July 3, 2019
State Budget Funds Vital Services Without a Tax Increase
Lawmakers and the governor completed work on the 2019-20 state budget last week. The fiscally responsible budget plan holds the growth of state spending below the rate of inflation, sets aside money as a buffer against future budget shortfalls, invests in education and job training, and does not require any new tax increases.
Funding was restored for critical school safety initiatives, and $160 million in new funding was provided for K-12 education, with additional increases for pre-K, special education, higher education and technical education.
The fact that we were able to make these investments while holding the line on taxes is a testament to the strong leadership of Senate Republicans in opposing broad-based tax increases and reckless government spending over the past five years.
More information about the budget is available here.
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Receives New Funding
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the new budget is the local Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, which will receive an additional $4 million – a 27.2-percent increase – to provide career training programs to students.
The new funding will help the state-owned school to expand programs and boost enrollment, including leasing additional space for a variety of programs, including welding, automotive, diesel mechanics, collision repair, electro-mechanical, civil engineering technology, manufacturing and more.
The school has been on the cutting edge of training job-seekers for the careers of the 21st Century, and I look forward to seeing how they put this funding to good use in helping to train more community residents for quality careers that are in demand throughout Pennsylvania.
New State Law Gives Lancaster County a Stronger Voice in Gambling Debate
A law that expanded gambling in 2017 drew strong opposition from many citizens of Lancaster County. Municipalities were given the option to prohibit a new gambling venue from being constructed within its borders, and every municipality in the county decided to opt-out of that possibility.
Unfortunately, there was no such option to prevent the placement of Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) in truck stops – until now.
Working with Senator Ryan Aument, I introduced a bill that would allow Lancaster County communities to opt-out of allowing VGTs. That bill earned the support of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was signed into law on July 2.
As a result, local municipalities will now have a 60-day window to opt-out of hosting VGTs.
More details about the bill are available here.
School Safety and Telepresence Bill Signed Into Law
Locals schools will soon have more options to help students facing extended absences from school as part of a bill that was signed into law recently. Senate Bill 144, which I sponsored, will create a grant program that would make telepresence technology available to more students so they can continue to participate in classroom activities through the use of mobile robotic devices that resemble an iPad mounted on a Segway unit.
The bill also includes a number of improvements to the school safety bill I sponsored that was signed into law last year. The law includes a tighter focus on mental and behavioral health of students.
More details about the bill are available here.
New Law Supports Volunteer Fire Companies
A new state law will help volunteer fire companies keep more of the money they bring in during fundraising events like chicken barbeques and pancake breakfasts. The law, which was based on a bill I introduced, will exempt volunteer firefighting companies from paying sales tax on food or beverages sold during fundraisers.
The bill grew out of a suggestion from a local volunteer fire company. I am extremely pleased that the law will allow these critical organizations afford the training and equipment they need to keep us safe.
More information about the new law is available here.
Governor Signs Bill to Audit Statewide Radio Network
The statewide network was first authorized in 1996, but the system has experienced serious reliability issues and cost taxpayers a total of more than $750 million. The governor signed a bill into law that I sponsored along with Senator Bob Mensch that would require a thorough review of all of the contracts associated with this troubled project.
The new law will help give us a complete accounting of where the statewide radio system went wrong so our State Troopers safety and lives aren’t put at risk and taxpayers are never saddled with that kind of expensive boondoggle ever again. More information about the law is available here.
Thank you to all of the community residents and local experts for making our recent Concealed Carry seminar a huge success!
Honoring Outstanding Local Athletes
Our area is home to some of the state’s most accomplished student athletes. I had the privilege of honoring a few of these young people in recent weeks.
Shane Ruhnke of Millersville University was crowned the 2018-19 NCAA Division II National Wrestling Champion in the 165 pound weight class.
I also had a chance to honor Sydney Horn from Manheim Township and Jane Livingston from Conestoga Valley for winning a 2019 Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association Indoor State Championship.
Congratulations to all of these outstanding young community residents, and I send my best wishes as they continue their athletic and academic careers!
Happy Fourth of July!
I wish all community residents a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July!