In this Update:
Senate Passes Voter ID Constitutional Amendment
As a former member of the House of Representatives, Ryan Aument speaks in favor of voter ID on the House floor in 2012.
The Senate this week approved a plan to allow voters to decide if the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to require identification each time a voter casts a ballot. I was pleased to support voter ID this week, just as I did nearly 10 years ago as a House member in 2012.
Pennsylvania implemented voter ID in 2012, but it was later struck down by the courts on a technicality.
Currently, voters are required to show identification only the first time they vote at a polling place. The proposed constitutional amendment asks voters to decide if some form of verification should be required every time a ballot is cast, including when voting by mail.
With Gov. Tom Wolf’s refusal to consider legislation that asks voters to provide verification every time they vote, the Senate passed a bill to place the issue on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment so voters can decide. Unlike a piece of legislation, constitutional amendments do not need the governor’s approval.
Work Continues on 2021-22 State Budget
Work continued this week on finalizing a state budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a huge spending plan with a massive increase in the personal income tax. A majority of lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives rejected the plan.
Look for a report on the new budget in next week’s e-newsletter.
Aument Bill to Improve PA’s Economic Competitiveness Passes Senate Unanimously
Earlier this week, the Senate unanimously passed my bill to establish a commission to redesign the state’s education system to better prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
It’s no secret that Pennsylvania’s education system was designed for a bygone era and is no longer adequately preparing students well for today, let alone tomorrow. This problem is not caused by our teachers, our students, or our parents, but rather it is the result of an outdated system. Fixing the problem will require restructuring this antiquated system with a more resilient, adaptable, and future-ready approach.
Senate Resolution 144 would create a bicameral, 18-month-long 2030 Commission on Education and Economic Competitiveness. The 2030 Commission would be tasked with creating a long-term vision for Pennsylvania’s education system in 2030 and a legislative action plan for getting there.
My goal is to position Pennsylvania to be economically competitive on a national and even global scale. We want to stay ahead of the curve by ensuring that our education system is giving students the proper skills they need to succeed in the fastest growing job sectors in the next 10, 20, and even 30 years. This proposal will attract new industries, create family-sustaining jobs, and ensure that Pennsylvania is a place where our citizens want to live and new residents want to move.
Learn more about the 2030 Commission on Education & Economic Competitiveness here.
Senate Sends Bill to Rein in Health Secretary’s Power, Ban Vaccine Passports to Governor’s Desk
The Senate gave final approval of legislation that prevents the excess use of power by the state Secretary of Health and prohibits vaccine passport requirements while ensuring the protection of public health.
The measure prohibits the Secretary of Health from mandating those who have not been exposed or in close contact with the exposed to wear a mask, stay at home or be socially distant. It also prevents the secretary from using the same laws to force business closures.
It also prohibits the state, as well as counties, municipalities, school districts and colleges that are subsidized by state taxpayers from requiring proof of vaccination. The measure will now go to Gov. Wolf’s desk. He will have 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
Aument Focused on Economic Opportunity and A Vision for PA’s Future
Research shows that decreasing the CNI tax rate would increase our population, home values, AND wages for our residents, all without negatively impacting state revenue or needing to raise other taxes on Pennsylvanians.
It’s time to build a stronger Pennsylvania where entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic opportunity thrive – a Pennsylvania where each and every resident has the opportunity to experienced earned success and upward economic mobility.
Learn more about my proposal to gradually reduce Pennsylvania’s CNI tax rate and the research behind it here.
Senate Passes Bills to Better Protect Human Trafficking Victims
Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry, pushing victims into sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. According to the Human Trafficking Institute, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 human trafficking states nationally in 2019. Human trafficking cases have been found throughout the Commonwealth, including in Lancaster.
Three bills that would expand existing Pennsylvania statutes to include protections for human trafficking victims received overwhelming bipartisan support today from the Senate.
I was pleased to support all three of these bills in the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week as well as on final passage before the full Senate today. All bills will now be sent to the Governor for final consideration.
Bill to Expand Senior Access to Prescription Drugs Approved by Senate
Legislation to expand senior access to prescription drugs received Senate approval and was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The anticipated savings from enrolling eligible PACENET individuals in Medicare Part D plans will provide enough savings to cover the cost of the income expansion.
Measure Offering Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19 Goes to the Governor
Parents would have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to learning disruptions caused by COVID-19 under a bill approved by the Senate and sent to the governor.
In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teacher. The bill would only apply to the 2021-22 school year to address learning gaps related to the pandemic.
Senate Bill 664 would also give parents the option to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year due to COVID-19. This provision would prevent students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21 after missing out on much of the specialized attention they need due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Gov. Wolf will have 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.