Mar. 12, 2024

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Budget Hearings Conclude – Now What?

The House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, last week concluded its final hearings about Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $48.3 billion budget proposal for the upcoming 2024-25 fiscal year. It was often frustrating, as department head after department head offered answers just about as vague as the plan the governor unveiled more than a month ago. It seems like the governor’s team is as much in the dark about the details of his plans as we are!

With the hearings completed, it’s time for the General Assembly to craft a budget bill. I remain deeply concerned about the level of spending in this plan and how it puts taxpayers on the hook for continuously rising costs in the years ahead. I will continue advocating for a fiscally responsible plan as we work to get a final budget in place by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

As for last week’s hearings, they featured the Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pennsylvania State Police, Department of Education, Department of Human Services and the Office of the Budget. My exchanges with those department heads are below. Remember, additional information about the budget and video of each of the hearings are available at  

Support for Students Seeking Learner’s Permits: PennDOT
Click here to view video.

This was a major bright spot for me during this year’s hearings! I asked PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll about House Bill 1929, legislation I introduced to give students more options to obtain their learners permit, and ultimately their driver’s license, before they graduate. The idea is based on feedback from Mrs. Jamie-Jo Sickler and her students at Cowanesque Valley High School. I also took the opportunity to hand deliver student surveys on the subject to the secretary, and I am pleased to report he is committed to working on a solution! Be sure to watch his response above!

When Will REAL ID Become a Reality? PennDOT
I also asked Secretary Carroll about a $32 million request for funding to support implementation of REAL ID. The federal government has set a May 7, 2025, deadline for all citizens to have a REAL ID or equivalent, such as a passport, to board domestic flights or enter a federal building or military installation that requires ID. Watch the response above, and click here for more information about REAL ID.

Preparing Our Police Officers to Protect Public Safety: Pennsylvania State Police
Law enforcement officers are facing increasing challenges in their work, as well recruitment, retention and training. During our hearing with the Pennsylvania State Police, I asked Col. Christopher Paris and Lt. Col. George Bivens about the agency’s plans to build a new training facility in Hershey.

Where’s the Education Secretary? Department of Education
Early in 2023, Commonwealth Court deemed our education funding system unconstitutional, and directed lawmakers to develop a remedy with attention to adequacy, equity and timeliness. A Basic Education Funding Commission was formed to bring together various stakeholders, including Department of Education Secretary Dr. Khalid Mumin. He didn’t attend a single meeting, instead sending members of his staff. Shouldn’t he have been involved in the meetings himself? Watch our exchange above.

Continuing the Quest for Details on the ‘Blueprint’ for Higher Ed: Department of Education

During the daylong hearing with the Department of Education, I also questioned Dr. Kate Shaw, deputy secretary and commissioner of Postsecondary and Higher Education, about what she knew of the governor’s plans for higher education in the Commonwealth, specifically as it relates to our community colleges and state system of higher education universities. Watch that exchange above.

Child Care Services Funding: Department of Human Services
With the end of federal COVID dollars just around the corner, I asked Department of Human Services Secretary Valerie Arkoosh how the governor’s budget would cover the growing cost of these services.

The Future – and Cost – of Higher Education: Governor’s Office of the Budge
I took my third shot at getting some answers about the governor’s “blueprint” for higher education Thursday during our hearing with Secretary of the Budget Uri Monson. This time I focused on the portion of the governor’s proposal that would limit tuition rates and how much it would cost taxpayers to make up the difference.
Don’t Get Fooled; Get the Tools – Sign up Today!

They take your identity, then ultimately bankrupt you. The devastation of having your lifetime of earnings stolen right out from under you by a scam would be horrific. From phone calls to emails, they all sound and appear professional and legitimate, but they are not. Can you identify a scam? How can you protect yourself?

Arm yourself with knowledge; that is power. Join me for a free one-hour event that will teach you about scammers’ commonly used tactics, what to look for and how to avoid these traps.

The event, hosted in conjunction with the B/S/S/T Area Agency on Aging and PA Link, will be held on Thursday, April 4, from 10-11 a.m. at the Tioga County Fairgrounds, 2258 Charleston Road, Wellsboro.

The presentation will be led by George Dillman from the PA Department of Banking and Securities. Please register here or call our office 570-724-1390 to reserve your seat. Or you may call the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-982-4346 or 570-265-6121.
Is Your License Plate Hard to Read? Pre-Register Now!

Have you noticed your PA license plate fading, falling apart? Is it difficult to read? Those hard-to-read PA license plates could cost you a ticket of $100! We are offering you a simple way to have your plate replaced at no charge.

A registration plate is deemed illegible when one or more numbers or letters cannot be recognized from 50 feet or if the registration plate shows any blistering, peeling, discoloration or loss of reflectivity.

We will be holding two separate drive through events to be held on Thursday, April 11, at the Troy Sale Barn, 50 Ballard St. in Troy, and on Friday, April 12, at the Wellsboro Fire Company Annex, 21 East Ave. in Wellsboro. Both events will run from 4-7 p.m. Please be sure to pre-register here for your fastest drive through option. Or to make an appointment, call 570-724-1390.

For additional information on PennDOT license plate reissuances, click here for frequently asked questions.
Thank You Blossburg Volunteer Fire Department and EMS!

Celebrating our men and women who serve selflessly each and every day of the year in our fire departments and emergency medical services teams is a true honor. I attended the annual banquet at the Blossburg Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Association last Saturday. It was wonderful to have had the opportunity to thank each of them in celebration banquet style. However, the reality of what these men and women do came to light as the EMS team was called out in the middle of the evening, to one of the more difficult calls that everyone was aware of. As hearts fell and prayers lifted up, we must continue to recognize and thank the selfless service of our brave fire and EMS volunteers.
Local Students Learn the Life of a Legislator

Pennsylvania College of Technology hosted Senator Gene Yaw's Student Government Seminar last week with over 200 high school students from throughout the region. I was unable to participate this year due to being in Harrisburg for state budget hearings, but I’m so glad our kids had this opportunity!

Students, teachers, local and state government officials, lobbyists, special interests, and members of the media took part in the event in Williamsport. This is one of the largest Senate-organized Student Government Seminars in Pennsylvania.

“The Student Government Seminar is a great opportunity for high school students to interact with their local and state government officials,” Sen. Yaw said. “The seminar allows students to develop legislation, debate important issues with key policymakers, offer their personal input and vote on ‘mock’ bills in an open session. The intent is for students to obtain a better understanding of the legislative process and develop professional relationships that can open the door for future internships and job opportunities.”

Students from Canton, Troy and Williamson High Schools represented District 68, and they did a fine job at that! Junior Ben Fitch from Canton High School shares his experience from participating in the seminar, "During the time I spent as a senator I learned about the process of passing a bill. As a senator, I discussed with my group what our opinions were on the bill and how we felt we could improve it. During this time, it was very interesting listening to other people’s thoughts and opinions about the topic. After we made the proper amendments to our bill we voted for it in general assembly. Everything we did was similar to or exactly what senators do to pass bills in the real world. It was a great experience for me to see what they have to do on a daily basis, and especially how bills get passed and made into laws."

Kendra Pardoe, from Troy High School, shared her point of view as a government teacher who brought many of her students to participate in this student seminar. "This day was beneficial to my students because they got to see all sides of the legislation process. Most is not public knowledge, so it was eye-opening for them to see the push and pull of the process and realize what all comes with being an elected official. Those who attended are still talking excitedly about it four days later! We are looking forward to next year!"

Alannah Porter, a student from Troy High School had this to share, "After attending Sen. Gene Yaw's student government seminar I got a better understanding of what it's like to be a senator. One thing that really stood out to me was the General Assembly, I didn't know what to expect but it was set up very nice and everyone made it seem like it was real.”

This annual event has great impact on our students and the lesson in their life as together we can make a stronger community and Commonwealth. I do look forward to future fruit from these young people in public service for years to come.
Think Spring! Trout Stocking Schedules Available

Where’s the fish? We now have The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) 2024 trout stocking schedules in our office ready to be picked up. Or you can check out the details of trout stocking on the web 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

PA Tourism Office Releases 2024 Travel Guide

Suffering with the winter doldrums? Check out the 2024 Pennsylvania Travel Guide and get started on your spring and summer travel plans!

The free guide highlights must-see attractions, kid-focused fun, exciting events and many more great vacation ideas.
Sign up to receive a free hard copy of the guide or click here to view it online. Happy travels!
Grants Aim to Fight Drug, Alcohol Abuse

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General is inviting applications for its Community Drug Abuse Prevention (CDAP) grant program, which aims to cultivate parent, school and community groups leading grassroots efforts to prevent the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.

These grants are specifically aimed at programs that help communities provide safe alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as fact-based education, prevention or intervention efforts. Nonprofit organizations, government entities, community groups and parent groups are eligible.

Learn more about eligibility, process and funding here.