The Pennsylvania General Assembly will start the second half of its two-year session on January 7, 2020. With the critical support of our members, we are fighting for an array of clean water issues:
General Fund budgets have historically maintained status quo in conservation funding from year to year, at best. However in the state 2019-2020 fiscal year (started July 1, 2019) the legislature raided some environmental special funds. These special funds help fund farmers and others to actually implement best management practices on the ground. We are engaging executive agencies, key legislators and the Governor's office to urge that this does not occur again in the next fiscal year budget as well advocate for more funding to these programs and the resource agencies.
We are working closely with the General Assembly and agricultural partners to provide financial assistance to Pennsylvania farmers to help them come into compliance with existing state laws and regulations, as well as implement best management practices (BMPs) on the ground. Pennsylvania is one of the few states within the Bay watershed without an agriculture cost share program. With runoff from agricultural lands a major source of pollution to the Keystone State's waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, an agriculture BMP cost share program could help address this pollution by providing technical and financial resources. We are engaging diverse partners, assessing the need of a coalition, educating legislators, policymakers, and stakeholders, and researching/developing legislation to create an agriculture cost share program.
Our work to designate the Eastern Hellbender as Pennsylvania's State Amphibian was successful! Written and diligently advocated for by our Pennsylvania Student Leadership Council, the bill was signed into law on April 23, 2019.
Keystone Tree Fund
Another success! On November 7, 2019 the Governor signed this bill into law after passing the House and Senate unanimously. This new law will add a voluntary check-off box on state vehicle registration and driver's license online application to allow citizens to voluntarily donate money to a Keystone Tree Fund. These funds will go towards the existing riparian forest buffer grant program and the urban street tree planting program.
Find out more about the importance of trees to the health and quality of our waters at our 10 Million Trees campaign website.
Stopping Bad Legislation
We are always on guard to defeat any legislation that would have negative impacts on water quality. This includes bills that would divert vital resources and underfund conservation efforts, as well as legislation that would create unnecessary legislative oversight of executive agencies.