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The Latest News from Your State Representative
Please do not reply to this e-mail, as I am unable to respond to messages sent to this address. You can contact me directly at vgaydos@pahousegop.com or here.
Last Friday, Allegheny County entered the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s phased reopening plan along with 12 other counties in southwest PA. While I applaud this decision as a step in the right direction, I also recognize that there is significant work still to be done for the people of Pennsylvania.

We in the House returned to session last week with a mission and sent monumental legislation to the governor’s desk that would give working Pennsylvanians the freedom to safely return to work and provide for their families. We advanced bills to reopen significant portions of our state economy and create a task force to create an in-depth recovery plan for Pennsylvania.

The citizens of Pennsylvania have done a remarkable job in containing the spread of this virus. You have shown your resolve over the last few months, taking the necessary steps to fight COVID-19. For many, this has come at a profound personal cost. In recognition of your sacrifice, we in the Legislature are standing up for you and your right to safely earn a living. I encourage you to frequently visit my Facebook page for real-time updates on legislation, helpful links to community resources and more.

We will continue to strive for greater transparency and so that we can restore normalcy for our state’s workers and business owners. Hopefully, we can begin to work together toward a common goal.

Especially now, please remember to be kind and help your neighbors.

Valerie Gaydos

In this edition:
  •   Working Toward a Safe Reopening                  
  •   Education Q&A from my Recent Telephone Town Hall
  •   Demanding Transparency from Secretary Levine, DOH
  •   Community Shredding Event Postponed to the Fall
  •   House Introduces Senior Protection Act to Combat COVID-19
  •   Committee Advances Bills to Address COVID-19 Impacts 
  •   Primary Election is June 2
  •   PennDOT to Use Existing ID Photos, Extends Expiration Dates 
  •   An Update on the Census 
Working Toward a Safe Reopening

When the House returned to session last Thursday, we continued working on legislation that would have helped safely reopen the Commonwealth and our economy.

Senate Bill 327 would have created the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force, charged with identifying immediate and urgent issues, cataloging Commonwealth’s response to the disaster emergency and creating a recovery plan to help return our communities to pre-disaster conditions. 

House Bill 2388 would have allowed the following types of businesses to operate, as long as those businesses could comply with health and safety guidelines outlined by the state Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: vehicle dealerships, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salon and barber shops for hair services, messenger services, animal grooming services, and manufacturing operations. 

House Bill 2412 would have done the same for all providers of legal services, and residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services.

Unfortunately, the governor today vetoed all three bills, citing that his administration’s decisions on reopening are “not based just on the number of cases of COVID-19, but are also based on other critical factors.”

I am disappointed by the governor’s veto. We were able to put enough pressure on the governor to convince him to revise his orders to reopen the real estate industry, but this piecemeal approach is simply not enough. We in the legislature will continue to put the citizens of Pennsylvania first and fight for the protection of not only their health, but their livelihoods as well.

Education Q&A from my Recent Telephone Town Hall

As a member of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, I know how important our education system is to the strength of our communities. So, when Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera announced his department is preparing for schools to reopen this fall, I immediately hosted a telephone town hall meeting on the subject of COVID-19 and our state’s process for moving the educational system forward through this crisis. During the call, I was joined by a special guest, House Education Committee Chairman and Special Education Funding Commission Co-Chair, Rep. Curt Sonney, whose insights were invaluable in responding to constituent questions. Below, I would like to share some of the most pertinent questions from this meeting and provide answers for those of you who couldn’t join us at that time.

Will there be an increase in school taxes with the lack of revenue coming in?
  •   I would love to answer this question definitively; however, these decisions are made locally by your district’s school board. As far as funding goes, I can tell you that there will be no loss of state funding due to COVID-19. Schools will continue to be funded despite this pandemic.

How are public schools getting online learning to the children?
  •   We in the Legislature have already taken decisive action to ensure continuity of education. We unanimously voted to pass a law that ensures our kids receive the same quality education at home as they would in the classroom. Here’s what our legislation accomplishes:
  •   Mandates that ALL school districts develop a local plan to continue teaching students during the closure of schools and make their plans available for parents to review.
  •   Ensures teachers continue to be paid, as there will be no loss of state funding due to the health crisis.
  •   Guarantees that once the current crisis has ended, school buses will be ready to resume transportation service for our students.

With what you know now, what is the one change you can say for certain will be different when the schools open in September?
  •   We can start with the obvious: the need for increased sanitation procedures and continued social distancing. Beyond that, I would defer to the secretary’s announcement that the Department of Education would roll out further details on its plan in the coming weeks. One thing is for certain, however—we must ensure that any plan unveiled by the Wolf administration takes into account the particular challenges of containing a virus in close-quarters conditions such as those in our public schools. The protection of our state’s young people remains a top priority.

What is the legislature’s plan to reopen the schools?
  •   Any future plan to reopen the schools is up to the Department of Education to determine. What we in the Legislature can do is advance legislation requiring the department and other entities to take whatever precautions we deem necessary. We know more about this virus now than we did at the beginning and we will continue to learn more in the coming weeks and months before school starts up again. As that happens, we will continue to take action to ensure that children receive a high-quality education without having to risk their health.

What are you looking to put in place for children who receive special education who are not receiving the needed personal services during this shutdown?
  •   Recognizing the critical need for these services, the House passed legislation that the governor later signed into law (Act 13 of 2020) to require notice be sent to the parents of all special education students of a plan to ensure students are receiving “free and appropriate public education.”

Parents who homeschool have to send in notarized affidavits to their school districts. How do they get that done when notaries are not permitted to be open?
  •   The need for notarization is broad across many industries. Not only do homeschooling parents require notarization, but so do many financial transactions such as the purchase of a home or vehicle. Recognizing this, we passed legislation that would expand the presence of e-notary services in the Commonwealth.

Additionally, the Department of State recently received a temporary limited suspension of the Pennsylvania statute which requires physical presence of notaries for all notarial acts relating to a statement or signature on a record. I would encourage homeschooling parents to take advantage of e-notary services available during this pandemic.

When children do return to school, how will social distancing be maintained?
  •   I fully expect the Department of Education to anticipate the challenges associated with maintaining social distancing in a school setting and look forward to seeing a plan in the coming weeks. As always, I will share this information with you, my constituents, as soon as it becomes available.
Demanding Transparency from Secretary Levine, DOH

I sent a letter to Dr. Rachel Levine on May 12 calling for more transparency from the Department of Health with respect to the inputs and criteria used by the governor and the department in making decisions regarding COVID-19.

While everyday Pennsylvanians have sacrificed a great deal and followed the department’s directives remarkably well, the public has been left in the dark about how those directives are created.

This kind of vagueness from the department is unacceptable, and as a member of the Health Committee, I am calling for immediate hearings to address these uncertainties and get my constituents the answers they are entitled to.

The citizens of Pennsylvania deserve greater clarity from their government, especially when it is making decisions on their behalf.

Community Shredding Event Postponed to the Fall

I am sure many of you were looking forward to participating in my Identity Theft Prevention and Shredding Event, originally scheduled for Saturday, June 13, at Moon Middle School.

It has been determined that it is best to postpone this event to a more suitable date in the fall. We made this decision as part of an ongoing effort to observe social distancing and other guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our state Department of Health.

I apologize for any inconvenience and will notify you later this summer when this important event can be rescheduled.
House Introduces Senior Protection Act to Combat

Responding to published reports and finally released data regarding COVID-19 deaths occurring among Pennsylvanians living in the state’s nursing home facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences, the Senior Protection Act was introduced last week.

The bipartisan effort, led by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, seeks to establish a coordinated, collaborative public-private-partnership approach of regional health system collaboratives. These health collaboratives would administer/manage personnel, protocols, testing and expenditures to protect the seniors in these facilities. The legislation was developed with the help of medical experts at UPMC with the goal of saving lives and giving families whose loved ones reside in these facilities peace of mind.

As of mid-week, according to the Department of Health, there are more than 12,500 resident cases of COVID-19 and nearly 2,000 cases among employees, for a total of more than 14,000 at more than 540 distinct nursing and personal care facilities. Of the state’s total COVID fatalities, nearly 70% were citizens who lived in a nursing home or personal care home.  

Read more about the Senior Protection Act here.
Committee Advances Bills to Address COVID-19 Impacts

The House State Government Committee advanced three bills designed to address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation efforts.

To help restaurants and food establishments, which are often small, family-owned businesses, the committee passed bills to allow outdoor and indoor seating to resume in areas of the state in the yellow or green phases of mitigation.

Specifically, House Bill 2506 would allow establishments with existing decks, patios and courtyards to open those outdoor areas and would allow up to 50% of the outdoor maximum seating capacity in order to properly institute the federal and state mitigation guidelines. For
those establishments with parking lots but no existing outdoor seating space, the bill would allow those establishments to design limited seating in a designated part of the parking lot. These temporary seating areas would have to follow the same rules as decks, patios, and courtyards, and have a “roped” off single entry point. House Bill 2513 would allow establishments to use 50% of their indoor seating capacity under the same rules outlined in House Bill 2506.

House Resolution 867 directs the speaker of the House to establish a special committee to examine various aspects of the state’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and make recommendations regarding issues of importance and long-term recovery. The committee will be composed of four House members appointed by the speaker and three House members appointed by the minority leader.

The special committee would be empowered to hold hearings, take testimony, make investigations and issue subpoenas commanding any person to appear before the committee to answer questions and produce documents and other records the committee deems necessary. The committee would also be directed to develop a recovery plan that describes how the state and its political subdivisions may expeditiously resume mission-critical functions, including the restoration of housing, transportation, education and other public services and economic activity to levels equal to or better than their pre-disaster states. A final report of the committee’s activities, findings and recommendations would be due by Nov. 19.  

Finally, House Bill 2505 would require the administration to retain records related to COVID-19 for 14 years after the end of the emergency order. It would apply to an executive agency, contractor, employee of a contractor or owner of a contractor. The extended retention period is designed to ensure ample time to assess what worked and what didn’t in the state’s response.   
Primary Election is June 2

The primary election is now just over two weeks away. Regardless of the status of your county of residence (red or yellow), voters may choose to either vote by mail or in person. Even if your county is still under a stay-at-home order, you can vote in person if that is your preference.  

Details and deadlines are below.

PennDOT to Use Existing ID Photos, Extends Expiration Dates

To help reduce the number of people coming into driver and photo license centers, PennDOT announced it will use existing photos on file for customers who renew their driver’s license and identification card. All customers who renew online or through the mail will receive a new product using the most recent photo that exists in PennDOT’s system. No camera cards will be issued to these customers, and they will receive their new product by mail within 15 days. The renewal process is complete when the final product is received. PLEASE NOTE: People who renewed BEFORE May 10 will receive a camera card in the mail and must visit a photo license center to obtain an updated photo. Additionally, non-U.S. citizens must also visit a driver’s license center in person to complete a transaction. For a list of reopened locations, visit www.dmv.pa.gov. Expiration dates on driver’s licenses, photo ID cards, learner's permits and camera cards scheduled to expire from March 16 through May 31 have been extended until June 30. For more information and an update on REAL ID products, click here. 

PennDOT also announced an extension of expiration dates for vehicle registrations and safety and emission inspections. Items scheduled to expire between March 16 and May 31 are now extended through June 30. Persons with Disabilities parking placards scheduled to expire from March 16 through May 31 are also extended through June 30.
An Update on the Census

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau recently announced it will begin a phased restart of some of its field operations to help ensure an accurate count. All returning staff will receive safety training to observe social distancing protocols in the COVID-19 environment. For their safety and the safety of the public, the Census Bureau has ordered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all field staff, including those who work in a field office. These materials will be secured and provided to staff prior to restarting operations. For more information, visit www.2020census.gov
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1009 Beaver Grade Road, Suite 220, Moon Township, PA 15108 | Phone: (412) 262-3780, Fax: (412) 262-3783
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Email: vgaydos@pahousegop.com