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In this update:
- Swift Action Taken by Senator Ward to Reform Vehicle Emissions Testing
- REAL ID Seminar Available to Constituents on July 8th
- Improving the Transparency of V-Tolls
- Press event for the Coalition Against Rape & Domestic Violence
- Budget Update
- Out and About
- In The News
Swift Action Taken by Senator Ward to Reform Vehicle Emissions Testing
Less than one month after holding a hearing in Latrobe on the issue of vehicle emissions testing, Senator Ward has led the introduction of multiple pieces of legislation in the state Senate aimed at reforming Pennsylvania’s outdated vehicle emissions testing program and moved them out of the Senate Transportation Committee which she chairs. To view the entire recording of the Transportation Committee meeting click here: https://transportation.pasenategop.com/061219/
The package of bills includes:
- SB724 – Exempting vehicles for the first eight years after manufacture
- SB743 – Changing the annual process to a two-year testing requirement for vehicles older than eight years
- SB744 – Removing Westmoreland County, and other counties, from the vehicle emissions testing program altogether
- SB745 – Modernizing the testing requirements for certain vehicles in the regions of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia
- SB746 – Extending the transition date for existing emissions inspection stations to obtain new emissions testing equipment required by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
These bills are the direct result of testimony and concerns brought forward at the hearing held on May 10th with members of the Senate Transportation Committee. Testifiers included officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Joint State Government Commission, Pennsylvania AAA Federation, and an inspection mechanic. This hearing was well-attended and highlighted the importance of modernizing emissions testing.
“Vehicle emissions testing costs our constituents an average of $40 every year,” said Ward. “We now have empirical evidence that suggest certain counties, such as Westmoreland, could be removed from this onerous regulation. From that, I have joined with other members of the Senate to introduce legislation which will modernize our vehicle emissions program and to ensure the Commonwealth delivers regulatory relief and cost-savings to our constituents.”
Due to a federal mandate, Pennsylvania’s vehicle emissions testing program requires motorists in 25 counties to participate in an annual emissions testing for gasoline-powered passenger cars, vans, and light-duty trucks with a model year 1975 and newer. (Diesel-powered vehicles are federally exempt from an annual emissions testing, and other vehicles such as motorcycles are exempt in Pennsylvania.)
“Only 4 percent of all vehicles are failing the emissions testing in the 25 counties requiring the testing, particularly due to newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles entering the fleet. Although we are meeting or exceeding federal air quality standards and fewer vehicles are failing the emissions testing, there has not been any action in recent years to modernize vehicle emissions testing,” said Ward.
You can view the bills included in the reform plan at the following website: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20190&cosponId=29678
Highlight of the May 10th hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee, to view the entire recording of the hearing, click here: https://www.senatorward.com/2019/05/06/transportation-committee-to-hold-hearing-on-exempting-eligible-counties-from-vehicle-emissions-testing/
REAL ID Seminar Available to Constituents on July 8th
Senator Ward invites constituents from the 39th Senatorial District to a REAL ID Seminar with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) on Monday, July 8th at the Hempfield Area Senior High School, Auditorium, 4345 Route 136, Greensburg, PA 15601. PennDOT will provide identical presentations at 4:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m., which will explain the process of how to obtain a REAL ID and whether a REAL ID is right for you.
A federal mandate requires a REAL ID (or other federally-accepted identification such as a valid passport) by October 1, 2020, if you need to board domestic commercial flights, enter a military base, or enter a federal facility that requires identification at the door.
Current state law allows individuals the option to get a REAL ID. PennDOT is issuing REAL IDs to individuals who visit a special REAL ID center or any Driver License Center with the right documents. The closest REAL ID center, which is where you can walk-in, walk-out with a REAL ID in-hand, is at 1025 Washington Pike, Rt. 50, Bridgeville, Allegheny County. However, you can also apply for a REAL ID at any Driver License Center and receive a REAL ID in the mail within 2 weeks. Remember, if you received your first Pennsylvania learner’s permit, driver’s license or photo identification after September 1, 2003, you are eligible to apply for REAL ID pre-verification online.
All of the latest information on REAL IDs is available at: https://www.dmv.pa.gov/REALID/Pages/default.aspx
Improving the Transparency of V-Tolls
Constituents in the 39th District and across the Commonwealth are subject to “v-tolls”, which is a flat fee of $10 charged by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. These charges are issued if an E-ZPass transponder was not detected by an electronic toll collection system because the E-ZPass transponder was not in the vehicle, the E-ZPass transponder was not properly mounted, or the E-ZPass transponder was not working.
Senator Ward is working on legislation to improve the transparency of “v-tolls” and the notification of transactions for motorists traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This legislation advances the awareness of charges to ensure hard-working taxpayers are not repeatedly overcharged on the Turnpike.
To learn more about this legislative proposal, select the following link: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20190&cosponId=29795
Press Event for the Coalition Against Rape & Domestic Violence
Senator Ward participated in a press conference with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape & Domestic Violence. Senator Judy Schwank and Senator Ward are Co-Prime Sponsors on Senate Bill 337. SB337 will criminalize “Sextortion”. Sextortion is a form of blackmail by a person who is threatening harm in order to coerce sexual acts, images or video rather than money from a victim.
June brings consideration in the General Assembly of our state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. There is good news as we end our current year with $800 million above what was expected to be collected, in large part to due to spending controls enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature, which included cutting $1.2 billion from Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposals over the last four years, while making targeted increases in core functions of our state government like education, medical assistance for the elderly and disabled, and child protective services. We also managed to stabilize our public pensions systems, hold the line on taxes, create 120,000 more jobs since 2016, and put the number of minimum wage earners at 96,300, the lowest it has been since 2006.
With $800 million in new money, you might think the Commonwealth could afford some new programs to spend it on or increase funding for existing ones. That is definitely not the case.
Pennsylvania’s bond rating – our credit score and a measure of a state’s fiscal strength – is affected by the amount of funds we have on hand to weather the next moderate recession without raising taxes or cutting spending. This is called our “Rainy Day Fund” and it had $755 million in it in 2009 before ALL the funds had to be used to make up for revenue shortfalls during a recession that hit Pennsylvania hard. We were finally able to deposit $22 million dollars in the fund with the 2017-2018 budget but its current balance of about $23 million is not even close to helping us through any future economic turn down and improve our bond rating. Dedicating the $800 million in unexpected revenue will go a long way in moving Pennsylvania towards good economic standing without harming programs and raising taxes.
Out and About
Republican and Democrat members of the Hunger Caucus kicked off the 10th year of the Capitol Hunger Garden. The garden is visibly located between the Capitol and the Ryan Office Building right on the plaza. The food is donated to food banks, soup kitchens and pantries in Central PA. Here is a link to the Westmoreland County Food Bank for anyone who is interested in helping in some way or may be in need.
Senator Ward joined Waste Management and the Bridge Foundation at a check presentation for the Catholic Schools in the Greensburg Diocese. Contributions such as these are made possible through Pennsylvania’s EITC program.
Senator Ward attended a touching Memorial service for the two Norwin High School graduates who died in the 9/11 attacks, Brian Dale (class of 1976) & David Kovalcin (class of 1977). Their names are now on a bench near the Veterans monument which sits on the school’s property. (photo credit to Joe Napsha, Tribune-Review staff writer)
In the News
Congratulations to Ray Charley: Ray Charley finishes cross-country ride, dips bike in Atlantic Ocean