In this Update:
Police Needed as Violent Crimes Spike
Last year saw an unprecedented spike in murder and other violent crimes.
In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this increase in homicides of nearly 30% was the largest since the federal government initially began compiling data in the 1960s. Assaults increased by 12%, vehicle thefts increased by 11.8% and violent crime overall increased by nearly 6%.
And yet, at a time when heinous crimes are increasing at an alarming rate, interest groups are calling to defund the police. I think these disturbing crime statistics tell us that we need to be doing the exact opposite – we should be investing in programs that help to keep our communities safe, not stripping police departments of the limited resources they have now.
Defunding has already happened in some areas of the country, and criminologists believe that to be one of the top reasons for the troubling crime trends we’re seeing. Even in areas where defunding is still just an idea and not yet a reality, the lack of support our police officers experienced in the last year is taking a toll. Officers are hesitant and even afraid to fully engage in policing as many feel they do not have the public’s trust and respect. When forced to make split-second decisions, there is more doubt than ever before, and that can cost lives.
Particularly during such uncertain times when violence seems to be spreading like wildfire, Pennsylvanians deserve to feel safe in their communities and in their homes. Defunding the police will not accomplish that. Instead, we should support our police while also advocating for programs that prevent crime before it’s committed.
In addition to properly funding our law enforcement, we need to back them and their families as they work to keep our communities safe. We ought to commend them for the work they do and the sacrifices they make.
In June 2020, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a number of police reform bills intended to improve police training and reduce deadly force incidents. Learn more here.
Register Now to Attend My Black Bear Event
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and I are hosting a Black Bear and Visitor Center Update on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Middle Creek Visitors Center, 100 Museum Road, Stevens.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Black Bear Program Specialist, Wildlife Biologist Emily Carrollo, will share information about black bear biology, how to avoid bear vs. human conflicts and general audience Q&A. The Southeast Region Game Commission staff will provide updates on recent activities occurring at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and Visitor Center.
Please RSVP online or by calling 717-627-0036 to attend.
Don’t Miss This Concealed Carry Seminar
Please join me for a Concealed Carry Seminar on Thursday, Nov. 18, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Lancaster County Training Center, 101 Champ Boulevard, Manheim.
Representatives from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and East Hempfield Police Department will provide an overview of concealed carry laws in the Commonwealth.
Because space is limited, residents are asked to please RSVP by visiting SenatorAument.com or calling the district office at 717-627-0036.
Aument Meets with Members of Law Enforcement Community
I have been meeting with members of our law enforcement community, including West Hempfield Township Police Chief Lisa Layden, East Cocalico Police Chief Darrick Kepley and Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams. I am so grateful for their feedback and their service to the residents of Lancaster County!
Welcoming Lancaster County Residents to the Capitol
I was pleased to host residents from the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown at the State Capitol for a tour and conversation. It is always a pleasure to visit with constituents face to face.
Protecting Parents’ Rights to Advocate for Their Children’s Education
I applaud the members of Congress who have spoken out against a recent Department of Justice memo suggesting federal law enforcement may police local school board meetings. I wholeheartedly agree that violence or threats of violence are not protected free speech and have no place in democracy – and especially not in our communications between parents, school boards, and administrations.
However, it is wholly inappropriate to threaten the use of the incredible powers of the federal government, including the Patriot Act, to police and potentially criminalize the lawful speech of concerned parents.
As Americans, we value the right to free speech. This is arguably never more important than the need parents have to voice concerns about the education their children receive. Interfering with their rights to come before school boards and speak with educators dashes a constitutional right, and it is completely unacceptable.
Calling for the Protection of Banking Privacy
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity joined a coalition of 23 state treasurers, auditors and financial officers calling on President Joe Biden and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to dismiss proposals that would require private banks and credit unions to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) account flows valued at more than $600.
This proposal, which is part of the Biden Administration’s $3.5 trillion American Families Plan revenue proposal, would allow for the unnecessary monitoring of private banking activity of more than 100 million Americans. It would be one of the largest infringements of data privacy in our nation’s history and cause exceptional administrative burdens for our community banks and credit unions.
The Pennsylvania Bankers Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, and the CrossState Credit Union Association all oppose this proposal.
Senate Passes Bill to Allow for First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts
This week, the Senate passed a bill to allow individuals to open a first-time homebuyer savings account with a financial institution.
Senate Bill 157 would allow individuals to open an account of up to $150,000 with a financial institution of their choice for the sole purpose of purchasing a first home. Funds from a first-time homebuyer savings account may only be used to pay or reimburse the eligible costs for the purchase of a single-family home in Pennsylvania.
Since 2009, the number of first-time homebuyers has significantly decreased. According to the National Association of Realtors, the share of first-time homebuyers in the national home sale market has fallen from 45% to just more than 32%.
Individuals taking advantage of a first-time homebuyers savings account will be able to deduct up to $5,000 on their individual taxes, or up to $10,000 for a joint account. The tax deduction can be for no longer than 10 years and may not exceed $50,000 within a ten-year period. Unused funds would be counted against an individual’s taxable income.
The bill passed to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Addressing Teacher Shortage by Improving Certification Process
The Senate unanimously passed a bill in response to the teacher shortage that would simplify the process for out-of-state teachers to obtain certification in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 224 would allow an out-of-state candidate who has completed any state-approved educator preparation program (including field placement/student teaching) from an accredited institution of higher education to be eligible for a comparable in-state instructional certification.
The bill would also require the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to recognize and accept out-of-state candidates’ qualifying scores on equivalent content tests toward PDE’s testing and certification requirements. It would also grant Pennsylvania certification to any candidate who holds a valid certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards – the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education.
According to PDE, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 66% since 2010.
Senate Bill 224 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Ways to Reduce Your Energy Usage and Costs
Since October is National Energy Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to become more energy efficient. In addition to the environmental benefits, it will also benefit your wallet.
Click here for ways you can reduce your energy usage and associated costs.
Another way to save on energy costs is by switching your electric supplier. In Pennsylvania, you can choose the company that generates your home or business’s electricity. This means you can choose a supplier that offers the lowest price or provides a specific service you want, such as renewable energy.
Click here to shop for your electric supplier at PA Power Switch, the official electric shopping website of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Tips for Crime Prevention Month
October is Crime Prevention Month, a good time to recognize that avoiding being a victim involves informed citizens in addition to efforts of local law enforcement.
Here are some crime prevention tips from the National Crime Prevention Council.