In This Update:
Bill Clarifying Requirements For DA Vacancies Becomes Law
Filling a vacancy in the office of district attorney in counties with fewer than 210,00 residents has become less controversial as a result of legislation I authored that was recently signed into law.
The issue arose when Susquehanna County District Attorney Robert Klein passed away in 2017. The County Code specifies that the first assistant district attorney is the successor. But another section requires a year of residency by an elected or appointed chief prosecutor, which could not be met in this instance. The discrepancy raised numerous legal questions because it was unclear which condition took precedence. We worked quickly to write and advance legislation to resolve the conflict by making it clear that both requirements must be met in order to assume the position.
This small change ensures an orderly transition for future district attorney vacancies in rural counties. It is a good reminder that solid legislation tends to be rooted in the community and greatly influenced by local residents.
Senate Leaders Appeal Election Case to U.S. Supreme Court
Last year, leaders of both parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives worked together to strengthen our state’s election law with the most comprehensive reforms in at least 80 years. In advance of this year’s General Election on November 3, all parties had been working in good faith once again to address new issues that could prevent a complete, timely and fair count of ballots.
Unfortunately, a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court introduced new risks to election security and unraveled weeks of progress in negotiations between lawmakers and the Wolf Administration. It is disappointing that the state Supreme Court has muddied the voting process and created questions about the fairness of the forthcoming results, including a new requirement to count ballots received by county election boards up to three days after Election Day – a clear infringement of the General Assembly’s right to determine the time, place and manner of elections.
This week, Senate leaders appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and requested a stay of the court’s ruling so we can resume our work to ensure every Pennsylvanian has an opportunity to vote – and give everyone the peace of mind to know that their vote is counted fairly and in a timely manner.
Committee Discusses Future of Telemedicine in Pennsylvania
Telemedicine services were authorized in Pennsylvania on a temporary basis at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these services have played a critical role in ensuring patients could continue to access medical services without gathering in waiting rooms and other areas where the virus could easily spread. This week, the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a workshop discussion to gather input on the future of telemedicine in Pennsylvania.
During the discussion, medical experts and other stakeholders spoke at length about the benefits of telemedicine to patients, and they encouraged lawmakers and Governor Wolf to approve a new telemedicine law to ensure these services can continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.
Lawmakers approved a bill authorizing telemedicine in Pennsylvania on a permanent basis in April, but Governor Wolf vetoed the bill.
Grants Available for Environmental Education Projects
Youth and adult environmental education projects may be eligible for grant funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Schools, colleges, nonprofit community and environmental organizations, county conservation districts and businesses are encouraged to apply for Environmental Education Grants by December 11.
A special webinar is scheduled for October 14 from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. to provide additional information on how to apply. Registration is required. Registration and more details are available here.
Motorcycle Safety Courses Resume
Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program classes are set to resume statewide through the end of the year with new safety measures in place to protect against COVID-19. The classes are free to Pennsylvania motorcycle permit and license holders. Completing the basic or intermediate course waives the requirement for a permit holder to complete the skills test at a PennDOT Driver License Center.
REMINDER: Mental Health Resources Available for Pennsylvanians in Need
Pennsylvanians who are struggling with mental health issues can find help through a variety of different avenues. If you or someone you know are experiencing a mental health crisis, help is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “PA” to the Mental Health Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Pennsylvania residents can also call the PA Support & Referral Helpline at 1-855-284-2494. More information on mental health resources is available here.
New Scam Targets SNAP Assistance Program
Community residents should be aware of a new scam involving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The scam involves text messages telling the recipient that they have been selected to receive assistance through SNAP and requesting personal information that is later used to commit fraud.
Government agencies do not solicit participation in assistance programs like SNAP through text messages. If you ever have a question about whether a call, text, letter or other communication is legitimate, questions can be directed to the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930.
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