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State Rep Justin Simmons Report



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The Weekly Roundup
Friday, March 2, 2018  The latest news from the State Capitol

Committee Takes Look at School Preparedness

The issue of school safety and security, especially the prevention and handling of active shooters and other emergency situations, was one of the discussion topics at a meeting of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee this week.

In Pennsylvania, schools are required to have an emergency plan, but that may or may not cover active shooter situations. Under Act 55 of 2017, schools are encouraged to conduct at least one security drill per school year in each school building. The security drills may be used in place of one of the school’s monthly fire drills.

In further discussion on this serious nationwide issue, the House Education Committee will hold a day-long hearing on March 15 to examine further prevention methods.

Budget Hearings to Wrap Up Next Week

Week two of budget hearings concluded on Thursday, with members of the House Appropriations Committee asking agency and department officials a variety of questions about executive functions, programs and efficiencies. These questions, along with submitted written testimony, will serve as the foundation for budget negotiations in the next few months.

Appearing this week were the departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Corrections, General Services, Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Military and Veterans Affairs, along with the Liquor Control Board and the Office of Attorney General.

On the agenda for the third and final week of budget hearings are full days for the departments of Education and Human Services, along with the Pennsylvania State Police, Office of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and Gaming Control Board. The final day will feature Budget Secretary Randy Albright.

The hearings can be viewed live at

Dairy Industry Challenges Focus of Meeting

The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee this week met with state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and other leaders about the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and efforts to overcome them.

A major focus of the discussion was an ongoing study of the industry, commissioned by the department and the Center for Dairy Excellence, which has indicated investing in additional dairy processing capacity could generate as much as $34.7 million annually in combined revenue and cost savings.

Other suggestions for improvement included capitalizing on branding and marketing opportunities, improving regulatory processes and the business climate, broadening workforce development and education opportunities, and investing in broadband infrastructure.

More than a third of the state’s agriculture revenues come from the dairy industry; however, many of these mostly family-owned farms are struggling because of an oversupply of fluid milk in the market and persistently low prices. Other challenges discussed in the meeting include regulatory issues and permit delays.

REAL ID Online Pre-Verification Now Available for Eligible Customers

This week, PennDOT opened online application for pre-verification for customers who are interested in obtaining a REAL ID. PennDOT may already have electronic documents on file for approximately 35 percent of its total customers, individuals who received their first PA driver’s license or ID card after September 2003.

PennDOT will begin sending postcards to eligible customers inviting them to visit its Driver and Vehicle Services website to request that PennDOT confirm their documents are on file. Individuals without internet access may call PennDOT’s Customer Call Center at 717-412-5300 for assistance with pre-verification. Learn more here.

Watch the Falcons

You catch watch the falcons nesting on the 15th-floor ledge at the Rachel Carson State Office Building in downtown Harrisburg here. In the last 18 years, 64 young falcons have successfully hatched at the nest. Thirty-five have been female, 27 have been male, and the sex of two hatchlings was undetermined.                               

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