VFW Service Officer Available to Help Veterans at Senator Baker’s Hawley Office on December 1

(HAWLEY) – State Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) invites veterans to schedule an appointment to meet with a VFW Service Officer at her Hawley office location.  Appointments with a Service Officer are available at no charge on the first Thursday of every month.   

Senator Baker encourages veterans of all ages and from all service eras to utilize the Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars Service Officer Network, to receive free information and assistance for government benefits.  This assistance may include VA healthcare, compensation, pension, education and dependent benefits. Surviving spouses can also use these Service Officers at no charge to learn about their eligibility for VA benefits.

“Thanks to the sacrifices of our veterans and their families, we are able to enjoy everyday freedoms that continue to make our country a unique beacon of hope across the world,” Senator Baker said.  “During challenging economic times, many veterans continue to need our assistance.  This is true now more than ever.  I encourage any veteran or spouse with questions regarding benefits, to schedule a time to meet with a Service Officer.”

On Thursday, December 1, the VFW Service Officer will be available for scheduled appointments at Senator Baker’s office, 2512 Route 6, Hawley. All veterans, not just VFW members, can request appointments between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. To schedule an appointment at this location please call (570) 226-5960.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Williams twilliams@pasen.gov 570-675-3931

New Law Supports Pennsylvania’s Military Families

(HARRISBURG) – Deployments present military families with a number of challenges.  A loophole preventing spouses from collecting unemployment is no longer one of them, as a result of a new law advanced by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20).

Act 156 of 2022 clarifies that a spouse’s move to follow their active duty husband or wife will not be considered voluntary if it is determined that continued employment would be impractical or unreasonably difficult. Previously, the resignation could have been considered voluntary, and they may not have qualified for benefits.

“Supporting the brave men and women in uniform who serve our country must also include addressing the issues that arise for their families,” Senator Lisa Baker stated.  “While the cost is not high, this meaningful change is an important way in which we acknowledge the sacrifices of those who defend our freedom.”

Pennsylvania was one of only four states without a specific military spouse clause. According to data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, there are nearly 2,000 military spouses in Pennsylvania.

“This needed change will help to ensure that Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation law is fair to military spouses, who must relinquish their job to follow their spouse to a new duty station,” Senator Lisa Baker said.  “I’m pleased that Pennsylvania now joins the vast majority of other states by enacting this sensible protection.”

Signed earlier this week by Governor Tom Wolf, Act 156 takes effect immediately.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Flessner kflessner@pasen.gov 717-787-7428

General Assembly Announces $3M Pilot Mental Health Program for Schools

(PENNSYLVANIA) – Pennsylvania General Assembly members from both chambers and both parties today heralded the introduction of a mental health pilot program for public schools across the commonwealth. 

The web based counseling program by Kooth US was awarded a grant through the Department of Human Services that enables school districts to opt into the services without cost to students, parents or the district. The grant was funded in the FY 2022-23 state budget in acknowledgement of the mental health crisis currently being faced by young people. 

According to CDC data:

  • Of American youths aged 12-17, 1 in 3 have persistent feelings of sadness
  • 4 in 10 have issues that are going untreated
  • 1 in 6 have made a suicide plan

“We are keenly aware of the need for additional mental health programs and resources across our communities, but especially in our schools,” said Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne). “The disruptive impact of the pandemic exacerbated the fears and concerns felt by children.  Although we have made notable progress on increasing the state’s commitment toward accessible mental health services, much remains to be done.  This pilot project has the potential to fill some crucial gaps.  I am pleased to see that several school districts in northeastern Pennsylvania will be participating.  Our constituents will be encouraged to see constructive action on problem-solving that has bipartisan support.”

Kooth has already been introduced to four districts in the Commonwealth, with more to soon follow. Districts currently enrolled in the service include:

  • Wyoming Area 
  • Scranton 
  • Oswayo Valley 
  • Wyoming Valley West

“Every child who calls this commonwealth home deserves the mental healthcare they need to rebound from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and enjoy a beautiful, happy life here,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). “I’m proud of the work the Democratic caucus has done to deliver mental health funding to our public schools, and I’m proud today to support the implementation of Kooth US to continue this vital work. As our young people seek healing and support from two years of massive disruptions and social upheaval, I am glad services like Kooth exist to supply trained mental health resources to our students.” 

“House Republicans made it a priority in this year’s budget to fund mental health programs for students across the state. We believe that this pilot creates additional access for students statewide to access mental health services,” said House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster). “Students should never suffer from treatable or preventable challenges because of a lack of resources. We applaud private sector efforts like this to create platforms that have the potential to save lives.”

“This year the legislature and governor made a historic investment in student mental health, and I’m proud that Scranton students are going to benefit with access to this new app to provide them with an anonymous, immediate connection to professional help and supports to meet their immediate and long-term needs at no cost to our local taxpayers,” said Representative Thom Welby (D-Lackawanna).

Kooth’s innovative digital mental health and wellbeing platform has been designed to offer choice and encourage users to engage and seek help on their own terms. The service includes self help content, anonymous safe, moderated forums, journaling, goal setting, and therapeutic activities. 

“Young people are experiencing mental health problems at a rate we have never seen before and at a time of provider shortage,” said Kooth US General Manager Kevin Winters. “At Kooth, we knew we needed a different approach and that’s why we’ve focused on prevention in an accessible format able to reach a younger generation. We are thrilled to partner with Pennsylvania on this pilot program and look forward to seeing its success in many, many school districts.”

School districts that would like to opt in to the no cost Kooth’s program can request more information by emailing pennsylvania@kooth.com or go to https://us.kooth.com/.

 

Media Contact: Kate Flessner kflessner@pasen.gov 717-787-7428

Pennsylvania State Senate Passes Important Increase of the Cap of the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit

Nanticoke, October 26, 2022 – State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon) and State Senator Lisa Baker (Luzerne/Wyoming/Susquehanna/Wayne/Pike) announced today that new jobs and more investment will be coming to northeastern Pennsylvania after the Senate voted to create and expand tax credit programs to support targeted investments in key industries.

House Bill 1059 would make new resources available for job growth under the newly established Pennsylvania Economic Development for a Growing Economy (PA EDGE) tax credit program. The program will be made up of four components to attract major new investments to Pennsylvania communities.

A key component of the House Bill 1059 legislation is the increase of the cap of the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit Program from $26.6 million to $56.6 million annually, while ensuring tax credits remain available for construction of a smaller project facility in the near future. The new tax credits are intended to continue to build on Pennsylvania’s success in bringing high-quality jobs to the state. 

Act 66, the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit Program was sponsored by Senator Yudichak and State Representative Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) and was enacted into law in 2020 to provide tax credits for petrochemical and fertilizer manufacturing within the Commonwealth.

With today’s passage of House Bill 1059, the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit legislation will now fall under the PA EDGE package and will provide $115 million in new tax credits annually and features the following parameters:

  • Expands the existing tax credit from $26,666,668 to $56,666,668 for petrochemical and fertilizer manufacturing.
  • The taxpayer that qualifies for the smaller tax credit must make a $400 million capital investment and create 800 new and permanent jobs.
  • The taxpayer that qualifies for the larger tax credit must make a $1 billion capital investment and create 1800 new and permanent jobs.

“The package of tax credit expansion bills passed today will help to continue to build on the historic economic growth we are experiencing here in northeastern Pennsylvania and will set the stage for transformative economic growth across a wide array of industries throughout the Commonwealth,” said State Senator Yudichak. “Specifically, the $30 million increase of the cap with the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit Program will help secure good-paying and family-sustaining jobs for Pennsylvanians. The PA EDGE legislation passed today invests in the working families of Pennsylvania.”

Even before today’s passage of the expansion of the program, the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit Program was already making a significant impact as it led to Nacero Inc. committing to build a new $6 billion lower carbon gasoline manufacturing facility in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“This legislation is one more step in the direction of bringing a generational investment to Luzerne County,” said State Representative Kaufer. “Nacero offers the single greatest economic opportunity our region has ever seen and will make northeastern Pennsylvania a major hub in the clean energy revolution.”

“This tax credit program is an exciting initiative that represents a tremendous opportunity for continued economic advancement and job expansion across northeastern Pennsylvania,” said State Senator Lisa Baker. “We must ensure good, family-sustaining jobs are accessible throughout our region, while pursuing new ways to foster greater workforce development.”

“I applaud Senator Yudichak’s efforts along with the entire NEPA Delegation of Senators and Representatives in tonight’s bipartisan support for new PA EDGE Tax Credit Bill,” said Warren Faust, President, Northeast Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council. “The historic PA EDGE Tax Credit is another step in making sure we can attract projects like Nacero, that the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building & Construction Trades Skilled Members are ready to build. The tax credit also advances core labor issues, like prevailing wage rates, and positions Pennsylvania to secure more than 200 million construction hours for the Pennsylvania Building Construction Trade Unions on projects that will transform Pennsylvania communities with thousands of jobs.”

State Senators David Argall, John Gordner and Marty Flynn and State Representatives Robert Schnee, Eddie Day-Pashinski, Mike Carroll, Karen Boback and Gerald Mullery were all instrumental in the passage of the PA EDGE legislation.

VFW Service Officer Available to Help Veterans at Senator Baker’s Hawley Office on November 3, 2022

(HAWLEY) – State Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) invites veterans to schedule an appointment to meet with a VFW Service Officer at her Hawley office location.  Appointments with a Service Officer are available at no charge on the first Thursday of every month.  

Senator Baker encourages veterans of all ages and from all service eras to utilize the Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars Service Officer Network, to receive free information and assistance for government benefits.  This assistance may include VA healthcare, compensation, pension, education and dependent benefits. Surviving spouses can also use these Service Officers at no charge to learn about their eligibility for VA benefits.

“We owe every veteran a debt of gratitude for providing the everyday freedoms our great nation enjoys,” Senator Baker said.  “During challenging economic times, many veterans continue to need our assistance.  This is true now more than ever.  I encourage any veteran or spouse with questions regarding benefits, to schedule a time to meet with a Service Officer.”

On Thursday, November 3, the VFW Service Officer will be available for scheduled appointments at Senator Baker’s office, 2512 Route 6, Hawley. All veterans, not just VFW members, can request appointments between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. To schedule an appointment at this location please call (570) 226-5960.

 

MEDIA CONTACTTwilliams@pasen.gov 570-675-3931

Senator Lisa Baker Announces State Grants Available for Water and Sewer Projects

(DALLAS) – Local municipalities have until December 21 to apply for grants to assist with clean water, sanitary sewer, and storm water projects, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), who urges local municipalities to apply. The special funding was made available to Pennsylvania through federal support from the American Rescue Plan.

According to Senator Lisa Baker, the General Assembly approved use of $320 million to help communities across the commonwealth improve the reliability and quality of their water systems.  A total of $214.4 million was directed to the H2O Grant Program and $105.6 million was directed to the Small Water and Sewer (SWS) Grant Program.  Both programs are overseen by the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA).

“These grant programs are an important resource that can be used to help protect our local water supplies and ensure our communities have access to safe drinking water,” said Senator Lisa Baker.  “Helping our local governments to fund these vital projects is important to public health, our environment, and economic development.”

Senator Lisa Baker explained that the high cost often associated with maintaining water and sewer systems can necessitate collaboration between state and local governments, so that local taxpayers are not unduly burdened.

The grant support will range from $30,000 to more than $500,000, and can be used to assist with the construction, improvement, expansion, rehabilitation, or repair of a water supply system or sanitary sewer system, and for storm water system projects.

The online application for the H2O Grant Program and the Small Water and SWS Grant Program can be submitted now, thorough December 21. Cities, townships, boroughs, counties and municipal authorities are encouraged to apply at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us. Grant awards are highly competitive and will likely be announced in July of 2023.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:  Tom Williams Twilliams@pasen.gov  (570)-675-3931                                                                              

Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee and Senate Labor and Industry Committee Hold Important Joint Hearing on Workforce Development

Nanticoke, October 11, 2022 – The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee chaired by State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon) and the Senate Labor and Industry Committee chaired by State Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver/Greene/Washington) held a joint hearing on Tuesday on the subject of workforce development in northeastern Pennsylvania. The hearing was held at the Luzerne County Community College’s Educational Conference Center.

The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee and the Senate Labor and Industry Committee assembled an impressive group of panelists ranging from both private and public sector experts to discuss the importance of investing in workforce development, including area labor leaders and representatives from the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greater Pittston Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Hazleton Area Chamber of Commerce, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Investment and attention to workforce development has made a significant impact in the economy in northeastern Pennsylvania and has been a key contributor to the region’s recent economic success. According to the 2020-21 Governor’s Action Team Report, northeastern Pennsylvania topped every other region in the Commonwealth by creating over 2,300 new jobs last year, 1,300 of those jobs in the manufacturing industry, and secured more than $1.2 billion in private economic development.

“Despite all the good economic news in northeastern Pennsylvania, the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation, global instability, and workforce development failures threaten our ability to sustain NEPA’s number one position in economic growth within the Commonwealth,” said State Senator Yudichak. “Today’s joint hearing on Pennsylvania’s workforce development programs is a timely discussion on all the factors that will help us build on our region’s economic success story and contribute to a stronger Pennsylvania economy.”

“As employers struggle to find the talent they need to run and grow their businesses, it is imperative that we continue to develop innovative strategies to prepare individuals for the workforce and share the successes so they can be replicated across the state,” said State Senator Bartolotta. “I greatly appreciate the work of the organizations that testified today about the creative ways they are training our future workers.”

Today’s panel highlighted education, training, and union apprenticeship programs that can prepare a highly skilled workforce for 21st century jobs. The panel also discussed how affordable childcare, access to transportation, and the availability of quality drug and alcohol programs can sustain a reliable workforce.

“With employers in just about every sector coping with a lack of available or suitably skilled workers, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that emerging workers and displaced workers have the education, training, and work ethic needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said State Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming).

“IBEW Local 163 JATC was happy to provide input to the panel of legislators for the workforce development in NEPA hearing,” said John Nadolny, Training Director, Wilkes-Barre Electrical JATC. “We are proud to represent labor and our registered apprenticeship program. We were grateful for the opportunity to provide feedback on this important topic.”

MEDIA ADVISORY Public Hearing on Workforce Development in Northeastern Pennsylvania to take place Tuesday, October 11, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. at Luzerne County Community College

Watch Live

(HARRISBURG) – Members of the media are invited to attend a joint public hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development (CERD) and Labor and Industry committees focusing on workforce development in northeastern Pennsylvania to be held at Luzerne County Community College.

 Participants:    Senator John Yudichak, Chair, CERD Committee

Senator Camera Bartolotta, Chair, Labor and Industry Committee

Senator Lisa Baker, Vice Chair Labor and Industry Committee

Senator Amanda Cappelletti, Minority Chair, CERD Committee

Senator Christine Tartaglione, Minority Chair Labor and Industry Committee

Education, business, and union leaders, and area chamber of commerce representatives

Date:               Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Time:               1:30 p.m.

Location:       Educational Conference Center, Luzerne County Community College

                           521 Trailblazer Drive

                           Nanticoke, PA 18634

Details:          The hearing will highlight some of the innovative workforce development initiatives being undertaken in northeastern Pennsylvania and explore the growing challenges employers are facing in attracting and training workers, and what resources are needed to help businesses prosper in a challenging economic environment.

 

CONTACT:    Tom Williams
twilliams@pasen.gov
(570) 675-3931

Senators Baker and Haywood Announce Guardianship Legislation

(HARRISBURG) – Today, State Senator Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia) and State Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Wyoming/Susquehanna/Wayne/Pike) announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced legislation that will strengthen guardianship laws in Pennsylvania.

Senators Haywood and Baker introduced the bi-partisan legislation on September 13. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a voting meeting today at 11:30 a.m. in the East Wing of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex and voted in favor of Senate Bill 1333.

“Today the Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1333, legislation that I have been pleased to work on with Senator Haywood,” said Baker, who serves as chair of the committee. “We hear all too often of guardianships resulting in unintended exploitation of individuals.” Baker added: “This measure takes a positive step forward to better protect this vulnerable population from abuse.”

When a court determines that an adult is incapacitated, it appoints a professional or family guardian, who is responsible for making certain decisions on the adult’s behalf, either fully, or in a limited capacity. After the court transfers legal responsibilities, the guardian can make financial, medical, and personal decisions that the adult is unable to make for themself.

In October 2019, three court-appointed guardians embezzled more than $1 million from 108 victims in six Pennsylvania counties. With over 19,000 active guardianships in the state, this bill will prevent fraud, abuse, and exploitation, and increase representation for Pennsylvanians.

The new legislation proposes the following:

  • Appoints counsel for incapacitated persons without representation.
  • Requires certification for professional guardians.
  • Advises courts to first explore alternatives to guardianship.
  • Requires that petitions for guardianship demonstrate that less restrictive alternatives were considered, but they were insufficient.

“My neighbor, Mr. Frisby, was ripped off by a professional guardian,” said Haywood. “This legislation remedies the practices that lead to that theft.” Haywood continued: “Thank you, Mr. Frisby, for bringing this matter to the committee for a vote.”

While guardianship can be an appropriate tool to support individuals who cannot make decisions themselves, it should be limited and used only as a last resort. Alternatives to guardianship include habilitation programs, representative payees managing public benefits, and family or friends serving as health care representatives. These pathways can be equally effective, less expensive, and more emotionally safe.

Senate Bill 1333 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

 

Media Contacts:

 Senator Baker: Kate Flessner kflessner@pasen.gov/ 717-787-7428

 Senator Haywood: Janielle Edmonds Janielle.Edmonds@pasenate.com / 717-756-1043

Meeting to consider SB 1317, SB 1321, SB 1333, HB 103, HB 185, HB 875, HB 1393, HB 1929 and HB 2527

Senate Judiciary Committee

Tuesday, September 20 | 11:30 a.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-B


Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 1317, SB 1321, SB 1333, HB 103, HB 185, HB 875, HB 1393, HB 1929 and HB 2527

Schedule

I. Call to Order

II. Committee Meeting

Senate Bill 1317 (Browne) – Amends the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Law by creating the Indigent Defense Advisory Committee and the Indigent Defense Grant Fund.

A05558 (Baker) – Contains a number of technical amendments, makes the ED of the Public Defender Association of Pa a voting member, provides that the representatives of the PDAA, the Office of Victim Advocate and the Chiefs of Police will not participate in discussions of standards and provides that certain information provided to the Committee shall remain confidential.

Senate Bill 1321 (Baker) – Amends sections 302 and 305 of the Tax Reform Code of 1971 to specifically provide that the grantor of a trust who is treated as the owner of the trust pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (generally by electing to either retain or to grant to a trustee certain powers specified in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986), shall be obligated to pay the appropriate Pennsylvania income taxes.

Senate Bill 1333 (Baker) – Amends Section 5511 of Title 20 to require that counsel be appointed to represent an unrepresented alleged incapacitated person and providing for the certification of any guardian that represents three or more incapacitated persons. Amends Section 5512.1 of Title 20 to require certain findings regarding less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. 

House Bill 103 (Schmitt) – Amends Section 2703 of Title 18 to create the offense of harassment of law enforcement officer.

Amendment A05476 (Regan) – Removes references to HIV and hepatitis B from the statute, defines “communicable disease,” makes the grading of the offense against law enforcement the same as the grading of the offense against corrections officers and provides that the offense may be upgraded if the fluid involved contains a communicable disease and that communicable disease is communicable through the method used by the perpetrator to bring the CO or law enforcement in contact with it.

House Bill 185 (Struzzi) – Amends Title 18 to provide that a person is guilty of aggravated assault if he attempts to cause or intentionally causes bodily injury to an individual with a physical or intellectual disability or with autism spectrum disorder.

House Bill 875 (Irvin) – Amends Section 3323 of Title 23 to require an order to accompany a decree of divorce or annulment which must include a provision informing the parties of the effect of the divorce on certain beneficiary designations.

House Bill 1393 (Struzzi) – Amends the definition of drug paraphernalia in Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act to expressly exclude any testing product utilized in determining whether a controlled substance contains chemicals, toxic substances, or hazardous chemicals in quantities which can cause physical harm or death.

House Bill 1929 (Causer) – Amends Section 908 of Title 18 by removing from the definition of offensive weapons certain cutting instruments which feature a blade that can be exposed in an automatic way by a switch, push button or spring mechanism.

House Bill 2527 (Quinn) – Amends Section 13.8 of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act to replace the term “naloxone” with the generic and defined term “opioid antagonist”.

III. Adjourn