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Government Outreach -August 7, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
August 7, 2023

1. Pace of committee meetings picks up. After a lull during July, the pace of legislative hearings on various topics picks up this week. The House Professional Licensure Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing at 1 p.m. Monday in Pittsburgh on House Bill 1100. Sponsored by Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, HB1000 would give prescribing authority to psychologists. Frankel said this would help address issues with a national mental health crisis and shortage of psychiatrists. The professional licensure panel meets 10 a.m. Tuesday in Pittsburgh to hold a hearing on House Bill 1356 to have state licensing of musical therapists. Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, is the bill sponsor. The Senate Aging and Youth Committee plans to hold a hearing 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Capitol on children's advocacy centers. The House Transportation Commitee plans to hold a hearing 4 p.m. Tuesday in Pittsburgh on emergency procurement. A subcommittee of the House Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee plans to hold a hearing 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at University Park on the Pennsylvania National Guard's sexual assault prevention and response program.

2. Big week for Pennsylvania agriculture. A big event for Pennsylvania's agriculture industry takes place this week in Centre County. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences is holding the 47th annual Ag Progress Days Tuesday through Thursday which is expected to attract 42,000 visitors. The event at Pennsylvania Furnace will feature more than 400 exhibitors from 35 states. The Senate and House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees will hold a joint hearing Wednesday on the 2023 Federal Farm Bill. "Events like this serve as a central hub to help educate farmers on newer agricultural breakthroughs, host various farming workshops, and allow people to get a glimpse of how agriculture is integrated in our day to day lives," said Senate Committee Chairman Elder Vogel, R-Beaver.

3. Shapiro signs bill into law expanding property tax/rent rebate program. Governor Josh Shapiro signed HB 1100 into law Friday, expanding the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program to nearly 175,000 more Pennsylvania seniors and doubling rebates for many of the 400,000 Pennsylvanians who already qualify. This is the first time the property tax/rent rebate program has been expanded since 2006. The bill raises the maximum rebate for seniors from $650 to $1,000, increases the income cap for renters and homeowners to $45,000 a year, and ties the cap to increases in the cost of living so no seniors lose out just because their Social Security payment went up. The governor had called for the expansion of the property tax/rent rebate program during his campaign and in his inaugural budget address in March. "

4. Butler County’s population surge biggest in Western Pa. Since the industrial collapses of the 1970s, much of Western Pennsylvania has consistently bled population — including urban centers like Allegheny County, which saw one of the steepest drops in population in the U.S. last year. But Butler County saw the largest population growth in the region between 2020 and 2022 — adding 3,200 residents according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. With this influx, officials across the county have been given a new set of challenges to adapt their infrastructures to the needs of a burgeoning community. “We refer to it as growing pains,” said Greg Peaco, township manager in Adams. “People need a place to live, and they’re going to the suburbs primarily. The population is going to grow, and it has to go somewhere.” Jordan Grady, executive director of the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, said keeping the county’s growth on track will take the cooperation of organizations on all levels. “Managing growth and making sure communities are equipped with proficient infrastructure as well as the population to support living wage jobs will be a top priority for the future in the Butler County,” he said. “Municipalities must be ready for the growth and that is easier said than done.” Read More

5. Pa. health care providers tell lawmakers the state’s rural hospitals are in crisis - Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals are dealing with a shortage of physicians and mental health providers that has become dire, leaving patients in rural communities with dwindling options for care. That was the message members of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania heard on Thursday during a hearing with hospital and health care center executives, and public health experts. The center, a bicameral, bipartisan legislative agency, heard from hospital and health center executives, as well as public health experts about the challenges facing rural health care providers at a public hearing in Bradford. A study conducted by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) found that rural hospitals have struggled to fill 39% of vacant registered nurse positions. By comparison, HAP found the average vacancy rates for direct care RNs to be more than 30% statewide. Kate Slatt, vice president of Innovative Payment and Care Delivery for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, said that HAP supports efforts to strengthen the education and training pipeline for those pursuing health care careers and the creation of an office within Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration to focus on “health care workforce innovation and reform,” it does not support legislative attempts to limit the staff-to-patient ratios at Pennsylvania hospitals.  Read More

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