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Governor Wolf Extends School Closures Through End of Academic Year

Governor Wolf today announced that all schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. The governor made the decision in consultation with Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. Students and families can continue to pick up meals at designated sites.

While we had hoped that classes would continue in person later this school year, it has become evident that this action is necessary for the continued safety of our students, our school employees and all of their families as we try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It is imperative that we keep our students as engaged as possible throughout the remainder of the school year through creative distance learning in the most appropriate and accessible ways possible.

I, like many of you, are saddened and disappointed for our teachers and our students, mainly our high school seniors who will never be able to relive what is often the most memorable year of their young lives. Public safety must, however, be our primary concern during this pandemic.  I remain hopeful that, if we remain diligent in following the Stay at Home Orders, better days will soon be here.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has secured resources intended to help all schools that want to use them – including those not currently offering online platforms, those requiring additional technology support, and those that may rely on traditional methods, such as paper lessons, to continue educating students. There is no cost to schools or students for these resources.

The Governor noted that today’s decision applies to all public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers and intermediate units. All Department of Education early learning program classrooms, including those for Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) and Preschool Early Intervention, will also remain closed.

Colleges and universities may not resume in-person instruction or reopen their physical locations until the governor permits them to open or lifts the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses.

Schools will remain closed though the end of the 2019-2020 academic year as it is defined by the local school calendar. Under the state’s directive, schools could begin summer programming on the day after their academic year ends. All re-openings will be contingent on public health guidance provided by the Secretary of Health and stay-at-home orders issued by the governor.

In addition to the school closure announcement, through his order Secretary Rivera also took action that will ensure crucial stability of education programs. Under Act 13 of 2020, the secretary has exercised his executive authority to adjust requirements for the evaluation of professional employees and waive student teaching requirements that may not be possible in the context of school closures.

If you have any further questions on the school closure order and the other services being provided by PDE throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Senate Democrats Urge Action on Legislation for Working Families

The Senate adjourned Tuesday afternoon after the House Republicans indicated they would not be taking up Senate Bill 841, legislation that would have enabled local municipalities to hold their meetings remotely, permitted e-notary use; lengthened the time period a property taxpayer can receive an early payment discount and delay penalties for late payments to Dec. 31st; and allowed businesses to make delayed payments on EITC. Another important amendment would have allowed school districts to renegotiate contracts to ensure contracted school workers can get paid and continue to receive benefits.

This crisis and the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires leadership, transparency and cooperation – not partisan politics. While we’ve worked well with the Senate majority on real solutions that actually help people in this crisis, the House majority looks to undermine the executive authority of the Governor as well as the advice of medical and scientific experts regarding public health.  I applaud the work being done by Governor Wolf and his administration to keep Pennsylvanians safe and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I will continue to support important legislation to help our business community, front-line workers and medical professionals; and to protect our citizens, schools and local governments across this state. We need to remain vigilant in following the recommendations of the PA Department of Health and the federal CDC.

For more information on the bills the Senate Democrats are working on, click here.

Bills Would Help Businesses Retrofit Facilities to Aid in COVID-19 Response

I am glad to work with my friend and colleague, state Senator Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) to introduce legislation that would assist manufacturers in retrofitting their facilities to begin producing much-needed personal protection equipment (PPE) as a response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.  

Across the Commonwealth, our small businesses and manufacturers are finding creative ways to utilize their facilities to pitch in and assist in our state response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that as they support our residents and our health care professionals that we provide state assistance to help retrofit facilities and increase production of personal protective equipment here in Pennsylvania.

Under our proposals, manufacturers that need to borrow money to retrofit their facilities to produce PPE would receive loan guarantees from existing state programs, as well as tax credits for the costs associated with retrofitting operations. 

My proposal would create a tax credit program for up to 100 percent of the costs manufacturers incur while retrofitting their facilities and operations to produce personal protection equipment. That program would be capped at $50 million. 

Sen. Hughes’ proposal would expand the First Industries Program within the Department of Community of Economic Development’s Commonwealth Financing Authority and allow for loan guarantees to businesses that need to borrow money to retrofit facilities to produce PPE.  

PA Trout Fishing Season Now Open

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), in consultation with the Office of the Governor, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) opened the statewide 2020 trout season on Tuesday.

This measure allows properly licensed anglers and youth to begin fishing for and harvesting trout. All regulations, sizes, and creel limits apply. Anglers and boaters must abide by social distancing guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Governor Tom Wolf’s Stay-at-Home Order regarding COVID-19.  

The decision to open trout season immediately is intended to discourage concentrated gatherings of people that may have occurred on the traditional opening day, to minimize intrastate and interstate travel, and to reduce the threat of illegal poaching in waters that have already been stocked. The PFBC staff will continue to stock trout throughout the spring, but not all waters have been stocked at this time. To further discourage group gatherings, a stocking schedule and list of waters that have been stocked will not be provided to the public this season. Anglers should also be aware that public access to some waters may be restricted by the landowner or local municipal government.

Fishing and boating is permitted in Pennsylvania state parks and state forests, when social distancing guidelines are followed. DCNR is encouraging people to fish and conduct other outdoor recreation within 15 minutes of their homes. Anglers should note that state park facilities, including restrooms may be closed.

To participate in trout fishing, anglers must have a Pennsylvania fishing license and Trout/Salmon Permit, both of which may be purchased online using the FishBoatPA mobile app for smartphones, or at www.fishandboat.com. Those who do not have the ability to purchase online and are unable to visit a retail location may call (814) 359-5222 for purchasing assistance. Anglers may produce a digital copy of their license on their mobile device as proof of purchase. A signed, printed copy is not currently required to prove you own a valid license. If approached by a Waterways Conservation Officer in the field, an angler or boater may provide a digital image or receipt of their fishing license, and a digital receipt from their launch permit or boat registration.

PennDOT Announces Extended Expiration Dates

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, learner's permits, persons with disability placards, vehicle registrations and safety and emission inspections will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Deadlines on the following products will be extended effective March 27, 2020:

  • Driver licenses, photo ID cards and learner's permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through April 30, 2020, the expiration date is now extended through May 31, 2020.

  • Vehicle registrations, safety inspections and emissions inspections scheduled to expire from March 16 through April 30, 2020, the expiration date is now extended through May 31, 2020.

  • Persons with Disabilities parking placards scheduled to expire from March 16 through April 30, 2020, the expiration date is now extended through May 31, 2020.

Additionally, the PennDOT  announced that the Department of Homeland Security has postponed the enforcement date for REAL ID from October 1, 2020, to October 1, 2021, in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration.

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For updates on this and other legislative initiatives, stay in touch with me through my website or on Facebook and Twitter.

Offices to Serve You

 

District Office
Oppenheim Building
409 Lackawanna Ave., Ste. 210
Scranton, PA 18503
Phone: (570) 207-2881
Fax: (570) 207-2897
Toll free: 1-877-346-5721
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Harrisburg Office
Room 17 East Wing
The State Capitol
Senate Box 203022
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3022
Phone: (717) 787-6481
Fax: (717) 783-5198
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

 
 
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