Feb. 27, 2024

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Honoring 45 Years of Service

Mr. Richard Butler has shown exemplary service for 45 years as an active member of the Middlebury Fire Department. It is always a wonderful time to be part of a celebration such as this one during an annual fire banquet. Every department has its own flavor, and Middlebury Center certainly has one of a party! I have the honor of presenting so many of the amazing citations given to our constituents, and often share photos and write ups of these momentous occasions. I welcome you to take a look into Mr. Butler’s to witness the appreciation and pride of the many department members as they honor Rick this past weekend. 

Click here to view video.
Dissecting the Details of Governor’s Proposed Spending

The state House launched annual budget hearings last week, and as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I take very seriously my responsibility to represent the interests of taxpayers in our region and across the Commonwealth. With the state Department or Revenue confirming the governor’s proposed expenditures are increasing at a higher rate than expected revenues, we must take a stand to protect against tax hikes in the near future.

The budget hearings involve the heads of various state agencies appearing before the committee to take questions and justify their need for the funding proposed by the governor. Below are some highlights of my questioning during the hearing; please note the rules limit us to approximately five minutes for the exchange of information.

Broadband vs. Public Television: Department of Community and Economic Development
Standing up for the needs of our district within development of broadband expansion, I posed several questions to Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger. Pennsylvania has received $1.5 billion in funding from the federal government, and I want to understand how the Broadband Development Authority plans on distributing the funds. Is it enough to cover the goal of broadband reaching everyone?

I also challenged the agency’s claims about the need for public television technology. I don’t hear interest in state-funded television from you. Is it wise to put forth almost $1 million toward public television when we could instead use those funds toward the greater economic and communication impact of broadband?

Improving Customer Service: Department of Revenue
I shared a constituent's struggle with the Department of Revenue with Secretary Pat Browne and focused my questioning on the unacceptable lack of or delayed responses from the department to help meet the needs of these folks and many others across the state. They own it; will they fix it?

Support for Emergency Responders: PEMA
How is Pennsylvania doing in the area of recruiting and retaining personnel for emergency response? Bleeding out. Randy Padfield, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), explains how his agency is still not in full complement with 23 vacant positions that would support the local emergency services departments. State Fire Commissioner, Thomas Cook, outlines efforts to get a new tracking system in place across the state to better understand the trends of recruitment and retention. I clearly shared my frustration with the failures of these agencies to help our local emergency departments.

The Future of Higher Education: PASSHE
The governor has trumpeted his so-called “Blueprint for Higher Education” for several weeks now, but details remain elusive. I shared that frustration with Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Dan Greenstein while also asking about the current relationship between PASSHE schools and community colleges to help students manage their higher education.

Weed in PA? Department of Agriculture
Will the Department of Agriculture take the lead on adult use cannabis as a crop? Where is the legislation on running such a program? How is it going to hurt our other agricultural focus? Is this really attainable? Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding responds.

Protecting Our Seniors: Department of Aging
Drilling down into the data, I questioned the Secretary of Aging, Jason Kavulich on cases, caseloads, timing of investigations and more.

Protecting Public Safety: Department of Corrections
I took the opportunity to talk with Department of Corrections Secretary Laura Harry about my concerns with staffing at our state prisons, the impact on overworked corrections officers and the implications for public safety. She had some positive news to report regarding the requirement that all corrections officers hired for our state prisons must be residents of the Commonwealth. I will continue to work on making this change permanent through my House Bill 1968.

Accountability for Programs: PA Housing Finance Agency
After hearing the testimony from Robin Wiessmann, executive director and CEO of PA Housing Finance Agency, I looked to receive some additional pertinent performance, application and financial loan data and ultimately ended up asking for an audit to be completed. The agency must be accountable for its spending of taxpayer dollars.

Interested in more information? You can watch the entirety of each budget hearing, as well as a live stream of current hearings, at www.PAHouseGOP.com. Hearings coming up later this week include the departments of Environmental Protection, Conservation and Natural Resources and Health, as well as community colleges, state-related universities and the judiciary. The full schedule is available here.
Think Spring! Trout Stocking Schedules Available

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced its 2024 trout stocking schedules are now available online and on the FishBoatPA mobile app.

The PFBC will stock approximately 3.2 million adult trout in 697 streams and 129 lakes open to public angling. Stocking is set to begin the week of Feb. 19 in advance of the statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day on Saturday, March 30, and the statewide opening day of trout season on Saturday, April 6.

The 2024 adult trout stocking schedule is searchable by county; lists the waterways in alphabetical order; and indicates stocking dates, meeting locations for volunteers and the species of trout that will be stocked at each location.

For more information about stocking, fishing and licensing, visit www.fishandboat.com.
Tuition Assistance Program for EMS Professionals

The PA Department of Health has announced a $1 million tuition assistance program to help recruit and retain Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals.

The program is funded by $1 million from the Fireworks Tax Act each year for the next three years. Pennsylvania residents who obtained a Pennsylvania state certification as an emergency medical responder (EMR), emergency medical technician (EMT), advanced emergency medical technician (AEMT), or paramedic after July 1, 2023, are eligible to have a portion of their tuition reimbursed.

In addition, Pennsylvania licensed EMS agencies are eligible to receive reimbursement of expenses related to recruitment and retention efforts, up to $1,250 per fiscal year.

This tuition reimbursement assistance is in addition to the recent increase in mileage rates for ambulance services to help support our EMS workers and first responders. More information about how to obtain reimbursement is available here.
Mark Your Calendar for Charter Day March 10!

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) will celebrate the Commonwealth’s 343rd birthday on Sunday, March 10, with free admission to many of the the historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History and an exhibit of William Penn’s 1681 Charter at the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Pennsylvania was established when England’s King Charles II granted a charter to William Penn in March 1681. The 343-year-old charter, often referred to as Pennsylvania’s birth certificate, is written on parchment using iron gall ink. The Pennsylvania State Archives preserves the document in a high-security vault, shielding it from strong light and environmental fluctuations.

The 1681 charter will be on display on Sunday, March 10, from noon to 4 p.m. at the new Pennsylvania State Archives facility, 1681 N. Sixth Street, Harrisburg.

Additionally, state-owned historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History will offer free admission on Sunday, March 10. Among them is the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, just next door to us in Ulysses, Potter County.

For a complete list of participating locations, click here.