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Boosting Autism Awareness, Acceptance
April is Autism Acceptance Month, formerly known as Autism Awareness Month. The month is designed to help empower autistic individuals and their families, and to ensure improved support and opportunities in education, employment, accessible housing, affordable health care and long-term support services.
It is estimated that at least 55,000 Pennsylvanians, and maybe as many as 185,000 or more, are on the autism spectrum in the Commonwealth.
I introduced House Bill 19 to help people with autism and other conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. This bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. It would create professional licensure for applied behavior analysts who are already board certified and deserve recognition in Pennsylvania for the quality therapies they provide for children and adults.
To learn more about autism and services available in the Commonwealth, visit paautism.org.
Bill Would Expand Nuclear Energy Production in PA
I am working on legislation that would spur development of small modular reactors, which are nuclear fission reactors that can provide clean energy despite weather conditions and sunshine.
I am gathering support and co-sponsors for a bill that would direct funds from Pennsylvania participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to growing reactors’ capabilities in the state. The technology for small modular reactors could be used to replace the lost clean energy production of Three Mile Island, which ceased production in 2019.
Developing small modular reactor capabilities at shuttered or decommissioned power plants across the Commonwealth would create jobs and another source of energy at a time when we are reducing dependence on Russia. Small modular reactors can provide clean, safe power without the massive investment to develop a traditional nuclear power plant. It is important for national security we have baseload power in this country.
Pennsylvania is the nation’s third-largest producer of electricity, with a robust traditional nuclear energy fleet. However, integrating emerging technologies for nuclear energy production provides an innovative opportunity to modernize Pennsylvania’s power grid without carbon emissions.
Dauphin County lost hundreds of family-sustaining jobs when we suffered the devastating blow of losing Three Mile Island several years ago. It was an absurd move that never should have happened, as the Legislature could have intervened then. The General Assembly failed us in 2019 and should approve this new bill to rectify that situation.
I look forward to working with members of the House and Senate to ensure the Commonwealth remains an energy exporter and job creator.
Committee Advances Bills to Boost PA Dairy
The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee advanced several bills to support the dairy industry last week.
The Whole Milk in PA Schools Act (House Bill 2397) would give schools the option to use state money to purchase PA milk to serve in their schools, specifically whole milk and flavored milks that are currently prohibited under a 2010 federal law. Schools currently have to serve skim or 1% milk, which kids generally don’t like. In fact, according to the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board, student milk consumption dropped 35% when flavored milk was taken out of schools.
If the federal government, which provides funding for school meal programs, withholds funding because a school opts to add whole and flavored milks to its offerings, the attorney general would be required to bring a civil action to recover funds withheld from schools taking action under this act.
The committee also approved the following bills:
• House Bill 223, which would create Keystone Opportunity Dairy Zones to facilitate the economic development of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry through tax exemptions, deductions, abatements or credits.
• House Bill 224, which would enable the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) to ensure the Commonwealth’s struggling dairy farmers receive state-mandated milk premiums.
• House Bill 2456, which would amend the Milk Marketing Law to increase the amount of payment in lieu of suspension of a milk dealer’s license from $150 per day to $1,000 per day.
• House Bill 2457, which would amend the Milk Marketing Law to increase milk tester and weigher sampler certification periods from one year to two years.
The bills are pending action by the full House.
Policy Committee Hearing Highlights Need for Multi-pronged Approach to Improving Cybersecurity in PA
Prioritizing cybersecurity standards and innovation, improving communication and encouraging the next generation of “cyber defenders” were among recommendations offered to lawmakers at a House Majority Policy Committee hearing at the state Capitol last week.
With many recent examples of cybersecurity issues within our state agencies that have put our citizens’ personal information at risk, we need to advance policies that will support improved security and encourage the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
Testifiers participating in the hearing included officials with Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Cisco, Motorola Solutions Inc. and Unisys, as well as the chief information security officer with Highmark Health.
To read more about the hearing, review testimony or watch the video, click here.
April is National Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month
In recognition of National Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month in April, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is reminding veterans of the agency’s Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension Program.
Eligible Pennsylvania veterans may qualify to receive a pension of $150 per month. There are more than 2,000 veterans currently enrolled in the program.
To qualify, a veteran must have served in the military honorably; been a resident of Pennsylvania upon entering the military; suffered a service-connected injury or incurred a disease resulting in the loss or loss of use of two or more extremities (arms/hands or legs/feet); and at least a 40% disability compensation rating or higher in each limb as determined and certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
More information about the DMVA Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension Program is available here.
Senate Committee Supports #TheKiss4PA
The Bucks County students who are leading the initiative to have Hershey’s Kisses the official state candy recently made two trips to the Capitol. I showed them around and talked to them about why symbols matter. On Wednesday, the Senate State Government Committee took a first step into naming Kisses the state candy.
Last Saturday, I joined Hummelstown Fire Department at its annual banquet, where Duane Wood was named firefighter of the year, Dick Staley was named member of the year and Madison Deal was named junior firefighter of the year. My thanks to the fire company for the invitation.
The sun came out for the 26th annual Sporting Clays Charity Event hosted by the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center facilities department at Hummelstown Field & Stream Club. This group has raised more than $1.5 million total for the children's hospital, plus over $130,000 today. Proceeds benefit Children's Miracle Network Hershey. We have such generous people living and working in Dauphin County.
Welcome home, Shawn Menear! Area firefighters welcomed Shawn back to Dauphin County on Wednesday. He was hurt in a house fire in Royalton in January. I'm so relieved to hear that Shawn has made enough progress in his recovery that he can return home.