In This Update:
Senator DiSanto addresses veterans and guests at the Korean War Ambassador for Peace Medal Ceremony held this week in conjunction with the Office of US Senator Pat Toomey. More info here.
Visit Veterans Virtual Wall of Honor Recognition
In observance of Veterans Day 2020, through November 20 a page on my website will serve as a Virtual Wall of Honor and list all of the veterans who have submitted their information for recognition. The Wall of Honor may be viewed and information can be submitted online at https://redesign.senatordisanto.com/virtual-wall-of-honor/. Veterans or their families may also contact my office at 717-787-6801 for a printed submission form.
Veterans currently residing and deceased veterans whose last address was in the 15th Senatorial District are eligible for the Virtual Wall of Honor. Family members and friends are welcome to submit on behalf of deceased veterans so their service may also be recognized.
“Steer Clear Law” set to become “Move Over Law” following Unanimous Passage by General Assembly
Legislation I sponsored with State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33) and State Senator Kim Ward (R-39) to strengthen the state “Steer Clear Law” and better protect tow truck drivers, law enforcement and other first responders is set for enactment following unanimous passage by the General Assembly last week.
In addition to adding stiffer penalties and raising public awareness, Senate Bill 1281 would rebrand the “Steer Clear Law” as the “Move Over Law” to clarify how motorists should react when approaching or passing an emergency response area. Examples of an emergency response area are when a police officer is conducting a routine traffic stop or when a tow truck operator is helping with a disabled vehicle.
Locally, we suffered the tragic loss of Tyler Laudenslager of Halifax when, as a tow truck operator, he was struck while responding to a disabled vehicle. No family should have to experience the avoidable death of a loved one like this, and this action by the legislature, coming three months since Tyler’s untimely death, is a tribute to his memory that will help avoid future tragedies.
There are more than 350 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania every day that put first responders in harm’s way. Already in 2020, 40 first responders have been killed nationwide while working roadside incidents: 16 law enforcement, 17 tow truck operators, 1 mobile mechanic, 3 fire/EMS personnel and 3 Safety Service Patrol Operators. Unfortunately, these numbers include two Pennsylvania first responders, Tow Operator/Firefighter Tyler Laudenslager and Paramedic Matt Smelser.
Senate Bill 1281 would establish a new point system for a “Move Over” violation; double the fines for a summary offense; strengthen public awareness by requiring PennDOT to educate the public throughout the year; and implement new requirements for drivers approaching an emergency response area.
According to PA State Police, 7,075 citations were issued in 2018-2019 for Steer Clear/Move Over violations, in addition to 3,204 warnings.
Senate Passes Package of Bills to Support Veterans, Military Families
Throughout our nation’s history, Pennsylvania’s military veterans and their families have been called on to make extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of a grateful nation. I supported a package of bills last week designed to boost support for veterans and military families and honor their incredible efforts to protect their fellow citizens.
The package includes bills that would permanently establish the Military Family Relief Assistance Program in state law; update the Veterans’ Preference Law to ensure veterans receive proper credit for their skills and experience; create Veterans Courts to provide mentorship and treatment for underlying problems; help more veterans qualify for prescription drug assistance; and ensure the POW/MIA flag is flown on any ground or building owned by the Commonwealth and at all roadside rest stops and welcome centers operated by PennDOT, as well as PA Turnpike service plazas.
All of the bills were sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law in advance of Veterans Day on November 11.
Additional Funding Approved to Help Schools Meet Health and Safety Needs
Local schools will be able to apply soon for additional grant funding to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants were approved as part of the $200 million COVID-19 Disaster Emergency School Health and Safety Grant program created by lawmakers in May as part of Act 30 of 2020.
Eligible uses of the funding include:
The grant program is expected to open no later than Monday, November 2. Grant applications can be submitted on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Egrants website.
Senate Votes to Protect Insurance Coverage for Mental Health Issues, Substance Use Disorder
Millions of Pennsylvanians struggle with mental health issues and substance use disorder, and many state residents report challenges in receiving the care they need. The Senate approved two bills last week to ensure mental health and substance use disorder receive the same level of insurance coverage as other health issues.
The bills will strengthen enforcement of a federal law that mandates equal access to care and coverage for these health issues. House Bill 1696 and House Bill 1439 would require insurers to annually attest the steps they have taken to comply with this law.
Applications for Community Violence Prevention Grants Due November 10
Local municipalities, counties, colleges and community groups are encouraged to apply for grants to boost community safety and reduce the risk of violence. Applications for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Community Violence Prevention/Reduction Initiative must be completed and returned by November 10.
The program was created by lawmakers two years ago as part of a broad package of reforms to make our schools and communities safer. Eligible uses for the grants include mentoring services and other intervention services for at-risk children and families; promoting communication between school entities and law enforcement; linking the community with local trauma support and behavioral health systems; and other programs designed to reduce community violence.
Energy Efficiency Grants Available for Farmers, Small Businesses
Farmers and other small business owners can apply now for grants to support energy efficiency and pollution prevention projects. Applications for the Small Business Advantage Grant program are available now, and grants will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis through April 12, 2021.
The program covers up to 50 percent of the project costs up to $7,000. Grants are available to small businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees who undertake projects that would save the business 25 percent ($500 minimum) on energy costs annually.