In this Update:
Restoring Balance in Constitution and Reining in Executive Power
This week, the House approved Senate Bill 106, which proposes amending Pennsylvania’s Constitution to restore the balance of power in government and restore voter confidence in our elections and their outcomes. I urged the Senate to concur on the House’s action immediately.
The House of Representatives amended Senate Bill 106 to add four additional proposed Constitutional amendments, including two proposals sponsored by Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-100) and me, intended to rein in executive power and ensure no single person, authority, or interest can outweigh the voices of the people of the Commonwealth.
The people of Pennsylvania deserve transparency, accountability, and integrity from their government. With these amendments, we can give the power directly to the voters of this Commonwealth to decide if these are values that we should make permanent in our Constitution. I am pleased that the House has moved to advance these principles and give Pennsylvanians the opportunity to make their voice heard through the amendment process, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to concur on these proposals as soon as possible.
Senate Bill 106 will now return to the Senate for final concurrence on the House amendments. The constitutional amendment process requires passage in both chambers in consecutive legislative sessions, followed by a ballot referendum that gives voters in Pennsylvania the final say.
Click here for more information about the proposed amendments in Senate Bill 106.
Lancaster Employer Receives $178,000 Investment
As part of a greater investment in enhancing freight mobility while creating or sustaining more than 200 jobs across Pennsylvania, the Reist Popcorn Company will receive $178,000 to rehabilitate and extend its rail siding and construct an unloading pit with conveyor.
Reist contracts with farmers throughout the corn belt from Colorado to Pennsylvania. Harvested popcorn is received by rail and truck, processed and shipped as ready-to-pop kernels to snack food manufacturers, concessionaires and distributors across the country.
The State Transportation Commission voted to approve the project through the Rail Freight Assistance Program.
For more information on PennDOT rail grant programs, click here.
Aument Answers Questions During Telephone Town Hall
Earlier this week, I hosted a Telephone Town Hall event to answer questions and listen to feedback from community residents. If you were unable to attend live, you can listen to a recording of the event above.
I also asked participants to respond to a few poll questions during the event:
1. Do you support the recent increased use of executive orders to pass policies like mask mandates and forced business closures that have the force of law?
2. Should parents be empowered to send their children to a school that best suits their health, safety, and educational needs rather than being limited to attending the school in the district where they live?
3. Do you feel confident in the integrity and legitimacy of Pennsylvania’s election system?
4. Should PA be doing more to attract more businesses and employees to move here and incentivize existing businesses and employees to stay here?
5. Since the 2017 expansion of fireworks in PA, residents have experienced numerous preventable deadly tragedies as well as lodged numerous nuisance complaints due to these fireworks. Do you think this law should be limited again to restrict consumer grade fireworks?
Your feedback is important to me, and I enjoyed hearing from you!
Check my website at www.senatoraument.com for updates on my next Telephone Town Hall event planned for this spring.
Measures to Increase Jobs in Manufacturing and at Airports Approved by Senate
Continuing efforts to restore Pennsylvania’s economic vitality, the Senate approved bills to spur job growth in manufacturing and at airports across the commonwealth.
Senate Bill 706 establishes the Max Manufacturing Initiative Fund and Max Manufacturing Endeavor Loan Fund. This bill aims to create stronger public-private partnerships between state universities and private entities and maximizes research capabilities with cutting edge technologies.
Senate Bill 562 creates the Airport Land Development Zone program, providing tax credits to employers that make a significant new investment by expanding operations and creating new jobs.
Passage of these measures is the latest in a series of Senate votes aimed at moving Pennsylvania from pandemic to recovery. Last month, the Senate approved two measures making it easier for small business employers to remain competitive and create jobs. Senate Bill 706 and Senate Bill 562 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Acts to Provide Parents with Online Access to their Children’s School Curriculum
Parents would have greater ability to review what their children are being taught in school through curriculum transparency legislation approved by the Senate.
House Bill 1332 would require K-12 schools to post curricula online in a standardized, user-friendly manner. Under the bill, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, school districts must post on their websites an internet link or title for:
To prevent placing another burden on teachers, the bill stipulates that a school administrator or designee would be required to post the curricula online. House Bill 1332 is on it’s way to the Governor.
Senate Votes to Expand School Choice Eligibility
The Senate approved three bills that preserve school choice access for families and give more flexibility to students pursuing college degrees without incurring unnecessary debt.
Senate Bill 931 excludes pandemic stimulus payments from a household’s income when determining eligibility for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. This important legislation ensures children will not see their educational opportunities diminished because of one-time government handouts.
Senate Bill 932 revises the definition of “school-related fees” so students can use EITC and OSTC scholarships toward dual enrollment programs. This option gives Pennsylvania’s next generation of professionals the flexibility to pursue college degrees or access career training while minimizing excessive student loan debt.
Both bills will head to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
House Bill 1642 loosens the threshold for schools to be considered “economically disadvantaged,” which would allow more students to access a supplemental tax credit scholarship offered through the EITC’s Economically Disadvantaged Schools program.
House Bill 1642 was sent to the governor for enactment.
Senate Prohibits Vaccine Mandates for School Children
As Pennsylvania has struggled to keep children in their classrooms because of questionable COVID-19 policies, the Senate acted to prevent students from being barred from school if they don’t get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Senate Bill 937 would prohibit a child from being required to be immunized for COVID-19 as a condition of attendance in any public or private K-12 school. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill does not contest the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, which is now available to children ages 5 to 15 under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization, and full FDA approval for anyone 16 years of age and older.
The legislation acknowledges parents have a right to be involved with the health care decisions for their children. And because the COVID-19 vaccine for those under age 16 has only received FDA emergency use authorization (EUA), federal EUA law prohibits patients from being coerced into taking the vaccine. That means those children have the right to refuse the medical treatment, with their parents exercising that right on their behalf.
Landmark Bipartisan Broadband Legislation Approved by Senate
The Senate acted to improve access to high-speed internet in underserved communities by creating the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA). The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
House Bill 2071 would establish a single point-of-contact for federal broadband funding and includes safeguards so legitimate contractors are chosen. Entities eligible for funding must have technical, managerial and financial expertise to design, build and operate high-speed service infrastructure.
The PBDA primarily would be tasked with creating a broadband plan that allows the state to apply for competitively awarded federal infrastructure money. The bill would also require the state to create a database to monitor all broadband deployment activities across the state.
Comprehensive Probation Reform Approved by Senate
The Senate approved probation reform measures aimed at reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the system while better integrating probationers into society. The bills will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 913 provides an opportunity for early release from probation and ensures fewer individuals return to prison by offering incentives that reward positive behavior and participation in education, employment, vocational and drug treatment programming shown to reduce recidivism.
Among other goals, the measure is intended to prevent cases in which technical violations, such as a minor traffic offense, can perpetually extend the clock on an offender’s term and result in re-confinement.
Deadline Approaching for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2020 is Dec. 31, 2021.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
Claimants of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are encouraged to file their rebate applications online by visiting mypath.pa.gov. You can check the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program instruction booklet to learn which information you will need to input/upload to complete the process.