Gov. Tom Wolf this week joined women’s health advocates and medical professionals to denounce the fast-tracking of Senate Bill 3, which the governor said would eliminate a woman’s right to make choices about her own health care in consultation with her doctor.
“I want to thank the members of the Senate who fought this bill, but let me be clear — should Senate Bill 3 reach my desk, I will veto it,” Wolf said in an emailed news release. “I am not threatening a veto out of partisanship, or due to some political back and forth. I am promising this veto to demonstrate that Pennsylvania will not play games with women’s health care in our commonwealth. Simply put, this legislation severely limits women’s ability to make informed and timely decisions about their own health care options. That is not the place of government.”
According to the governor’s office, Senate Bill 3 proposes the most extreme restrictions on abortion in the country. It would ban abortions after 20 weeks except in the rarest of circumstances, leaving no exceptions for rape, incest, health or tragic fetal anomalies. The bill would also ban one of the safest methods of second trimester abortions, putting women at risk and taking crucial decisions about their medical care out of the hands of their trusted medical providers.
The Pennsylvania Senate recently passed the bill, despite bi-partisan opposition, through committee and the floor in just three days with limited debate and no expert witnesses or public hearings. The bill now awaits action by the House of Representatives, where a similar version passed last session.
Wolf was joined by women who have had to make devastating decisions about their pregnancies. He said if SB 3 were to be passed, women facing the same circumstances would be stripped of their right to make these personal, family decisions.
Game Commission delivers
annual report to legislature
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough this week presented the agency’s annual report to the General Assembly, and delivered testimony before the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
Hough cited the following:
• Improved wildlife habitat on 57,000 acres (89 square miles) of State Game Lands and Hunter Access properties
• Improved 53 miles of Game Lands roads to provide enhanced hunter access
• Conducted over 212,000 enforcement contacts, resulting in 8,570 prosecutions and 12,679 warnings
• Raised and released 215,000 pheasants on lands open to public hunting
• Issued the second-highest number of hunting and fur-taking licenses in the nation
• Harvested 315,000 deer during the combined 2015-16 deer seasons
Hough also discussed how the Game Commission is dealing with wildlife diseases that have the ability to have long-term and potentially catastrophic impacts on the future of wildlife in the state.
In addition to the threats from diseases that wildlife is facing, Hough said the commission’s ability to effectively enforce the laws designed to protect wildlife in the state is also being challenged.
“We currently have 18 vacancies in our Wildlife Conservation Officer force, which has resulted in officers being required to cover multiple districts, with sizes of 750 square miles or more,” Hough said. “Furthermore due to the lack of funding, we were unable to hold either a Wildlife Conservation Officer or Deputy Conservation Officer class during this past year.”
Hough said the commission’s ability to confront the challenges is directly tied to funding.
“At a time when wildlife is facing unprecedented threats, we have been forced to make significant cuts in order to balance our budget,” Hough said.
Hough said without additional revenues in the near future, the commission will have to take even greater steps to reduce spending which will undoubtedly reduce the services provided.
“I have no doubt these proposals will not be popular with the general public or our hunting-license buyers,” Hough said. “However, without additional revenues, we will have no choice but to continue to make significant reductions in the programs and services we provide to remain within our budget.”
Hough said he believes that most hunters understand this, which is why 13 of the statewide sportsmen’s organizations have gone on record in support of increasing license fees.
Pre-K students thank governor for $75M
increase for early childhood education
Gov. Tom Wolf was joined by members of the Pre-K for PA Campaign to discuss his early childhood education investments and was presented with Valentine’s Day cards from pre-kindergarten students as a sign gratitude for his dedication to education.
Over the past two years, Wolf has made a new way for Pennsylvania. Instead of allowing schools to become the first casualty of our budget deficit, Wolf said he has made them his first priority. In just three years, Wolf will have increased funding by nearly two-thirds of those short-sighted cuts to the public school system.
“These children, and thousands of young people like them across the state, are counting on us in Harrisburg to have their backs – and to ensure that high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are available to them, in their communities,” Wolf said in an emailed news release. “Last week, I proposed a budget that invests an additional $75 million in high-quality early childhood education programs which will allow for more than 8,400 additional children to enroll in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. When children are given this right – and have the support they need – all our lives are enriched.”
Studies show that children who participate in high-quality pre-kindergarten perform better in school, graduate at higher rates and earn more throughout their working lives compared to peers that do not have access to early learning programs. Additionally, children who were previously enrolled in Pre-K Counts outperform their economically disadvantaged peers in third-grade math and reading.
The 2017-18 budget investments in education include:
• $100 million increase in basic education funding
• $25 million increase in special education funding
• $75 million increase in high-quality early childhood education
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.