Capitol Roundup from Rep. Mike Peifer
House Votes for Smaller, More Efficient, Legislature
This week, Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Pike/Wayne) joined the House in voting in favor of two bills to reduce the size of the state House and Senate. House Bill 153 would reduce the size of the House by 52 seats, from 203 to 151, and House Bill 384 would reduce the size of the Senate from 50 members to 37. Supporters of the bills argue that a smaller legislature will result in both greater legislative efficiency and a reduction in costs.

Similar proposals have gained House passage in the past, but were not taken up by the Senate. Any reduction in the size of the House and Senate requires passage of a constitutional amendment, meaning these bills must pass the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions and gain approval of the voters.

House Passes Bill to Modernize State’s 911 Law
The House voted this week in favor of a bill to update and enhance the Commonwealth’s 911 emergency communications law. House Bill 911 would modernize the law by focusing on the implementation of next-generation technology, which will allow citizens to contact emergency responders through a variety of new communication methods, such as text messaging, video calls and more. This would create a standard statewide which will not only increase convenience for people across Pennsylvania, but would also have the potential to save lives, especially in situations where people need to contact emergency responders in a discreet manner.

The bill would increase the monthly 911 surcharge to allow for the implementation of this new technology, along with addressing the growing financial needs of 911 centers across the state due to the increasing price of communication equipment and personnel costs. This is the first time since the creation of the law in 1990 that the 911 surcharge would be increased. If this bill is signed into law, that monthly surcharge would be $1.65, representing a difference of just 15 cents from the current maximum allowed by law. The surcharge increase would generate $326 million per year for the Commonwealth’s 911 systems, moving them into the 21st century and addressing the funding shortfall for county officials.

Making College More Accessible
This week, the House passed House Bill 934 to extend higher education assistance services for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients attending any of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges, a career or technical school registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education university.

Under current law, students are only allowed to use Keystone Education Yields Success Program (KEYS) services for one year, which often leads to a large number of drop-outs. This legislation would extend the program from one year to two years in order to provide the support needed to make the attainment of an associate degree possible.

KEYS does not pay tuition for students, who would still need to apply for financial aid, but provides career mentoring, tutoring, academic support and additional supportive services. This program closes the skills gap often seen by employers and encourages students to enroll in programs that will lead to family-sustaining careers.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
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