View in browser
ABLE Savings Program Kicks Off
Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joined me, individuals with disabilities and their caregivers on April 3 at the Capitol to officially launch the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE program, a landmark tax-free state savings account intended to help alleviate some of the financial challenges faced by families caring for loved ones with disabilities.
The ABLE program reflects sensible and solid change. Initiative and family responsibility are rewarded. The door opens for individuals to take steps to increase their ability to function and contribute. When families can set aside funds for a better safety net, worry diminishes. No longer will so many families be forced to make an impossible choice between services and savings.
Sen. Casey led the effort at the federal level, and I worked with disability advocates from throughout the state to bring the program to Pennsylvania. The people deserving commendation are the families, the groups, and the individuals who engaged in the advocacy and education efforts whose caring and commitment truly made the difference.
Administered by the state treasury, ABLE accounts:
To learn more or to enroll, click here.
Bill To Increase Public Safety By Expanding PA One Call Advances
I am renewing my push for legislation to ensure greater public safety by extending and expanding PA One Call provisions. Listen here.
Also known as 811, the communications system helps prevent damage to underground utilities and avoid tragedies by requiring companies and people to “Call Before You Dig.” That information is then used to determine if there are any lines at-risk in the area, so they can be marked prior to excavation.
By every measure, 811 has worked as intended. It is a sensible approach to public safety without a high cost. But we have an opportunity to extend its reach and to reduce the risk of catastrophes, injuries or deadly accidents.
Last year, the legislature granted a one-year extension of the program, but a long-term fix is warranted. My plan was approved by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee on April 18.
Chief among the changes proposed in SB 242 is assigning enforcement powers to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), a shift I believe makes sense because the agency already regulates the utilities participating in PA One Call. Currently the Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for enforcement.
Exemptions for extracting natural resources are removed under this bill, including the construction of Class 1 gathering pipelines located in more rural areas, where significant work is occurring. Other improvements include a mapping requirement to record abandoned lines and identify new lines moving forward, and mandatory reporting of all underground facility damages.
The intent of this bill is to reduce the number of problems encountered. By implementing some common sense safety measures, we are acting to help prevent catastrophes.
It is estimated there are more than 6,000 "hits" each year, approximately half involving natural gas lines. These incidents jeopardize the public, place workers at risk, and compromise infrastructure.
Preventing this unnecessary damage will provide increased safety and reduce
unnecessary costs for all parties.
Drug Take Back Set for April 29
Department Consolidation Hearings Held
On April 13, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which I chair, held the second in a series of public hearings to examine the governor’s proposal to consolidate the departments of Human Services, Health, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs. This is a major element of the proposed state budget, and will affect countless agencies and individuals across Pennsylvania.
The first hearing was held in Harrisburg on March 29. The videos from that
hearing can be viewed by clicking
here. A third
hearing is scheduled for May 1 at 11:00 a.m. at the Assembly Room at William
Pitt Union in Pittsburgh.
Children’s Service Center Celebrates 155 Years
There is no better cause than putting heart and soul into helping children. For decades, Children’s Service Center (CSC) has positively impacted the lives of countless children and families.
My connection to this organization is deeply personal, so I was especially fortunate to be a part of the recent 155th anniversary celebration and acknowledge the good work being done in our community.
When my husband Gary was born, he was placed in the foster care system. He was adopted through CSC on Feb. 7, 1957, when he was 8 months old. He still celebrates the day he got, as he calls it, "his forever home."
When he arrived with his new family, Gary was wearing a yellow snowsuit and carrying a small toy. His mother Dorothy treasured these possessions. We continue to honor her tradition of hanging the toy on our Christmas tree each year.
So it was certainly a thrill to join the United Way of Wyoming Valley in being honored by CSC and that Gary would get the chance to share his story as part of the ceremony.There are many distinguishing things about service to children. One is that there simply is not the concept of "I did this." It is what "we do" that makes the difference. I am grateful to have had the chance to be part of CSC’s efforts in a variety of ways over the years. In a society where so much is disposable and replaceable, we are blessed to have a stalwart group providing indispensable services for more than a century and a half.