continued. “We need to ensure that these dollars are being spent on what truly matters – preparing our children for the future.”

CONTACT: Jim Brugger, 717-787-2637

Citing Sound Fiscal Management, Fitch Upgrades Pennsylvania’s Bond Rating

HARRISBURG – As a result of Pennsylvania’s sound financial management and strong budgetary reserves, one of the nation’s leading credit rating agencies announced it would upgrade the state’s bond rating, according to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Scott Martin (R-Lancaster).

Fitch Ratings announced on Monday it would upgrade the state’s bond rating from AA- to AA, a rating last held by Pennsylvania in 2014. Martin said the upgrade should lead to lower debt service costs going forward, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

The agency specifically noted that the upgrade was the result of strong budgetary reserves and management of spending pressures, although it warned that drawing down these reserves could lead to negative ratings actions in the future.

Martin pointed out that Senate Republicans have led efforts in recent years to build the state’s Rainy Day Fund to historic highs and resist new recurring spending that is not supported by long-term revenue projections.

“This is another clear indication that Pennsylvania is on the right track in terms of how we are managing taxpayer dollars, as well as the importance of continuing to work toward a budget that meets the needs of our communities without placing new tax burdens on families and job-creators,” Martin said. “We have a clear roadmap on how to address the economic and demographic challenges we face in the years ahead. The key is having the courage to follow it by resisting calls for new programs and services that taxpayers cannot afford a few years from now.”

The rating boost follows other major credit rating agencies upgrading Pennsylvania’s long-term financial outlook. In September, Moody’s Investor Services and S&P Global Ratings both affirmed Pennsylvania’s current Bond Rating and revised the state’s financial outlook from “Stable” to “Positive.”


CONTACT: Jason Thompson

Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward Statement Shapiro’s RGGI Appeal Demonstrates Lack of Leadership

GREENSBURG – Today, Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Josh Shapiro’s decision to appeal the Commonwealth Court’s ruling that the Commonwealth’s entrance into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) without legislative approval violates the Pennsylvania constitution.

“Gov. Shapiro’s move to appeal RGGI to the Supreme Court is a maneuver to avoid having to make a tough decision. The truth is, Gov. Shapiro would rather unnecessarily tax Pennsylvanians and make them feel virtuous about raising their electricity rates and eliminate good paying jobs than face the traditional factions in his own Democratic party. The Commonwealth Court has already ruled this tax unconstitutional. More importantly, an electricity tax has no place in a commonsense energy policy for our Commonwealth.”


Erica Clayton Wright

Shapiro’s RGGI Appeal is a Misguided Approach

HARRISBURG – Today, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41) issued the following statement on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s decision to appeal the Commonwealth Court’s ruling that entrance by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) without legislative approval violates the Pennsylvania Constitution.

“Just three weeks ago the Commonwealth Court ruled the RGGI Electricity Tax violates our state Constitution. This was a tremendous victory for Pennsylvanians. Today, Gov. Josh Shapiro has made the misguided decision to carry the failed mantle of his predecessor and appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

“Gov. Shapiro’s action further places family sustaining jobs at risk and stymies the ability for any meaningful conversations on energy and environmental policy in the Pennsylvania legislature. The governor should be standing with working families who are struggling with inflationary costs and pressures from higher electric bills. Ignoring the needs of Pennsylvanians while simultaneously working to circumvent the constitution is a reckless and irresponsible approach.

“I am hopeful the Supreme Court will dispatch this matter quickly and the governor will accept the only real recommendation of his RGGI Working Group – that any type of cap and trade effort be approved through the legislature. We will not negotiate environmental and energy policy with the anvil of RGGI hanging over the heads of Pennsylvanians. The responsible enactment of energy policies which balance development of our God-given natural resources with environmental needs continues to be our focus.”


MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Eckhart Flessner

Public hearing on school mandate relief

Senate Education Committee

Tuesday, November 28, 2023 | 1 p.m.

Parkland School District Admin. Center
1210 Springhouse Road
Allentown, PA 


            1:00 p.m. – 1:10 p.m.   Opening remarks

                                                Senator Dave Argall, Majority Chair, Education Committee

                                                Senator Lindsey Williams, Minority Chair, Education Committee

                                                Senator Jarrett Coleman, 16th District                                        

            1:10 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.   Panel #1

                                                Dr. Mark Madson, Superintendent, Parkland School District – Testimony

                                                Andy Christ, Senior Director of Education Policy, Pennsylvania School Boards Association – Testimony                        

            2:15 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.   Panel #2

                                                Dr. Tina Checkan, CEO and Superintendent, Propel Charter Schools – Testimony

                                                Dr. Michael Herrera, Executive Director, Upper Bucks Technical School – Testimony

            2:50 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.   Closing Remarks

Additional written testimony – PASBO

Mastriano Bill Would Divest PA from Companies Benefitting Chinese Government

HARRISBURG – As the state of California and City of San Francisco this week welcomed communist Chinese President Xi Jinping, here in Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) is sending a different message by introducing a bill to divest all commonwealth holdings in companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“President Xi Jinping has committed crimes against humanity and Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars should not be used to prop up companies that support his repressive regime,” Mastriano said. “Pennsylvania taxpayers through this bill can tell President Xi Jinping to take his communist rhetoric and record of human rights violations with him back to China.”

Jinping arrived Tuesday in San Francisco to take part in a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Leaders from the 21-member APEC group are meeting to promote investment, trade and economic development in nations around the Pacific Ocean.

Mastriano’s bill would require the state treasurer and the commonwealth’s two largest public pension systems – the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) – to gradually divest from holdings in companies controlled by the CCP. 

Jinping and his government are accused of committing wide-ranging atrocities and human rights violations. The regime’s widespread and systematic persecution of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities on religious, cultural and ethnic grounds, combined with other violations based on gender, constitute crimes against humanity. The United Nations in August released a report assessing human rights concerns in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The CCP also has employed force and aggression to methodically erode self-rule in Hong Kong, weaken democracy in Taiwan and abuse basic human rights in Tibet.

Much of the fentanyl that has killed Pennsylvanians in the ongoing opioid epidemic was manufactured in China.

“Chinese government policies are directly leading to the death of Pennsylvania residents,” Mastriano said. “This is a moral issue and it’s time for us as a commonwealth to take a stand.”

Mastriano currently is circulating the bill concept with his Senate colleagues and seeking co-sponsors.

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 Funding, Additional Transparency for State-Related Universities

HARRISBURG – The Senate voted overwhelmingly to support funding and additional transparency measures for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities today, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39), Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Scott Martin (R-13).

Under House Bill 1461, general support for Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University would remain at the previous year’s levels. Lincoln University and Penn College of Technology would receive increases of $3,235,000.

According to existing law, funding in the bill is directed to provide tuition discounts for in-state students, and universities are required to meet strict financial reporting requirements as a condition of receiving the money.

In addition, the Senate approved House Bill 1556, which would require greater transparency from state-related universities. The bill would ensure the institutions provide additional information in their annual Right-to-Know Law filing, including information related to contracts, financial statements, faculty, compensation, enrollment, courses and meeting minutes.

The Presidents and Chancellor of the state-related universities have voiced their support for both bills.

“Many of us disagree with some of the actions at the state-related universities, said Ward. “However, this funding benefits students and families directly by reducing in-state tuition and we need to assist them.”

“This is a consensus product, and I am pleased the governor has committed in writing to sign both pieces of legislation we have advanced. The investment we are making will support students and prepare our workforce for tomorrow, while at the same time will bring greater transparency to our state-related universities,” Pittman said. “Be assured our work to implement greater transparency does not end here. We will continue to push for more clarity when providing appropriations for next year as well.”

“As an obligation to taxpayers whose money we are investing, our primary goal in funding higher education should be to give an opportunity for students to further their education, job skills, and credentialing to graduate and move on to family-sustaining careers and financial success, preferably in Pennsylvania, and meet workforce needs in our Commonwealth. We must continue to move closer to a performance-based model that meets that goal, while also finding ways we can be more attractive to potential students from other states to make Pennsylvania their home. That is the best way we can reverse the troubling economic and demographic trends we’ve seen in recent years and encourage more graduates to get jobs here, start families here, and build their lives here,” Martin said.


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

Robinson, Kane, Haywood Announce Legislation Addressing Lead in School Water

HARRISBURG – Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37) was joined by Sens. John Kane (D-9) and Art Haywood (D-4), along with industry professionals to announce legislation that would require testing and mitigation for lead in Pennsylvania schools’ drinking water.

Senate Bill 986, sponsored by Robinson, Kane and Haywood, would establish the Safe School Drinking Water Fund to ensure all school drinking water outlets are equipped with certified point of use filters by Jan. 1, 2026. The legislation would also remove all drinking water fountains and install bottle-filling stations with certified point of use lead filters.

“Every day, many children and staff unknowingly drink dangerous amounts of lead in their schools’ water. The potential negative effects of lead are far greater for children than adults since it can cause physical, mental and emotional concerns for growing bodies” Robinson said. “Our children deserve to drink safe and healthy water while attending school.”

In 2018, Pennsylvania enacted legislation to encourage schools to test for lead and report to the Department of Education if the findings were considered dangerous. Since it wasn’t mandated, many schools did not test their water, resulting in the Department of Education being unable to collect accurate data.

“Lead contamination is not just about pipes; it’s about our children’s futures,” Kane said. “Our schools deserve nothing less than an all-out effort to replace every old drinking fountain with lead-filtering stations. With our children’s health at stake, it’s imperative that we take every necessary step to ensure a healthy, lead-free environment for our children’s growth.”

“Immediate action is imperative, as even minimal levels of lead pose a grave threat to the health and development of our young minds. We cannot ignore the well-documented adverse effects, including damage to the brain and nervous system, physical growth delays, learning and behavior problems, and speech and hearing impairment,” Haywood said. “Our objective is crystal clear: to deliver clean, safe water to every student in the Commonwealth, no matter the school district boundaries.”

The bill will be considered by the Senate Education Committee.

Watch the full news conference here.

Allison Dutrey (Robinson)

Matt Franchak (Kane)

Erin K. Serre (Haywood)

Argall Bill to Punish Looters Wins Bipartisan Senate Approval

HARRISBURG – In the aftermath of widespread looting in Philadelphia and many other cities, the Senate approved Sen. Dave Argall’s legislation to prevent these crimes by a bipartisan vote of 46-4 today.

“We must stop this dramatic increase in retail theft – the sooner, the better,” said Argall.

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 create a first-degree felony offense, which can result in up to 20 years in prison, for thieves who steal $20,000 worth of goods and intend to resell them.

The bill would also create the Office of Deputy Attorney General for Organized Retail Crime Theft to pursue the leaders of these criminal rings.

It now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.


CONTACT: Jim Brugger, 717-787-2637

Senate Approves Martin Resolution Evaluating Success of School Safety Programs

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a resolution today to initiate a comprehensive study of Pennsylvania’s approach to school safety to build on recent successes to keep kids safer in the classroom, according to the resolution’s sponsor, Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster).

Senate Resolution 178 calls for the non-partisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to conduct a study and provide recommendations regarding future potential legislative actions to further strengthen school safety and security programs and services created under Act 44 of 2018, of which Martin was one of the lead authors.

The law created Pennsylvania’s School Safety and Security Grant Program, formed the Safe2Say Something anonymous school threat reporting system, and created the School Safety and Security Committee under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).

“The Senate has led the way in making sure our schools have the resources they need to keep kids safe,” Martin said. “Now that these programs have been in place for five years, it is critical to take a look back at what we have accomplished and consider ways to make these programs even more efficient and effective in the years ahead.”

Martin’s resolution would direct LBFC to work with PCCD to gather input from a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the American Institute of Architects, and the state’s major agencies representing schools to review and analyze the successes of Act 44 of 2018.

The study would not only evaluate programs in Pennsylvania, but also include a review of safety and security best practices in other states.

LBFC would be required to present a report of findings and recommendations to the legislature no later than November 30, 2024.

Martin added that the resolution was developed and improved with the input of Republican and Democrat members over the past several months.

“Creating this resolution was a collaborative, bipartisan process, and I appreciate the input from members on both sides of the aisle to ensure the information we gather from this study ultimately helps make our children safer at school,” Martin said.

The LBFC and its staff have conducted numerous projects covering a wide range of important public policy and state program areas, including among others aging, emergency preparedness, community and economic development, education, environmental protection, game and fisheries, health and welfare, law enforcement, liquor control, local government, rural affairs, transportation, and veteran’s affairs.

CONTACT: Jason Thompson

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