Senator Kim Ward E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • 9/11- 20 Years Later
  • Wolf Administration Mandates Masks for All Pennsylvania Students
  • Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee holds First Public Hearing of Election Investigation
  • Filing Claims and Avoiding Scams After a Storm
  • Streamlining Improvement of PA Neighborhoods
  • Suicide Prevention: Help is Available 
  • September is National Prostate Health Month

9/11- 20 Years Later

It was 20 years ago this week that terrorists carried out a coordinated attack on the United States, killing nearly 3,000 Americans. It was an atrocity that would shake the nation’s confidence and test its resolve.

Amid the tragedies playing out in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, there were stirring acts of courage and bravery. From the shock and mourning emerged a unified people.

The effects of the events of September 11, 2001 continue to reverberate. Many of those who died left behind children who were so young they never got to know their parents. A new generation has grown up over the past two decades with few, if any, memories of those they lost. Some 1,106 victims, or 40% of those who died, remain unidentified.

The best way to honor those killed 20 years ago is to renew our commitment to unity and to overcoming the challenges we face today.

Read my full statement on the Wolf administration’s mask mandate by clicking here.

Wolf Administration Mandates Masks for All Pennsylvania Students

Earlier this week, Governor Wolf’s mask mandate requiring all Pennsylvania public and private schools, as well as childcare facilities went into effect, but not without debate. 

The health and safety of all children is always a priority for the members of the general assembly, and the majority of members believe that this type of decision is best left to the local level with parents and school administrators in our communities. 

The approach taken by the Wolf administration is not based in data nor does it consider the demographics, geography, and cultures across the Commonwealth.  As a result, the leadership in the House and Senate has requested that Governor Wolf and Acting Health Secretary Allison Beam provide data to support their mask mandate decision by providing daily updates, to include not only new COVID-19 case numbers, number of patients hospitalized, and percentage recovered and specified on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard; but also specific data that includes breakout information for cases regarding individuals ages 18 and under. 

The action to mandate masks was taken by Acting Health Secretary Allison Beam using the Disease Prevention and Control Act of 1955, a move which by-passes the legislature and disregards the action taken by the citizens across the Commonwealth that voted in May to  limit Governor Wolf’s authority to unilaterally extend emergency declarations.  As with any policy dispute or concern over exceeding lawful powers, this matter is likely to quickly move to the courts for resolution.  Additionally, several bills are being introduced including proposals to require school districts to develop a plan for parents to opt-out their child from wearing a face covering or mask, and to restrict the powers of the Acting Secretary of Health and confine them to disaster emergency declarations. 

Read my full statement on the Wolf administration’s mask mandate by clicking here.

Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee holds First Public Hearing of Election Investigation

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee held the first public hearing of its investigation into the 2020 General Election and the 2021 Primary Election this week. Hearing Video & Testimony 

Pennsylvania Department of State officials were invited to testify at the hearing regarding last-minute guidance provided to counties and its impact on the 2020 General Election. Department officials refused to attend.

The panel heard from Stewart Ulsh, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and Board of Elections, who described the confusing and sometimes contradictory guidance issued by the Department of State. The committee also received written testimony from County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Executive Director Lisa Schaefer, who testified that counties struggled to keep up with guidance issued by the Department of State and election-related lawsuits. CCAP recommended several reforms to prevent the confusion of the 2020 election from reoccurring.

The committee has created a webpage for Pennsylvania residents to submit testimony regarding problems they have experienced with the state’s election system. Voters are encouraged to come forward if they have witnessed voter fraud or other election improprieties firsthand. State residents are urged to share their stories at intergovernmental.pasenategop.com/electioninvestigation/ to help guide the investigation and develop potential improvements to state law to bolster election security.

Only firsthand testimony is being requested, and only from Pennsylvania residents. Members of the public should submit testimony if they are comfortable signing an affidavit and potentially testifying under oath at a Senate committee hearing under penalty of perjury.

The investigation is expected to include public hearings, subpoenas for relevant election information and a detailed audit of the 2020 General Election and 2021 Primary Election.

Filing Claims and Avoiding Scams After a Storm

Homeowners and business operators impacted by the recent strong storms can access useful information on how to file insurance claims for damages and tips to avoid repair scams.

The After the Storm brochure from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department includes such tips as:

  • Contact the insurance company as soon as possible after the storm.
  • Save all receipts.
  • Take photographs or video before cleaning or making repairs.
  • Individuals can verify someone is licensed as a public adjuster at Find an Insurance Professional.
  • Ask for and check references before hiring a contractor.

In addition, keep in mind that flood damage is not covered by most homeowners’ insurance policies, and a separate flood insurance policy is required to pay for damage caused by flooding.

Streamlining Improvement of Pennsylvania Neighborhoods

The Neighborhood Improvement District Act was enacted in 2000 to spur economic development in Pennsylvania communities. A Senate hearing this week focused on modernizing and streamlining the process to meet current challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in devastating consequences for tourism and hospitality employers throughout the Commonwealth. The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee discussed Senate Bill 797, which would simplify the process for NID authorization and provide counties and municipalities with tools to enhance economic growth.

The panel took testimony from tourism experts, business leaders and economic development specialists. You can find the hearing video and written testimony here.

Suicide Prevention: Help is Available  

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a good time to note that for anyone with depression or thoughts of suicide: you’re not alone.

According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country and is one of only three that are on the rise. In Pennsylvania, suicide rates have increased by 34% since 1999.

Military veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1

You can find more information about mental health services in Pennsylvania here.

September is National Prostate Health Month

One in nine men, mostly men 65 or older, will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The good news is the death rate is relatively low. 

Prostate cancer usually progresses slowly, so some type of screening is likely to catch it in time to act. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says men should discuss the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctor. 

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