Senator Lisa Baker E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Approves Plan to Offer Additional Year of Education Due to COVID-19
  • Voters Approve Constitutional Amendments to Improve Emergency Response
  • Citizens can Comment on PennDOT Plan to Toll Highway Bridges
  • Senate Acts to Preserve Prescription Drug Assistance for Seniors
  • PA Set to Transition to New Unemployment Compensation System
  • Observing National EMS Week – May 16 to May 22, 2021

Senate Approves Plan to Offer Additional Year of Education Due to COVID-19

Parents would have the option to allow their children to repeat a grade level due to the learning disruptions created by COVID-19, under a bill that I co-sponsored, which was recently approved by the Senate.

In current practice, the decision on whether to hold a student back is made solely by the child’s school and teachers. Senate Bill 664 would give parents the option to make that decision for the 2021-22 school year, since they are in the best position to gauge their child’s development and educational needs after students have spent much of the past year learning at home.

It would also allow parents to extend enrollment in special education programs for an extra year, preventing students with special needs from aging out of the system at age 21. More information about the bill is available here.

Voters Approve Constitutional Amendments to Improve Emergency Response

In Tuesday’s primary election, Pennsylvania voters approved four ballot questions, including two constitutional amendments that will improve the way the state responds to emergencies.

The primary election results demonstrate our system of government works better when we work together. Pennsylvanians want to see more collaboration and better results from state government when responding to emergencies.

Citizens can Comment on PennDOT Plan to Toll Highway Bridges

Residents can use an upcoming telephone town hall to voice their opinion on PennDOT plans to toll bridges on Pennsylvania interstate highways.

PennDOT will hold a telephone town hall on the plan Tuesday, May 25, beginning at 6 p.m. To join the town hall, register here to receive a phone call to join at the start of the meeting or call (855) 756-7520, Entry Code Extension 73539#.

In addition to the telephone town hall, citizens can comment:

If you have a comment or question about a specific bridge tolling project, you can access each project’s comment form by visiting the project websites here.

On February 18, PennDOT unveiled a plan to toll nine bridges:

  • Interstate 78 – Berks County
  • Interstate 79 – Allegheny County
  • Interstate 80 – Clarion, Carbon, Jefferson, and Luzerne counties
  • Interstate 81 – Susquehanna County
  • Interstate 83 – Dauphin County
  • Interstate 95 – Philadelphia

Last month, the Senate approved Senate Bill 382, which would reform the Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) statute and to void the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative. It is now before the House Transportation Committee.

Senate Acts to Preserve Prescription Drug Assistance for Seniors

The Senate adopted a plan that will allow thousands of older Pennsylvanians to retain eligibility for prescription drug assistance.

PACE and PACENET are the state’s prescription drug assistance programs that provide life-sustaining medications to 257,000 seniors. Eligibility for the programs are based on income. The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2021 is estimated to result in almost 5,100 PACE and PACENET cardholders exceeding the income eligibility limits, meaning those seniors will lose their benefits.

Senate Bill 323 extends the current moratorium on increases in income due to a Social Security COLA for PACE and PACENET enrollees for two additional years until Dec. 31, 2023, benefitting 17,800 seniors.

PA Set to Transition to New Unemployment Compensation System

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Unemployment Compensation system is finally ready to move on from outdated technology and will transition to a new system May 30-June 7, with the new system going live June 8.

The system will be offline for several days during next month’s transition from an outdated, 40-year-old system to a modern software solution, but department officials say the planned timeline has been positioned to allow most individuals to file their biweekly claims as scheduled.

Find out about disruptions this will cause, and access user guides and virtual workshops, here.

Observing National EMS Week – May 16 to May 22, 2021

Over the past year, we witnessed how Emergency Medical Services personnel are ready to serve their communities and patients, even when facing an unprecedented global pandemic, and despite the risks to their personal health and safety.

EMTs, paramedics and other EMS practitioners serve as healthcare professionals, social workers, crisis counselors, consolers and caregivers. For this national EMS Week, we honor the many roles of EMS professionals and the people behind the scenes who support them.

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