In this Update:
Senate to Reconvene to Work on Finalizing State Budget
Next week, the Senate will return to session to work toward finalizing the 2023-24 state budget. Because the budget bill itself has been passed, the focus will be on legislation necessary to implement the budget. I hope the House of Representatives will also reconvene before its scheduled return on Sept. 26.
Decisions we make now will have a big financial impact for years to come, so we are committed to taking the responsible long-term approach. Doing so will provide certainty for Pennsylvanians in uncertain times.
Watch session live here on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at 1 p.m.
New Website Reports Cost and Quality of Hospital Care
Pennsylvanians have a new tool to research the cost and quality of health care in their area.
The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, an independent state government agency, redesigned its website to better showcase its quality-related reports. It offers data to help people compare hospitals by procedure, condition, specialty and cost.
View the free public reports and browse the data here.
PA 529 Fees Waived Again
In addition to the usual state and federal tax advantages, people who use PA 529 plans to save to attend a technical school, community college or four-year college – or enter an apprenticeship – will also enjoy reduced fees for the second year in a row.
Asset-based fees will again be waived for PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) owners. Fee waivers will be funded by PA 529 GSP surplus earnings.
State fees will decrease by 0.5 basis points effective Sept. 1 for PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) account owners. This reduction and one announced last month will result in a savings of more than $800,000 for account holders throughout this fiscal year.
New CDL Skills Test Intended to Attract More School Bus Drivers
Beginning Monday, Aug. 28, a modernized commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test will be implemented at all Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) driver license centers that offer CDL skills tests and at all third party CDL driving skill testers.
Applicants who will take the test after Aug. 28 are encouraged to review updated materials here.
As some schools are already back in session and others are scheduled to start soon, there is a pressing need to ensure the availability of school bus drivers. According to PennDOT, these measures will streamline the school bus endorsement process and hopefully attract new drivers – alleviating Pennsylvania’s school bus driver shortage.
Free Hunter-Trapper Education Course Available
All first-time hunters and trappers, regardless of age, must successfully complete hunter-trapper education training before they can buy a Pennsylvania hunting or trapping license.
A free in-person hunter-trapper education course is available to anyone 11 years and older. It covers responsible hunting behavior, firearms basics and safety, basic shooting, wildlife conservation and management, outdoor safety and survival, hunting techniques, trapping and fur taking basics, and hunting safety.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission also has three online hunter-trapper education courses: online hunter education for $34.95, NRA free online hunter education course and interactive online hunter education for $50. Learn more and register for a course here.
Recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day
Sadly, the opioid epidemic still impacts communities all across our state. It affects people regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status and gender – threatening our families and the safe communities we all want to enjoy.
As International Overdose Awareness Day approaches on Aug. 31, Senate Republicans remain committed to fighting the epidemic. The Senate unanimously passed legislation allowing EMS providers to leave life-saving naloxone, or Narcan, with the on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids but was revived.
Senate Republicans also passed a bill banning official “injection sites,” which do not help to overcome addiction and instead encourage the continued use of illegal and often deadly drugs. Injection sites normalize drug use and send a powerful, dangerous and incorrect message from government that illegal drugs can be used safely.
Sign Petition to Support Students in Failing Schools
Senate Republicans and Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro compromised on a state budget agreement for the 2023-24 fiscal year. That agreement included an increase of more than half a billion dollars to fund public education in Pennsylvania.
In addition to the substantial public education funding, the budget deal also reflected the reality that many students are trapped in failing public schools. It included $100 million for the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program, which would give thousands of students increased educational opportunities.
Unfortunately, after House Democrats pushed back against this bipartisan plan, the governor abandoned his own priority and the agreement he pledged to support. Please make your support known for PASS scholarships by signing the petition here.
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