A critical time for Hanna, Scarnati in Harrisburg

tate Rep. Mike Hanna, Democrat serving the 76th House District, voted Tuesday against a $31.5 billion Republican-proposed state budget, saying it “fails to meet the needs of the commonwealth or working families.”

State Sen. Joe Scarnati, Republican representing the 25th Senatorial District, is next to help decide in the Senate after the plan passed the House 114-84, with every Democrat joined by two Republicans to oppose it.

According to Hanna, the proposal, House Bill 218, includes many of the priorities that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf outlined in his budget address, such as increases to basic, special and higher education spending, and provides budgetary savings from government efficiencies. “However, it falls short with regards to early childhood education programs, child care for working parents and their children, fails to make necessary investments to attract good, family-sustaining jobs and disregards the huge financial hole Pennsylvania already faces,” Hanna said.

Hanna said while he applauds members on the other side of the aisle for “jumpstarting negotiations to move the budget process forward in a timely manner, Pennsylvania needs a budget that works for all people, especially working men and women and the middle-class.”

“Now more than ever, we need a budget that reduces Pennsylvania’s growing deficit while making government more efficient and effective for families and small businesses,” he said.

The GOP plan “eliminates funding for safe school initiatives and reduces funding for Pre-K and Head State programs, medical assistance, seniors and persons with physical disabilities, mental health services, human services programs, trauma, burn and Obstetrics and Neonatal services. On top of all of that, I could not support this proposal because it negatively impacts human services at the county level and also dramatically affects our state parks and forests and practically decimates the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” Hanna said.

“We can do better. We must do better for the people of Pennsylvania. I look forward to future discussions with members on both sides of the aisle to pass a responsible, commonsense state budget.”

The budget aside, Scarnati made it a point to issue a press release this week urging Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That confirmation vote is scheduled to take place today.

“I and the majority of my colleagues in the Pennsylvania Senate agree that Judge Gorsuch would make an excellent Supreme Court Justice,” Scarnati said. “Judge Gorsuch’s credentials for Supreme Court Justice are unparalleled and beyond dispute. His fair-minded approach to issues will serve our nation well.”

“Judge Gorsuch has been fully transparent throughout the confirmation process. He would be an exemplary Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and we hope that Senator Toomey will do everything in his power to advance Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. It is extremely unfortunate that Senator Casey has already expressed opposition to Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. We remain hopeful that he will rethink his position,” Scarnati said.

That’s not all that’s been on Scarnati’s mind. He recently proposed legislation to further strengthen laws to protect communities from sex offenders.

Senate Bill 557 would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to annually inspect and license group-based homes, which provide residence to three or more individuals who are required by law to register as sex offenders under “Megan’s Law.”

“Currently, there is no state law requiring these facilities to be licensed or inspected by any state agency,” Scarnati said. “Ensuring that there is state oversight of these homes by DHS will help to better protect residents across our Commonwealth. The health and safety of our communities must be our top priority.”

Besides requiring licensing and annual inspections of such facilities, Senate Bill 557 will grant DHS the authority to promulgate regulations setting minimum health and safety standards for such group-based homes. DHS would also have the ability to refuse to grant or revoke a license for any facility which does not adhere to these minimum requirements.

“By nature, facilities that host numerous convicted sexual predators present a danger to the general public,” Scarnati said. “Requiring such facilities to be licensed and inspected will go a long way toward ensuring government fulfills its duty to protect the health and wellbeing of its residents to the greatest extent possible.”

Senate Bill 557 has been referred to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

As always, we urge our readers to contact Hanna and Scarnati and any of their representatives on issues important to them. There’s never a wrong or bad time to reach out and provide your opinion to the people who serve you.