In This Update:
Senators Continue to Highlight What a YES Vote Means on May 18
A group of senators held a news conference at the Capitol this week to highlight what a YES vote means when voters go to the polls to decide proposed Constitutional amendments on May 18.
Lawmakers approved three potential amendments to the Constitution that will appear on the ballot for voters in the May 18 election, including one question to prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity and two questions designed to improve the way the state responds to future emergencies.
The Wolf Administration has been widely criticized for wording the emergency response questions in a way that is deeply confusing and prejudicial.
A YES at the ballot box means voters favor:
A new webpage offers a detailed explanation of what the proposed amendments would accomplish.
Read my latest press release on the news conference and what a YES vote means here.
Aument Schedules Facebook Live Town Hall to Gather Feedback from Constituents
I will answer questions and gather feedback from community residents during a Facebook Live Town Hall to discuss legislative updates, the ballot questions for the primary election, and more on Wednesday, April 28 at 4:30pm.
The Facebook Live Town Hall format allows participants to ask questions or simply listen to the discussion.
Community residents can tune in to the discussion LIVE by visiting my Facebook page here. Additionally, if residents are unable to attend this event, they can submit written comments to me directly on any issue which is important to them here.
Senators Call on Governor to Halt Unilateral Action on Carbon Tax
Pennsylvania Senate Republicans sent Governor Tom Wolf a letter Wednesday informing him that none of his nominations to the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) will be considered by the Senate if he continues to pursue a unilateral carbon tax on Pennsylvania employers and customers.
The letter notes that the governor’s effort to force Pennsylvania to join the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) without the input of the legislature is a clear violation of the checks and balances provided by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Aument Thanks Vaccine Providers & Staff for Exceptional Work Vaccinating Pennsylvanians
On Monday, April 19, I visited the Lancaster County Community Vaccination Clinic to receive my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. That day alone, the clinic was scheduled to administer 6,022 doses of the vaccine, and by the end of that day they had passed a milestone of having administered over 110,000 shots.
That afternoon, I spoke on the Senate floor about my experience at the clinic and the bipartisan work of the Joint COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force I serve on with my colleagues Senator Art Haywood (D-4), Representative Bridget Kosierowski (D-114), Representative Tim O’Neal (R-48), and members of the Wolf Administration. You can watch a video of my brief remarks above.
I want to express my thanks to the team at Vaccinate Lancaster and providers all across our Commonwealth for the exceptional work that they are doing. For any Pennsylvania resident in the Lancaster County area interested in receiving the vaccine, visit www.vaccinatelancaster.org to schedule an appointment.
Hearings Examining Governor’s Budget Proposal Conclude
The Senate Appropriations Committee completed a series of 21 public hearings that closely examined the details of Governor Wolf’s state budget proposal.
The comprehensive review of the Governor’s proposed $40.2 billion General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22, which includes a massive increase in state spending, a substantial personal income tax rate hike, imposition of Marcellus Shale extraction tax, and elimination of funding for broadband expansion and vital agricultural and health programs.
The complete coverage of the hearings can be found here.
Senate Votes to Extend Program Helping Schools Find Substitute Teachers
Pennsylvania schools could have additional opportunities to find qualified substitute teachers under a bill approved by the Senate this week.
Lawmakers created a program in 2016 that allowed individuals training to be teachers to serve as a substitute teacher, provided the individual has valid clearances and at least 60 credit hours. However, the program is set to expire on June 30.
The legislation approved this week, sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13) and me, would make this temporary program permanent. As a result, schools, intermediate units and career and technical schools can ensure qualified substitutes are available to meet the needs of students.
Read my full press release on the passage of this bill here.
Protecting the First Amendment Rights of Teachers
The Senate approved a critical bill this week to ensure the First Amendment rights of teachers are better protected. The legislation would repeal a provision of the School Code which prohibits teachers from wearing any garb, mark, emblem or insignia that would indicate they are a member of or adherent to any religious order or sect while in the performance of their duties as a teacher.
Although federal courts have held that the school’s religious affiliations policy violates the free exercise of religion and free speech clauses of the Constitution, these provisions are still in place and public school directors can be held criminally liable for failing to enforce this prohibition. Pennsylvania is the last state in the United States with this provision still in place.
Comments on 2020 General Election Due by Friday, April 30
This is the final week for Pennsylvanians to share their experience from last year’s election with the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform. Election surveys for Pennsylvanians who voted by mail or in person will be accepted through Friday, April 30.
The committee is expected to use the survey responses and testimony gathered during its series of public hearings to produce a report with recommendations that will be presented to the General Assembly.
Aument Discusses Online Course Content for PA Students at Education Hearing
The Senate Education Committee recently held a hearing to review potential education reforms and hear featured testimony from teachers, students, parents, administrators and other stakeholders in both public and private education.
The hearing gave me an opportunity to ask officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Education about my legislation to ensure students from all corners of the Commonwealth have access to high quality online course content. My proposal would require the Department to establish a central repository of online courses accessible to all public schools, nonpublic schools, home education programs, and the general public. These materials would be intended for use both in the classroom or remotely, whatever best suits the individual needs of the user, and would provide students the opportunity to take classes that may not currently be offered in their schools.
It is my hope that this legislation would provide additional cost-effective resources to schools to help meet the new demands of the 21st century and provide our children with a world-class education.
You can watch the entire exchange with Department of Education Deputy Secretary Matthew Stem in the above video.