Harrisburg – June 27, 2019 – State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) today said that the state budget package includes $60 million for school district safety initiatives.
“There are a great many needs to fill in helping school district improve safety and security for students, teachers, administrators and all who enter school buildings,” Brewster said. “The funding will enable even more local school safety projects to be completed.”
Brewster, a member of the Senate Education Committee, also serves as the Senate Democratic appointee to the statewide School Safety and Security Committee that was established within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
The funding for the school safety grants were included as a part of the state’s Fiscal Code (Senate Bill 712) legislation.
“In our first year of the safety grants, we made some strides in completing safety surveys and finding out needs in school districts throughout the state,” Brewster said. “The funds that are included in this budget package will enable the committee to take even more projects on and channel state resources to better protect children.”
The McKeesport lawmaker has long been a strong advocate of increased school safety. In previous sessions of the General Assembly, he prime-sponsored legislation to establish a school safety committee and require new school construction to include school safety and security upgrades.
This session, Brewster authored comprehensive legislation designed to address three critical aspects of school safety. His measure would require state resources to be distributed to all school districts according to the results of the baseline survey. The baseline survey would delineate school security needs based on statewide standards.
Under his legislation, funding would be made available for school building upgrades, mental health services and environmental cleanup.
“We can do more to identify and address school security needs, but we must acknowledge that a robust school security plan has to include more elements than facility upgrades,” Brewster said. “Improving the access to professional mental health services and removing lead pipes and paint, cleaning air and repairing school buildings up to a state standard are crucial to safety and security of children.”
Brewster said other changes were made to the School Safety and Security Committee as a part of the budget package. This includes adding members of the committee who have background in behavioral health or trauma approaches and altering the amount of grants available to schools.
Harrisburg – June 26, 2019 – Legislation to permit hunting on three Sunday’s throughout the year passed the Senate today on a 36-14 vote according to Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), one of the bill’s prime sponsors.
“This is an incredibly important piece of legislation for sportsmen and women in Pennsylvania,” Brewster said. “Opening up selected Sundays for hunting will spur interest in the sport, increase the number of hunters, retain in-state hunters and attract men and women from other states.”
The legislation specifies that hunting will be on three days including: one day during deer rifle season, one day during deer archery season and another day selected by the Game Commission.
Brewster said the measure would generate additional revenues for the commission. He said these revenues will help shore up finances and promote new initiatives.
The bill also includes new provisions to ensure to address trespassing. The lawmaker said that organizations representing farmers were engaged to help craft language.
Brewster teamed up with Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) to sponsor the measure. Brewster applauded Laughlin for his work and leadership on the bill.
“Senator Laughlin did an excellent job working through issues, finding common ground and moving the legislation forward,” Brewster said.
Brewster said that one of the greatest assets we have are state game lands. The game lands were paid for by hunters and help maintain open spaces for hunting and recreation.
“As a life-long sportsman, I have a tremendous appreciation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources,” Brewster said. “We have to do more to preserve natural habitats, promote conservation and safe wildlife management practices.”
There are nearly 1.5 million acres of state game lands owned and maintained by the Game Commission.
“Our hunters have supported conservation efforts in the past and we need to find ways to encourage more hunters to adopt the sport,” Brewster said. “Sunday hunting is an excellent way to spur interest in hunting and engage more young people.”
The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives for its consideration.
Harrisburg – June 25, 2019 – Legislation designed to improve teacher evaluations through the increased use of observation instead of standardized testing is a significant step forward, according to state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland).
Brewster voted in support of Senate Bill 751, which passed 38-11. The legislation now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
“There were several elements of the legislation that will improve teacher evaluations,” Brewster said. “Not only does the bill call for reliance on more observations rather than standardized testing in evaluating teachers, it also brings other key factors into the evaluation mix.”
Brewster said that the bill requires consideration of the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled and the impact of poverty on student academic performance.
“This approach is much better than a system that is heavily reliant on standardized testing,” Brewster said. “Using more teacher observations and recognizing that economic conditions influence education is a step forward.”
Brewster, a longtime advocate of public education, is a member of the Senate Education Committee.
Harrisburg – June 24, 2019 – State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) released the following statement concerning the 10-year agreement between Highmark and UPMC to permit in-network access to UPMC doctors and hospitals.
The agreement was announced less than a week before those with Highmark insurance would have lost in-network access to UPMC doctors and facilities.
Brewster’s comments follow:
“The agreement today will preserve health care options and is excellent and welcomed news. The agreement will relieve tension and anxiety from patients who were caught in the middle between the providers.
“In the Pittsburgh area, we have world class health care. Those who are sick and need help should be able to continue to access care from professionals they are comfortable with, regardless of the insurance that they carry.
“Highmark and UPMC have a responsibility to serve those who need care and I applaud them for their ability to reach this agreement. Insurance coverage should not be a barrier that prevents a sick patient from seeing a doctor or provider of their choice.
“I applaud Governor. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, officials from UPMC and Highmark, Senator Jay Costa, Representative Dan Frankel and so many others for digging in and working toward a solution to this very difficult issue.”
State Sen. Jim Brewster is warning residents of a scam targeting Property Tax or Rent Rebate recipients.
Brewster’s office was notified of a scam that consists of unsolicited calls from a person claiming to work for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The caller says an application for Property Tax or Rent Rebate has been approved and then asks if the recipient would like the rebate directly deposited into a bank account – and asks for his or her bank information.
This is a scam. The Department of Revenue does not make live calls regarding Property Tax or Rent Rebate applications and does not collect applicant banking deposit information over the phone.
The Department of Revenue does contact applicants via automated calls to confirm their information has been received and approved. If the department needs more information about an individual’s Property Tax or Rent Rebate application, it sends a letter through the U.S. Postal Service.
Individuals can request that their rebate be directly deposited; those requests, however, must be made when the signed application is submitted to the Department of Revenue.
If you receive a phone call from an individual claiming to represent the Department of Revenue and is requesting personal bank account information, DO NOT give out any banking information or any personal information (including Social Security numbers) to these callers.
If you received one of these calls and provided your banking information or other personal information, immediately call your bank to make them aware of this potential fraud. Additionally, you can file a scam complaint with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling the toll-free hotline at 1.800.441.2555 or by visiting www.attorneygeneral.gov. Consumer Complaint forms are also available by contacting Senator Brewster’s District Office at 412.380.2242.
Legislation will be brought to a vote in the Senate
Harrisburg – June 20, 2019 – Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) applauded the passage of his Sunday Hunting Bill (Senate Bill 147) out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The legislation, which would authorize the Game Commission to allow Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania for up to three Sundays, will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
“I am happy the Appropriations Committee realized the benefits of allowing Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania,” said Brewster. “Increased tourism to our state game lands, increased revenue from hunting licenses, and providing working hunters a little extra time to enjoy their sport are all positive impacts of SB147.”
Brewster authored the legislation with Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) to start a dialogue on the number of established hunting days, the process of managing public lands, protections for farmers and their crops, and how to combat chronic wasting disease that effects Pennsylvania’s deer herd. The way the bill will be amended would permit hunting on three Sundays throughout the year.
“We set out to start a conversation and I believe the approval of the bill is a positive sign that the conversation has been successful,” said Brewster. “If we are going to be a state that values the environment and conservation efforts to protect it, allowing Sunday hunting is a revenue stream that we must tap into.”
Brewster is confident that allowing the Game Commission to open state game lands for three Sundays per year will combat the decrease in hunting license sales, encourage Pennsylvania hunters to hunt in-state, and attract out-of-state hunters for weekend trips. These three aspects will bring increased revenue for conversation initiatives championed by the Game Commission and support rural communities near state game lands.
Harrisburg – June 19, 2019 – Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) announced that his legislation to provide counties with an option to establish a demolition and rehabilitation fund for blighted property has been unanimously approved by the Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee.
Senate Bill 438, which would amend the Real Estate Tax Sale Law, will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
“Blight effects many communities in Pennsylvania,” said Brewster. “Run-down, unoccupied buildings hinder local communities as they strive to rehabilitate and attract new opportunities to the area. This bill is necessary to support community improvement efforts.”
Senate Bill 438 would allow local governing bodies to impose up to a $250 fee for the sale of any property being sold as part of a mortgage foreclosure. Monies generated by the fee will be put into a fund to be used by the county and redevelopment authorities to assist with the demolition and rehabilitation of blighted properties.
“This is a community issue, and it is time we provide local government and redevelopment authorities the power to decide the best options to rehabilitate their communities,” said Brewster.
Harrisburg – June 12, 2019 – Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) announced today that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has awarded funding to various organizations and programs in the region to help victims of crime, domestic violence and substance abuse.
“The funding is earmarked for programs to help those struggling in local communities,” Brewster said. “From substance abuse issues to assisting crime victims, victims of domestic violence and mental health treatment, the funding will serve many in need.”
Funding that was approved and awarded by PCCD include:
- $220,130 in Residential Substance Abuse and Treatment Funds for Project Safe Neighbors (PSN) in Allegheny County;
- $818,781 in Substance Abuse Education and Demand Reduction Funds for the University of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County;
- $290,757 in competitive grant funding and $556,150 funding increase through Victims Crime Act Funding for Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties;
- $928,405 Victims Crime Act Funding Increase for the Center for Victims in Allegheny County;
- $670,721 in 2019-2021 Victims Crime Act Funding Increase for the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh in Allegheny County;
- $125,131 in 2019-2021 Victims Crime Act Funding Increase for the Westmoreland County Commissioners; and
- $98,278 in Endowment Act – Programs Assisting Victims funding for UPMC-Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County.
“Reducing substance abuse and helping victims of crime are priorities that will be greatly supported and improved with this funding,” said Brewster. “There is always more that can be done, more programs that will be created to assist those who need it, and funding awards like these are how we ensure help is available in our communities.”
McKeesport – June 5, 2019 – Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) announced that several local schools will receive funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program.
“Enriching and enhancing the education of our students is a priority for both our schools and the community,” said Brewster. “These grants will assist local schools in finding creative ways to help students meet their academic potential, in addition to offering educational services to families.”
The CCLC program grants support the implementation of community learning centers that operate during non-school hours. The funding is earmarked for students who attend high-poverty and low performing Title I schools.
The academic programs created with the funding aim to improve student performance in core academic subjects, primarily reading, math and science.
The programs implemented by the grants also serve the community by offering wellness, literacy, and career education.
Local grantees include:
- The Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania at McKeesport Area High School – $60,160;
- McKeesport Area School District at Francis McClure School – $105,000;
- Propel Charter School at Braddock Hill Elementary, McKeesport Elementary, Hazelwood Elementary, and Pitcairn Elementary – $400,000
“While improving academic performance of students is key, the remarkable part of these grants is how they inspire community-based education as well,” said Brewster. “Providing access to educational services beyond school hours, to adults and students alike, is a great way to instill and grow a love of learning throughout the community.”