Week of February 22, 2021
In This Update:
Senate Approves Regan First Responder Medals of Commendation Bill
On Tuesday, the Senate passed legislation I am sponsoring that establishes three separate statewide medals of commendation programs for law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel.
Senate Bill 158 aims to recognize individuals who are injured or killed in the line of duty, or who demonstrate exceptional gallantry, heroism and bravery in the face of life-threatening circumstances.
The color of each medal – the Star of Valor, Heart and Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice – would coordinate with the respective program: blue for law enforcement, red for firefighters, and white for EMS personnel.
This is the least we can do to recognize our first responders – those that run toward the danger and not away – and their selfless dedication to their communities and this Commonwealth, particularly those that go above and beyond the call of duty.
The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Regan Speaks Out Against Bridge Tolling Plan
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) unveiled a proposal last week to toll nine existing bridges on the Interstate System. The plan raised serious concerns since it was done unilaterally by the Wolf Administration without any sense of transparency or accountability and without the input or authorization of the General Assembly.
The tolling proposal would impact the following bridges:
Seeing as the I-83 South Bridge connects Cumberland and Dauphin Counties, I joined Senator John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) in expressing opposition to the tolling plan and concern for how PennDOT is moving forward with this proposal with no oversight.
Virtual Townhall on COVID-19 Vaccine Held for Residents of 31st Senate District
On Thursday, I hosted a virtual townhall for constituents to learn and ask questions about the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination plan from local experts. Joining me on the call were Dr. Bret DeLone, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Director of Surgical Quality and Patient Safety at Penn State Holy Spirit Hospital; Dr. John Goldman, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Infectious Disease Specialist at UMPC Pinnacle; and Joan Bradbury, Executive Director of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Many of the questions we received centered around the availability of the vaccine and how people could get it, particularly if they do not have internet access. If you know anyone that is in this situation, the numbers to call for scheduling vaccines are: 844-876-2822 (UPMC) and 844-774-8883 (Penn State).
To watch the full townhall and for information from UPMC and Penn State on how to register for a vaccine, click here.
Regan Meets with Acting Secretary of Health, Discusses Vaccines and Nursing Homes
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Acting Secretary of Health, Alison Beam, who has been nominated to replace the former Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine.
The two primary issues I questioned Acting Secretary Beam about were vaccine distribution and the number of deaths from COVID that occurred in our nursing homes. While new to this position, the Acting Secretary has been part of the Wolf administration and therefore, needs to be able to answer for actions taken by the Governor and the Department of Health throughout COVID.
As I noted during Thursday’s virtual townhall, Acting Secretary Beam indicated that Pennsylvania’s main problem with regard to the vaccine is that we simply are not getting enough from the Federal government. I think there is more to this, seeing as we rank 46th in the nation for distribution, and I will continue doing what I can to address this.
With regard to COVID in our nursing homes, I raised concerns in response to the news out of New York that Governor Andrew Cuomo hid the true number of nursing home deaths. Considering Governor Wolf aligned with other northeastern Governors, including Cuomo, for a coordinated effort to address the pandemic, I am concerned that the same could have happened in Pennsylvania. Acting Secretary Beam assured me that transparency was and continues to be a priority for the administration, but I still believe Pennsylvanians deserve to have solid assurance that the numbers reported, which are the basis for the above graphic, are indeed the real numbers. That is why I am pursuing avenues to have an investigation and/or an audit conducted.
Lawmakers Authorize Use of PA National Guard to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine
In addition, National Guard members who have the necessary training would be permitted to administer the vaccine to Pennsylvanians who want to receive it. The proposal could help improve Pennsylvania’s troubled roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state currently ranks 46th in the nation in terms of the percentage of distributed vaccines that have been administered.
Senate Approves Bill to Generate More Private Donations to Support Veterans
The bill would increase the donation amount from $3 to $5, or from $6 to $10 when applying for a two-year vehicle registration. All donations support grants to county directors of veterans’ affairs, veterans’ service organizations and other charitable organizations that provide assistance, shelter and living necessities to veterans and their families.