In this Update:
Senate Committee Passes My Bill to Improve DEP Permitting Process
Senate Bill 692, which I sponsored, would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to review permit applications consistent with its current stated policy of 45 days. Currently, certain permits, such as erosion and sediment control, are taking more than 100 days to process. This is more than double the amount of time the DEP claims they should take.
This bill would also establish reporting requirements to the General Assembly to ensure transparency regarding the number permits that were applied to and subsequently issued, the review times of such applications and the performance of regional offices in complying with this act.
This bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Hear me speak about Senate Bill 692 at the committee meeting.
Welcoming Boy Scouts to the Capitol
I was pleased to welcome Bruce Higginbotham from Troop 1313 out of St. John 23rd Parish in McMurray as the Senate’s guest chaplain this Tuesday. In Bruce’s three years of scouting, he has earned 18 merit badges and has completed more than 50 hours of community service.
Further congratulations to Cole Marucci, who was also in attendance from the Lauren Highlands Council (Charleroi), for earning the rank of Eagle Scout!
Thank you to everyone for joining me in Harrisburg for the annual Boy Scout Day. During their time at the Capitol, the scouts presented a report on the state of scouting in Pennsylvania to the leadership of the state Senate and House of Representatives. As a congressionally chartered organization, the Boy Scouts of America are required to annually present such a report.
Introducing Miss Rain Day 2021
This Wednesday, I had the honor of presenting a special guest from the 46th District to the Senate Floor, Miss Rain Day 2021, Emily Bennett.
Before graduating magna cum laude this month, Emily was a senior at Waynesburg Central High School, where she was a two-year letterman in girls’ basketball, as well as a member of the National Honor Society and the Achievement Academy.
Since being crowned Miss Rain Day 2021, Emily used her influence to support the Appointed Special Advocates program, aiding children in serious and tragic cases of abuse and neglect.
Senate Approves Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to Increase Election Oversight, Integrity
The Senate approved the Poll Watcher Empowerment Act to ensure election laws are strictly adhered to and improve confidence in Pennsylvania’s elections.
Senate Bill 573 would allow all registered Pennsylvania voters to be eligible to be a poll watcher in any precinct in the state and ensures poll watchers can clearly observe the pre-canvassing and counting of all ballots.
The bill would stiffen penalties against any election official who blocks, impedes or otherwise intimidates a poll watcher on Election Day. It would not change any duties, powers or responsibilities of poll watchers. Senate Bill 573 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill is the third election integrity measure passed by the Senate this year, along with the elimination of controversial ballot drop boxes and prohibiting third-party funding of elections.
Joint Hearing on Government Data Breach Notification
Legislation requiring timely notification to victims of a state or local government data breach was the topic of a joint Senate/House public hearing.
The Senate Communications and Technology Committee and the House State Government Subcommittee on Government Information Technology and Communication held the gathering to review Senate Bill 696.
The panels heard from representatives of the Department of General Services, the State Privacy and Security Coalition, and the Cybersecurity Association of Pennsylvania. You can view the hearing and read testimony here.
Capitol Rally Aims to Stop Wolf Bridge Tolling Plan
The No P3 Bridge Tolls Coalition was joined by lawmakers at a capitol rally Wednesday to voice opposition to the Wolf administration’s plan to toll interstate bridges in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) plan proposes tolling to pay for bridge projects and has received an overwhelming amount of disapproval, including citizens, members of the General Assembly, local officials and business operators.
PennDOT’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) bridge tolling initiative would cost the average commuter an additional $1,000 per year and was moved through the process without legislative input nor approval.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 382, which reforms the P3 statute and voids PennDOT’s plan. However, Gov. Wolf has stated that he will veto the bill. Commonwealth Court temporarily halted the tolling plan. The Wolf administration has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Scammers are Stealing Military Pensions
Pennsylvania veterans and their advocates should be aware of an increase in scammers looking to poach their VA pensions, warns the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).
“Pension poaching” occurs when scammers or dishonest financial planners charge veterans or their beneficiaries for help in applying for or submitting applications for VA pensions. The scheme often involves financial maneuvers such as advising claimants to hide their assets in trusts or annuity products sometimes resulting in lost investments and lucrative fees paid to the advisor.
The DMVA says veterans and their advocates should remember to never share their VA login information, or deposit VA benefits directly into a third-party bank account unless the person is court appointed or a VA accredited fiduciary. More on avoiding pension poaching, and what to do if you know someone who was targeted, can be found here.
National Fishing and Boating Week
Pennsylvania has multiple settings for fishing and boating, whether you’re an expert or a beginner.
HuntFishPA.com is a good place to start to find out what you need to enjoy angling. The PA Fish and Boat Commission can help you find the best waters for fishing and information on fishing licenses, fishing seasons and more.
Boating Safety Education Certificates are required to operate a personal watercraft and for persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1982, to operate boats powered by motors greater than 25 horsepower. People who successfully complete an approved boating course are issued a Boating Safety Education Certificate good for a lifetime.
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