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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.
Wolf Tightens Restrictions on Bars, Restaurants, Gatherings Again

Citing increased cases of COVID-19 in a majority of the state’s counties, Gov. Tom Wolf has again tightened restrictions on some of the state’s businesses. Specifically, bars and restaurants will be limited to 25% occupancy (including staff), events and gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors, and all businesses able to do so are required to conduct business remotely. The order took effect just after midnight Thursday morning.

Once again, the governor has made a unilateral decision that will have a devastating impact on many residents, small business owners and employees. This statewide, one-size-fits-all approach fails to consider the varied levels of infection rates in our state’s communities. Furthermore, as a member of the House Health Committee I have repeatedly asked the Secretary of Health to provide by name and credentials the list of “consultants” they refer to for advice, but we have yet to receive it. We, as legislators, have an obligation to our constituents to be clear and transparent and that should be no different for the Department of Health.

You can read my request of the Secretary of Health here and my statement on the governor’s latest order here.

News on the state’s response to COVID-19 is changing all the time. If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to “like” my Facebook page and visit my website for the latest updates on what’s happening in Harrisburg.

Valerie Gaydos

In this edition:
  •   Demanding Transparency from the Department of Health
  •   Important Information for UC Claimants 
  •   House Votes to Amend Constitution, Ensure Citizens are Heard During Emergencies 
  •   New Guidance Issued for School Reopening
  •   Bills Aim to Increase Local Control During Ongoing Pandemic 
  •   House Sends Bill to Boost New Jobs to Governor’s Desk 
  •   PennDOT Announces Details on Sewickley Bridge Project 
  •   Protect and Serve Initiative Measures Become Law 
  •   PennDOT is Hiring for Winter Maintenance Program 
  •   Port Authority Wants to Hear from You! 
  •   DCNR Seeking Input on PA State Forests 
  •   Quaker Valley Wins the Trib Cup 4A Championship
Requesting Transparency from the Department of Health

Last Thursday, I sent a letter to Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, once again requesting information on the so-far unnamed “consultants” whose counsel the department has sought in making decisions about the state’s response to the coronavirus. It is incumbent upon public officials to operate transparently in the service of the citizens whom they represent. This standard applies to all public servants, and the Secretary of Health is not exempt from meeting it.

Read the full text of my letter below.

Important Information for UC Claimants

If you are forced to again claim unemployment benefits as a result of the governor’s order, please note that if you’ve had a claim within the last year and were applying for benefits, you should not file a new claim. Instead, you should reopen the existing claim. Opening a new claim when you should instead re-open an existing one will cause more problems and delays.

Learn more here.
House Votes to Amend Constitution, Ensure Citizens are Heard During Emergencies

The state House has approved a proposed constitutional amendment to ensure our citizens are fully represented, even during state-declared emergencies.

The proposal comes in response to the governor’s prolonged disaster declaration related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in extensive unilateral actions that have had devastating impacts on our citizens. With the governor refusing to work with the General Assembly to develop a reasonable path forward through the pandemic, the people you elected to represent you in these matters have been shut out of the process, effectively silencing your voice.

We must ensure this never happens again.

Senate Bill 1166 seeks to amend the state Constitution by requiring passage of a concurrent resolution by the Legislature for any disaster emergency declaration a governor wishes to extend beyond a period of 21 days. This would provide an effective balance between ensuring the governor has the authority to act quickly in an immediate emergency situation while also ensuring the General Assembly is properly engaged in the process of addressing long-term response and recovery processes. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

A constitutional amendment proposal must be approved by both the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions and then be put before the voters in a referendum before it can be enacted.

The need for this change to the Constitution was reinforced last Tuesday when the governor vetoed the concurrent resolution adopted with bipartisan support in the House and Senate to end the disaster declaration. While we believe House Resolution 836 stood on its own and did not require the governor to approve or veto it, the state Supreme Court ruled otherwise. That’s why Senate Bill 1166 also includes a proposed amendment to establish that a resolution terminating or extending a disaster emergency declaration, including a portion thereof, need not be presented to the governor.
New Guidance Issued for School Reopening

Last week, the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health released updated health guidance for school leaders to use when crafting Health and Safety Plans for the resumption of in-person instruction.

This guidance is comprised of endorsed best practices for public health and builds on prior iterations of school reopening guidance distributed by PDE.
Bills Aim to Boost Local Control During Ongoing Pandemic

Continuing the effort to restart the economy and recognize the varied impacts of COVID-19 in different areas of the state, the House approved two bills last week to give county officials the authority to develop their own reopening plans.

House Bill 2541 would allow the governing body of a county, in consultation with the county emergency management agency, county health department, county health officer or any other appropriate health or emergency management official, to develop and implement a countywide reopening plan for businesses subject to closure by the governor due to the spread of a communicable disease during a public health emergency.

House Bill 2549 would permit county leaders to move their counties to a “green plus” phase of business reopening, based on the specific circumstances in their counties. Empowering local decision makers who see firsthand the specific circumstances and challenges in their communities would be more effective than a one-size-fits-all response when it comes to helping employers reopen and recover.

Both measures go to the Senate for consideration.
House Sends Bill to Boost New Jobs to Governor’s Desk

A measure designed to boost job creation through tax credits to attract industries that use methane in the manufacture of petrochemicals and fertilizers in the northeastern region of the state will soon become law after being approved by both the House and Senate last week.

The concept is part of the House Republican Caucus’ GoodJobs4PA initiative, which aims to grow the economy and facilitate well-paying career opportunities for citizens across the Commonwealth. While the original proposal – House Bill 1100 – was vetoed by the governor earlier this year, House Bill 732 includes minor modifications to the proposal that have the support of the administration.

It is estimated the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit could generate more than $600 million in annual labor income and leverage more than $1.6 billion in economic output.
PennDOT Announces Details on Sewickley Bridge Project


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced last week that the preservation work on Sewickley Bridge would begin Friday, July 17, and conclude on Monday, Aug. 10.

To allow the work to occur, the bridge will be completely closed to traffic and all motorists will be detoured. Click here for more information, including detour routes.
Protect and Serve Initiative Measures Now Law

Two bills designed to ensure police officers are properly vetted before hiring and trained to appropriately interact with individuals of diverse backgrounds have been signed into law by the governor.

While prior law already required police departments to conduct thorough background investigations on every police officer candidate before hiring them, it did not require previous employers to release an officer’s employment information. Without this, police departments could be missing critical information about an officer’s behavior or disciplinary record that could help in its hiring decision.

House Bill 1841, now Act 57 of 2020 will require disclosure of this information to a law enforcement agency and permit a court to compel the release of the information if the employer fails to comply. The disclosure requests must be authorized by the candidate and contain the signature of the person conducting the investigation. The law also requires the establishment of an electronic database to collect and maintain the separation records of law enforcement officers for use by law enforcement agencies when hiring.

House Bill 1910, now Act 59 of 2020 will require police officers to receive training on how to interact with individuals of diverse backgrounds; de-escalation, harm reduction and reconciliation techniques; and community and cultural awareness. It also covers the appropriate use of force, provides for mental health evaluations in certain situations, and requires child abuse awareness training for officers and magisterial district judges.
PennDOT is Hiring for Winter Maintenance Program

PennDOT will sponsor a winter maintenance program for a variety of positions to supplement the permanent workforce from September through April. Positions will be available for temporary equipment operators, mechanics, trade helpers, clerks and typists.

Applicants must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), with the airbrake restriction lifted and six months of experience in the operation and maintenance of single-chassis trucks with the ability to operate a manual transmission.

All interested applicants must apply online at www.employment.pa.gov by the close of business on Friday, Aug. 7.
Port Authority Wants to Hear from You!

Port Authority of Allegheny County is seeking public input about the future of transit in our region as part of NEXTransit, its recently-launched long-range planning effort.

NEXTransit will help inform where service should go, who it should serve, when it should operate and what projects should be given priority over the next 25 years.

The community is invited to participate in any of six online meetings:

  •   Monday, July 27 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  •   Thursday, August 6 at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
  •   Tuesday, August 25 at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Meetings can be accessed by visiting https://nextransit.network/series1. Participants may also call in by dialing 855-925-2801 and using meeting code 8676.

Residents from communities across Allegheny County are encouraged to attend. Those unable to attend can still participate throughout via in-person community visits and phone-based surveys to that will be conducted later this summer.
DCNR Seeking Input on PA State Forests

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is seeking public input on the future course for state forestlands in Pennsylvania. Available through Aug. 31, the survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Stakeholders, outdoors enthusiasts and others who visit and enjoy the more than 2.2 million acres of state forestlands will be asked to weigh in on perceived individual forest use, and personal values placed on state forests. Survey responses will help the agency’s strategic plan for the Bureau of Forestry and guide the department’s leadership in forest management and conservation on both public and private lands in urban and rural areas.

Details on Pennsylvania’s state forestlands and 20 state forest districts can be found here.

Quaker Valley Wins the Trib Cup 4A Championship

My congratulations go out to Quaker Valley High School for decisively winning this year’s Class 4A Trib HSSN Sports Cup!

Outstanding performances by the school’s soccer, basketball, wrestling, golf and swimming teams led the Quakers to a dominant performance in this year’s postseason championship. Congratulations to all on this crowning achievement!
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District Office:
1009 Beaver Grade Road, Suite 220, Moon Township, PA 15108 | Phone: (412) 262-3780, Fax: (412) 262-3783
Capitol Office:
Room 428, Irvis Office Building, PO Box 202044, Harrisburg PA 17120-2044 | Phone: (717) 787-6651 |
Email: vgaydos@pahousegop.com