Public Hearing on State contract with Credentia providing testing for Certified Nurse Aides

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | 10:00 a.m.

North Office Building, Hearing Room 1

AGENDA

Public Hearing on State contract with Credentia providing testing for Certified Nurse Aides

Schedule

10:30 – Opening Remarks

  • Senator Michele Brooks, Majority Chair, Health & Human Services
  • Senator Maria Collett, Minority Chair, Aging & Youth
  • Senator Art Haywood, Minority Chair, Health & Human Services

10:40 – Panel

  • Jennifer Mankowski, BSN, RN
    Executive VP Program Management & Development, Credentia
  • Zach Shamberg
    President & CEO, Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA)
  • Kerri Kubalak
    DCW Heroes Program Manager, Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU)
  • Zach Zobrist
    Director of Workforce Development, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

11:00 – Questions and Open Discussion

11:30 – Recess to the Call of the Chair

Senate Approves Brooks’ Legislation to Reduce Corporate Net Income Tax

HARRISBURG (June 15, 2022) Legislation to help Pennsylvania families by gradually reducing the state’s Corporate Net Income tax was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 31 to 19.

“As the Keystone State, Pennsylvania is blessed with a prime location and an abundance of natural resources. Unfortunately, those assets cannot outweigh the fact that Pennsylvania has the third highest Corporate Net Income Tax Rate in the nation,” Brooks said. “At 9.99 percent, this high tax rate erodes the attractiveness of our state to the job-creators of today and tomorrow.  It’s why many businesses are taking their headquarters and jobs out of state, and why so many talented young people are packing up and leaving for greener pastures and greater job opportunities.”

“Recent history tells a sad tale of opportunities missed—and jobs lost –because many lean businesses have sticker-shock over Pennsylvania’s excessively high Corporate Net Income Tax rate,” she added.  “These businesses are not just the corporate powerhouses of the world; these are locally-owned and family-run businesses operated by friends and neighbors who had a dream that became the heart of our Main Streets, in hometowns across every one of our Districts.”

Specifically, Senate Bill 447 will reduce the CNI from its current rate by a half a percentage point every year, over a period of six years, until it reaches 6.99 percent, where it will remain thereafter.

This legislation helps Pennsylvania families, Brooks emphasized. 

The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for their consideration.

CONTACT:

Diane McNaughton
(717) 787-1322
dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov

Meeting to consider SB 571, SB 1198, SB 1202 and HB 2401

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Tuesday, June 7, 2022 | 10:30 a.m.

Main Capitol, Room 461

Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 571, SB 1198, SB 1202 and HB 2401

Schedule

  • House Bill 2401 (Wheeland) – COVID-19 waiver permanency/allowing CRNPs and PAs to order home health care
  • Senate Bill 571 (Argall) – Changes the distribution schedule of SNAP benefits
  • Senate Bill 1198 (Brooks) – Medicaid coverage for Assisted Living Residences
    • Amendment A0#### – Revisions provided by DHS and PID
    • Amendment A0#### (Cappelletti) – Prohibits Internet sales of human milk

Mastriano and Brooks seek answers from Wolf Administration on Baby Formula Shortage

Harrisburg – Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33) and the Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Senator Michele Brooks (R-50), have sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf and Acting Health Secretary Denise Johnson seeking answers and solutions to baby formula shortages throughout the commonwealth.

The senators noted that the critical predicament is affecting Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable population, newborns and infants. Within the past few weeks, the issue has only escalated, and the reports throughout Pennsylvania of scarce formula stock and empty shelves at grocery stores and pharmacies are numerous and unacceptable. Mastriano and Brooks expressed particular concerns for the families who are unable to find formula for their infants, especially for babies with rare metabolic diseases, such as Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Homocystinuria, who require special formula to survive.

The letter seeks answers from the administration to the following inquiries:

  1. What is your plan to address the baby formula shortage within our commonwealth and the concerns of parents and families?
  2. What is the status of baby formula availability in our hospital nurseries?
  3. Is the commonwealth actively working with the federal government to address this crisis? If so, in what ways?
  4. Is there any credence to reports that baby formula is being shipped to the border for illegal immigrants while many Pennsylvania store shelves are empty?
  5. Do we have a government emergency stockpile in Pennsylvania? If so, what is your plan for use and distribution?

Additionally, the senators proposed that the commonwealth consider the following options to help bring some immediate relief to parents:

  1. Urge the Attorney General to monitor formula pricing and hold retailers and anyone having access and/or attempting to resell baby formula accountable for price gouging. Such individuals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
  2. Communicate with parents and families about efforts being taken to resolve this crisis, and instructions on how to obtain formula, with regular updates on the progress.
  3. Explore public-private partnership (s) with food banks, charitable organizations and other nonprofits who may have access to baby formula.

“While this issue is nationwide, Pennsylvania’s leaders cannot sit idly by and wait for the federal government to act,” said Mastriano and Brooks. “We have an obligation to be proactive for Pennsylvanians in addressing this matter and to have alternate plans in place before we face a statewide crisis.”

Media Contact:

Josh Herman – Senator Mastriano
Diane McNaughton – Senator Brooks

DCNR, DGS Break Ground On Tuttle Point Campground At Pymatuning State Park

Linesville, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today visited Pymatuning State Park to break ground on a new campground at Pymatuning State Park’s Tuttle Point.

“We are extremely pleased to be here today as construction begins on a revitalized campground at Tuttle Point,” Dunn said. “Thank you to the Department of General Services (DGS) for funding this project and helping invest in critical park infrastructure that will provide outdoor recreation opportunities for generations. Special thanks to Sen. Michele Brooks, who championed this project and worked to involve the community about these plans.

The $8 million Tuttle Point Campground project will see the complete overhaul of the campground’s infrastructure from new water and sewage lines and a new sewage pumping station, to the installation of exterior improvements such as brand-new buildings to house a water treatment facility, comfort station, beach restroom and the repaving of the roadways and parking lots as well as the installation of a brand-new fishing pier and boat launch.

The new project will have 112 campsites with inland campsites having water, sewer and electric hookups, as well as several ADA accessible campsites. Campsites near the water will have water and electric hookups. In addition, the campground’s 75,000 water tank will be refurbished during the project.

“DGS is pleased to have worked with DCNR and Senator Michele Brooks to bring this project to fruition and we are excited to break ground today on what will truly be an enhancement to Crawford County,” said Bryan Anthony of the Department of General Services (DGS) Bureau of Capital Projects Pre-Construction Division. “Once completed, this project will certainly have a lasting, positive effect on the recreational capabilities of the park for generations to come.”

The initial job conference, which starts the clock on the project, was held April 15 and the project is expected to be completed in April of next year.

“I appreciated the opportunity to work with DCNR and DGS to reopen Tuttle Campground,” Brooks said. “It’s always been a priority to see this campground reopened, understanding the importance it holds for local families, our hometown businesses, and tourism. Once again, memories will be made and traditions will be formed at this beautiful site, which is such an important part of our communities and economy. I’d also like to thank the local townships for their involvement in working with us to help reopen Tuttle.”

At 16,892 acres, Pymatuning is one of the largest state parks in the commonwealth and it features boating, fishing, swimming, camping, and enjoying other recreational opportunities. It is one of the more popular parks in the nation’s third largest state park system, and features the 17,088-acre Pymatuning Reservoir, which is the largest lake in the commonwealth.

The previous Tuttle Point Campground closed in 2010 because of funding issues. DCNR has a documented need of more than $1.4 billion for infrastructure repairs and improvements. Issues such as addressing wear and tear, extreme weather and climate change impacts, and a high demand for outdoor recreation require investments, which also allow incorporation of sustainable design and energy efficiency.

Touting the state investment in this project, Dunn noted Gov. Tom Wolf’s $1.7 billion plan to help Pennsylvania recover from the COVID-19 pandemic includes designating $450 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars for conservation, recreation and preservation.

Visit DCNR’s website for more information about Pymatuning State Park.

Sen. Brooks, Allegheny College and East Stroudsburg University Join Forces to Take on Tickborne Diseases through Local Tick Mitigation Study

HARRISBURG (April 26, 2022) As the state with the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the nation, Sen. Michele Brooks has been committed to making inroads as Pennsylvania combats a surging tick population and works to increase awareness of testing, diagnosis and treatment of tickborne diseases.

As infection rates reach crisis levels, Brooks has been consulting and collaborating with the Pennsylvania Tick Research Lab at East Stroudsburg University (ESU), and now with Allegheny College, to develop a pioneering new strategy to attack Lyme and other tickborne diseases at the source: the growing tick population, and the carriers who transport ticks.

“I strongly believe that tick-related diseases are at a crisis point here in Pennsylvania, and I will continue to lead the charge for the Commonwealth to take a more aggressive role in combatting this crisis. The solution must be multi-faceted and must include reducing the tick population, combatting the transfer of tick-related diseases, and providing broader insurance coverage for both testing and treatments.”  

“This partnership with East Stroudsburg University and Allegheny College is one innovative tool that can help bring us closer to identifying how to reduce the tick population and reduce the transmission of tick-related disease,” Brooks added.

Brooks was joined by researchers from ESU, academic leaders, and Allegheny College students and staff as they unveiled the official launch of their efforts today at Allegheny College in Meadville, which has been selected as one of 12 sites in a new multi-year tick mitigation study.

Brooks has secured state funding for this project, which will be conducted in Crawford and Mercer Counties, along with Bucks, Lehigh, Monroe, and Pike Counties.

Nicole Chinnici, Director of the Pennsylvania Tick Research Lab at ESU, said this project is vital because “Ticks and tickborne illnesses have been affecting residents of Pennsylvania for decades. This funding will allow our researchers to evaluate the use of tick mitigation strategies in reducing tick and tickborne illnesses in three regions of Pennsylvania, including the northwest. We are excited to be on the cutting edge of new research with the goal of finding the most effective strategy for reducing tick populations.”

“I want to thank Senator Brooks and other legislators who have placed an emphasis on the value of tick education and prevention for our neighbors across the state and the country,” said ESU Interim President Kenneth Long. “This new funding source made available by Senator Brooks will enable the PA Tick Lab to branch out into new areas of research and development aimed at minimizing the transmission of tick-borne illness and disease. This collaboration positions us to build a healthier experience for those who enjoy exploring the great outdoors.”

The study will require a research technician to drag the wood line area with a corduroy cloth to collect ticks that may be in the area. The technician will then set live mouse traps 10 meters into the wood line. These live traps will be in place for three days every 12 weeks until the end of the project. Blood samples will be taken from mice and ticks removed to monitor infection of tickborne illnesses. It’s important to note that no mice are hurt in this process, and traps used do not produce a scent and will not attract additional mice to the area, according to project researchers.

The research technician will place two bait boxes every half acre, or approximately one box per property, with materials that will enable the technician to vaccinate mice against ticks, which will also kill the ticks. 

Brooks and Chinnici encouraged anyone who has removed a tick from themselves or a loved one to place it in a plastic bag and send it free of charge for testing to the PA Tick Research Lab at ESU. The mailing instructions can be found at www.Ticklab.org. The testing is paid for through funds secured by Senator Brooks and Representative Rosemary Brown to create a partnership between ESU and the PA Department of Health. The funding also helped with the development of a data analytic website to track tick infection rates across the Commonwealth.

Brooks has also introduced a three-bill package to address Lyme and other tickborne diseases, by focusing on targeted education of medical professionals, informing parents when their children have a tick removed from them during school hours, and providing for insurance coverage for doctor-recommended treatments.    

Dr. Caryl Waggett, Professor at Allegheny College, said, “The ecology of these tickborne diseases is highly complex, involving the pathogen, the vector tick, wildlife hosts and humans. The research is both timely and valuable for residents in our communities, but also in training teams of interdisciplinary student researchers as future scientists, medical practitioners, public health professionals, and regional planners able to address other emerging and re-remerging diseases in Pennsylvania’s ever-changing climate.”

“I am deeply grateful for Senator Brooks’ strong support for improving the health of Pennsylvanians and for connecting such like-minded institutions together on this project,” Waggett added.  “And I am very proud to be able to work with such talented students and colleagues at both East Stroudsburg and Allegheny on this research to understand and potentially reduce risks from these vector-borne diseases.”

CONTACT: Diane McNaughton                                
State Sen. Michele Brooks

Phone: (717) 787-1322

dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov                           

Rural Health Summit

(April 13, 2022) Sen. Brooks and Rep. Rapp co-hosted a Rural Health Summit with more than a dozen of their fellow legislators to explore the challenges impacting rural access to health care, the growing substance use disorder and mental health crisis, the workforce shortage, the changing demographics of Pennsylvania, and related factors facing rural Pennsylvania. Also discussed was the challenge of sustaining rural hospitals with nearby outpatient emergency departments, the need for rural Pennsylvania to be at the policy-making table, and the urgent need to recruit physicians and nurses to practice in rural areas.

Brooks’ Bill Permitting Whole Milk in Schools Wins Committee Approval

HARRISBURG (April 5, 2022) Recognizing the nutritional value of whole milk and its economic value to our dairy farmers, Sen. Michele Brooks introduced legislation to allow whole milk to once again be served in Pennsylvania schools.  Her legislation was just approved by the Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee today.

Since 2010, only skim and one-percent milk have been served in schools, as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity efforts, contained in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  After her changes were implemented, milk sales and consumption plummeted. In fact, in the first two years after this measure was enacted, 1.2 million fewer students drank milk with their lunch, yet they still had access to sugary drinks that offered no nutritional value, effectively defeating the purpose of her ban.

Senate Bill 1181 will allow Pennsylvania whole milk to be served in Pennsylvania schools once again, Brooks said. She noted that milk production involves intrastate commerce in Pennsylvania, not interstate, and thus should be left to the state, not the federal government, to regulate.

“In the aftermath of Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, we have lost a generation of milk drinkers. Many schoolchildren don’t like the taste of skim or one-percent milk, leading to so much milk being dumped in school cafeteria trash cans or left unpurchased.  It is time we reverse the misinformation of the past decade-and-a-half and give parents and children back the ability to decide whether whole milk is right for them and their family.”

According to testimony offered by Jayne Sebright of the Center for Dairy Excellence, milk is the single best food source for calcium, potassium and vitamin D, nutrients many children and adults are most lacking in their diets.  According to testimony by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board, whole milk only contains   3.5% fat or less, and one-third of milk’s fatty acids are Omega-3, which have been linked to many health benefits, including improved heart and brain health, and a lower risk of cancer.  In a well-balanced diet, this fat can contribute to the energy that supports cell growth.  Other health benefits of milk include improved bone health, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

CONTACT:  Diane McNaughton

Brooks’ Legislation to Extend Regulatory Flexibilities Passes Senate and Signed by Governor

HARRISBURG (March 30, 2022) – The easing of regulations necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue through June 30 under legislation authored by Sen. Michele Brooks, approved by the Senate, and sent to the Governor for his signature.  The legislation extends key COVID-19 waivers for three more months and requires a review of the effectiveness of, and continued need for, these regulations going forward.  

“For months, we have been working with the House of Representatives and the Governor’s Office on a comprehensive review of all of the statutory and regulatory flexibilities put in place since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Brooks, “and today’s final passage of Senate Bill 1019 is a successful culmination of our collective efforts.”

Today’s passage builds upon Act 73 of 2021 (House Bill 1861) that was signed into law in September 2021 to extend key waiver flexibilities through March 31, 2022.  Senate Bill 1019 furthers the waiver extension through June 30, 2022 and requires that the state agencies overseeing these waivers submit a report to the full General Assembly by May 31, 2022, which outlines the flexibilities in place, and whether the agency of oversight is recommending that the flexibility be made permanent.

This waiver extension includes over 300 rules and regulations for our hospitals, health care workers, home and community-based providers; drug and alcohol treatment providers; our consumers; our bankers and realtors; our state licensure and oversight boards; our emergency management services; and our National Guard.

“We have more work to do, but we are well on our way to improving Pennsylvania not just beyond the pandemic, but in spite of it,” Brooks said. “I continue to work to eliminate red tape in the state’s bureaucratic practices and simplify how we do business.”

Senate Bill 1019 passed the Senate today and was promptly signed into law by Governor Wolf.

CONTACT:          

Diane McNaughton
(717) 787-1322
dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov