In This Update:
Safely Educating Our Children This Fall
On July 28th, I hosted a meeting on safely educating our children during the COVID-19 pandemic. This workshop discussion was held at Bayard Rustin High School in the West Chester Area School District.
Participants included local superintendents, health officials and representatives of statewide public school organizations. This meeting highlighted the enormous challenges facing school districts as they make decisions about how to begin the new school year.
The topics discussed during the meeting included future staffing and funding needs related to the COVID-19 crisis, the challenges for students and teachers with various in-person and online educational reopening models, pandemic liability concerns, student transportation difficulties, a lack of clarity and guidance from state agencies on social distancing and other reopening policies, the challenges of educating special needs students during the crisis, and several other issues.
Earlier this year, I helped pass legislation containing over $200 million in funding to help our schools with COVID-19 health and safety needs. I also supported key educational flexibility legislation requested by school administrators and teacher organizations to assist in educating Pennsylvania’s students during this unprecedented pandemic.
As your Senator, I will continue working in a bipartisan way with my colleagues in the General Assembly to ensure that our children receive a safe education during this ever-changing public health crisis. I invite you to watch the workshop discussion of the Senate Majority Policy Committee meeting that I hosted.
New Law Will Improve Government Transparency
Communication and clarity are critical during an emergency, and the public should have confidence in how elected leaders manage difficult situations. A new law will ensure state government is transparent during emergencies and ensure that disaster declarations do not stand in the way of public access to information.
The new law prohibits any governor from directing a state agency to ignore records requests during an emergency declaration and requires the Office of Open Records to create guidelines to ensure state agencies can continue to respond to records requests while physical offices remained closed. All normal protections and exclusions to the Right to Know law would remain in place; the new law only ensures that an emergency declaration isn’t used as an excuse to delay or ignore records requests.
Governor Wolf initially vowed to veto this good-government reform, but after enormous pressure from lawmakers, editorial boards and the public, he instead backed down and allowed it to be enacted into law without his signature.
Summary of 2019-20 Legislative Session Highlights Senate Action to Address COVID-19
Like the lives of all Pennsylvanians, the work of the Senate was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in the months since the virus first came to our commonwealth, the Senate has approved nearly two dozen bills to bolster the state’s response to the pandemic.
A new summary of bills and laws approved during the 2019-20 Legislative Session highlights the steps the Senate has taken to address COVID-19 while working to prevent government overreach during this crisis.
The summary also includes measures the Senate passed to reform state government, protect crime victims, improve public safety, bolster education, create jobs, assist farmers, strengthen health care, address the opioid crisis and support our veterans and first responders.
Temporary Measures Announced for PLCB Licensees
Many businesses that hold licenses from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) are dealing with severe restrictions and closures mandated by the Wolf Administration. PLCB recently announced several changes to license renewal fee and license safekeeping requirements during the pandemic.
Some of the highlights include implementation of a bill the Senate approved in May to waive the annual $700 surcharge for volunteer fire companies and veterans organizations, as well as waiving late fees for license renewal or validation applications through Sept. 30, 2020.
Warning: Unordered Seeds from Overseas are a Scam
Consumers nationwide have been receiving seeds they did not order from overseas labeled as jewelry. These seeds are delivered as part of a scam, and they may contain plant diseases or invasive plants that could harm Pennsylvania’s farms and ecosystem. It is important not to plant them or dispose of them improperly.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is urging anyone who receives these unordered seed packages to report the package to its confidential Antismuggling Hotline by calling 800-877-3835 or by email at SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. Further instructions will be provided to callers.
Always Here to Help
My offices provide many services to families in our area. Here are some of the ways we can help.
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