In this Update:
Senator Martin’s Constitutional Amendment to Prevent Executive Overreach Advances
Earlier this week, the Senate State Government Committee approved my constitutional amendment designed to limit the use of emergency powers by the executive branch outside of the emergency declaration process. I was joined by Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28), Pat Stefano (R-32) and Judy Ward (R-30) in authoring the constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 959, after the Department of Health issued an illegal mask mandate for schools in August 2021 that was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December of the same year.
The amendment would clarify that no department secretary or agency under the Governor’s jurisdiction can issue public mandates, guidance, or directives, unless clearly prescribed and authorized in current law, without an official emergency declaration order in effect. You can learn more about the legislation by visiting my website.
State Court Blocks Gov. Wolf’s $781 Million Carbon Tax Pending Further Order
In a win for Pennsylvania consumers and workers, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court this week ruled Gov. Tom Wolf’s $781 million carbon tax could not take effect pending a full order from the court.
The ruling came a day after Republicans stood united in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of the resolution that disapproves of Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). During those discussions I spoke to the many flaws of RGGI, including increases to energy costs and the impact on schools, hospitals, food, and supplies, making the costs of everything more expensive to consumers.
Just last week, impartial analysis from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) concluded RGGI could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers above the administration’s own year-old projections for the program. The IFO also warned members “those costs would be pushed through to final customers.”
As for environmental benefits, multiple independent reports show emissions from Pennsylvania’s power sector declined at a comparable rate to the other 10 RGGI states over the last decade.
The Wolf Administration is attempting to enter this pact through the regulatory process without the approval of the legislature. Every other participating state entered RGGI through the legislative process – not unilateral executive action. A bipartisan majority of legislators has consistently voted against RGGI when the issue has been brought to the floor for a vote.
Senate Votes to Expand Sexual Assault Law to Cover Crimes Against Care-Dependent Pennsylvanians
The Senate voted to expand the law against institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care-dependent individuals, closing a loophole that allows perpetrators to escape punishment.
Current law against sexual assault applies to institutions such as prisons, schools and law enforcement. It is premised on the fact that truly consensual sexual acts are not possible where someone is in a position of power over another.
Passage of Senate Bill 704 recognizes the same power disparity exists between caretakers and those in their care. Such individuals face additional challenges to reporting sexual abuse due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles.
Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault eliminates the loophole that permits perpetrators to falsely claim the victim consented. Senate Bill 704 will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Expanding the law against institutional sexual assault is just the latest action taken by the General Assembly to stand together against this vile crime.
In recent years, lawmakers enacted measures strengthening the rights of sexual assault survivors and bolstering their ability to obtain justice.
Need help? Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider.
Safe Exchange Zones Could Come to More PA Communities with Senate Vote
Legislation to create a grant program to establish Safe Exchange Zones throughout Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 881 would provide a safe area for individuals to exchange goods bought and sold through an online marketplace, as well as serving as a safe place for child custody exchanges, among other practices.
The Safe Exchange Zones would be voluntary and require the agreement of the participating law enforcement agencies. The zones would be equipped with video surveillance and are either within 100 feet of a law enforcement office or located near a public area with an active public presence. Passage came a year to the day that Cambria County resident Denise Williams was murdered after she attempted to finalize the purchase of an item found through Facebook Marketplace.
Grants Available to Help Drug and Alcohol Recovery Houses
Effective treatment for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder is essential for healthy communities. State grants are available to help recovery houses with facility upgrades to comply with federal, state, and local laws and receive a state license.
Grants up to $50,000 for a 12-month period beginning July 1 will be awarded to eligible applicants for health and safety upgrades including demolition, debris removal, rehabilitation improvements, environmental remediation costs, and construction and inspections to comply with state regulations.
Applicants must meet several qualifications to be eligible. More information is available here.
Saturday is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day
It’s commemorated on April 9 because that day in 1942 was the prelude to the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of up to 80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war. Up to 650 American and 10,000 Filipino soldiers died during the brutal, 65-mile march.
We must never forget the ordeal faced by prisoners of war during captivity and the emotional toll on those fortunate enough to survive.
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