Giving Students Flexibility for Graduation Requirements
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Giving Students Flexibility for Graduation Requirements

As a way to ensure students get the most out of their educational experience, the House passed legislation this week that would remove the heavy focus on standardized testing as a requirement to graduate and instead allow students various options to show proficiency in pursuing their own career paths.

Senate Bill 1095 would provide Pennsylvania students with additional options to fulfill high school graduation requirements beyond the Keystone Exams. Students who do not score proficient on the Keystone Exams would be able to demonstrate their readiness to graduate through alternative routes.

Specifically, the bill outlines several commonsense options for assessing student performance while also giving teachers more flexibility with classroom instruction time. Some alternatives include a student’s successful completion of work-based learning programs, a service learning project, or an offer of full-time employment as evidence of post-secondary readiness.

As part of the bill, the Keystone Exam graduation requirement would be put on hold until the 2021-22 school year. The alternate graduation options in Senate Bill 1095 would take effect when that delay expires.

This legislation, which now goes back to the Senate, seeks to enhance a multi-bill package to expand career and technical education to benefit both students and employers looking to fill jobs in high-demand fields. 
2-1-1 Helps with Human Service Needs

The House Majority Policy Committee, of which I am a member, this week held a roundtable discussion on recent improvements to the PA 2-1-1 human service helpline. 2-1-1 is like 4-1-1 but for health, human services and disaster relief.

The 2-1-1 system is free, confidential and available 24-hours a day to connect Pennsylvanians in need with health and human service assistance available through government programs and private and nonprofit organizations in their communities.

Last year, the General Assembly approved legislation to create a public-private grant program to assist the United Way in expanding the 2-1-1 service and ensuring efficiency and quality standards across the state. This legislation and state funding have helped increase 2-1-1 coverage to nearly 100 percent of the state population, increased efficiency in the delivery of services and helped Pennsylvanians avoid more costly care, ultimately benefitting taxpayers.

Pennsylvanians can dial 2-1-1 to be connected with an operator who has access to a database of health and human services available in their local communities. For more information, visit
Rural Fire Companies Receive State Grants

Through a special program administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the federal government, grants are available to help rural fire companies guard against the threat of wildfires in the state’s forests.

Locally, the following fire departments received funding through the most recent application period:
  • East Cameron Township Fire Co., Shamokin $1,471.
  • Lower Augusta Volunteer Fire Department, Sunbury, $5,000.
  • Stonington Volunteer Fire Co., Sunbury, $10,000.
Local firefighting forces in communities with fewer than 10,000 residents qualify for the aid, which is used for training and equipment purchases directly related to fighting brush and forest fires. Grants may be used for purchasing mobile or portable radios; installing water supply equipment; wildfire prevention and mitigation work; training wildfire fighters; or converting and maintaining federal excess vehicles.

The key objective is to better equip and train volunteers to save lives and protect property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas. Grant recipients are selected based on vulnerability and adequacy of existing fire protection.

Aid is granted on a cost-share basis, with recipients supplying matching funds. The maximum grant awarded to any fire company in 2018 was $10,000. 
Working for Small Businesses

 This week, Margaret Parsons, a grassroots manager from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), presented me with the Guardian of Small Business award for my consistent voting record to protect and enhance small businesses across the Commonwealth. NFIB is the state’s leading advocacy organization for small and independent businesses. 
New Law Enhances Training, Oversight of Humane Officers

To help ensure the state’s animal cruelty laws are enforced in the fairest way possible, legislation has been signed into law to strengthen the training and oversight of Humane Society police officers.

Act 77 of 2018 increased initial and annual training hours for Humane Society police officers, and requires the training to include the proper procedure to file citations and warrants, including when and how to contact other law enforcement. Other provisions of the new law require training in farm operations and biosecurity, including at least one on-site visit to a working commercial farm operation. Any organization that employs Humane Society police officers will be subject to the state’s Right-to-Know Law.

Additionally, a Humane Society police officer must be a resident of Pennsylvania. If the appointment of a Humane Society police officer is revoked in one county, it would be revoked in all counties. 
House Passes Bill to Crack Down on Hazing

Legislation that seeks to better ensure the safety of students on college campuses by cracking down on hazing passed the House this week.

Senate Bill 1090 is a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s anti-hazing law to give law enforcement better tools to prosecute hazing-related activities and to encourage those nearby to call for assistance for someone who may need help.

Specifically, the bill would increase penalties for those involved in hazing; require schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing; and ensure that parents and students are provided with information related to the issue. The legislation also would establish clear parameters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities.

The legislation is named in memory of Tim Piazza, a Penn State student who died as a result of hazing in 2017 and was denied medical care for hours. The measure now heads back to the Senate for concurrence. 
Look, Listen and Learn During Fire Prevention Week

The Office of State Fire Commissioner is urging residents to “look, listen and learn” as part of this year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week, which lasts through Saturday, Oct. 13.

With today’s homes being filled with synthetic materials that burn hotter and faster, residents may have as little as two minutes to safely exit a burning structure.

The theme focuses on three basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire: Look for places fire could start; listen for the sound of the smoke alarm; and learn two ways out of every room.

A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place that is a safe distance from the home.

For additional information about Fire Prevention Week and home escape planning, visit

Locally, the public is invited to attend the 29th Annual Sunbury Fire Department Memorial Service on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m. at Cameron Park in Sunbury. 
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