I am pleased to send you this edition of my electronic newsletter. These e-newsletters enable me to provide information about issues, events and activities in Harrisburg and around the 41st Senatorial District to you in a timely manner while saving postage costs.
If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatordonwhite.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the page.
Welfare reform was a top priority for the legislative session
One of the primary goals set by legislative leaders under the new Administration was to bring long overdue reforms to Pennsylvania's public welfare system. We knew the system was plagued with fraud, waste and abuse, which was confirmed and detailed in a report by Auditor General Jack Wagner, but we also knew the Rendell Administration vehemently opposed any and all actions to reform the system.
I am pleased to say that attitude underwent a 180-degree shift with the incoming Corbett Administration. The House of Representatives, spearheaded by my friend and colleague Representative Dave Reed, made welfare reform a top priority for this legislative session. In support of those efforts in the House, I introduced several companion bills in the Senate.
I am extremely proud to report that major reforms to the state's public welfare code targeting fraud, waste and abuse in the system form the basis of the recently enacted Act 22 of 2011. I am also proud to say that the new law includes the provisions of three of the companion Senate Bills that I introduced:
Senate Bill 973 proposed establishing a fraud detection and income verification system within the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) for the purpose of identifying, investigating, and resolving potential cases of fraud and abuse within the public assistance system.
Senate Bill 976 requires DPW to calculate public assistance amounts based on a person's eligibility and need in their county of permanent residence.
Senate Bill 1173 requires public assistance recipients convicted of drug-related felonies participate in random drug screenings. More importantly, I submitted SB 1173 based on the winning entries submitted by MacKenzie Anderson and Olivia Rayanne McGarry of Curwensville and Meghan Dressler of Coral in my annual "There Ought to be a Law" essay competition for local elementary school students.
Local students' proposal recognized by Senate, becomes law
One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity it provides for me to talk with young people and to hear their thoughts about government and society. I have visited many of the schools in the 41st District over the past few years and I routinely find myself coming away impressed and with a greater hope for our future as a state and a nation.
I am also impressed by the ideas and suggestions submitted by local elementary school students in my "There Ought to be a Law" essay competition that I sponsor each year. Previous winning entries in my essay contest have included proposals for children's health care, giving veterans' a day off on Veterans Day, mandatory seat belts on school buses and mini license plates for bicycles.
This year, proposals by three local students -- MacKenzie Anderson and Olivia Rayanne McGarry of Curwensville and Meghan Dressler of Coral -- to require recipients of public benefits to undergo drug testing not only earned them the opportunity to visit the state Capitol and be honored by the state Senate, but they were included as part of the welfare reform act that was recently signed into law.
Each of these young ladies wrote an amazing essay on a similar topic and it was only fair that they all be honored. Their suggestion that welfare and medical assistance recipients undergo drug testing is a topical issue and truly worthy of legislative consideration and I introduced it as Senate Bill 1173, which was amended into the welfare reform bill.
MacKenzie is 11 years old and was a fifth grade student at Curwensville Elementary School during the last school year. She enjoys softball, swimming, bike rides and volleyball. Olivia, age 11 and also a fifth grader at Curwensville Elementary last year, enjoys band, choir, karate, basketball, softball, and Girl Scouts. Meghan, age 12, was a sixth grade student last year at Homer Center Elementary School. She is involved in band, chorus and art club.
Turnpike soliciting input on All-Electronic Tolling
I want to let you know that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is currently conducting an online survey to gather public opinion on the possibility of ending cash payments for tolling fees. The Turnpike Commission is preparing a feasibility study to learn how the conversion to a cashless, All-Electronic Tolling (AET) system would impact customers and operations.
As part of its study, the commission is asking motorists to complete an online survey at www.paturnpike.com/aet. Respondents are asked a few easy questions and have the opportunity to provide additional comments and concerns. The survey will be available until August 22.
I encourage everyone who uses the turnpike, regardless of how often they travel the highway, to complete the survey. This is the public's primary opportunity to offer thoughts and opinions on this proposal.
The Turnpike Commission is studying the existing toll-collection system, analyzing existing AET systems throughout the United States, and comparing the costs and benefits of various electronic tolling options.
The commission will release a report this fall that will provide recommendations on the specific type of toll-collection system it believes will best serve motorists. The report will include a cost estimate and the schedule required to design, construct and operate an AET system – if AET is determined to be feasible.
Dial Before You Dig
If your list of summer projects includes planting trees and shrubs, building a deck, or other home improvements, the Pennsylvania One Call System has a message for you – Dial Before You Dig.
Pennsylvania homeowners and businesses are living and operating on land peppered with a complex infrastructure of pipelines, wires and cables that serve your neighborhood and beyond. Prevent personal harm, service disruptions, repair costs, and fines by dialing 8-1-1 to notify the PA One Call System before you begin those projects.
Be prepared to provide necessary details which, in turn, will allow you to conduct your projects three to 10 business days from the date of the call. Excavators, facility owners, designers, project owners, and emergency responders can consult the PA One Call System User's Guide to guarantee proper compliance with the law.
EducationPlanner gets new look, more info
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) recently redesigned its career and college planning website, www.EducationPlanner.org. EducationPlanner has received a complete redesign including new content, improved navigation, and more interactive activities, in addition to a more modern look. Some of the website's new features include:
Legislation expands Coal Bed Methane Review Board purview
With Marcellus Shale gas operations expanding in Pennsylvania, I recently introduced legislation to provide an expeditious and less costly way for property owners and drillers to settle disputes over well locations rather than taking the issue to court. Under Senate Bill 1108, those disputes could be considered by a special review board set up to arbitrate coal bed methane well location disputes between land owners and gas companies.
My bill extends the purview of the Coal Bed Methane Review Board to include natural gas wells as well. As Marcellus Shale activity grows, I believe such a review process would be a beneficial and less costly option for landowners with natural gas development on their properties.
Act 4 of 2010 authorized the creation of the three-member Coal Bed Methane Review Board to consider objections by property owners and reach agreements with gas companies on issues such as the location of coal bed methane wells and/or access roads. Previously, disputes between surface land owners and the holders of mineral rights for those properties were often unresolved as landowners had very little recourse if they did not approve of the location of a well.
The Coal Bed Methane Review Board is made up of a member appointed by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, a member appointed jointly by the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, the Independent Oil and Gas Association and the Pennsylvania Coal Association, and a member appointed jointly by the deans of the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences of Penn State University. The board is required to make a decision within 10 days from the time a hearing is held on a well location dispute.
SB 1108 is now before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for consideration.
I was pleased to meet with students from the 41st District who recently visited the State Capitol with the American Legion's Keystone Boys State Program. The students were: Allen Fiechuk, William Maschmeyer, Gerald Mattern, Robert Palko, and Nathaniel Pieringer
Mark your calendar
I cordially invite you to "Senator Don White Day" at the 131st Annual Dayton Fair on Tuesday, August 16. In addition to the rides, food, and agricultural displays, the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League will be featured in the Grandstand area at 8 p.m.
I will be co-hosting a Senior Expo with my friends and colleagues state Representatives Donna Oberlander and Jeff Pyle on Wednesday, September 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in St. Mary's Parish Hall, 361 North Jefferson Street, Kittanning. A number of local organizations and businesses, health associations as well as state and federal agencies will be participating in this free event. Participants will be eligible for door prizes and free refreshments will be provided. For more information please call my Kittanning District Office at (724) 548-4856.
State Representative Dave Reed and I will co-host a Senior Expo on
Thursday, October 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the S & T Bank Arena in the
White Township Recreation Complex, 497 East Pike Road, Indiana. Representatives
at this free event will provide information on numerous subjects of interest to
older residents including health care insurance, nutrition and exercise, fire
safety, financial planning and personal safety. Participants will be eligible
for door prizes and free refreshments will be provided. For more information
please call my Indiana District Office at (724) 357-0151.
286 Main Capitol