In this Update:
Dush Calls for PA’s Exit from ‘GHOST’ ERIC Voter Registration Center
During this week’s Senate Appropriations budget hearing with the Department of State, I asked Acting Secretary of State Al Schmidt about the cost of Pennsylvania leaving the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).
In February, Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen made an unannounced visit to the published address of ERIC’s headquarters and found “no ERIC presence of any kind.”
How can you have any type of information center, with no physical presence? ERIC’s Washington, DC address is actually operated by Expansive, a company that offers virtual workplaces across the county and rents office space by the day.
Pennsylvania needs to leave ERIC for the same reasons that seven other states have left this non-existent, GHOST “Information Center” over the past 14 months. In the upcoming months, as chairman of the State Government Committee, I will be taking the lead on this issue and charting a path for Pennsylvania to leave ERIC and provide a reasonable, non-partisan substitute for ERIC data.
In addition to the question about ERIC, I asked Schmidt about the 2019 audit done on Pennsylvania’s voter registration system as well as federal and private election funding, county election grants, funding outreach to unregistered voters and publishing constitutional amendments.
NOTE: If you go to the link on the audit there is an executive summary in the first four pages what will make it clear that there have been serious issues with this system and that the Democrat Auditor General was informing Governor Wolf of the push-back he was getting from the Department of State.
This past week, I also had the chance to question representatives of the Pennsylvania State Police, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, the Education Department and Pennsylvania’s state system and state-related universities.
I asked Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Christopher Paris about the administration’s proposal to collapse the various state police expenses into a single line item, which would decrease transparency in its budget, and about the use of state troopers in administrative positions and any opportunities he may see to increase the efficient use of staff time.
During the Labor and Industry hearing, I asked the department if it received money back from their IBM lawsuit related to the failed update of our unemployment compensation system.
When questioning Agriculture Sec. Russell Redding, I raised the topics of forest products and hardwood development as well as helping Snow Shoe, Centre County, qualify for help as “food desert” after the community lost its only grocery store.
During the Education Department hearing, I noted the term “environmental justice” has no legal definition and should not be used in department policymaking, and pressed officials to control spending in the face of economic uncertainties. Additionally, raised concerns about schools moving away from phonetics for teaching students to read and the use of graphic material is schools.
Speaking with the representatives of our state-related universities, I asked why the percentage of Pennsylvanians enrolling in college in the commonwealth is falling, and later requested the schools provide the results they have regarding their efforts to operate more efficiently.
During the hearing for the universities of our State system of Higher Education, I asked how the system distributes state funding to its universities.
Find full hearing recaps, video, livestreams and upcoming schedule at PASenateGOP.com.
Brighter Tomorrow for PA Agriculture
The future of Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry is shining as bright as ever!
A few hours before Tuesday’s #PASenate #PABudget hearing with @PAAgriculture Secretary Russell Redding, I had the privilege of visiting with some outstanding Future Farmers of America students representing Brockway, Otto-Eldred and Penns Valley school districts.
District 25 Students Bring Home “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” Video Awards
On March 28, 14 middle schools and manufacturing companies throughout the counties of Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter participated in the sixth annual “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” video awards led by Work Force Solutions for North Central PA.
Each team, consisting of sixth through eighth grade students along with their teacher, were tasked to visit a local manufacturing company to create a short video profiling the company’s career opportunities.
This program is a great example of teachers teaching outside the box. It is giving their students an early opportunity to be creative and find out what occupations are available without having to move from our region.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the videos these innovative students created, you can click here to view them.
Participating Schools and Employers were:
After voting was closed the following schools received awards:
Thank you to all the students who participated in this program. My hope for you is that this experience will teach you that hard work and dedication will pay off. Don’t give up even if you fail. Those failures will ultimately turn into successes.
Thank you to as well to all the teachers who guided these students along the way; thank you for your time and dedication.
New Military Themed License PA License Plates Available
New military themed license plates are available – the Air Medal license plate and the Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans license plate – to recognize veterans’ special contributions during their service.
Both are available for a fee of $23 for passenger cars or trucks with a registered gross weight of not more than 14,000 pounds.
Applicants for the Air Medal license plate must submit a completed Form MV-150, “Application for U.S. Military Service License plate,” and a legible photocopy of their Form DD214, “Separation Papers or Discharge Papers,” to show that they are recipients of the medal. The license plate contains the standard Pennsylvania license plate colors of blue, white, and gold and depicts an image of the Air Medal.
Applicants for the Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans license plate must submit a completed Form MV-150V, “Application for U.S. Military Veteran License plate,” and a legible photocopy of their Form DD214, “Separation Papers or Discharge Papers.” Only veterans who served in both theaters of operation are eligible for these license plates. The license plate contains the standard Pennsylvania license plate colors of blue, white, and gold and depicts images of both the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal.
More information is available here about all the state’s military plates.
Senate Concludes Week Two of Budget Hearings
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued public hearings this week on the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s $45.8 billion budget seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget. Projections indicate it will nearly wipe out the state’s Rainy Day Fund in five years.
Among the highlights:
The Department of Education hearing focused on the largest proposed Basic Education Funding increase in Pennsylvania history as well as Gov. Shapiro’s failure to follow through on his promise to fund Lifeline Scholarships, a key provision to help provide families with greater options to meet their educational needs.
At the Department of State budget hearing, the committee sought details about federal and private election funding, county election grants, funding outreach to unregistered voters and publishing constitutional amendments.
At the hearing for the Department of Labor and Industry, members discussed the potential for major job losses if Pennsylvania enters the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Persistent concerns about Unemployment Compensation (UC) claims processing and preventing UC fraud were also leading topics.
The Department of Agriculture hearing included acknowledgment that the Norfolk Southern train derailment impacted many residents at Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio, including farmers. Testing of livestock and crops will continue following that incident.
During the Pennsylvania State Police hearing, there was discussion about funding methods, as the state police currently receives money out of the Motor License Fund. The governor proposed phasing in a new Public Safety and Protection Fund.
Find full hearing recaps, video, livestreams and upcoming schedule at PASenateGOP.com.
Help Our Struggling Military Members
Anyone who is owed a Pennsylvania personal income tax return has a convenient opportunity to support our military members, veterans and their families who are facing tough times.
You can help those who serve our nation and commonwealth by making a gift to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program. All donations will benefit those with a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control.
On lines 32 through 36 of the Personal Income Tax Return, fill out Code C. If you do not have an overpayment on your return, you may make a donation by sending a check directly to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program, c/o Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Building 0-47, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003-5002.
Veterans: Town Hall about PACT Act on April 4
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) will hold an in-person Veteran Town Hall on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act on Tuesday, April 4, from 6-8 p.m. at the West View VFW Post 2754, 386 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh. The town hall will also be available by phone.
The new federal PACT Act law expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. The town hall will enable veterans and their advocates to learn and ask questions about eligibility and applying for benefits related to the PACT Act.
In-person attendees may arrive early to enjoy a dedicated resource fair from 5-6 p.m. People who will be attending any portion of the event in person are asked to register by calling 717-644-3890.
Anyone joining the town hall by phone should call 267-332-8737 and enter Conference ID: 989503340# to participate. Both in-person attendees and callers will be able to ask questions during the town hall.
State Offers Free Motorcycle Safety Training
PennDOT offers free motorcycle training through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program.
Free courses for novice through seasoned riders are offered to Pennsylvania residents who have a motorcycle learner’s permit or motorcycle license. Four levels of courses are available – including the 16-hour Basic Rider Course, the eight-hour Intermediate Rider Course, the one-day Advanced Rider Course and the 3 Wheel Rider Course.
For more information or to enroll in a course, visit www.pamsp.com.
$25,000 Fishing and Boating Grants Available
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is seeking applicants for grants to support education programs that promote new and renewed interest in fishing and boating. The grants aim to connect Pennsylvanians with the fun of commonwealth waterways by teaching fishing and boating skills and providing quality places for these recreational opportunities.
PFBC will reimburse qualifying organizations up to $25,000 for eligible expenses from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. The grants require a minimum 25% match of total project costs. Grant applications must be submitted here by April 14.
Aerial Tree Trimming in Centre County March through December 2023
FirstEnergy has announced that starting March 15, weather permitting, Aerial Solutions Inc. will be conducting, by helicopter, aerial saw operations in Centre County that are expected to continue through December 2023. The purpose is to clear away trees and other vegetation from electric transmission lines
The helicopter has a saw consisting of multiple 24-inch rotary blades powered by a motor suspended on a vertical boom beneath it. As the helicopter flies slowly along the right-of-way, the aerial saw cuts and trims trees and other vegetation.
The helicopter will travel from substation to substation within the county, trimming the transmission corridor. So, if you see a bright yellow helicopter with a long chainsaw hanging out trimming trees, it is likely Aerial Solutions.
The pilot and/or company can be contacted directly for any questions or to confirm specific locations on a given day by contacting 910-625-1904 (by phone) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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