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Government Outreach -August 22, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
August 22, 2023

1. Senate schedules voting day to take up unresolved budget business. The state Senate is scheduled to return to the Capitol next week to take up the unfinished budget-related bills, but when members of the state House will return to the Capitol remains unclear. "Our work to complete the necessary budgetary implementation legislation continues at this time and the Senate will reconvene on Wednesday, Aug. 30 … at 1:00 p.m. to finalize the 2023-2024 state budget. We are in communication with House leaders, and we remain hopeful the House will also choose to reconvene before Sept. 26, " Kate Eckhart Flessner, Senate Republican spokeswoman said in a statement Monday. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, said there are now firm plans for the state House to return to the Capitol before that chamber's next scheduled session day of Sept. 26. However, she left open the door to the possibility that the House could return if there is an agreement t complete the unresolved budget issues. Complicating matters is the fact that the state House is now evenly divided between 101 Democrats and 101 Republicans due to the resignation of former Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny. The special election to determine her successor has been scheduled for Sept. 19.

2. Op-Ed: Permitting reform critical in cementing PA’s energy leadership World energy markets remain in turmoil as Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine invited sanctions and a long-needed rethink of global energy policy. Markets around the world have strongly signaled they are willing to pay a premium for American energy, having seen how Putin has used proceeds from Russian oil and gas to help fuel his invasion. Pennsylvania is awash with enough energy resources to meet this demand, while keeping prices lower for consumers domestically – we just need the infrastructure to deliver it and the regulatory environment to build. Our state has huge reserves of natural gas and coal, not to mention decades of knowledge and supply chain in the nuclear, grid management, and renewables spaces. Most importantly, we have a skilled and ready workforce that is ready to get to work to deliver energy safely to homes and businesses and to move it overseas to growing economies that want to trade with free market democracies like the United States. How will we do it? It will take expanding Pennsylvania’s ability to move gas to market, including through an export facility in the southeastern part of the state. Such a project would mean tens of thousands of man-hours for good-paying jobs in the skilled trades, while helping to grow the economy and providing cleaner, American-made energy to our allies.  Read More

3. Study examines tourism impact of PA Wilds marketing effort. The state-sponsored Pennsylvania Wilds tourism promotion program is recognized as an "effective placed-based" brand two decades after its inception, according to a new study released by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. The study by Dr. Susan Ryan and Dr. Paul Hettler of Pennsylvania Western University examines how the program has brought economic benefits even while the population of the Wilds region in Northcentral Pennsylvania has declined. And the study outlines factors such as lack of broadband access, need for stable funding, consolidation of state universities, better market research and investment in directional signs that can affect the strength of the Pennsylvania Wilds program as it enters a third decade. "The rural residents of this region can enjoy further positive economic and community dividends from the state's initial investment in this regional strategy," the study said.

4. House Republican proposes legislation that would require pre-installed porn filters on mobile devices to prevent children from accessing sexually explicit content. A House Republican has announced plans for legislation that would require that smart phones and other mobile devices be sold with pre-installed filters to prevent children from accessing pornography. "While we certainly should be concerned about children having access to inappropriate sexual content and pornography in the school setting, we must also be diligent to ensure children are not able to access the same material on mobile devices outside of the school setting," said state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair. "When children are exposed to explicit sexual content at an early age, either by accident or indoctrination, it has a significantly negative impact on their future development and ability to have a successful outcome. It is imperative we protect our children." Gregory said the technology already exists and can be easily placed on devices. The filters can also be disabled by adults, meaning requiring activation of filters at purchase will not impinge on the ability of anyone of legal age from accessing anything on their phone or tablet. Gregory introduced similar legislation last session. He said at the time the bill was modeled on legislation passed in Utah.

5. Pittsburgh becoming a 'space city' as Astrobotic, ProtoInnovations prepare to send technology to the moon Pittsburgh was once known as the steel city, but two local companies believe they’re transforming it into a space city. “We’re a space base now,” said Alivia Chapla, director of communications at North Shore-based Astrobotic. Astrobotic and Lawrenceville-based Proto­Innovations have received millions of dollars in NASA funding and are playing integral roles in upcoming lunar missions. Astrobotic is set to launch its first lunar landing project — a lander dubbed Peregrine — later this year. It’s poised to be the first commercial mission to the moon and America’s first soft landing on the lunar surface since the Apollo program, Chapla said. It’s equipped with a solar panel on top to keep its batteries charged during its voyage to the moon, and its journey will be monitored and controlled from a command center in Astrobotic’s North Shore facility. “Peregrine is pretty historic, because it’s carrying more scientific instruments than any other vehicle we know of,” Chapla said. It’s carrying an array of equipment for various entities, including a rover being sent into space by Carnegie Mellon University and a fleet of “micro-rovers” that will become the first scientific equipment sent to the moon from Mexico, she said. “We imagine being the go-to company for the moon. We are the moon company." Read More

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