Jun. 20, 2024

Latest News from State Capitol and 55th District
By Rep. Jill Cooper (R-Westmoreland)

Are Changes Coming to Higher Education?
During annual budget discussions, the Commonwealth investment in education is of constant discussion. It consumes a large part of Pennsylvania’s annual budget because safe schools that help our students become young adults are certainly a high priority.

Generally, discussion centers around spending on kindergarten through high school programs. This year, attention is also being paid to higher education programs where there are great opportunities to make big improvements.

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Senate unveiled and passed a series bills titled Grow PA. They focus on affordability and accessibility.

The first bill, Senate Bill 1150, creates the Grow PA Scholarship Grant Program and would offer grants of up to $5,000 per year for in-state students who attend college in Pennsylvania and pursue a degree in a high-demand industry.

There is an important catch, however. For at least 15 months each year they accept the grant, students must agree to live and work in that industry, and in Pennsylvania, after graduation. Accepting the grant for four years would translate to a five-year commitment.

It is a common story that many Pennsylvania young people face. They graduate from school and chase work out of state, while employers here are constantly looking for staff. This bill aims to reverse that trend, as does Senate Bill 1151, which hopes to attract more young people from out of state to the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1151 creates the Grow PA Merit Scholarship Program to attract high-performing out-of-state students to programs in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools. The merit scholarships would allow students from out of state to pay tuition at in-state rates if they are pursuing in-demand occupations.

Like the scholarship program for in-state students, scholarship recipients would be required to live and work in Pennsylvania after graduation, or have the scholarships converted to loans.

An additional proposal expands the income limits for the existing Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, from $126,000 to $175,000. Another bill covers tuition for adopted and fostered children. Also in the package are bills to create a special task force to analyze more reforms and to mandate high school seniors complete forms for federal college aid.

I am optimistic that positive updates can be made to our higher education program, because changes are also being sought by Gov. Josh Shapiro, who suggested in his February budget proposal that the 10 state-run PASSHE schools and 15 community colleges be combined. He also is seeking to cap tuition at $1,000 per semester for families that earn up to around $70,000 annually.

To include some accountability and make sure taxpayer funds are being allocated responsibly, there is discussion of distributing state appropriations to colleges using an outcomes-based funding formula.

Recognizing that both sides of the political aisle are suggesting changes to an antiquated system, I am hopeful the General Assembly and governor can assemble a plan that safeguards taxpayer funds, makes secondary education more affordable and strengthens Pennsylvania’s economy.

Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Join Me for a Telephone Town Hall - On Tuesday, June 25, at 5:30 p.m., please tune in for another Telephone Town Hall! Special guest, House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove, will be joining us to discuss the ongoing budget negotiations and other topics coming out of Harrisburg. His knowledge of the budget process is extensive, and he will be providing up-to-date details. Call in directly by dialing 877-229-8493 and using ID code 122184.

Antlerless License Sales to Begin Monday in Three WMUs - With the 2024-25 hunting license year set to begin July 1, new licenses will be available for sale starting Monday, June 24. Please note, hunters no longer need to purchase a general license before getting an antlerless deer license; they can be purchased at the same time, anywhere licenses are sold.

This year, when licenses go on sale at 8 a.m. on June 24, antlerless deer licenses will be available for only three Wildlife Management Units (WMU) where demand is highest: WMUs 1B, 2G and 3A. Licenses in these WMUs will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis until the allotted number of licenses sells out, and only Pennsylvania residents may purchase antlerless licenses initially.

On Thursday, June 27, at 8 a.m., antlerless licenses for the remaining 19 WMUs will go on sale to residents. Those seeking licenses in any of these WMUs won’t need to wait in line for them; they’re guaranteed to get one, as long as they buy before 7 a.m. on Monday, July 8, when the resident-only portion of the first round of antlerless license sales ends.

Once the nonresident portion of the first round begins at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 8, all remaining antlerless licenses will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis until the allocated number of licenses is exhausted.

A hunter, whether resident or nonresident, can obtain only one antlerless license in the first round, whether it’s before, during or after the guaranteed period.

Hunters can buy 2024-25 antlerless licenses online at www.huntfish.pa.gov, or at any in-store hunting license issuing agent. The prices of the antlerless deer licenses remain the same at $6.97 for a resident antlerless license and $26.97 for a nonresident antlerless license.

Celebrating PA Dairy - June is Dairy Month in Pennsylvania, the perfect time to enjoy an extra dish of ice cream or yogurt, another piece of cheese or a tall glass of milk!

Dairy is our Commonwealth’s largest agricultural industry, helping to generate $14.7 billion of economic activity each year. We rank second in the nation in terms of the number of dairy farms, and seventh nationally in milk production.

Nearly all the Commonwealth’s dairy farms – an estimated 99% of them – are family-owned, and the industry supports more than 52,000 jobs statewide.

If you’d like to support Pennsylvania dairy, be sure to check the milk you purchase at the grocery store and look for the PA Preferred logo or milk with a plant code beginning with “42.” Plant codes are usually printed near the top of the container or on the lid, or sometimes they’re printed right on the label. The first, and most important, part of the code will always be two numbers (between 01 and 56). This identifies the state where the milk was processed. Pennsylvania’s magic number is 42!

Learn more about the state’s dairy industry visit choosepadairy.com.

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
jillCooper.com / Facebook.com/RepJillCooper