Budget Hearings Focus on Spending, Mismanagement
2/21/2020
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#Listrak\DateStamplong# The latest news from the State Capitol
 
Budget Hearings Focus on Spending, Mismanagement


The House Appropriations Committee kicked off this year’s budget hearings by grilling administration officials about their actual funding needs for the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year, in the wake of a lofty budget proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this month.

This week, members of the committee heard testimony from officials representing the departments of Revenue, Aging, State, Military and Veterans Affairs, Corrections, and Labor and Industry. Several major state agencies are on next week’s agenda, beginning with the Department of Environmental Protection at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 24.

Other state agencies scheduled to appear include the departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, Transportation, Agriculture, Health, and Community and Economic Development.

For a full schedule of these and other remaining hearings, or to watch live streams or archived video of the hearings, click here.

Additional information about the 2020-21 state budget proposal may be found here.
 
 
HealthierPA Initiatives Signed into Law


Two measures advanced by the House earlier this year as part of our HealthierPA Initiative are now law. 

Act 6 of 2020 will help improve cancer treatment options for patients with Stage IV metastatic cancer by requiring insurance companies to cover the medication and treatments prescribed by the patient’s doctor, regardless of what their insurance plan typically covers.

The law recognizes time is of the essence for patients fighting cancer. They should not have to get sicker and sicker before being allowed to try something their doctor is recommending that could extend the length and quality of their lives.
                                    
Act 7 of 2020 will help protect infants who receive donated breast milk through milk banks. Banked donor milk is used in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and by outpatients with medical issues. When a mother’s own milk is unavailable in the NICU, the use of banked donor milk has been shown to decrease mortality rates and the incidence of serious complications.

The new law will require the state Department of Health to regulate milk banks, which are entities that gather, process and distribute mothers’ milk for medically fragile newborns. Milk banks would be required to medically screen donors and to contact the health care provider of the donor’s baby to verify adequate growth. The donor milk must be processed to inactivate pathogens (pasteurized), and post-processing bacterial cultures must be performed. The law does not regulate breast milk donors or affect informal milk sharing that may occur.
 
 
Discussing the “Rain Tax”

                                   
I attended a Luzerne County Legislative Committee meeting earlier this week in Wilkes-Barre. The topic was the stormwater fee that is being charged to residents of Luzerne County. It was a well-attended meeting with much discussion. As for me, I am opposed to the tax.

Our natural resources are precious and should be protected, however this tax is unduly burdensome. Since this is a federal mandate, it should be paid for with federal funds; we should not be penalizing homeowners and businesses for something as uncontrollable as the weather.

And although it is a federal mandate, those of us in public office need to continue to shine a light on its ramifications. I was glad to take part in this discussion and will continue to oppose the tax.

I was joined by my colleagues, from left: State Representative David Zimmerman, Luzerne County Councilman Stephen Urban, Luzerne County Councilman Harry Haas, Congressman Dan Meuser and Representative Aaron Kaufer.
                                     
 
Committee Discusses Bill to Better Coordinate Fire, EMS Services


Continuing the commitment to supporting the state’s fire and emergency services system, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing this week on a proposal to create a Pennsylvania State Fire Commission to better coordinate resources and services.

The bill is based on a recommendation offered by the Senate Resolution 6 Commission to ensure fire and EMS coverage, which is provided by volunteers in the majority of the state’s communities, remains available across the state.

Last fall, as part of our “Helpers and Heroes” initiative, the House passed a series of bills designed to improve recruitment and retention of volunteers for fire and ambulance companies, boost access to training and increase funding options. Most of the measures are now awaiting action in the Senate. Late last year, Act 106 was signed into law, making online training more readily available to current and prospective first responders. 
 
 
Keystone College Holds Ribbon Cutting on Commons


This week, Keystone College celebrated the grand opening of its new retail space, Keystone Commons.

The $3.5 million project includes a Steak ’n Shake restaurant, Keystone Fitness gym as well as a convenience store, campus bookstore and a Starbucks.

Keystone College President Tracy Brundage is shown cutting the ribbon inside the Steak ‘n Shake alongside: Drew Popish, representing Rep. Bridget Kosierowski; Shane Norman, Vice President of Steak ‘n Shake; Michael Kishbaugh, Sodexo general manager; my District Outreach Specialist, Julie Williams; Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry; Lackawanna County Commissioner Chris Chermak; Jim Clark, chair-elect of the Keystone College Board of Trustees; Factoryville Mayor Gary Evans; and former Keystone College President David Coppola.
 
    
Legislative Breakfast with Cori's Place

The Luzerne/Wyoming Counties Provider Legislative Breakfast was held this week in Wilkes-Barre.

Pictured here, from left, are: George Gwilliam of Cori’s Place; George’s daughter, Cori; State Representative Ed Pashinski; Carol Sweeney, my Tunkhannock District Office Manager; and Representative Aaron Kaufer. 
      
 
Deadline Nears for 2020 PA House Scholarship Applications


High school seniors interested in receiving financial assistance to help pay for college have until Sunday, March 1, to apply for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Scholarship.

Each year the program awards a four-year scholarship to two students preparing for post-secondary education. It is open to graduating high school seniors who are Pennsylvania residents with plans to attend a Pennsylvania college, university or career school as a full-time student.

To qualify, students must have attained a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average in high school. Other factors taken into consideration for the awards are a student’s commitment to community, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities and financial need.

The scholarship program is administered through the Foundation for Enhancing Communities. The application is available through the foundation’s web site. The scholarship is privately funded by individual and corporate donors; no tax or other public funds are used. 
 
 
PLCB Offers Grants to Help Cut Underage, Dangerous Drinking


The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is now accepting applications for grants to fund programs that discourage and reduce underage and dangerous drinking and promote a message of responsible alcohol consumption by those of legal drinking age.

Eligible grant applicants include Pennsylvania school districts and institutions of higher education (including technical, trade and post-secondary establishments), community organizations, municipal police departments, municipal officials/representatives, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

The grant cycle is for two years, from July 2020 through June 2022. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis with a maximum award of $20,000 per year and cumulative award of no more than $40,000 per two-year grant cycle, per eligible applicant. Applications will be evaluated by the PLCB’s Bureau of Alcohol Education, with awards made subject to availability of funds.

The deadline to apply for grants is noon Friday, March 20. The grant application link and guidelines for submission are available on the grants page of the PLCB website.

The PLCB has awarded nearly $15 million in alcohol education grants since inception of the grants program in 1999.  
 
 
Next Week’s Outreach Hours


On Wednesday, Feb. 26, a representative from the University of Scranton’s Small Business Administration will visit my Tunkhannock District Office from 10 a.m. to noon.

Also on Wednesday, a representative from Wilkes University’s Small Business Center will visit the Dallas District Office from 9-11 a.m.
 
 
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105 Lieutenant Michael Cleary Drive, Dallas, PA 18612 | (570) 675-6000, (800) 278-3930
133 West Tioga Street, Suite 4, Tunkhannock, PA 18657 | Phone: (570) 836-4777
41-B East Wing, Main Capitol, PO Box 202117, Harrisburg PA 17120-2117 | Phone: (717) 787-1117
Email: kboback@pahousegop.com