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In this email update:
The importance of the coal-refuse power industry to PA
On Wednesday afternoon I was the keynote speaker at ARIPPA’s Annual Technical Symposium & Trade Show where I highlighted the past, present, and future of the anthracite coal industry and energy markets in Pennsylvania.
I noted that the anthracite coal industry and ARIPPA's coal refuse-fueled power plants across the state play a critical role in environmental remediation by removing coal piles, cleaning up the underlying land and restoring impacted water resources without shifting these costs to public sources.
I literally grew up in the shadows of a coal mine, so I recognize first-hand the many contributions and resources the coal industry provides to Pennsylvania and our country as a whole.
Arlington St. in the East End neighborhood in Tamaqua where I grew up in the 1960s and 70s.
My great-grandfather Roger Howells’ employment records at Reading Anthracite.
During this event, several coal refuse companies were recognized for their hard work and commitment to strengthening the coal refuse industry and bolstering our economy.
I noted that over the last 50 years in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, I have witnessed some amazing environmental improvements, due to the efforts of both the private and the public sector.
Our waterways are much less polluted, and there are many fewer abandoned strip mines. The Schuylkill River flows cleaner in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, which allows our fish to survive in their natural habitat, as well as offers citizens many recreational opportunities to engage in such as fishing, rafting and boating.
I also noted that the work of improving our local environment must continue to correct the mistakes of the past. Below are some of the photos I shared at the conference which illustrate the continuing impact from acid mine runoff in our waterways in northern Schuylkill County:
Read more about the event here.
Watch my remarks here.
Senate Majority Policy Committee holds roundtable on blight in Lancaster County
At the request of Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), the Senate Majority Policy Committee, which I chair, held a roundtable discussion in Lancaster this past Monday to discuss blight and revitalization efforts.
During this roundtable discussion, representatives of the City of Lancaster, local developers and community leaders shared their involvement with the war on blight and the importance of redeveloping the area in order to generate economic growth for our communities for generations to come.
The event provided us with the opportunity to learn more about what initiatives are effective and not effective as we continue to fight blight and abandonment throughout Pennsylvania. The discussion also allowed local officials to offer their ideas and suggestions that we could potentially pursue on a legislative level to combat this growing issue.
A special thank you to the City of Lancaster, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, R Street Institute and the Lancaster Alliance Board for their participation in this informative discussion.
You can watch the full discussion here.
Read more about the discussion here.
Bipartisan public forum on school property tax reforms in Delaware County
As a continuation of our series of bipartisan public hearings and workshops across the state regarding the existing school property tax system, the Senate Majority and Democratic Policy Committees held a bipartisan public forum on Tuesday in Delaware County with Senator Tom McGarrigle (R-Chester/Delaware), who chairs the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.
During this public forum, some of the alternative solutions to our existing school property tax system that were discussed included:
Local residents were also able to ask us questions about these initiatives as well as the potential impacts these proposals would have on homeowners now and in the future.
Based on the high volume of correspondence and input we receive from local residents across the state, it is clear that our current system is burdensome and antiquated to homeowners across Pennsylvania.
Professors Terry Madonna and Michael Young in 2015 described our current system best when they said: “Pennsylvania’s property tax, like property taxes in many other states, is a fossilized artifact from the 19th century that faltered badly in the 20th century and failed spectacularly into the 21st century.”
A special thank you to all of the groups who participated in this engaging discussion. Despite the setback to this issue when the Lt. Governor broke a tie-breaking vote to defeat SB 76 in 2015, we continue to seek ways to move this difficult issue forward.
You can watch the discussion here.
Strong support for school property tax elimination
State Representative Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) recently posted a Facebook survey asking people whether or not they believe school property taxes should be eliminated.
Out of the 300+ people who participated in the poll, 97.3% said they support the elimination of school property taxes, while 2.7% said they were opposed to the measure.
It is apparent from this poll, and many others that have been taken, that there is strong support for school property tax elimination in Pennsylvania.
Ribbon cutting ceremony for Berks Military History Museum
On Saturday, I attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the Berks Military History Museum in Mohnton.
The Berks Military History Museum is dedicated to the brave men and women who selflessly sacrificed their lives in order to defend our freedoms and liberties. The museum contains photographs and artifacts that were given to the museum from local veterans and residents in the community.
A special thanks goes out to Representative Mark Gillen (R-Berks) for his leadership in establishing the military museum for the Berks community.
You can read more about the museum here.
50th anniversary of the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum’s Bee Line Service
This past weekend, Senator Schwank, Congressman Dent, Representative Knowles and I presented citations recognizing the 50th anniversary of Reading Railroad’s Innovative Freight Delivery Bee Line Service.
Since its inception, the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum has been dedicated to preserving the rich history of the Reading Railroad.
During the anniversary celebration, the museum also revealed its new mural which depicts 5 locomotives. The mural was done by artist Carrie Kingsbury of Promiseland Art in Birdsboro.
Pictured from left to right: Congressman Charles Dent; Senator Judy Schwank; Carrie Kingsbury, mural artist; Representative Jerry Knowles; Donald Crabtree, Building and Grounds Chair of the RR Heritage Museum; Duane Engle, President of the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society; Susie Woodland portraying Beetrice the Bee-line B; and Carol Adams, Community Outreach Chair for the RR Heritage Museum.
Schuylkill County Veterans Town Hall event
On Thursday, August 24, the Lebanon VA Medical Center is holding a veterans town hall event in Pottsville.
The purpose of this event is to provide veterans with updated information on VA services such as health care enrollment in Schuylkill County. The town hall also provides veterans with the opportunity to offer input and ask questions to the Lebanon VAMC members about resources and services offered.
The town hall event will be held at 4 p.m. at the D.H.H. Lengel Middle School located at 1541 Laurel Blvd. in Pottsville.
For more information about the town hall, please click here.