Oct. 31, 2019 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
Increasing Transparency for Voters

To provide greater transparency for voters, state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton) and I drafted legislation to eliminate the ability for all candidates for public office to cross-file their nomination petitions.

Currently, candidates seeking to run for school board, county court of Common Pleas and district judges may file nomination petitions for multiple political parties that have become increasingly partisan.

The positions were originally intended to be non-partisan, but with the advent of money in politics and a hyper-partisan political system, these positions have turned partisan. Also, it can be confusing for voters when a candidate is nominated for more than one party, leaving them uncertain about which one truly aligns with their philosophical beliefs.

Here are my comments, explaining why it’s important for voters to know the true party of all candidates for public office.

Click here to view video.
Key Election Reforms Become Law

The General Assembly passed a comprehensive election reform bill that also aims to relieve some of the financial burden placed on counties when the governor suddenly decertified all voting machines in the Commonwealth, requiring their replacement in time for the 2020 elections. It is important to note that NONE of the provisions within the legislation will take effect before next Tuesday’s general election. The legislation was signed into law on Thursday.

Senate Bill 421 was amended by the House to authorize $90 million in borrowing to provide counties with an approximately 60% reimbursement of their expenses related to upgraded voting machines. A similar funding proposal was approved earlier this year but was vetoed by the governor.

In addition to funding for counties, the bill makes the most significant changes to modernize and improve Pennsylvania’s elections since the 1930s. These changes include eliminating the straight-party ticket option from ballots, establishing mail-in voting and giving Pennsylvanians more time to register to vote ahead of elections.
House ‘Helpers and Heroes’ Package Awaits Senate Action

The House continued its commitment to supporting first responders – the “helpers and heroes” of our communities – this week as we completed work on more than a dozen measures designed to boost volunteerism, offer more flexibility in funding and assure better access to training.

These changes are vital to shoring up our public safety infrastructure across the state, as fire and ambulance companies struggle to recruit both volunteers and staff and obtain the necessary financial support to keep their doors open.

Three of the bills aim to address financial issues. House Bill 1448 would expand the current loan program for volunteer first responder agencies to also include career and combination agencies that provide fire, ambulance or rescue squad services. House Bill 1758 would exempt volunteer fire and emergency medical services (EMS) companies from the $22 per copy fee for municipal police accident reports. House Bill 1834 would reauthorize the Fire and EMS Grant Program to allow funding to be put toward recruitment and retention, and allow the funding to be banked for up to five years for purchases or construction of a new facility.

Two bills focus on EMS. House Bill 1838 would increase funding available through the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund (EMSOF) and require at least 30% of funding to be used to provide training to underserved rural areas and 10% of the funds to be used for medical equipment for ambulances. House Bill 1869 would authorize staffing waivers on a case-by-case basis for Basic Life Support ambulances in fifth- through eighth-class counties.

Finally, House Bill 1459 would create the Emergency Responder Mental Wellness and Stress Management Program for first responders, including 911 dispatchers and coroners. The program is in response to statistics that show they experience higher rates of depression, alcohol abuse, sleep disturbances, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts.

Learn more about the full package, which now awaits action in the Senate, here. 

 Click here to view video.
Heating Assistance Program Opens Nov. 1

Residents who are struggling with their home heating bills can apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) beginning Friday, Nov. 1.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.

The income eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP are set at 150% of the federal poverty income level. For example, the income limit for an individual is $18,735; for a couple, the limit is $25,365; and for a family of four, it is $38,625.

Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the County Assistance Office in their county of residence.

Click here for additional information. 
Turn Those Clocks Back This Weekend

Daylight saving time will end at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3. Be sure to turn your clocks back one hour before going to bed on Saturday night.

It’s also a good time to check or change the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Experts say these items should be replaced every 10 years. They should be located near bedrooms and on each level of the residence.
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