|Budget Hearings Commence
Members of the House Appropriations Committee were briefed Tuesday on the state’s financial status during the first week of budget hearings.
The Independent Fiscal Office, a non-partisan state agency, confirmed an anticipated shortfall of at least $2.5 billion by July 1, 2018, reflective of sluggish economic growth, rising health care and pension costs, and an aging workforce. That shortfall can be reduced by substantive changes in public policy.
Next week’s hearings will include appearances by the majority of state departments, along with the judiciary, Public Utility Commission, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and the PA Liquor Control Board.
To view the schedule or archived video of the hearings, click here.
Senior Center Grants Announced
Two senior centers in the 51st Legislative District have been awarded 2016-17 Senior Community Center Grants. They are the Mountain Citizens Action Group of Wharton Township, Fayette County, which was awarded $100,169, and the Meyersdale Senior Center in Somerset County, $75,351.
The grants are critical for the operation of our senior centers, not only here, but throughout the Commonwealth. The centers provide a safe place for seniors to enjoy events, meals and more. These programs help seniors stay healthy, active and socially engaged. The centers add to the quality of life in our area.
In addition, the centers provide transportation services, financial and insurance counseling, and the grants help upgrade those services to meet the needs of generations of seniors.
These grants come from a total of $2 million in Pennsylvania Lottery proceeds and are distributed to 38 senior centers throughout the Commonwealth.
The program is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. For more information, click here.
House Committee Examines EMS Councils, Community College Training Bills
Members of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held two meetings this week to discuss further efforts to efficiently deliver emergency medical services, improve fire and EMS training, and meet veterans’ needs.
Tuesday’s meeting involved a discussion of the consolidation plan for the Regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council System, which is overseen by Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of EMS.
On Wednesday, the committee was updated on the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission and discussed the fire/emergency medical services training available through community colleges.
To watch those hearings, click here.
Keep PA Beautiful!
As part of the 2017 Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania, registration is now open to organizations that wish to organize a wide range of beautification projects.
Registered cleanup events can get free trash bags, gloves and safety vests from PennDOT district offices, while supplies last. Events can be litter cleanups, illegal dump cleanups, beautification projects, special collections and educational events.
In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection and Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association are sponsoring “Let’s Pick It Up PA – Everyday” from April 18 through May 8. During this time, trash collected at registered events can be taken to participating landfills for free or reduced-cost disposal with prior approval.
The 2017 Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania runs from March 1 to May 31. Last year’s campaign included 6,118 events in all 67 counties with 158,821 volunteers.
To register an event, click here.
Tour of SCI Fayette
I had the opportunity to meet with the leadership at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette this week. The prison in LaBelle was opened as the Commonwealth’s 26th facility in August, 2003, and houses over 2,000 inmates and employs just under 700 full-time employees. The prison also has a community work program and an in-house metal factory.
Be Informed of New State Traffic Laws
With this week being observed as Highway Safety Law Awareness Week, PennDOT reminds motorists of several new highway laws.
The Child Passenger Safety law update, which went into effect in August 2016, states that children are required to be buckled into a rear-facing car seat until they are age 2 or meet the maximum weight or height requirements set by the manufacturer of the seat.
“Daniel's Law,” now in effect, increases the penalty for texting while driving resulting in serious bodily injury or death.
To improve pedestrian safety, a driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway. Failure to do so could lead to a fine and three points on the driver's license. It is illegal to overtake or pass a vehicle yielding to a pedestrian within a crosswalk.
Under a new law passed by the General Assembly last year, drivers convicted of a first-time offense with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent or higher after August will be mandated to use ignition interlock for at least a year.
Turnpike Commission Offering Summer Jobs
For this summer, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is accepting applications for toll, maintenance, clerical and engineering positions.
Toll collectors must be available to work any of the three shifts over a 24-hour period, including weekends and holidays. Employees will work a 40-hour week and will not receive benefits. The pay is $11.50 per hour for toll collectors and $11 per hour for other positions.
All eligible candidates must be at least 18 years of age and completed a secondary education program such as high school or GED at the time of hiring. The program is limited to 16 weeks per employee and runs between May 1 and Sept. 30.
All applications MUST be submitted online at paturnpike.com/employment. Copies of online applications should be sent to my Harrisburg office by Wednesday, March 22.
My Audio Podcast
I am recording audio Legislative Report podcasts on a periodic basis. You can listen to them by clicking on the Audio Podcast link above the headline in this email, and all future ones.
All podcasts are on my website as well at RepDowling.com. Just click on the audio section in the left column.