In this Update:
Senate Votes to Let Citizens Decide Voter ID, Legal Relief for Sexual Abuse Victims, Regulatory Reform
The Senate passed legislation this week that will let voters decide whether the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to create a voter ID requirement, provide sexual abuse victims with a way to sue their abusers and reform the state regulatory review process.
Thirty-five states, the world’s developed countries and many developing ones have voter photo ID requirements, and a 2021 Franklin and Marshall College poll found that 74% of Pennsylvania voters said the commonwealth should join them in making elections more secure.
Voter ID has been discussed and debated for more than a decade. It is not a new subject. Public opinion polls show extensive support. If it is going to be a part of the election process, it makes sense to put it in the Constitution so it is not an on again, off again requirement that proves disconcerting to voters. If approved, there should be follow up action to make sure that qualifying forms of ID are easily accessible so people are not disenfranchised.
Senate Bill 1 also includes a proposed constitutional amendment that will create a two-year window to allow sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers. Victims of sexual abuse who were abused as children have been unable to seek justice after the age of 30 due to a statute of limitations provision in Pennsylvania law.
I spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the measure.
In addition, Senate Bill 1 includes a separate proposed amendment that would allow the General Assembly to reject a regulation by majority approval, as opposed to a two-thirds vote, in both legislative chambers.
Under Pennsylvania’s current regulatory review process, the executive branch has circumvented the General Assembly and the normal legislative process, ignoring any legislative or public input that runs counter to executive branch regulatory goals.
A lot of people are concerned about bureaucrats who are achieving through regulation duties and powers that should only be available through legislative action. If this piece is approved, it gives elected representatives a necessary check on overreach by unelected officials.
The General Assembly previously approved the amendments in the 2021-22 legislative session. Approval of Senate Bill 1 this session would let voters have their say.
Senate Approves Bill to Eliminate Gas Tax Increase, Help Pennsylvanians at the Pump
Taking significant action to protect Pennsylvanians’ wallets, the Senate approved a bill to stop the automatic gas tax increase for 2023. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
For the first time, the average wholesale price of gasoline exceeded $2.99 per gallon last year, triggering an automatic increase in Pennsylvania’s gas tax that went into effect Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 35 would eliminate the automatic gas tax increase for 2023 moving forward, preventing what would produce the second-highest gas tax in the nation behind California, and permanently set the average wholesale price at $2.99 per gallon. The bill also requires the Department of Revenue to reassess this year’s gas tax structure.
Projections indicate the average Pennsylvania household will spend nearly $2,500 at the gas pump in 2023. This includes approximately $380 per driver in gas taxes alone.
A lot of families have been struggling with the higher costs inflation has brought. While gas prices have been falling in recent months, they are still nowhere near the more affordable prices of earlier years. At this juncture, stopping an increase in gas taxes makes a lot of economic sense.
Virtual Job Fair Set for Wednesday, Jan. 18
The Pennsylvania National Guard Associations will be holding a virtual job fair Wednesday, Jan. 18.
Jobseekers should be prepared to interview online with hiring managers and recruiters from top hiring companies. This online chat will connect the public directly with organizations.
After signing in, participants will be able to explore the available information and opportunities and participate in live one-on-one, text-based chats with representatives from participating organizations. Participants may also visit the job fair before and after the live event to continue making connections with top employers.
Assistance Available for Local Historic Preservation
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is now accepting applications from nonprofit organizations and local governments for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program.
Grants support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for the benefit of the public and community revitalization.
Two categories of grants – construction and planning – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania that are listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Applicants may apply for only one type of grant. Prospective applicants for construction grants can attend a webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. A planning grant webinar will be held Thursday, Jan. 19 at 1 p.m.
Anti-Litter Contest Open to K-6 Students
Entries are now being accepted for the Litter Hawk Youth Award Program, a way for students in kindergarten through sixth grade to promote anti-littering efforts through art, words or video.
Two entries will be selected as winners in each grade level. First place will receive a $50 gift card. First runner-up will receive a $25 gift card. All participants will be recognized with certificates. The deadline to participate is Jan. 31. Winners will be announced in April.
Kids can participate individually or as part of a lesson initiated by schools, home-schools, scout troops, 4-H clubs, environmental clubs or other organized groups. More information and entry forms are available here.
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Nearly 60 years after he shared his dream in an Aug. 28, 1963, Washington, D.C. speech, Martin Luther King Jr.’s wish is shared by the overwhelming number of Americans of all backgrounds. We must defend this unifying ideal for the well-being of our children and nation.
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