HARRISBURG, Pa. — In 2021, Governor Tom Wolf 'Kept it 100,' which is to say he signed 100 bills into law.
Like the saying suggests though, was every piece of legislation he put his pen to authentic and real to all Pennsylvanians? Likely not.
Among the 100 bills signed by Wolf, nearly a fifth of them - 17 to be exact - were bridge and road renamings. However, many of the rest will have an impact on you as the year goes on.
So, if the governor 'Kept it 100' in 2021, what's new in 2022?
Something millions of Pennsylvanians have needed since the start of the pandemic is better access to the internet in rural parts of the commonwealth. The sudden turn to remote learning for students and adults working from home highlighted a digital divide in broadband access for people in more urban, heavily populated portions of the state, and those living in more far-reaching counties.
A bill co-sponsored by State Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene) in the southwest portion of the state will help create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. The commission will serve as a central point for the $100 million in federal aid coming to Pennsylvania by way of the infrastructure bill signed by President Biden in November. That money will go towards new towers, lines, and broadband equipment in underserved parts of the commonwealth.
Essential Worker Shortage
A pair of bills should help address the growing teacher and nursing shortage in the commonwealth.
House Bill 412, sponsored by State Rep. Barb Gleim (R-Cumberland) will provide more flexibility for school districts to bring in substitute teachers. Lasting only through the 2022-23 school year, her legislation allows retired teachers who no longer have their license, and even education majors in college, to be called on as substitutes in case of emergency.
Similarly, nursing homes are experiencing a worker shortage as well. A bill written by State Senator Judy Ward (R-Franklin, Cumberland) will allow nursing aides in training the ability to take courses online. The goal is to give potential nurses more flexibility in getting accredited.
The suicide of a Newberry Township, York County woman led State Rep. Dawn Keefer to introduce Shawn's Law. Now signed by the governor, the bill will strengthen penalties against those who convince someone to take their own life. Shawn Statto was depressed and followed instructions posted on an online forum.
The pool of eligible seniors who can get prescription drugs in the commonwealth through the PACENET assistance program is expanding. Income limits to access the program were increased by $6,000. Individuals can now qualify for PACENET if their income is lower than $33,500. Married couples now qualify if their joint income is $41,500. The rise in PACENET income limits are expected to positively impact 10,000 Pennsylvanians, according to the State Department of Aging.
Pennsylvania is known for, among other things, its dairy. A new law will allow milk processors to extend the shelf life of their milk from 17-days post-pasteurization to 21-days, pending an approved application from the State Department of Agriculture. It will change the 'Best By' date listed on the milk carton.
Plenty to be Desired
Along with the bills that will impact all Pennsylvanians, there is a lengthy list of what didn't get done in 2021.
Turnpike tolls are up once again, raised 5% in the new year. Meanwhile, the state's minimum wage will remain at $7.25 an hour for the 13th year, since it was approved in 2009.
Pennsylvania still has not legalized marijuana, despite pleas for Democratic lawmakers and the Wolf Administration. That may change in 2022, as more Republicans are changing their views on the drug.
Governor Wolf only vetoed five bills in 2021. Among them, a bill which would have changed election law in the state, as he and State House Republicans couldn't agree on changes needed in the wake of the 2020 election. Another bill would have allowed the concealed carry of a firearm without a permit.