|Senate Committee Approves My Bill to Expand School Choice
Legislation I authored to expand Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program with $100 million in additional tax credits for scholarship organizations passed the Senate Education Committee this week.
House Bill 800 includes an automatic escalator that would increase the funding for these scholarships by 10% in any year that 90% of the credits are claimed, allowing the program to grow to meet demand.
The bill would also make other improvements to the program. It would increase the household income limit by $10,000, allowing more middle-class families to benefit from the scholarships. Once a student qualifies, he or she would remain eligible for the program through high school graduation, regardless of changes to family income. And to ensure that more of this tax money goes directly to students, House Bill 800 lowers the amount that can be retained for administrative costs from 20% to 10%.
According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), the EITC program saves taxpayers money. When a student chooses to attend a private school, much of that money is going to be saved.
School choice is not an alternative to a great public school system; it is a necessary complement.
News From UPMC
This week, UPMC informed the Pennsylvania Insurance Department and Highmark that it will not seek pre-payment from out-of-network Highmark Medicare Advantage members after the Consent Decrees end on June 30.
Additionally, for out-of-network emergency care, UPMC will accept direct payment from Highmark at the same rate that UPMC Health Plan now pays Highmark’s Allegheny Health Network hospitals.
Also, UPMC has agreed to make all UPMC Hillman Cancer Center locations available to ALL insurers, including all Highmark commercial and Medicare Advantage members, at currently agreed upon in-network rates after the expiration of the Consent Decrees.
I have been deeply engaged with these issues since 2011, initially as Majority Leader and now as Speaker of the House. At that time, I organized hearings to solicit input from residents on the impact of the dispute between these integrated health organizations.
In response, we introduced House Bill 2052 of 2011, which would have provided for binding arbitration between a Blue Cross insurer, like Highmark, and a health care provider, like UPMC, where the public interest required it.
It is important to note that the commitment by UPMC to provide continued specialty hospital access to all patients is the result of sustained dialogue and cooperation, not combativeness, lawsuits or antagonism.
New Eagle Scouts
This week, at the Ingomar United Methodist Church in Sewickley, Adam Snider, Charles Alt and Reid Suddaby of Troop 171 achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
Congratulations to you, your families and Scoutmaster Tim Bidlack on this outstanding achievement.
It was my pleasure to participate as Norah James Chmiel, Nathaniel Richard Heil, Ian Matthew Jackson and Andrew Oliver Wenzel from Troop 344 became Eagle Scouts.
It takes a great deal of work and dedication to become an Eagle Scout. It is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America.
The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded more than 100 years ago. Only 4% of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy process.
New Security Fence at North Park Pool
Look at the new security fence at the North Park Pool in Allison Park.
In 2017, my office secured a $350,000 grant, which has been a tremendous help in bringing the fence and other improvements such as a new family-oriented changing rooms, new shade structures, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility enhancements to fruition.
A big thank you goes out to Andrew Baechle, director of County Parks for Allegheny County, for his help in the pool upgrades.
The North Park Pool opened in 1937. At that time, it was believed to be the largest swimming pool in the United States. From its opening way back then to present days, the pool is a critical component to the quality of life in Northern Allegheny County.
Veterans Assistance Available June 21
Please register for veterans outreach hours at my district office in McCandless on Friday, June 21, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Through this outreach, we have been able to provide some direct links between our veterans and the services and programs available just for them.
Please call my office at 412-369-2230 to schedule an appointment. If you can’t make it on June 21, we have scheduled additional hours that may fit into your busy schedule better. The dates include:
• July 19, 2019
• Aug. 16, 2019
• Sept. 20, 2019
• Oct. 18, 2019
• Nov. 15, 2019
• Dec. 20, 2019
My district office is located at 125 Hillvue Lane, first floor, in McCandless.
Applications Accepted for Drug-Free Communities Support Program Grants
The Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are accepting applications for Fiscal Year 2019 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program grants.
These grants are intended to establish and strengthen collaboration among communities; public and private non-profit agencies; and federal, state, local and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth. Approximately 150 coalitions will be chosen to receive up to $125,000 per year for up to five years.
The application deadline is July 8. For more information on eligibility and requirements, click here.
Measures Aim to Improve Mental Health Care Access
Working to strengthen communities and support Pennsylvania families, we are continuing our efforts to improve access to behavioral health services in the Commonwealth.
House Resolution 268 directs the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to assess the Commonwealth’s treatment capacity for mental and behavioral health care by studying the patient care and financial impacts of delayed emergency department discharge of patients with a behavioral health diagnoses, and the cause of such delays.
A second measure, House Resolution 193, calls on JSGC to study the shortages in the mental health care workforce that are leading to delays in obtaining treatment.
The House also approved a bill to clarify current law regarding consent to mental health treatment for minor children. House Bill 672 specifically states a parent can consent to care without a minor’s approval. While this is the intent of current law, there has been confusion among parents, minors and providers about who can or must consent to care.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.