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In this email update:
Update: school property tax elimination
On Tuesday, I spoke on the Senate floor about Senate Bill 76. Some of the key points I addressed to my colleagues in the Senate included:
You can watch my full comments here or below:
Public hearing on the heroin/opioid crisis
On May 10, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania held a public hearing regarding the role that grandparents have taken on as the sole caregivers of children due to the heroin/opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities all across the state.
During this hearing, the challenges confronting Pennsylvania’s grandparents were discussed, as well as what types of assistance can be provided to them in order to best handle this difficult situation.
Caregiver grandparents require, in their kinship role, the same help provided to foster parents including navigating the legalities and technicalities of the child welfare system and access to mental health support.
Some important and startling statistics were provided at the hearing as well. Across the state, there was a ten percent increase between the years 2000 and 2015 in the number of grandparents assuming the role of primary caregivers for grandchildren. In raw numbers, that represents an increase from 80,400 to 88,700 grandparents. In rural Pennsylvania, the number of grandparents serving as primary caregivers jumped 28 percent between the years 2000 and 2015. That represents an increase from 19,789 to 25,264 grandparents taking on the role of primary caregiver. Nationwide, grandparents caring for grandchildren, rather than foster care placement, saves upward of $39 billion annually.
You can watch the entire hearing here.
Understanding the role of a lieutenant governor
I will soon be introducing legislation that will change the way lieutenant governors are selected. My proposal would amend the state’s Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate in a process similar to how Presidential candidates select their Vice Presidential candidates.
In line with this proposal, The Caucus published an article from G. Terry Madonna (a public affairs professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College) and Michael Young (managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research) last month discussing why Pennsylvania should change the way we elect the lieutenant governor.
In the article, Madonna and Young outline the duties and responsibilities of the lieutenant governor. For example, the lieutenant governor is tasked with the responsibilities of: serving as governor should the elected governor be unable to serve; presiding over the state Senate; serving as chair of the Board of Pardons; and coordinating the operations of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Madonna and Young then go on to discuss the flaws that exist in our current process of electing a lieutenant governor. They suggest that a better way to elect our lieutenant governor would be to have the gubernatorial candidates select their own running mates – which is similar to what I have proposed – as presidential candidates do now, or require the governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team during the primary.
Blight and revitalization roundtable discussion
At the request of Senator John DiSanto (R-Dauphin), the Senate Majority Policy Committee and the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee held a joint roundtable discussion at the Harrisburg Area Community College’s Midtown Campus in Harrisburg on Tuesday.
The purpose of this event was to highlight the efforts that have been made to combat blight in the city of Harrisburg. The roundtable discussion featured representatives of the city of Harrisburg, local developers and other community leaders involved in building better communities within the capital city.
During the discussion, we were given the opportunity to learn about what initiatives are working and not working when it comes to eliminating blight and abandonment. The information provided during this event was very informative and helpful as we continue to look for ways to decrease the number of vacant, abandoned properties and revitalize our communities.
You can watch the discussion here.
Policy hearing on Marcellus Shale industry
At the request of Senator Scott Wagner (R-York), the Senate Majority Policy Committee and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a joint bipartisan public hearing on Wednesday regarding the economic benefits of the Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania.
During this hearing, we listened to testimony and updates on the Marcellus Shale industry, as well as the trends across the United States.
Senator Gene Yaw (R-Bradford/Lycoming/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Union), who chairs the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, stated that more than 50 percent of natural gas produced in Pennsylvania is from four counties in his district, which has a significant impact both monetarily and domestically.
Some of the key highlights and facts discussed at the hearing include:
The subject of my Ph.D. dissertation at Penn State more than 10 years ago was effective economic development strategies vs. wasteful corporate welfare, so I found this topic to be of very significant interest.
One key note to highlight is that cheaper energy is good for both consumers and jobs in Pennsylvania. Ensuring that consumers receive quality energy services at affordable rates is critical, as well as ensuring that our energy market remains competitive so we can continue to create jobs for Pennsylvanians. In regards to the ongoing international competition for jobs, energy prices is a key component.
David Spiegelmyer, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said it best when he said, “When government cannot operate efficiently, there is no doubt that we lose opportunities – it’s that plain and simple.”
You can watch the full hearing here.
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate passed the following bills this week:
House Bill 271 expands gaming options and provide for the continuation of Local Share Assessments (LSA) from casinos to support their host communities.
Senate Bill 510 increases the penalty for threatening law enforcement officers.
Senate Bill 108 prohibits the discrimination of any potential organ transplant recipient on the basis of a physical or mental disability.
House Bill 151 amends Title 12 (Commerce and Trade) to define “agent.” The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 269 amends the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.
Senate Bill 288 would increase fines and suspend the licenses of repeat offenders of Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear” law.
Senate Bill 522 amends Title 42 and Title 61 to merge the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Senate Bill 523 amends the Crime Victims Act to merge the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Senate Bill 651 is the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act of Fiscal year 2017-18.
These bills will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bills sent to the governor
The following bills were sent to the governor’s desk this week:
Senate Bill 133 provides for issuance of voluntary travel IDs and repeals the state Real ID Nonparticipation Act (Act 38 of 2012), which prohibits Pennsylvania from complying with the Federal Real ID Act.
House Bill 23 adds acute stroke-ready hospitals and comprehensive stroke centers to the provisions of the Primary Stroke Center Recognition Act.
EMS Week in PA
I am co-sponsoring Senator Randy Vulakovich’s (R-Allegheny) resolution designating May 21 through May 27, 2017 as “Emergency Medical Services Week” in Pennsylvania.
This resolution seeks to recognize and honor the selfless, hard work of our emergency medical responders who are dedicated to providing citizens with quality care, support and assistance during dire times of need and threatening situations.
A special thank you to these men and women who are the true illustrations of public servants in our communities.
Read more about the resolution here.
Comcast scholarship recipients
There were several students from the 29th Senatorial District who received Comcast’s Leaders and Achievers scholarships this year.
This scholarship is awarded to college-bound high school seniors who have demonstrated strong leadership skills, academic achievement and an unwavering commitment to community service.
Emily Witmier, who is pictured below, stopped by my office earlier this week. Emily is a recipient of this scholarship and is currently a senior at Pottsville Area High School. She will be attending Penn State Schuylkill, where she plans on studying either business or communications.
Congratulations to this year’s students on receiving this award!
Congratulations, Dennis Teter, Jr., our newest Eagle Scout
This past weekend, Representative Knowles, Commissioner Hess and I presented a congratulatory citation to Dennis Teter, Jr. for earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Dennis held his Eagle Scout ceremony at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ringtown.
Dennis earned his Eagle Scout designation by completing his project to convert a vacant room of the church he attends into a multi-purpose gathering area.
As an Eagle and an “Eagle Dad,” I always enjoy recognizing young men who have completed this program.
Discussing state government with YES students
On Thursday, I spoke with students enrolled in the Your Employability Skills (YES) program at Mahanoy Area High School.
The YES program, which is administered by the Northeast PA Manufacturers and Employers Council, Inc., seeks to provide programs and services that will prepare individuals to become strong members of our workforce and create a competitive business climate in Northeast Pennsylvania.
During this meeting with the students, I discussed the operations of state government, as well as some of the legislature’s top priorities this session. One of the main topics we discussed was blight, which is a very important issue to the Mahanoy City community.