In this Update:
Senate Committee Advances Resolution to Improve Workforce Training
With the commonwealth spending hundreds of millions of dollars on various programs to train workers and employers still struggling to find skilled employees, the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee this week unanimously approved a resolution I introduced calling for an investigation into the effectiveness of workforce development programs in Pennsylvania.
We want to make sure workers have access to programs and services that prepare them for the jobs available in their communities. There is a disconnect between the skills our workers are receiving and the skills employers want in their employees. We have job openings in Pennsylvania and unemployed workers, so we need to make sure those workers receive proper training to fill the available jobs.
Senate Resolution 169 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study state workforce development programs and make suggestions to improve delivery of services to better help workers and employers.
LBFC is a bipartisan legislative agency serving the state House and Senate, and is composed of 12 members of the General Assembly. I serve as one of LBFC’s members.
The committee, established in 1959, conducts studies and makes recommendations aimed at eliminating unnecessary state expenditures, promoting efficiency in state government, and assuring state funds are spent in accordance with legislative intent and law.
My resolution gives LBFC up to one year to produce its report.
Senate Resolution 169 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Approves Bill to Give Professionals a Second Chance by Clearing Their Records
Professionals who make minor mistakes deserve a second chance at having a clean disciplinary record. That’s the sentiment behind a bill I introduced that was unanimously approved this week by the state Senate.
I introduced Senate Bill 910 to expand the ability of the commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to clear a professional’s disciplinary record.
The bureau commissioner has the ability to expunge a disciplinary record for two reasons. The professional’s record can be cleared if it was due to a failure to complete continuing education requirements. The professional’s record also can be expunged if the discipline was related to practicing for six months or less on a lapsed or expired license, registration, certificate or permit.
Other minor infractions can remain on a professional’s disciplinary record for life.
My bill would enable the commissioner to clear more professionals’ records as long as the disciplinary incidents meet a number of criteria.
The incident had to take place five or more years ago. The incident must be the professional’s only disciplinary record with a licensing board or commission under the commissioner’s jurisdiction. The licensee cannot be the subject of an active investigation related to professional conduct. The licensee may not be in the disciplinary process by having a revoked or suspended license or be on probation. The professional must have paid any fees, fines or civil penalties imposed during a disciplinary proceeding. The licensee may not have had a disciplinary record previously expunged by the commissioner.
Senate Bill 910 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Honoring Local Veterans
On Veteran’s Day, we recognize America’s veterans for their courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. I was honored to join state Rep. Craig Staats and the Borough of Quakertown School District to thank our veterans in Bucks County.
Senate Advances Key Education, School Safety Budget Priorities
The Senate approved budget implementation language that will drive out critical funding to schools and present a more streamlined approach to school safety.
House Bill 301 allocates funding for several critical priorities that were included in the 2023-24 state budget, including:
The bill would also ensure greater collaboration in keeping children safe in the classroom by consolidating school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), which currently manages the highly successful School Safety and Security Grant Program created by Senate Republicans in 2018.
Learn more about other ways the bill helps students and schools here.
Funding for State-Related Universities Approved by Senate
The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to support funding and additional transparency for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities. Because the House then also passed both bills, they are set for enactment.
Under House Bill 1461, general support for Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University would remain at the previous year’s levels. Lincoln University and Penn College of Technology would receive increases of more than $3.2 million.
In addition, the Senate approved House Bill 1556, which would require greater transparency from state-related universities. The bill would ensure the institutions provide additional information in its annual Right-to-Know Law filing, including information related to contracts, financial statements, faculty, compensation, enrollment, courses and meeting minutes.
According to existing law, funding in the bill is directed to provide tuition discounts for in-state students, and universities are required to meet strict financial reporting requirements as a condition of receiving the money. The leaders of the state-related universities support the funding bill.
Tax Revenues and PIT Collections Above Monthly Estimate
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares an update about the state’s financial health. The most recent report shows that General Fund tax revenues were $118.6 million, or 3.9%, above the monthly estimate. However, total General Fund revenue collections for the first four months of the fiscal year are still below estimate by $47.5 million.
Personal Income Tax collections exceeded October’s estimate by $35.6 million, or 2.8%, but remain below estimate for the fiscal year by $77 million, or 1.5%.
The full update, including the monthly revenue report, is available here.
Loans Available for Businesses Creating and Retaining Jobs
Low-interest loans and lines of credit are available to eligible businesses that commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs and for the development of industrial parks and multi-tenant facilities.
The money can be used for land and building acquisitions, machinery and equipment purchases, working capital and accounts receivable lines of credit, multi-tenant facility projects and industrial park projects.
Learn more and apply online here.
Protect Yourself with Free Weekly Credit Reports
The three national credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – permanently extended a program allowing you to check your credit report at each agency once a week for free.
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request free copies of your credit reports. Other sites may charge you or be fraudulent sites set up to steal your personal information.
By reviewing your credit report, you can easily discover if information has been mistakenly reported about you or if someone opened credit in your name. Reporting mistakes and identity theft can help you build a strong credit score that will benefit you when you need to borrow money, secure a rental home and even apply for a job.
Recognizing National Child Safety and Protection Month
National Child Safety and Protection Month is dedicated to recognizing the dangers children may face and taking steps to prevent those challenges.
We have passed bills to provide child identification kits to parents to help identify and return missing children and to allow parents to surrender their unharmed baby at participating urgent care centers.
Other bills would protect them on their way to school by increasing penalties for drivers who refuse to stop for school buses and extending and revamping the school bus stop arm automated enforcement program.
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