In this Update:
Senate Approves Bill Requiring Legislative Approval of RGGI Deal
In a bipartisan vote, the Senate approved legislation requiring legislative approval before Gov. Tom Wolf can have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Under the measure, the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be required to provide a public comment period of at least 180 days and hold a minimum of four public hearings in locations that would be directly affected economically by the proposal.
Following the public comment period, DEP would be mandated to submit a report to the House and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy committees detailing the specific economic and environmental impacts that joining RGGI and imposing a carbon tax would have on affected communities, the PJM Interconnection region and ratepayers. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“Pennsylvania’s abundance in natural resources positions the Commonwealth to meet our environmental and economic goals outside of RGGI. In fact, Pennsylvania has already benefited from significant and historic reductions in CO2 emissions, down 38 percent from 2005-2017, thanks to the increased use of our state’s natural resources in electric power generation,” Sen. Kim Ward noted. “The passage of SB 119 prevents the governor from by-passing the people by including the general assembly in the decision making process. It is undeniable that enacting an unnecessary carbon tax on our state’s natural resources by joining RGGI has the ability to eliminate good paying Pennsylvania jobs, erode a stable driver of our Commonwealth’s economy, and end our environmental progress as we know it.”
Senate Votes to Permit “Mixed Drinks to Go” Permanently and Enacts Other Steps to Help Hospitality Sector Employers
In the ongoing effort to help employers in the hospitality sector get back on their feet following COVID-19 restrictions, the Senate voted to permanently allow “mixed drinks to go” from restaurants and hotels, extend sales for outdoor dining and expand the number of locations where ready-to-drink mixed drinks can be sold.
“The advancement of this measure sends a strong signal that we are moving the Commonwealth in a direction of normalcy and transitioning from the restrictive control we were once living under during the COVID-19 emergency declaration,” said Sen. Ward. “This bill will help jump start the economy by giving consumers convenience in spirit beverage choice, encourages bars, restaurants, and taverns to be open for business, and expands opportunities for small businesses. Additionally, profits from consumers could result in the generation of more than $45 million in revenue for the Commonwealth over the next five years.”
The measure makes permanent the sale of mixed drinks to-go by restaurant or hotel licensees for off-premises consumption. Originally, mixed drinks to-go was a temporary measure allowed during the COVID-19 disaster declaration. It also allows larger outdoor dining spaces, off-premises catering permits without restrictions, and more.
It also allows a different type of product called Ready-to-Drink cocktails to be sold by restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and beer distributors for off-premises consumption. Restrictions are set on alcohol-by-volume content and container size.
Senate Special Committee Releases Report on Election Reforms
The bipartisan Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform released a report this week detailing its findings and recommendations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s election system.
The committee was created to review all aspects of the November 2020 election. The panel held a series of hearings in March and April to review election security and best practices in other states, gather insight on state and local perspectives on the administration of elections, and the management of elections in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.
In addition, the committee created a webpage to encourage Pennsylvanians to share their experiences in the 2020 General Election. The survey generated more than 20,000 responses.
The testimony and feedback received by the committee led to a series of recommendations to boost election security, improve voter access and support counties in the efficient administration of elections. You can read the report here.
State Grants Announced for Greensburg Historic District
Earlier this week, Sen. Kim Ward announced a $23,375 Keystone Historic Preservation Grant to the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Westmoreland.
“Greensburg has a rich history that has been the common thread in the strength of our community for many generations,” stated Sen. Ward. “These funds will not only preserve our beautiful history, but also reinforce that sense of community pride for our residents and make visitors feel welcome in our town.”
This grant will be used towards re-evaluating the Greensburg Historic District, re-define the District-wide façade design guidelines, and to conduct an individual building conditions assessment at 221-227 South Main Street.
Brian Lawrence, Executive Director for the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Westmoreland, was thrilled to receive the news on the grant. “Greensburg is lucky to have so many historic assets. The work funded by the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant will help the Redevelopment Authority ensure that we’re taking the steps necessary to preserve them. Places like the Advance Furniture Building, one of the first department stores in Greensburg, tie us to that history. We’re grateful for the opportunity to engage in the process of historic preservation”.
The Keystone Historic Preservation Grant program is funded through the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund.
Bill to Improve Safety in Daycare Facilities Approved by Senate
The Senate approved a bill to improve safety in state-regulated daycare facilities and sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The legislation designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
The measure was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie on August 11, 2019. Only one smoke detector was found in the building and it was located in the attic.
Legislation Preserving Nursing Home Visits During a Pandemic Approved by General Assembly
Legislation to allow family members to safely visit long-term care facilities as essential caregivers for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor for enactment.
During the pandemic, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were closed to visits from friends and family. The prolonged separation negatively impacted the overall health and well-being of facility residents.
The measure would allow a designated essential family caregiver to be named for each resident of a licensed long-term care facility. Protocols would be put in place to screen the essential caregivers and require additional steps to gain access to the facilities.
June 15, 2021 – Designated “Court Appointed Special Advocates Day
“On Tuesday, I joined my colleague Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32) in designating June 15, 2021 “Court Appointed Special Advocates Day” in Pennsylvania through Senate Resolution 134. The Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a network made up of 22 local programs serving 28 counties. CASA is an organization near and dear to my heart. In fact, in 2017 through the passage of SB 260, I was able to secure CASA a position on the Victims Services Advisory Committee within the Commission on Crime and Delinquency. PA CASA was founded in 1998 to advocate for abused and neglected children to ensure their needs are being met while in the dependency system. In 2020, PA CASA had more than 1,000 active volunteers who advocated for 2,121 children. The goal of CASA is to help every abused or neglected child in Pennsylvania have access to the service and support of a CASA volunteer. As part of this special day in the PA Senate, I had the privilege of introducing a young women from CASA who also happen to be my constituent, Idelia Robinson-Confere.
Happy Father’s Day
To all fathers: I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day this Sunday. This is the day when we celebrate your essential role in family and community. May your day be filled with love and gratitude.