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Unemployment Compensation for Seasonal Workers Restored
More than 40,000 seasonal workers will once again be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits thanks to legislation recently signed into law.
In 2012, legislation signed into law (Act 60 of 2012) made sweeping changes to Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) Law in an effort to ensure the solvency of the state’s UC fund. One provision of the bill increased the amount of wages an individual must earn outside of their highest-paying quarter from 20% to 49.5% of total wages. This provision almost guaranteed that seasonal employees, such as those employed in road construction and the building trades, would not be eligible for unemployment during the winter offseason. For this reason, I voted against the bill at that time.
Fortunately, I and my colleagues in the Senate were able to work together and deliver a bipartisan compromise that lowers the aforementioned threshold from 49.5% to 37% earned outside of the highest quarter while also generating savings to ensure the viability of the UC fund into the future. As a result of Act 144 of 2016, more than 40,000 seasonal workers will once again be eligible for the unemployment compensation that so many rely upon in the offseason when work is sparse.
Legislature Approves Liquor Law Reforms
I voted for and the Legislature approved legislation boosting consumer convenience for responsible adults looking to purchase beer and other malt beverages.
House Bill 1196 permits beer distributors to now sell malt or brewed beverages in any amount. For the first time in Pennsylvania, consumers can now buy six packs, growlers, and mix-and-match beer packs from the same place you go to buy cases.
This was just the latest measure in a series of initiatives to reform Pennsylvania’s antiquated liquor laws. Earlier this year, legislation was signed into law permitting the sale of wine and beer at licensed grocery stores and restaurants, as well as legalizing the shipment of wine directly to private residences from wine wholesalers throughout the country.
Senate Approves Comprehensive Animal Abuse Prevention Measure
I voted for and the Senate approved legislation to combat animal abuse and neglect.
House Bill 869 includes measures to prevent tethering dogs in unsafe conditions, strengthen penalties for animal abusers, and include horses under Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws. Additionally, it would require the forfeiture of any animals by persons convicted of animal abuse.
The legislation still requires passage by the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for signature into law. As one of the law’s sponsors has pointed out, there is still time to pass this into law.
It’s an honor to be recognized by Friends of McGuire Memorial with their Community Star Award. Thank you for the wonderful work you do in our community.
Thousands Take Part in Telephone Town Hall on Heroin/Opioid Crisis
Over 19,000 households recently took part across 14 southwestern Pennsylvania counties for a Telephone Town Hall meeting hosted by myself and other area legislators to discuss Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid addiction epidemic. This meeting was a great opportunity for me to hear from constituents with policy solutions for this critically important issue as well as hear personal stories about how opioid addiction has impacted their lives.
The discussion included a panel of experts ranging from law enforcement to addiction psychology who answered questions about heroin and opioid addiction.
Because of meetings like this and many others before it, the Legislature has begun to take steps to proactively address the root causes of opioid addiction. Just recently, I voted for, the Legislature approved, and the Governor signed into law four pieces of legislation doing just that:
Summer Gas Update
Good news: My legislation to repeal the “Summer Gas” regulation recently took one more step forward in the lengthy regulatory process, meaning we’re one step closer to cheaper gas prices in Western Pennsylvania.
For many years, low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline has been mandated for counties in in the Pittsburgh region. This long-standing rule from the Environmental Protection Agency has made gasoline more expensive in Western Pennsylvania by anywhere from 10-15 cents per gallon compared to anywhere else in the state. My legislation, Act 50 of 2014, eliminated that requirement.
On October 18, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Quality Board approved the repeal of the “Summer Gas” regulation. The next steps in the process are a public comment period, consideration by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, and then back to the DEP for final action.
It’s been a long road but we’re almost at the finish line. I’ll keep you updated on its progress.
Local Districts Receive Safe School Grants
I’m pleased to report that several Beaver and Lawrence county school districts in the 47th Senatorial District were selected to receive Safe School Initiative grants for the training and compensation of school resource officers and to prevent and reduce violent incidents through programs and security equipment.
These funds were a portion of the $6.5 million in competitive grants announced by the Pennsylvania Department of Education last week.
Beaver County recipients include:
Lawrence County recipients include:
Local Camp Awarded Greenways, Trails, and Recreation Grant
The Salvation Army’s Camp Allegheny & Retreat Center, located just outside of Ellwood City along the Slippery Rock Creek, has been awarded a state grant for camp improvements.
The 110-acre public campground will receive a Greenways, Trails, and Recreation grant for $225,000 to supplement an ambitious overhaul of campground accommodations totaling $1.4 million. Improvements include updating the dining hall kitchen, shingle replacements on cabins, bathroom renovations, and more.
Funding for the grant comes from the Marcellus Legacy Fund, a revenue stream established by Act 13 of 2012 and paid into by unconventional well drillers in Pennsylvania.
Yellow Ribbon Girls
As in previous years, my office is once again serving as a collection site for donations for local military service members serving overseas.
Donations will be delivered to the Yellow Ribbon Girls, an Ellwood City based group, who put together care packages to be sent all over the world. Currently, they are working on putting together Christmas care packages. They ask that anyone that wishes to donate for Christmas drop off the supplies before November 10th.
Popular items include: travel size toiletry items, batteries, pens, pencils, beef jerky, snack size nuts, crackers and trail mix, to name a few. For a complete list of items requested, please visitwww.yellowribbongirls.com.
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