In this Update:
Senate Adopts Hutchinson Resolution Honoring Former Senator Tim Shaffer
The Senate adopted a resolution I introduced honoring the life and work of former Sen. Charles Timothy Shaffer. Senator Shaffer passed away on May 3, 2022, after a lifetime of service. He served the 21st Senatorial District from 1981 to 1996. In addition to being a senator, he was a military veteran, a judge and an attorney.
Senator Shaffer chaired the Senate Community and Economic Development Committee, vice chaired the Urban Affairs and Housing committee, and served on the Appropriations, Judiciary, Aging and Youth, Banking and Insurance, Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, Law and Justice, and State Government committees.
In 2010, he was nominated by Gov. Ed Rendell and confirmed by the Senate to fill a Butler County Magisterial District Court vacancy and was later be elected to the position. In 2018, in gratitude of his $1 million donation, Butler County Community College established The Shaffer School of Nursing and Allied Health.
I met Senator Tim Shaffer eight years before I was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992. I never dreamed I would end up in the legislature with him. He was the epitome of a leader. He was an unwavering voice for western Pennsylvania values and he will be missed.
Senate Votes to Block Wolf Administration’s Overreaching Charter School Regulations
The Senate voted to block Gov. Tom Wolf’s overreaching charter school regulations after his administration misused the regulatory process to avoid brokering an agreement with lawmakers.
The vote on House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution 1 comes after the administration didn’t adequately address concerns raised during the public comment process and instead committed to final regulations that run contrary to the intent of existing charter school law.
The Department of Education’s proposed list of wide-ranging policy changes through the regulatory process could, in effect, jeopardize the educational futures of thousands of low-income, minority and special education students through burdensome, unfunded mandates.
Many of these regulations serve as backdoor attempts to implement some of the administration’s own policy preferences, including enrollment caps, onerous application standards and one-size-fits-all health benefit requirements that will shutter operations for many smaller charters. This is egregious considering the vulnerable students these schools primarily serve.
There is bipartisan interest in making reforms to our current charter laws. Frustration over the process does not justify circumventing the legislature.
Senate Acts to Help Local Police Departments Find and Keep Officers
The Senate approved legislation expanding pension benefits for law enforcement officers who want to buy back service. The legislation now advances to the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 669 gives municipal and regional police officers the option to buy back up to five years of previous part-time or full-time service at another department.
The change could serve as a recruitment tool for police departments. Senate hearings on rising crime in Pennsylvania uncovered a crisis facing local police departments in recruiting and retaining officers.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended to Dec. 31
The deadline for older and disabled Pennsylvanians to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2021 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2022.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. You can apply online at mypath.pa.gov.
Under state law, the annual deadline for the program is set as June 30. However, the law requires the Department of Revenue to evaluate the program to determine if funds are available to extend the deadline. To date, funding has been available to allow all who qualify, meaning the deadline can be extended to Dec. 31 for the current year.
College Aid Webinars in June and July
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is holding free webinars covering the two most requested topics during this time of year as families look to achieve an affordable postsecondary education.
Deep Dive into Covering the Gap
This one-hour webinar answers questions that might arise after students receive their first semester bill, such as additional costs to plan for and available loan programs.
Borrowing for Education: Which Loan is Right for Me?
This one-hour webinar covers available loan programs and advantages and disadvantages of each.
You can find more information on these sessions and register here.
Look Out for Texting Scams about Unclaimed Property
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department is warning Pennsylvanians that scammers are using text messages to target potential unclaimed property claimants.
About one in 10 Pennsylvanians is owed some of the more than $4 billion in unclaimed property held by the department, making the subject ripe for exploiting by scammers.
The Treasury Department never reaches out to people about any program, including unclaimed property, via unsolicited text messages. You can search the online database at patreasury.gov/unclaimed-property to see if you have property waiting and start the claim process.
Celebrating Fathers and Fatherhood
To all dads, I hope you enjoy your special day on Sunday, as we celebrate all the unique joys and talents you bring to a family.