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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.
This week, Gov. Tom Wolf announced his new ReStorePA plan to impose a severance tax on natural gas. However, I don’t believe that double taxing an industry that supports so many jobs in Western Pennsylvania and beyond is the answer to addressing the many concerns he may have with the industry. The natural gas industry already pays a tax – the Act 13 of 2012 Impact Fee. The Impact Fee will have generated more than $2 billion by July, benefiting infrastructure and conservation projects in all 67 counties. Additionally, natural gas is the base ingredient in plastics, which are a critical part of manufacturing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), respirators and many other types of hospital equipment involved in COVID-19 vaccine research. We are still battling the coronavirus pandemic and adding taxes to any industry at this time is shortsighted.

The governor’s proposal comes at a time of historic low natural gas prices for Pennsylvania producers and royalty owners. In the last year, many of the producers have been forced to downsize their workforce, some leaving Pennsylvania totally. The governor is once again singling out an industry that creates jobs in our area, lowers energy prices and is critical to our economy.

Not only will this tax lead to higher energy prices for the consumer, but a tax on natural gas is a tax on PPE, critical health care products and vaccine components that are essential to combatting COVID-19 and those costs will only be passed on to the consumer who at this time is already taking on so many burdens of this pandemic. The taxpayers of Pennsylvania deserve better! No more taxes!

Valerie Gaydos
Hearings into PA Election System Continue

Gov. Tom Wolf has emphasized on numerous occasions that Pennsylvania had a free, fair and secure 2020 election with extraordinary transparency at every stage. Now, the governor has changed his thoughts. He announced yesterday that election reform is one of his top priorities and I would agree with his decision. Finally, the governor is acknowledging many of the issues that were initially brought to light back in December 2019 by Pennsylvania State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s audit of Pennsylvania’s voter registration system. I am pleased that with the evidence coming to the surface that the effort has now become more bipartisan.

The House State Government Committee held the second in a series of hearings Thursday designed to dive deeper into our election laws and procedures.

This week’s session focused on the SURE System, also known as the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, which is the centralized voter registration and election management system for the Commonwealth. Testifiers included three county election officials – Joe Kantz of Snyder County, Timothy Benyo of Lehigh County and Michael L. Anderson of Lebanon County – as well as Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks.

It is clear from the testimony during the hearing that the SURE system is broken, but we also heard about the department’s long-overdue plan for replacing it this year. Another issue that generated a lot of discussion was third-party organizations that sent out mail-in ballot applications without identifying the source. They appeared to come from county officials but in fact did not, creating confusion and concern for voters. A lack of support from the Department of State to counties and confusion created by the department’s mail-in ballot tracker were also addressed.

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 11, and will include a review of election audits.

Click here for links to the first two hearings.

Click here for more information on the December 2019 Election Audit from Former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Future hearings can be viewed online at www.PAHouseGOP.com.
House Approves Gaydos Legislation to Prevent Improper Payments Within State Programs

This week, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Gaydos that would impart greater accountability in government by requiring state agencies to review all of their programs and expenditures to assess their susceptibility to improper payment which is defined as an overpayment, an underpayment, a payment for an ineligible service or a payment to someone who was ineligible to receive it.

House Bill 104 would specifically require the inspector general to review at least one state agency per year starting in 2022. If the state agency has an improper payment rate which exceeds 3%, the agency must adopt a corrective action plan to reduce the improper payment rate to 3% or less. This requirement is necessary for the Commonwealth to comply with federal law.

Under the bill, if an agency has failed to reduce the improper payment rate five fiscal years after the inspector general’s review, the governor will move funds from the agency into budgetary reserve until the agency meets the efficiency standards put in place.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Prior to the vote, Gaydos addressed her colleagues on the House floor about the legislation. Click here to watch.
Gaydos to Introduce Legislation to Study COVID-19 Impact on Education

In the near future, Rep. Gaydos plans to introduce two bills that would study the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on student learning and the education system.

House Bill 228 would direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study and issue three reports on the academic impact of the virus on the state’s students. The legislation would include the methods of instruction which are most successful. An initial report would be submitted 30 days after the passage of this legislation followed by an interim report submitted six months later and a final report submitted at the end of the year.

House Bill 229 would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study and issue a report on the fiscal impact on schools, including but not limited to the loss of revenue and increased school taxes as a result of COVID-19. The report will be submitted to the majority and the minority chairs of the House and Senate Education committees within six months of the effective date of the bill.

Both bills have been referred to the House Education Committee for review.
Gaydos Adds to Her Duties With the House of Representatives

In addition to being asked to serve on the House Commerce, Education, Health and Liquor Control committees for the 2021-22 Legislative Session, Rep Gaydos was appointed by Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster to serve as the Subcommittee Chairperson on Small Business under the Commerce Committee, and as the Secretary of the Liquor Control Committee.

“Rep. Gaydos will do a tremendous job,” said Speaker Cutler. “She is dedicated, determined and hard working.”
Giving Citizens a Voice in Emergency Declarations

Pennsylvanians could soon have a say in the duration of disaster emergencies declared by the governor under legislation approved in the House this week.

House Bill 55 proposes to amend the state Constitution by limiting emergency declarations by a governor to a maximum of 21 days. Extending a declaration beyond that time would require legislative approval, thereby ensuring the voices of our citizens – through their elected lawmakers – are fully represented.

The proposal comes at a time when the state is under two long-term disaster emergency declarations: one regarding the opioid crisis, which has been in place for more than three years, and the other regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been going on for more than 10 months.

Executive powers to declare emergencies are sometimes needed to free up resources for an immediate response to situations such as natural disasters. They should not be used to circumvent the state Constitution, the separation of powers or – most importantly – the will of the people for extended periods of time.

The measure also proposes additional constitutional amendments:
  •   Prohibiting the denial or abridgement of equality of rights on the basis of race and ethnicity by adding it to the Declaration of Rights section of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
  •   Clarifying that a resolution terminating or extending a disaster emergency declaration need not be presented to the governor for signature.

With final approval by the House and Senate in the second consecutive legislative session, these constitutional amendment proposals could go before the voters in a referendum on the May 18 primary election ballot. Let the people decide.
Proposed Amendment to Aid Victims of Child Sex Abuse Cases

The state House has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would open a two-year window in which civil lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse may be filed in court notwithstanding any otherwise applicable statute of limitations defense.
As early as the May 18 primary, citizens will have the opportunity to cast their vote on this measure that is aimed at ensuring justice for victims of past abuse.

To protect our children today and in the future, please report any suspected abuse or neglect to the Department of Health’s toll-free ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
Unemployment Updates

The state Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) has announced payments for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program in the new federal CARES Act have resumed.

According to L&I:
  •   As of Sunday, Jan. 24, you can file for the additional 11 claim weeks during your biweekly cycle.
  •   If you had some of your original 13 weeks left over on Dec. 26, you will also receive the additional 11 weeks on Sunday.
  •   If you were being paid on Pennsylvania’s Extended Benefits (EB) program before Dec. 26, you MUST complete your EB benefits before the additional 11 weeks of PEUC can be added to your claim.
  •   You will automatically receive the extra $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – you do not need to take any action to get this boost.

PEUC provides additional claim weeks to workers who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits. Claimants are automatically enrolled in PEUC after they have reached their maximum claim weeks for UC. More information about the program and other unemployment benefit updates are available here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: Strengths and Weaknesses in the Commonwealth

Heritage Valley Health System (HVHS) in Allegheny, Lawrence and Beaver counties is ready, willing and able to deliver vaccines. They have established an automatic process to do so and have scheduled clinics to distribute vaccines on Monday, Feb. 1, in Robinson Township. But the shortage of vaccines makes it difficult.

So far, HVHS has vaccinated approximately 3,950 Phase 1A frontline workers and emergency medical services personnel with Dose #1 and have either vaccinated or scheduled all for Dose #2. In the past week, they have registered more than 23,000 Phase 1A community members who are interested in receiving the vaccine. Of the 23,000, they have sent scheduling invitations to more than 2,000 and have scheduled the majority of these individuals to receive the vaccine soon.

Also, On Monday, Feb 1, the House Health Committee will be holding a public hearing on the topic of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. As a member of the House Health Committee, Rep. Gaydos will be strongly encouraging the Pennsylvania Department of Health to provide priority distribution of vaccines to entities such as HVHS which are demonstrating distribution efficiencies. With so many world class medical institutions in the region, the governor should be calling upon those like HVHS who it can do most efficiently instead of allowing the government to handle vaccine rollout.

Norm Mitry, president and chief executive officer of HVHS, expressed his concern because people continue to sign up but are unable to get the vaccine. He is asking Gov. Wolf for quick action and support. “If you can get us the vaccine, we can get it into your constituents’ arms,” said Mitry.

Click here to learn more about automated registration in the region.
Did You Know?

There are nearly 400,000 Pennsylvanians living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias and 677,000 Pennsylvania caregivers providing unpaid care for them, a number projected to increase 14% by 2025. In addition, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the United States and accounted for $3.65 billion in Pennsylvania Medicaid spending in 2020.

The Alzheimer’s Association has announced the following 2021 policy priorities for Pennsylvania aimed at improving the care, support and quality of life for all those impacted by the disease:
  •   Protect residents in long-term care settings from COVID-19 and social isolation.
  •   Increase Alzheimer’s early detection and diagnosis to improve care planning and quality of life.
  •   Equip Pennsylvania with a dementia-capable workforce.
  •   Enhance the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Program to further benefit Alzheimer’s caregivers.

As a member of the House Health Committee, Rep. Gaydos is committed to helping seniors, addressing issues of COVID-19 in our long-term care facilities and helping caregivers navigate daily lives.

Addition information about these priorities can be found here.
New Online Filing Option for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

Senior citizens and people with disabilities eligible for the state’s 2020 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program can now file for their rebates online at www.mypath.pa.gov.

Submitting your application online is easy and does not require you to sign up for an account. It can lead to faster processing and direct deposit options, instant confirmation that your application has been filed, an online tracking tool to track the status of your claim, and security features to ensure your sensitive information is safe.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older with incomes limited to $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Half of Social Security income is excluded.

The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. The Revenue Department automatically calculates supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners.

The deadline to apply for a rebate is June 30. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1, as required by law. Additional information, as well as links to printable claim forms for those who wish to file that way, are available here.
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District Office:
1005 Beaver Grade Road, Suite 106, Moon Township, PA 15108 | Phone: (412) 262-3780, Fax: (412) 262-3783
Capitol Office:
Room 428, Irvis Office Building, House Box 202044, Harrisburg PA 17120-2044 | Phone: (717) 787-6651 |
Email: vgaydos@pahousegop.com