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Boscola Bulletin

Professional Licensure Portability Bill Signing

Gov WolfAs Democratic chair of the Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee, I have been working hard to advance legislation aimed at professional and occupational licensure portability in Pennsylvania.  Last week, the legislature sent House Bill 1172 to Governor Wolf for his signature.  On July 1, the governor signed the bill into law as Act 41 of 2019.  The bill makes it easier for new Pennsylvanians, including military spouses and retiring service members, with an out-of-state occupational license to get licensed in Pennsylvania.  An amendment, which I sponsored, was adopted in committee that included language to incorporate all boards and commissions and broaden the bill to cover all 255 occupational licenses that are recognized in our state.  This act establishes provisional licenses and permits the applicable licensure board to issue a provisional license to a new applicant moving in to Pennsylvania, if they have a recognized license in another state and the educational and training backgrounds are as strenuous or better than that of ours.

In addition to my role in sponsoring the amendment to this bill, I have authored other licensure reform bills that address national compacts, that is licensure agreements and reciprocal recognition, amongst any states in the compact.  Earlier last month, Senate Bill 356, which I authored, was unanimously approved by the senate professional licensure committee.  This bill establishes a Military Spouse Licensure Portability Act in Pennsylvania, which grants provisional licensure to military spouses that are moving into Pennsylvania.  Prior to the enactment of HB 1172, our state was only one of three in the country that do not provide some mechanism for military spouses or professional license portability.

With Recent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling – Redistricting Reform in Pennsylvania Needed Now More than Ever.

You might have missed it last week, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Gerrymandering for partisan purposes is ok.  I have been fighting against the way our State draws its congressional and State House and Senate seats for two decades.  The idea is pretty simple for me, elected officials should not be picking their voters, voters should be picking their elected officials. 

It is why I believe an Independent Commission is needed to draw these lines.  We need to remove the politicians from the process all together.  This is what my bill SB22 attempts to do.  It will have 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 3 Independent/Unaffiliated members on the Commission.

Redistricting is right around the corner in Pennsylvania.  In 2022, we will redraw all the lines for State House and State Senate and we will reapportion our Congressional districts.  And by “we”, I mean the majority and minority leader in each the House and the Senate and a Fifth member of the committee that presumably will be selected by the Supreme Court.

You may remember at the end of last session my bill SB 22 was passed out of the Senate near the end of session.  It was amended on the floor to include a provision regarding the election of judges which made the made the bill controversial and was never taken up in the House.

This session SB22 has moved out of the Senate State Government Committee and is ready for action on the Senate Floor.  It does not have the controversial language concerning judicial elections.  However, time is running short.  The window is rapidly closing for us to get this in place for our next redistricting effort. 

It is a Constitutional Amendment so it will have to past this session and very quickly in the 2021- 2022 session to have the opportunity to be on the ballot so you can vote on it.

Funding for New Voting Machines & Voting Reforms

My Senate colleagues and I are proud to announce that voting reform measures have been sent to the Governor Wolf’s desk and await his signature. Senate Bill 48, sponsored by Senator John Gordner (R-Columbia), authorizes the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority to issue bonds for up to $90 million to provide funding for counties to replace voting machines. The bill also establishes a Voting System Decertification Commission to review and make recommendations on how to best replace outdated voting machines.

Other voting reform measures provided for in Senate Bill 48 include my initiative to eliminate the straight party voting on election day. This is an important step forward to ensure that voters are choosing the candidate, rather than siding with a particular party on election day. This will also encourage our citizens to better understand who they are selecting to represent them federally, statewide and locally. 

Before our final vote on Senate Bill 48, I attempted to amend Senate Bill 48 in the Rules Committee just before the vote to include independents in the primaries, but unfortunately the measure failed. This proposal passed the Senate when we voted on Senate Bill 300 last week. The bill now sits in the House of Representatives waiting for it to be considered in the State Government Committee.

Additionally, if Senate Bill 48 is signed into law, citizens of the Commonwealth will have extended timelines for applying, marking, and submitting absentee ballots. There is more work to be done regarding voter reform. I will continue to fight for no excuse absentee ballots, giving independent voters a voice in primary elections and other measures that will enhance the voting process.  

Below please check out my floor remarks in support of allowing Independents to vote in our primaries.

Senator Boscola Independents Voting in PA Primaries

PA Enacts On-time, No Tax Increase Budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20

capitolLast Thursday, the Senate passed the Commonwealth’s FY 2019-20 $33.9 billion budget package, which was subsequently signed into law by Governor Wolf.

I am pleased to report that the budget includes no tax increases while strengthening our investment in education.  Additionally, this budget will also stoke our state’s continued economic resurgence.
We entered this budget cycle in the best financial shape in years seeing an increase in state revenues above projections. This allowed us to increase subsidies to our public schools by $160 million, including almost $4 million to the school districts I represent. Higher education received an across the board 2 percent increase and grants to students were increased by $17 million.  The budget also includes a $25 million investment in the state’s earned income tax credit program that benefits private and parochial schools.

While it is important to note that the state’s continued investment in public education, it was disappointing we missed an opportunity to tackle property taxes. Additionally, although the increased funding will be allocated through the new more equitable funding formula that will benefit school districts across the Lehigh Valley, we missed the opportunity to change the law to expedite the implementation of the funding formula so that all education funding is distributed more fairly. By continuing to use the old and antiquated funding formula to distribute the lion’s share of educational subsidies, we are seeing homeowners bear the brunt of unnecessary property tax increases.

Additionally, this budget continues our commitment to ensuring that our children can learn and our teachers can teach in school settings safe from violence.  $60 million dollars are included in the budget package that will allow more school districts to initiate and complete school safety and security projects.

Overall, I am pleased with this budget’s continued investment in economic and community development programs that grow our jobs and improve opportunities for all Pennsylvanians. It is a robust economy that will continue to drive prosperity for all Pennsylvanians. We need to continue to ensure that the money we invest in educating our youth is coupled with real job opportunities here in Pennsylvania. 

Examples of this commitment include increasing the PAsmart initiative by $10 million for a total of $40 million for apprenticeships, computer science training and other technical education training programs.  Additionally, this budget increases the investment by $17 million in the PA First Initiative, which invests in businesses and economic development projects that will provide a substantial economic impact.

Finally, I believe that we must budget in times of economic growth for the future, when times may not be as bright.  In that regard, this budget deposits $250 million into Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund.

For more information on the budget and a complete breakdown of line items:
https://www.budget.pa.gov/PublicationsAndReports/CommonwealthBudget/Pages/default.aspx

Key Components of 2019-20 Commonwealth Budget
Education

  • $160 million increase for basic education for a total of $6.2 billion.
  • $50 million more is allocated for special education.
  • A $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts, a program that provides early childhood education to income-eligible children as well as an increase of $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance which help children develop academic and social skills that prepare them for school and life. 
  • Early intervention programs will see a $15 million increase. 
  • An additional $7 million is provided for career and technical schools and $3 million more is allocated for related equipment grants.
  • $1 million for the new Pennsylvania National Guard Program to help struggling youth complete high school.
  • $60 million for school security grants.
  • The four state-related universities, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and community colleges will see a 2 percent increase for a total of $1.3 billion.  
  • $37.3 million increase in state funds for the PHEAA state grant program. 
  • The Public Libraries Subsidy appropriation increased by $5 million or 9.2 percent.  This is the first significant boost for libraries in a decade. 

Health and Human Services

  • $84.8 million is allocated for the Community Waiver Program, which provides home-and community-based services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, for a total of $1.7 billion. 
  • $12 million more to provide a 2 percent increase, effective January 1, for homecare workers who care for seniors and individuals with physical disabilities. 
  • The budget includes $26.2 million to provide home and community-based services to an additional 1,860 seniors.
  • $3.5 million is allocated to provide services to an additional 300 seniors through LIFE programs.
  • $15 million is in the budget to move individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) off waiting lists and into services:  100 individuals into the Consolidated Waiver Program and 765 individuals into the Community Living Waiver Program.  Additionally, $3 million is included to transition 45 individuals from state hospitals into Community ID Services. 
  • Total of $17.1 million is included to provide Attendant Care services to 480 individuals through the Department of Aging and 840 individuals through the Department of Human Services.
  • The expansion of home visiting programs will take place thanks to an additional $5 million.
  • Funding for the Department of Aging includes $2.8 million for increased inspections and licensing of personal care homes, assisted living residences, and residential and day-treatment programs that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • The spending plan includes a 10 percent increase in funding for Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis programs.
  • Funding for Services for the Visually Impaired increased by $518,000, with $431,000 going to the PA Association for the Blind and $150,000 going to Associated Services for the Blind. 

Jobs and Economic Development

  • The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation receives a $2.3 million increase to help individuals with disabilities get jobs.
  • An additional 2 percent for the Centers for Independent Living.
  • Funding is doubled for the New Choices/New Options program representing $250,000 in additional funding.  This is a one-stop shop career program for women where they can learn job search and interview skills. 
  • PAsmart initiative increased by $10 million for a total of $40 million for apprenticeships, computer science training and other technical education training programs.
  • Restores funding originally cut from Governor’s Proposed Budget to Ben Franklin Technology Centers to FY 2018-19 levels at $14.5 million.

 

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

www.senatorboscola.com

BETHLEHEM OFFICE
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