August 20, 2019
Focus on Schools
New School Threat Reporting System Shows Strong Results
The Safe2Say Something anonymous school threat reporting system was created by lawmakers last year to provide a safer environment for students. In the first six months since the program was implemented, more than 23,000 tips were reported about potential threats to Pennsylvania schools.
As a sponsor of this law, I am hopeful that students and other state residents will continue to embrace this system to promote safer schools throughout the state. More details about the program are available here.
New Law Boosts School Safety, Resources for Homebound Students
I am extremely pleased that a bill I sponsored to improve school safety with a stronger focus on mental and behavioral health was signed into law in June. The legislation also created a new program to help students who are facing an extended absence from school.
Act 18 of 2019 requires the School Safety and Security Committee to develop model plans to help school districts implement best management practices for trauma-informed education, and expands the panel to include more experts in behavioral health and trauma-informed education to offer new perspectives on how to better protect students.
The new law will also make telepresence technology available to more students who cannot attend school due to injury or illness 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.
More details about the new law are available here.
PASSHE Board Votes to Freeze Tuition
For just the second time in the past 36 years, the Board of Governors for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) voted to freeze tuition for the upcoming school year. As a newly appointed member of this board, I am extremely pleased that we were able to hold the line on tuition costs to students.
More information about the tuition freeze is available here.
Appointment Sharpens Focus on Special Education Funding
I was honored to be appointed recently to serve on the Special Education Funding Commission, which is responsible for ensuring adequate resources for the 276,000+ children with disabilities in Pennsylvania.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on this panel to determine the next steps we need to take on behalf of students with the most significant educational needs. More details about the commission are available here.
Higher Education Funding Commission Created
Higher education costs are a serious concern for families throughout Pennsylvania. I supported passage of a new law in June that creates the Public Higher Education Funding Commission to review and make recommendations related to higher education funding, affordability, effectiveness, administration and operations.
One of the goals of the commission will be to create a fair funding formula for higher education dollars, similar to the formula created several years ago for new dollars dedicated to K-12 schools. Additional information about the new commission is available here.
It was a pleasure to welcome another decorated local athlete to the floor of the Senate – High School All-American and state champion Evan Dorenkamp of Manheim Township. Evan won the 2019 PIAA Class AAA state title in the 1600M with a time of 4:08.15, and he also earned the silver in the 1600M at the New Balance National Championship.
Congratulations and best wishes to Nick Tufano, who served as an intern in my Lancaster office this summer and was a tremendous asset to my team. Nick is headed to Lafayette College in the fall. He has a very bright future ahead of him!
Legislation Seeks to Protect Injured Volunteer Fire Personnel
A Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee hearing in 2017 uncovered a number of challenges facing volunteer fire companies, including concerns about coverage being denied to volunteers by the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF).
My colleague Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill and I introduced legislation that would ensure critical members of volunteer firefighter organizations who are injured in the line of duty can qualify for workers’ compensation coverage.
The legislation was approved by a Senate committee in June. More details about our bill are available here.
I appreciated the chance to join Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Elder Vogel Jr., for a tour of one of Lancaster County’s most exciting attractions, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Ronks.
Senate Panel Approves New Protections for Youth Shelter Workers
Employees in non-secure youth shelters often face significant dangers in providing services to young people with extraordinary needs. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill I sponsored that will better protect these employees against assault and abuse.
My bill would add non-secure youth shelter employees to the list of employees who are protected against violence by charging offenders with the crime of aggravated assault, giving them an equal measure of protection in comparison to teachers, law enforcement personnel, juvenile detention workers and judicial employees.
More details about the bill are available here.
My thanks goes out to Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association for recognizing me with the “Guardian of Victims’ Rights” award. It was my honor to support the passage of Marsy’s Law on behalf of victims across the Commonwealth!
Workshop Explores Economic Health of Pennsylvania’s Cities
The Senate Local Government Committee, which I chair, and the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a joint workshop in Lancaster last month to take a closer look at the economic health and challenges facing Pennsylvania cities. The hearing offered a variety of different perspectives and ideas about how we can help cities to thrive in the future.
The complete hearing is available below.