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Government Outreach -September 22, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
September 22, 2023

1. Senate begins moving 'curriculum transparency' bill. A Senate committee this week approved legislation that would require school districts to post information about what teachers are teaching in class and the books they are using to conduct those lessons. Senate Bill 340 would require schools to post online an internet link or the title of every textbook used to teach students in kindergarten through the 12th grade. Schools also would have to post a course syllabus or written summary of every class offered to students and the state academic standards for each course. Schools would have 30 business days to update the information any time the material is changed. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee Tuesday by a 7-4 party line vote with all Republicans voting in favor of the legislation and all Democrats opposed. The General Assembly passed similar legislation in 2021 but former Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it.

2. House Democrats propose legislation to boost tax forgiveness for the poor at the rate of inflation. A pair of House Democrats has announced legislation that would boost the threshold for tax forgiveness for the poor. Currently, a single person with less than $6,500 in income or a couple with less than $13,000 in income can claim 100 percent tax forgiveness for their state income tax. "Unfortunately, such thresholds were set twenty years ago and have not increased since. To compound this injustice, our own legislative salaries are now tied to inflationary index, thereby increasing our take home pay while those in poverty receive declining assistance. These stagnant income amounts are leaving out a number of individuals and families who need all the help they can get. In previous terms some legislators have sought to provide a flat raise to these amounts - and their efforts have not borne fruit," according to a cosponsor memo from Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, D-Berks, and Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny. "Our legislation would at least tie those numbers to the same indexing method that currently provides our annual cost-of-living adju stments."

3. McCormick launches second bid for GOP nomination to run for U.S. Senate. Republican David McCormick announced Thursday that he will make his second bid for U.S. Senate in swing-state Pennsylvania, this time to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey after losing in last year's bruising and crowded Republican primary, The Associated Press reported. The Senate candidates in Pennsylvania will share a ticket with candidates for president next year in a state that is critical to whether Democrats can maintain control of the White House and the Senate. A race between Casey and McCormick could be one of the nation's most expensive and closely watched in a year when Democrats have a difficult 2024 Senate map that requires them to defend incumbents in red states - Montana, Ohio and West Virginia - and multiple swing states.

4. Pennsylvania state government will prepare to start using AI in its operations Pennsylvania state government will prepare to use artificial intelligence in its operations, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro said Wednesday, as states are increasingly trying to gauge the impact of AI and how to regulate it. Shapiro, speaking at a news conference at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said his administration is convening an AI governing board, publishing principles on the use of AI and developing training programs for state employees. Pennsylvanians will expect state government to understand AI, adapt to AI and ensure that it is being used safely in the private sector, Shapiro said. “We don’t want to let AI happen to us,” Shapiro said. “We want to be part of helping develop AI for the betterment of our citizens.” Shapiro’s administration plans to start a two-year fellowship program to recruit AI experts who can help agencies incorporate it into their operations. He said the state’s public safety agencies have already begun consulting with AI experts to prepare for any AI-driven threats, such as fraud. The governing board of senior administration officials will be asked to guide the development, purchase and use of AI, with the help of Carnegie Mellon faculty, the administration said. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers have introduced several bills on AI, including a pair to study its impacts on the state. One bill would allow caseworkers to use it to help determine someone’s eligibility for a government program and to detect fraud. Another would create a registry of companies that make software containing algorithmic logic for use in automated calls, voice or text prompts online. Read More

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