Dec. 13, 2019 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
Senate Hearing Seeks to Cut Red Tape

(with photo) I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in a Senate hearing on the impact of over-regulation. The hearing of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Doug Mastriano, met at Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe in Chambersburg and heard from several local businesses, business development professionals and representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The testifiers repeated a common narrative of overregulation by detailing the burden that confusing, redundant and time-consuming regulations place on their business activities. While all agree that the government has a legitimate oversight role in ensuring safety and environmental protection, the consensus was clear that our regulatory state is out of control.

Pennsylvania has over 104,000 individual regulations. For many organizations, just keeping track of the regulations and complying with them consumes staff time and organizational effort. In addition, extended delays on permit approvals mean that businesses have to wait months, even years, in order to move forward with their plans. These burdens and delays are making Pennsylvania less competitive.

There are several legislative efforts aimed at reigning in the regulatory state, including bills which would repeal outdated regulations, require that state agencies first jettison an old regulation before enacting a new one and improve permit processing time.

As I noted during the hearing, the very least we can do as a legislative body is to stop creating new regulations and mandating new licensed occupations. I hope the we can do more than this, but it would be a good start.
House to Take Up Criminal Justice Reform

The House returns to session next week with a number of items on the agenda, including a package of bills aimed at reforming our criminal justice system. This will include SB 501, which is a companion to my legislation in the House.

The “Smart Justice” initiative, which advanced through the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week, reforms Pennsylvania’s probation and parole system. This effort is the second installment in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which began a few years ago following the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel of DAs, law enforcement, judges and correctional officers. Clear data from other states illustrates that you can reduce incarceration rates and recidivism at the same time by investing some of the savings into better probation and parole programs. This is a clear win-win.

Pennsylvania has the second-highest percentage of citizens on probation or parole in the country, and our prison population has increased by approximately 850% over the past 40 years at a cost of $2.4 billion per year to taxpayers. A recent study of information from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections showed that nearly one-third of prison beds were occupied by people who violated terms of their probation or parole.

Our goal is to strike a balance between ensuring people are held responsible for their actions while also removing barriers for people looking to rebuild their lives once they have served their time. We are working to keep our communities safe while also looking to protect taxpayers by supporting people who want to be productive members of our society.

Learn more about the measures we will be considering in the House next week here.
Pennsylvania State Capitol Christmas Tree

It's time to get into the holiday spirit.

The Capitol Christmas tree is shining bright after the official tree-lighting ceremony this week. The 18-foot tall Douglas Fir tree comes from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Carbon County, and was donated by the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association.

This year's tree is decorated with more than 800 LED lights and 500 ornaments created by senior citizens and preschoolers across the state. The tree will remain on display in the Capitol Rotunda throughout the holiday season.
Protect Against the Flu

With more than 2,600 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu statewide, the Department of Health is urging residents who have not already gotten a flu vaccine to do so.

Guidelines recommend everyone 6 months of age and older should get the vaccine each season. It takes about two weeks for the antibodies from the vaccine to develop protection against infection.

Influenza is a contagious disease, caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the nose, throat and lungs and may include the following symptoms: fever, headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches.

To further prevent the spread of flu, Pennsylvanians are also encouraged to practice healthy habits such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands during flu season, and remembering to disinfect commonly touched objects such as door knobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers.

If you do become sick with the flu, it is important to stay home and rest. If you are at risk for developing serious complications from the flu, or feel extremely ill, you should see a medical professional immediately.
Environmental Education Grant Application Deadline Approaching

Schools, county conservation districts, nonprofits, businesses and other eligible organizations have until Tuesday, Dec. 31, to apply for the 2020 Environmental Education Grants program.

Projects with a local focus may receive up to $3,000, and regional or statewide initiatives may receive up to $20,000.

Formal and nonformal education projects are eligible. Project examples include tours, hands-on workshops and demonstrations focused on watershed stewardship and community action, renewable energy, energy conservation, vehicle idling, alternative transportation and healthy air quality.

Since its inception, the Environmental Education Grants program has provided more than $12 million in grants to more than 1,890 organizations statewide.

Application instructions and program guidelines are available here.  

Applications must be electronically submitted through the eGrants web portal.
Building Our Workforce, Training Opportunities

The Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) is now accepting applications for $6.6 million in PAsmart Apprenticeship grants to help more workers “earn while they learn” and gain the hands-on skills for good jobs in high-growth industries.

Building on the House GoodJobs4PA initiative launched earlier this year, the grant program is designed to build a diverse talent pipeline into the building and construction trades; expand registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships in non-traditional industries with an emphasis on health care, manufacturing and information technology; and support registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships through ambassador networks across the Commonwealth.

Eligible applicants include organizations that serve as sponsors or intermediaries of registered apprenticeships including businesses, community-based organizations, economic development organizations, industry associations, labor organizations, local education agencies, local workforce development boards, nonprofit organizations, post-secondary institutions, public libraries and STEM ecosystems.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 10, 2020. Grant materials, requirements and information about the bidder’s webinars are available on the department’s website here.
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