In This Update:
Aument & Martin Schedule Special COVID-19 Vaccine Virtual & Telephone Town Hall on March 2
Senator Scott Martin & I will host a special virtual and telephone town hall event on Tuesday March 2 at 5:30pm to discuss Lancaster County’s COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Plan and answer questions regarding the vaccine.
Special guests include:
Wolf Administration Announces Plan to Add Tolls to Nine Existing PA Bridges
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) unveiled a proposal last week to toll nine existing bridges on the Interstate System. The plan raised serious concerns since it was done unilaterally by the Wolf Administration without any sense of transparency or accountability, and without the input or authorization of the General Assembly.
Eight of the nine bridges are in Senate Districts represented by Republicans. The tolling proposal would impact the following bridges:
Imposing these bridge tolls will negatively impact the people who use those highways as part of their daily commute — just as surely as if we would impose any of the other taxes that the governor wants to levy as part of his budget this year. Legislation will be proposed soon to reform the statute that PennDOT is utilizing to push this plan forward and prevent new tolling without proper transparency and oversight.
Lawmakers Authorize Use of PA National Guard to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine
The Senate voted recently to authorize the use of the Pennsylvania National Guard to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. The bill would allow the National Guard to operate under the guidance of the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Human Services to help collect, secure and transport doses of the vaccine.
In addition, National Guard members who have the necessary training would be permitted to administer the vaccine to Pennsylvanians who want to receive it. The proposal could help improve Pennsylvania’s troubled roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state currently ranks 46th in the nation in terms of the percentage of distributed vaccines that have been administered.
Senate Approves Bill to Generate More Private Donations to Support Veterans
Pennsylvanians could donate more money to help veterans under a bill the Senate approved on Wednesday. The legislation would increase the donation amounts to the Veterans’ Trust Fund when Pennsylvanians renew a driver’s license, ID card or vehicle registration.
The bill would increase the donation amount from $3 to $5, or from $6 to $10 when applying for a two-year vehicle registration. All donations support grants to county directors of veterans’ affairs, veterans’ service organizations and other charitable organizations that provide assistance, shelter and living necessities to veterans and their families.
Legislation Would Create Medals of Commendation for Firefighters, Law Enforcement, EMS
The Senate passed legislation this week that would create a new way to honor members of law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS personnel who demonstrate uncommon heroism in the line of duty. The bill would establish special medals of commendation to be awarded to members of these organizations who are injured or killed in the line of duty, or who demonstrate exceptional gallantry, heroism and bravery in the face of life-threatening circumstances.
The color of each medal – the Star of Valor, Heart and Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice – would coordinate with the respective program: blue for law enforcement, red for firefighters, and white for EMS personnel.
Senate Passes Bill to Boost Farmland Preservation
Pennsylvania’s farmland preservation efforts could take a critical step forward under legislation approved by the Senate on Tuesday. The bill would help generate new funding for the program without placing additional burdens on taxpayers.
The legislation dedicates a portion of existing farmland preservation funding to private land trusts – groups that take stewardship over a property with the permission of the landowner. Land trusts would be required to provide matching funds, which would make more resources available to preserve farms.
Senator Aument Reintroduces Bills to Help Students, Protect Taxpayers, & Grow the Economy
I recently reintroduced two bills to ease the strain of the student loan debt crisis on current students and graduates, while emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility and protecting taxpayers.
If we are to restore Pennsylvania’s economy, it is crucial that we seek to attract the next generation of college graduates to stay in our state after earning their degree to help grow our tax base and stimulate local economies. As such, we cannot ignore the student loan debt crisis. Addressing it in a fiscally responsible manner that serves the needs of students and taxpayers alike is absolutely critical if we want to help the next generation experience earned success and upward economic mobility in Pennsylvania.
The first bill in the package, Senate Bill 143, would support Pennsylvanians who graduated with significant student loan debt by creating the Student Loan Retirement Agreement Program, which would allow borrowers to repay onerous student loans through the use of Income Share Agreements (ISAs). Whereas the second bill in the package, Senate Bill 144, would authorize a study of the desirability and feasibility of using ISAs for current students attending a post-secondary institution as a way to finance their education. Watch the video above to learn how ISAs work.
Education reform is just one piece of my core legislative priorities for 2021, which include:
More information on both bills, the student loan debt crisis, income share agreements, and frequently asked questions can be found on my website at https://www.senatoraument.com/student-loan-debt/.
Read my full press release on the reintroduction of this package of bills here.
Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation Claimants Must File by March 12
The Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation program provides an additional $100 in weekly benefits for claimants who earned at least $5,000 in net income from self-employment. Claimants must submit acceptable documentation by March 12 to receive the extra benefits. The additional benefit applies from January 2 through March 13.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants are not eligible for the program. Details on the program, applicable tax years and documentation are available here.