In This Update:
Voters Will Decide Three Ballot Questions on May 18
When voters head to the polls on May 18, they will have the final say on three potential amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The way the Wolf Administration worded two of these questions has been roundly criticized as confusing and prejudicial, so it is critical for voters to understand what the questions really mean before casting their votes.
The first question asks whether the General Assembly should be allowed to terminate an emergency declaration if a governor continues to wield emergency powers long after the disaster has passed. A YES vote means the General Assembly could serve as a check on the governor’s power during an emergency to protect the rights of Pennsylvanians.
The second question asks whether future emergency declarations should be limited to 21 days unless extended by the General Assembly. A YES vote means the governor would be prohibited from maintaining unilateral control for an indefinite period of time during an emergency.
The third question asks whether new protections should be added for Pennsylvanians based on race or ethnicity. A YES vote means the rights of all state residents would be protected – regardless of an individual’s race or ethnicity – and the new protections at the state level would match those provided by the U.S. Constitution.
I encourage you to share this information with your family, friends and neighbors so everyone understands what a YES vote means for these critical ballot questions in May.
Reminder: Share Your 2020 Election Experiences
The bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform is inviting Pennsylvania voters to share their experiences from the 2020 election by taking an election survey. The information will be reviewed by the committee and will be considered as part of future election reform measures.
The panel held a pair of hearings last month to gather input from local and state election officials, as well as county commissioners on the administration of the 2020 election, and to review best practices in other states that allow mail-in voting. Video and testimony from both hearings is available at https://pasenelectioncommittee.com/.
Stakeholders Voice Support for Prioritize PA: Small Businesses Initiative
Small businesses across Pennsylvania, particularly those in the hospitality industry, have suffered immensely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent mitigation efforts. That is why I have partnered with Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28), and Judy Ward (R-30) to launch the “Prioritize Pennsylvania: Small Businesses” initiative. Prioritize PA: Small Businesses is an effort to help our once-vibrant small businesses through the end of this pandemic and make significant reforms to revitalize Pennsylvania’s economy.
Several statewide industry groups have voiced their support for the proposals in the Prioritize Pennsylvania: Small Businesses legislative package, including the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Read the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association’s full letter of support here.
Senator Aument Appears on Podcast to Discuss Success of Collaborative Vaccine Task Force
I was pleased to join my colleague Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) on the latest episode of her podcast “Kristin’s Corner” to discuss how the collaborative approach of the Joint COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, of which I am a member, has improved the rollout of the vaccine across the state.
When the task force was formed a few months ago, Pennsylvania ranked 49th in the nation in percentage of Pennsylvanians having received the first dose of the vaccine. At that time, an ABC27 investigation found Pennsylvania lagged all adjacent states in administering the vaccine to eligible residents.
Due to the work of the task force, Pennsylvania now ranks 12th in percentage of Pennsylvanians having received the first dose of the vaccine. Pennsylvania also ranks first in 1st dose percentage among the ten most populous states in the nation.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 response, the Senate Republican Caucus has consistently urged bipartisan collaboration with the members of the General Assembly. Bringing more voices – including dissenting voices – to the table has contributed to a more thoughtful and responsive vaccination strategic plan. The success of the task force model thus far reinforces that position, demonstrating that we can in fact respond to a crisis in real-time, and improve outcomes, when the Governor and General Assembly work together.
Phillips-Hill’s podcast can be found on her website at SenatorKristin.com/podcast.
Hearings Continue to Examine Governor’s Budget Proposal
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued its comprehensive review of Governor Wolf’s state budget proposal this week. Some of the highlights included:
Enhanced “Move Over” Law Goes Into Effect April 27
Lawmakers approved legislation in October that will strengthen the state’s “Move Over” law to protect first responders, tow truck operators and other motorists near the scene of an emergency. The new law – which includes greater public awareness efforts and steeper penalties for violations – will go into effect on April 27.
The law requires motorists approaching an emergency response area to merge into a lane further away, or to slow down to 20 miles per hour under the posted speed limit if they cannot safely merge. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission reports 46 emergency responders were struck and killed in the U.S. in 2020, and 10 more have lost their lives so far in 2021.
A few weeks ago, I was pleased to speak in support of the new and improved “Move Over” law at a rally organized by the Pennsylvania Traffic Incident Management Enhancement group that brought stakeholders, accident survivors, families of victims, and over 160 emergency responder organizations together to highlight the importance of “moving over” and to film a PSA to educate Pennsylvanians.
PennDOT Urges Caution When Renewing Licenses and Registrations Online
Pennsylvanians who are renewing their driver’s license or vehicle registration online should be on the lookout for copycat websites that may charge additional fees or steal their personal information. PennDOT will never ask for personal documents via text message or over the internet, so customers should be aware that any similar requests are coming from a third-party source that is not affiliated with PennDOT.
Online customers are encouraged to enter the web address of the PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services website (www.dmv.pa.gov) directly into their browser’s address bar, rather than relying on a search engine. Suspicious third-party sites should be reported to the Pennsylvania Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.