In this Update:
Regan Marks Anniversary of Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Hill’s Line-of-Duty Death
During floor remarks on Tuesday I recognized the fourth anniversary of my former colleague Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Hill’s tragic shooting death while serving an arrest warrant in Harrisburg.
Chris’ passing was a difficult loss for me. We had developed a friendship during my tenure as the U.S. Marshal of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, and I greatly admired his commitment to serving and protecting his community and our nation. He was the epitome of a dedicated law enforcement officer.
In remembering Chris, I urge you to think about those men and women who run towards danger day in and day out in order to keep all of us safe from harm. We need them, and they need our support.
Senate Education Committee Approves Regan’s School Choice Expansion Legislation
The Senate Education Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that I am sponsoring, which will expand school choice for thousands of students across Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 527 would automatically raise the caps for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs by 25% annually, so long as at least 90% of the credits were claimed in the year prior.
Each year, arbitrary caps on the EITC/OSTC programs force the state to turn away nearly 43,000 students seeking financial aid to attend the school that best meets their educational goals. The restrictions also limit the number of businesses that can donate to the programs and receive tax credits in return.
I had the opportunity to speak on the bill during Wednesday’s committee meeting, which you can watch above. In my comments to members I noted that these programs are ultimately about lives. They are an opportunity for kids to lift themselves out of an inevitable life of poverty and crime, and in turn, the proposed increase in funding for the programs could translate into $7.4 billion in additional economic benefit from higher lifetime earnings attained through greater educational achievement and $260 million saved from the reduced social costs associated with crime.
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Senate Passes Package to Strengthen Cybersecurity, Protect Victims of Data Breaches
The Senate approved a package of bills this week to improve cybersecurity in Pennsylvania and require timely notifications to citizens of government data breaches. The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 482 consolidates administration and management of the Commonwealth’s information technology operations under a new Office of Information Technology.
The measure would replace the current, uncoordinated approach that led to cases of costly mismanagement, including delayed implementation of a statewide police radio system and bungled upgrades to Unemployment Compensation Call Centers. Other problems included data breaches experienced by the departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Education, which exposed the names and personal information of thousands of individuals, including citizens and state employees.
Senate Bill 726 ensures Commonwealth agencies have strong safeguards in place to discourage, combat and recover from ransomware attacks.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until money is paid. Senate Bill 726 would set state penalties for the possession, use, or threatened use of ransomware and prohibit state agencies from paying ransom.
When data breaches do occur, Senate Bill 696 would require state and local governments to notify potential victims within seven days. The requirement applies to any state agency, county, school district, municipality or third-party vendor experiencing a breach.
Transition to 5G Service Will Cause 3G Cell Phones to Stop Operating in 2022
Residents with older cell phones are being urged by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Pennsylvania State Police to prepare for the phase-out of 3G cellular networks and service, which could come as early as next month.
If your mobile phone is more than a few years old, you may need to upgrade your device before your provider shuts down its 3G network and you lose service – including the ability to call 911. You should contact your cellular service provider to determine if your devices are compliant to ensure you don’t lose connectivity.
The nation’s three major wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile) have announced plans to shut down their 3G networks to accommodate more advanced services, including 5G, as early as February. That will cause many older phones to be unable to make or receive calls and text messages or use data services. It could also affect other devices that rely on 3G connectivity, such as medical alert devices, tablets, smart watches, home security systems, and in-vehicle safety, security and roadside assistance systems.
Low-income individuals concerned their 911-only phones will no longer be supported can apply for service through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.
Tax Form Arriving Soon for Pennsylvanians Who Claimed Unemployment Benefits in 2021
According to the Department of Labor and Industry, 1099 tax forms will be mailed no later than Jan. 31 to Pennsylvanians who claimed unemployment benefits in 2021 and need the form to file their federal income taxes.
Claimants of all unemployment programs offered during 2021 will receive a 1099 tax form detailing their benefit payments. This form will be available online soon and viewable in the same system where claimants file their weekly claims. All claimants also have the option to view 1099 tax forms from previous years, if applicable.
The receipt of a 1099 form by a person who didn’t file for unemployment may indicate a case of identity fraud. If someone who didn’t file for unemployment receives what looks to be a 1099 tax form in the mail, they should report this suspected fraud immediately so the department can correct their income with the IRS and prevent any issues with the victim’s taxes.
Applications Being Accepted for PennDOT Summer Employment Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) offers a summer employment program for students who are registered as full-time college students for the Fall 2022 semester.
The deadline for receiving summer applications is Feb. 18, so I encourage anyone interested in the program to contact my office.
In addition to contacting my office, those interested must also fill out an online application with the PennDOT College Student Summer Worker posting under the open summer jobs section of the website.
The hourly rate is $14.61. Applicants must be enrolled as a full-time college student for the Fall 2022 semester, have a valid PA driver’s license and be 18 years of age before beginning work.