In this Update:
Senate Concludes Hearings on State Budget
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week concluded four weeks of public hearings on the proposed 2022-23 state budget.
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by FY 2026-27.
One of the hearings this week was with the Department of Labor and Industry. As chair of the Labor and Industry Committee, I asked about a $6.8 million competitive grant the commonwealth received to improve unemployment compensation (UC) administration, including how it will help claimants access the system. We also discussed UC staffing levels, as I know there is still a significant backlog of eligibility determinations, claim appeals and fraud investigations that prevent payments that are owed to Pennsylvanians.
Among the key points from the series of hearings, which began Feb. 22:
The Senate will use findings from the hearings to craft an alternative spending plan to the governor’s, with the aim of enacting a final 2022-23 state budget by the June 30 constitutional deadline.
You can find video and recaps of every budget hearing at PASenateGOP.com.
Welcoming FFA Students to the State Capitol
Future Farmers of America (FFA) students and advisors from both Washington and Greene counties recently traveled to Harrisburg and attended their State Legislative Leadership Conference as well as visit the Capitol. FFA cultivates leadership opportunities and teaches hands-on skills to our future generations.
During my visit with the students, I also met Jodie Hoover, FFA advisor and teacher at Fort Cherry. I recognized her as one of the 2021-22 Golden Owl Award finalists.
Working to Improve Outcomes for Families, Reduce Taxpayer Costs
Based on a recommendation made by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force, Sen. Anthony Williams and I are co-sponsoring legislation to improve outcomes for youth and families. It would also ensure taxpayer dollars are used more effectively while addressing victims’ needs and promoting long-term community safety through reduced recidivism.
Most youth are not on the path to adult crime, and over-involvement in the juvenile justice system can increase their likelihood of re-offending. Our bill would provide young people who are struggling with the right level of intervention at the right time.
Read more here about how our bill would improve outcomes for youth and communities.
Annual Disability & Mental Health Summit Spotlights Current Challenges
This week, I joined a bipartisan, bicameral legislative panel at St. Clair Hospital in Allegheny County to listen to testimony from self-advocates and advocates in the disability and mental health arena. The annual Disability and Mental Health Summit highlighted the challenges facing direct support professionals, who provide critical services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The summit also focused on the difficulty many Pennsylvanians still face accessing necessary mental health care.
I applaud Rep. Dan Miller (42nd District) for hosting this event and inviting lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
How to Protect Yourself Against Tick-Borne Diseases
Lyme disease and the rare but dangerous Deer Tick Virus (DTV) have been found in ticks at high levels for the first time in multiple locations around the state.
The Deer Tick Virus is rare in the United States, but positive cases have increased in recent years. Initial symptoms of a DTV infection may include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. Some people who are infected with DTV experience no symptoms, and therefore infection may go undetected. However, 91% of patients treated for DTV infections develop severe neuroinvasive disease.
Recommended precautions for anyone venturing outdoors include:
For more information about tickborne disease prevention, visit Department of Health’s Tickborne Diseases website.
Access Nursing Home Inspections Online
Pennsylvanians with loved ones in long-term care can access a searchable database of nursing homes to view the results of inspections and complaint investigations.
The database includes patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The Department of Health oversees 688 nursing homes with more than 88,000 beds.
If you see something that may jeopardize patients’ safety or well-being, you can file an anonymous complaint by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out an online form, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a letter in the mail.
March is National Kidney Month
More than 37 million people in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease and nearly 90% of them are unaware.
If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you are at higher risk for developing kidney disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has useful information during National Kidney Month and year-round.