In this Update:
BREAKING NEWS: Commonwealth Court Rules Act 77 Unconstitutional
The Commonwealth Court ruled today that Act 77 – the state’s mail-in voting law – is unconstitutional. There have been numerous concerns raised about the way Act 77 was implemented by the Department of State, especially the double standard created by the removal of key mail-in ballot security measures in lead-up to the 2020 election. After what occurred in the 2020 and 2021 elections, I have no confidence in the no-excuse mail-in ballot provisions.
In the near future, I am going to introduce legislation with key components including voter ID, elimination of straight party voting, an end to drop-boxes, a ban on outside money, and a provision for independent audits of elections by third parties. My plan will expand access, increase integrity, and prevent fraud and give Pennsylvanians an election system they can believe in.
Senate Passes New Funding for Hospitals, Health Care Workers
The Senate this week approved critical funding for hospitals and frontline health care workers who continue to keep Pennsylvanians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was sent to the governor for enactment.
It allocates a total of $225 million to hospitals and their employees. The additional dollars will be allocated as follows:
The legislation requires the funding to be directed to retention and recruitment programs for staff. Hospital executives and administration, contracted staff and physicians would not be eligible for payments.
Student Loan Relief for Nurses Available through March 1
Applications are being accepted through March 1 for the new Student Loan Relief for Nurses program.
Qualified nurses working through the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible to receive student loan relief of up to $2,500 for each year of work (beginning with 2020) for up to three years, with a maximum benefit of $7,500.
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency indicates the high volume of applications has slowed the review process, and online applications are not offered. You can learn more about the program and the application process here.
Senate Acts to Improve PA National Guard Health Care
Legislation to increase the number of health care providers in the Pennsylvania National Guard was approved by the Senate. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The legislation improves the Medical Officer or Health Officer Incentive Program, which was created in 2014 to provide an education stipend to those who qualified through their time in the armed services.
This incentive program began to address the lack of health care providers within the Guard. However, some health professionals, such as dentists and physician assistants, were inadvertently left out of the program.
Senate Bill 927 would establish a broader definition of “health professional” to capture those left out of the original program. It would also create education stipend tiers based on the participant’s education level, so that physicians and physician assistants would get a higher reimbursement to help pay down their higher tuition debt.
Congressional Redistricting Map Approved by General Assembly
Legislation to redraw the boundaries of Pennsylvania congressional districts to reflect changes in population was approved by the Senate and sent to the governor, who vetoed the measure.
The U.S. Constitution requires congressional redistricting following the updated census count every 10 years.
The preliminary congressional map was developed after a series of public hearings held by the state Senate and House of Representatives.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications Being Accepted
Older and disabled Pennsylvanians can apply now for rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2021.
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.
After checking eligibility requirements, you can file your rebate application online by visiting mypath.pa.gov. Submitting your application online does not require you to sign up for an account. You can check the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program instruction booklet to learn which information you will need to complete the process.
National School Choice Week
Pennsylvania families should have a choice in selecting the best education for their children, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies and homeschooling.
This is National School Choice Week, a time to stand with parents and recommit to giving parents the power to choose what’s best for their children.
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