Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Feb. 11. Both houses of the General Assembly were in recess at press time. The state House of Representatives was scheduled to return to session Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Senate was set to be gaveled back into session March 18.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Feb. 14 joined Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding to unveil the PA Farm Bill, designed to provide support for Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. The proposal, which has already gained bipartisan support, was modeled after Wolf’s six-point plan to cultivate future generations of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.
“Pennsylvania has a long, proud history of agriculture, and this comprehensive package of funding opportunities and resources will help expand this important industry,” Wolf said. “The PA Farm Bill allocates $24 million in additional funding to chart a real path for a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania. It’s about providing more opportunities to our farmers by creating more jobs, more income, and more hope.”
The PA Farm Bill will provide for business development and succession planning, create accommodations for a growing animal agriculture sector, remove regulatory burdens, strengthen the agricultural workforce, protect infrastructure and make Pennsylvania the nation’s leading organic state.
Among the proposals in the Farm Bill are initiatives that would:
• Develop new resources for agriculture business development and succession planning.
• Increase processing capacity statewide for the dairy industry. • Establish a new Center for Animal Agriculture Excellence to assist poultry, swine, sheep, lamb, goat and rabbit farmers.
• Cutting regulatory burdens by incentivizing best management practices through grants, low-interest loans and tax credits.
• Increase awareness of job opportunities in agriculture, as the state anticipates nearly 75,000 job vacancies in the field over the next decade.
• Establish a Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to address events such as livestock or plant disease outbreaks.
• Fund growth in the organic agriculture sector—especially grants supporting emerging crops like hemp, hops and hardwoods—and find global markets for Pennsylvania-grown, organic products.
State Rep. Martin Causer, R-McKean, called for greater investment in agriculture.
“Investing in agriculture means investing in small business, investing in our workforce, and investing in future generations of farmers,” he said. “I look forward to working with farmers across the commonwealth, Gov. Wolf, and fellow lawmakers to address the challenges facing this industry that puts food on our tables and contributes so much to our economy.”
Saying Pennsylvania must do more to end gun violence, Sen. Tom Killion, R-Delaware, introduced legislation Feb. 14 that would temporarily remove guns from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.
“With 100 gun deaths occurring every day in this country, it has become a national epidemic,” Killion said. “We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of disturbed and dangerous people.”
It is a bipartisan effort. The same day, Sen. Wayne D. Fontana, D-Allegheny, reintroduced legislation that would empower families and police officers to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is a threat to themselves or others.
Referred to as red flag or extreme risk protection order laws, Killion’s legislation is similar to laws that have passed in 13 other states. The goal of these laws is to help prevent gun suicides and mass shootings by allowing for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals determined by a court to pose a danger.
Under the legislation, law enforcement, family members or household members could petition common pleas courts to issue an order temporarily prohibiting disturbed individuals from possessing a firearm. A judge would then weigh evidence presented at a hearing where the individual in question is able to be present.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman opened his listening tour on marijuana policy by talking with large gatherings of Pennsylvanians, and thousands more are weighing in online, according to a press release from the Wolf administration.
The first listening tour session, held in Dauphin County, drew more than 250, according to the statement; the second session was in Cumberland County with a standing-room only crowd. An online feedback form was posted last week on governor.pa.gov and the lieutenant governor’s Facebook page. As of 10 a.m. Feb. 14, there were more than 12,000 form submissions.
The lieutenant governor has committed to visiting all 67 counties on listening tours.