Senator Coleman E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Proposed Budget an Encouraging Starting Point with Some Significant Concerns
  • Coleman, Senate Committee Advance Legislation Adding Critical Oversight to Regulatory Process
  • Historic Breast Cancer Screening Bill Unanimously Passes Senate
  • Senate Acts to Protect Citizen Data with State Employee TikTok Ban
  • Measure Preserving Community Energy Choice Passed by Senate
  • Senate Approves Legislation to Increase PA National Guard Health Care Providers
  • Senate Honors 20th Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Daylight Saving Time Begins This Weekend

Proposed Budget an Encouraging Starting Point with Some Significant Concerns

3/7/23 - Budget Address Response

Sen. Coleman discusses the proposed 2023-24 state budget.

The 2023-24 spending plan proposed by Gov. Josh Shapiro this week marks an encouraging start to the budget process, but contains some significant areas of concern. Three in particular are:

Too Much Spending
The $45.8 billion plan seeks to boost state spending by more than $1.3 billion above the current year’s budget and would almost completely deplete the state’s Rainy Day Fund by 2028.

The Rainy Day Fund is Pennsylvania’s savings account. It’s money that’s set aside for emergencies. Families don’t plan to spend their emergency money to pay their regular expenses, and neither should government. This money is set aside to shield taxpayers from calls for tax hikes if the economy goes into recession. A depleted fund also raises the cost of government borrowing that’s paid by taxpayers. It’s irresponsible to spend down the fund for short-term gain.

Higher Energy Costs
Gov. Shapiro made no mention of his plans for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) but his budget appears to assume Pennsylvania’s continued participation in the carbon tax scheme to the tune of nearly $670 million in new energy taxes. As a candidate, Gov. Shapiro said he was concerned about RGGI but that’s not reflected in this budget proposal. The legislature didn’t implement RGGI and can’t stop it. Gov. Shapiro’s lack of action means higher energy bills for my constituents, their employers and everyone else in Pennsylvania.

No Lifeline for Parents and Students
The governor also did not follow through on his promise to fund Lifeline Scholarships, a key provision to help provide families with greater options to meet their educational needs. Nor did he include any additional funding for EITC programs that help students who are struggling in their current learning environment. This is a missed opportunity for the new governor to demonstrate he is charting a path distinct from his predecessor, who also opposed giving parents a choice when it comes to spending their school tax dollars. Trapping children in failing schools while continuing to throw money at the problem is just more of a long-outdated game plan.

This is just the beginning of the budget process. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin a series of public hearings on the proposal March 20, after which work will continue to create a final spending plan. I will work with my colleagues to enact a responsible budget that respects taxpayers and funds essential services by the June 30 constitutional deadline.

Coleman, Senate Committee Advance Legislation Adding Critical Oversight to Regulatory Process

On Wednesday, I chaired a meeting of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which approved two measures today aimed at reducing the regulatory burden hampering job growth and opportunity in Pennsylvania.

The current process for imposing regulations on citizens and employers places too much power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats within agencies controlled by the governor. No matter who the governor is, this creates an unacceptable lack of checks and balances. These bills simply put the General Assembly on level footing with the executive branch and ensure that our constituents have a seat at the table when regulations impacting their lives and livelihoods are considered.

Senate Bill 188 would prevent regulations with a cost to state or local taxpayers greater than $1 million from taking effect unless reviewed and approved by the General Assembly. Senate Bill 190 requires an automatic review of economically significant regulations three years after taking effect to measure their cost and effectiveness. The bills now move to the full Senate for consideration.

In creating the Office of Transformation and Opportunity, Gov. Shapiro has acknowledged the impact that reforming the permitting and regulatory process can have on job growth and opportunities in the commonwealth. The General Assembly should understand and agree to the cost, in dollars and cents, of how these issues impact our competitiveness and growth. I’ll be a strong advocate for passing these bills in the Senate.

Historic Breast Cancer Screening Bill Unanimously Passes Senate

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 8, a comprehensive breast cancer screening and genetic testing bill. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The bill eliminates out-of-pocket costs associated with BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling, as well as supplemental screening such as breast MRIs and ultrasound for women at high-risk. High-risk conditions covered by the bill include dense breast tissue, a personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition and prior radiation therapy.

The legislation expands on Act 52 of 2020, which required insurers to cover breast MRIs and ultrasounds for women with high-risk factors. Senate Bill 8 is step two, eliminating costs including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance for those screenings and BRCA-related genetic testing and counseling.

Senate Acts to Protect Citizen Data with State Employee TikTok Ban

The Senate approved legislation to shield citizen data from unauthorized access by prohibiting state-owned devices and networks from downloading and using TikTok. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Pennsylvania state government holds sensitive information in the form of birth certificates, driver’s licenses, occupation certificates, taxes and more.

Senate Bill 379 would mandate that all state agencies, departments and commissions remove the application from state networks. It would also require that policies are put in place to block application installation, as well as network-based restrictions to prevent its use and access.

Across the nation, both Democrats and Republicans have voiced growing concerns about the security and potential manipulation of the popular social media app TikTok. At least 29 states have addressed the risk to government systems posed by TikTok, and Congress prohibited its use across a wide array of federal agencies and departments.

Measure Preserving Community Energy Choice Passed by Senate

Legislation ensuring that state residents have options when it comes to fuel availability was approved by the Senate. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 143, known as Energy Choice legislation, would prevent municipal entities from banning a specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses.

The measure was developed after cities across the nation took steps to ban fuels, such as natural gas and heating oil, in newly constructed buildings. The legislation is an important component of a sound energy policy for Pennsylvania that’s inclusive of all energy options residents may want or need to access.

Senate Approves Legislation to Increase PA National Guard Health Care Providers

The Senate approved legislation that would allow more health professionals to participate in the Medical Officer Health Incentive Program, helping to ease the shortage of medical specialists in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The Medical Officer or Health Officer Incentive Program was created in 2014 to provide a tuition reimbursement incentive to those who qualified through their time in the armed services. Even though the program was successful in attracting health care providers into National Guard service, some health professionals, like dentists and physician assistants, were inadvertently left out of the program.

Senate Bill 162, which fixes that oversight, now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Honors 20th Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom

The Senate marked the upcoming 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a resolution this week.

In 2003, the United States and coalition forces began the mission to liberate Iraq from dictator Saddam Hussein and extend freedom and democracy throughout the region. On March 20, 2003, the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom was marked with airstrikes on Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace.

Operation Iraqi Freedom ended on Dec. 15, 2011.

Daylight Saving Time Begins This Weekend

Reminder: Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday, March 12, at 2 a.m. While cell phone and computer clocks usually change automatically, most people move their standard clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night.

It’s also a good time to check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. If the devices are older than 10 years, experts suggest upgrading to 10-year, sealed battery alarms. They don’t require any battery replacement throughout their lifetime. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to press the test button on the alarms at least once every month.


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