In this Update:
Addressing PA’s Teacher Shortage by Improving Certification Process
Legislation I sponsored with Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-35) in response to the teacher shortage facing the Commonwealth received unanimous support from the Senate this week. It would simplify the process for out-of-state teachers to obtain certification in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 224 would allow an out-of-state candidate who has completed any state-approved educator preparation program (including field placement/student teaching) from an accredited institution of higher education to be eligible for a comparable in-state instructional certification.
The bill would also require the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to recognize and accept out-of-state candidates’ qualifying scores on equivalent content tests toward PDE’s testing and certification requirements.
Lastly, Senate Bill 224 would grant Pennsylvania certification to any candidate who holds a valid certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education.
According to PDE, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 66% since 2010.
Senate Bill 224 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Passing Comprehensive Probation Reform
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced a bipartisan bill I introduced with Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-8) to improve Pennsylvania’s probation system by addressing serious flaws which have trapped nonviolent offenders in a cycle of incarceration.
The system has frequently become a probation-to-prison revolving door that is not making our neighborhoods safer, but separating individuals from their jobs, schools, communities and families. By matching the punishment to offense and rewarding good behavior, Senate Bill 913 moves us towards our ultimate goal of rehabilitating offenders and restoring communities.
Combatting Rising Energy Costs and Preserving Jobs
I held a press conference in recent days and was joined by some of my colleagues including Sens. Gene Yaw, John Yudichak and Devlin Robinson, as well as building trade unions and business representatives, to discuss the need for responsible natural gas infrastructure and the good-paying jobs and lower energy costs associated with it. Additional information can be found here.
Calling for the Protection of Banking Privacy
This week, I joined efforts with Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) to introduce a resolution which calls on the United States Congress to oppose efforts by President Joe Biden and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to gain access to bank account information of private citizens and businesses. This proposal would require private banks and credit unions to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) account flows valued at more than $600.
The proposal, which is part of the Biden Administration’s $3.5 trillion American Families Plan revenue proposal, would allow for the unnecessary monitoring of private banking activity of more than 100 million Americans. It would be one of the largest infringements of data privacy in our nation’s history and cause exceptional administrative burdens for our community banks and credit unions.
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity also joined a coalition of 23 state treasurers, auditors and financial officers calling on the dismissal of this proposal.
The Pennsylvania Bankers Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, and the CrossState Credit Union Association all oppose this plan by the Biden Administration.
Senate Passes Bill to Allow for First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts
The Senate has passed a bill to allow individuals to open a first-time homebuyer savings account with a financial institution.
Senate Bill 157 would allow individuals to open an account of up to $150,000 with a financial institution of their choice for the sole purpose of purchasing a first home. Funds from a first-time homebuyer savings account may only be used to pay or reimburse the eligible costs for the purchase of a single-family home in Pennsylvania.
Since 2009, the number of first-time homebuyers has significantly decreased. According to the National Association of Realtors, the share of first-time homebuyers in the national home sale market has fallen from 45% to just more than 32%.
Individuals taking advantage of a first-time homebuyers savings account will be able to deduct up to $5,000 on their individual taxes, or up to $10,000 for a joint account. The tax deduction can be for no longer than 10 years and may not exceed $50,000 within a ten-year period. Unused funds would be counted against an individual’s taxable income.
The bill passed to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Ways to Reduce Your Energy Usage and Costs
Since October is National Energy Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to become more energy efficient. In addition to the environmental benefits, it will also benefit your wallet.
Click here for ways you can reduce your energy usage and associated costs.
Another way to save on energy costs is by switching your electric supplier. In Pennsylvania, you can choose the company that generates your home or business’s electricity. This means you can choose a supplier that offers the lowest price or provides a specific service you want, such as renewable energy.
Click here to shop for your electric supplier at PA Power Switch, the official electric shopping website of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Tips for Crime Prevention Month
October is Crime Prevention Month, a good time to recognize that avoiding being a victim involves informed citizens in addition to efforts of local law enforcement.
Here are some crime prevention tips from the National Crime Prevention Council.