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In this email update:
Senate approves resolution requiring independent study of state-owned universities
This past Tuesday, the Senate approved a resolution I sponsored, Senate Resolution 34, which would require an independent study of the long-term viability and sustainability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
Senate Resolution 34, under the direction of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), would examine revenues and expenses of PASSHE, as well as potential cost-saving measures that could be used to save money for both students and taxpayers.
This study will help us understand, from an unbiased perspective, factors that are causing a decline in enrollment at certain universities, what the urgent needs are at universities and how we can move forward to ensure Pennsylvania’s students receive an affordable, quality education and degree.
The PASSHE universities include the following institutions: Bloomsburg University, California University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney University, Clarion University, East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown University, Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, Slippery Rock University and West Chester University.
Senate committee approves bill to protect consumers
On Tuesday, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved Senate Bill 458, which I sponsored this legislative session.
Senate Bill 458 would ensure that household goods movers who abide by the proper registration and permit processes remain protected, while rogue movers who choose to engage in illegal moving activities are punished.
Current law requires any household goods moving company to register with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). For-hire household goods movers must carry adequate insurance to protect property moved and workers compensation for their employees. Some movers are by-passing the law by not registering with the PUC and not carrying adequate coverage for the goods they are transporting.
This bill would make it a punishable offense to perform an illegal move in Pennsylvania with a $5,000 fine. Vehicles used in an illegal household goods move would be confiscated and registration would be suspended. Repeat offenders would be subject to a $10,000 fine. Revenue generated under the bill would be invested into future motor carrier enforcement through the PUC.
The bill only applies to commercial, for-hire entities.
The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Update on school property tax elimination
On Tuesday, Senator Folmer and Senator Costa spoke on the Senate floor about school property tax elimination: Senator Folmer supports the bill and Senator Costa, the Minority Leader, opposes it. You can watch the full discussion here or below.
As of today, we remain a few votes short of passing the measure in the Senate. We are continuing to review possible amendments to improve the bill’s chances of being passed. We are certainly not giving up on this issue and it remains my #1 priority.
Bills passed by the Senate
Senate Bill 227 which was introduced by Senator Eichelberger, amends the Public School Code to alter the deadline for school boards to make renewal decisions regarding superintendent and assistant superintendent contracts from 150 to 90 days prior to expiration of the contract. The measure would also limit the automatic renewal of these contracts to one year if the renewal notice deadline is missed.
Senate Bill 365 which was introduced by Senator Gordner, amends the Second Class Township Code to increase from $1,000 to $2,000 the fair market value threshold for personal property that can be sold by a second class township without a bid process or via public auction.
Recognizing Aviation Awareness Day
In honor of Aviation Awareness Day, I spoke at the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania’s (ACP) rally which was held in the Main Rotunda of the state capitol on Wednesday afternoon. During this rally, I presented them with a proclamation recognizing the importance of our aviation industry, as well as the negative impact repealing Act 52 would have on the industry and our state as a whole.
A few years ago, local airport officials in Berks and Schuylkill counties presented me with this interesting fact: the average individual working in the aviation industry earns $50,000 annually.
It was clear that something needed to be done in order for Pennsylvania to become competitive in this industry in order to create more jobs and boost our economy. Through the efforts of the Senate Aviation Caucus, which I chair, we were successful in reforming the state’s tax policy through the implementation of Act 52, which helped bring us up to par with other states in the northeast.
However, despite these major successes, Governor Wolf’s budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2017-18 seeks to repeal Act 52, which would hurt the aviation industry and our communities by crippling our economy and weakening our ability to create family-sustaining jobs.
The aviation industry has made a significant impact on our state and it is critical that we advance the aviation industry in order to remain competitive, create more jobs and enhance our economic development in Pennsylvania for many years to come. If we want to achieve all of these goals, we cannot repeal Act 52.
Kutztown University students visit the state capitol
The President and several students from Kutztown University visited the state capitol on Tuesday. During my meeting with the students, they shared their college experiences with me as well as the many educational opportunities Kutztown University has afforded them.
Kutztown University is incredibly important to the district which I represent and I am hopeful that they will be successful in developing their plans for the future.
Meet Mitchell Kurek
On Tuesday, Mitchell Kurek, a junior at Tamaqua Area Senior High School, spent the day with me as a job shadow in Harrisburg.
Mitchell is an honors student with a strong interest in both history and science, as well as the inner-workings and functions of state government. He is currently studying AP History and AP Chemistry and is an active member of the Chemistry Club, Biology Club and World Language Club. Aside from his academics, Mitchell enjoys playing sports and is a member of the football and basketball team where he has lettered in both sports for the past two years.
Upon graduating high school, Mitchell plans to attend college where he will major in science. He hopes to one day attend medical school.
I wish Mitchell the best of luck in all of his future endeavors!
Senate welcomes Guest Chaplain Pastor Crockett
The Pennsylvania Senate welcomed Pastor Crockett as our Guest Chaplain on Wednesday. Pastor Crockett has been a pastor at Hamburg Bible Church since 2009.
Welcome Pastor Crockett!
PLCB Alcohol Awareness Poster Contest winners
Several students from Berks and Schuylkill counties were selected as winners of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s annual Alcohol Awareness Poster Contest.
These students were recognized during an awards ceremony on Wednesday at the State Museum of Pennsylvania for their work in highlighting the dangers of underage drinking and alcohol abuse and the importance of saying no to alcohol.
Congratulations to these students on their artistic work and a job well done!
Kira Adams, Diego Aparicio, Jordan Baer, Makayla Barrett, Kyla Ebersole, Bailee Gagnon, Mary Groff, Lauren Hammer, Swaye Hopwood, Sidney Lescowitch, Antonio Potence, and Isaac Vogel.
Lycoming College Leadership and Service Awards Banquet
Wednesday evening I attended my alma mater’s 11th Annual Leadership and Service Awards Banquet as their Seuren Leadership Speaker. The purpose of the Speaker Series is to help build a culture of leadership at the College that espouses service, ethics and critical thinking.
Lycoming College holds this event to recognize the hard work, service and leadership of students who dedicate their time and effort to improve their communities and help their fellow peers and citizens. The students recognized at this banquet represented fraternity and sorority life, the Community Service Center and a number of clubs and organizations and their advisors.
Here are a few key excerpts from my message to the Lycoming students:
Again, let me state how happy I am to return to campus. Decision-making is a critical component of leadership & I’m very pleased to note that my decision to come here as a student in 1976 was one of the very best decisions I ever made. I learned so much here and made several life-long friends.
It may have been in one of Dr. Roskin’s political science classes where I was first introduced to this fundamental concept, absolutely true in politics and government and I suspect many other fields of endeavor: always remember, that whatever your hard work or your accomplishments someone will be ready to loudly say: yeah, well, what the heck have you done for us lately?
This is 100% true – but still, let me repeat – do the right thing & don’t worry about who gets credit.
Today that concept is often summarized as “lifelong learning” – which, I suppose, is the only rational explanation for why I continued to take grad classes well into my 40s. Dr. Blumer planted that seed deep into my brain at my freshman convocation, and I am very glad he did … although I will admit how happy I was when I finally finished the Ph.D. dissertation.
My wife, Beth, my partner who had to drive our son & daughter to a lot of soccer practices while I was working on my laptop will always refer to that document as my thesis from hell.
There’s another important leadership lesson – the importance of teamwork, of partnership. I would truly be lost without Beth & I probably should tell her that every day. I don’t but I should. It might be a result of my “PA Dutch” roots. I promise you I’ll tell her tonight when I finally get home.
My professors all stressed the importance of both traditional textbook knowledge and real-life, practical experience. Continue to look for those volunteer experiences. Who knows what you will learn, what experience you will gain, or what future doors will be opened for you. But don’t just do it for those reasons – do it because the future of America literally depends, every day, on people freely volunteering their time and their finances for worthy causes.
Step by step by step in the senate & in my classes, progress is often, excruciatingly incremental - but keep at it, day by day. Hard work matters.
Your years here have hopefully been a grand adventure. It certainly was for me. Lyco took a very typical & confused high school senior and gave me a focus. It taught me the importance of time management & introduced me to life-long friends.
Congratulations on all you have achieved to date. Continue to volunteer, continue to work hard, continue to learn, continue to serve either here at Lycoming, for those of you who are not graduating; and to the class of 2017, I say – continue to seek out all of the real – world experiences which await you outside of this beautiful campus.
Community shredding event
I joined Representative Neal Goodman Thursday morning for a community shredding event that took place at Schuylkill Mall in Frackville.
During this event, residents were able to bring their confidential and secure documents to be shredded, free-of-charge. We shredded 9,800 pounds of documents!
The PA Office of the Attorney General also presented a program called “Protecting Yourself from Scams and Fraud.”
The documents were shredded on site by Blue Mountain Document Destruction, and provided residents with the opportunity to safely discard their personal information in order to avoid becoming victim to identity theft and scams.
OIG files welfare fraud charges against 68 individuals across the state
From January 1 – January 31, 2017, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) filed welfare charges against 68 individuals in Pennsylvania.
The welfare charges against these 68 individuals will generate $420,018.93 in restitution paid to the state, as well as additional savings as these individuals will be temporarily ineligible to receive public benefits from the programs they defrauded.
The breakdown for restitution totals by each public benefits program is as follows:
The penalties for various degrees of fraudulent criminal activity for public assistance is as follows:
Based on these facts and figures, it is critical that we continue to combat welfare fraud across the state. If you suspect welfare fraud, you are encouraged to call the Welfare Fraud Tip Line at: 1-800-932-0582 or visit the OIG’s website at www.oig.pa.gov.
Reading Health System hosts Substance Use Disorder event
Reading Health System will be hosting an event to educate the public about the negative effect that drugs have on an abuser’s brain, as well as the detrimental impact it has on our communities and society as a whole.
Reagan Wetherill, a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and a panel of health professionals from Reading Hospital will be present to discuss Substance Use Disorder and addiction.
The event is free-of-charge and will take place on Thursday, May 4 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:45 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel located at 701 Penn Street in Reading. Individuals interested in attending this informative event are required to register by calling 484-628-4357 or visiting www.readinghealth.org/sud.
Checking for mine subsidence risk
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is urging homeowners to examine updated mine maps in order to determine if mine subsidence poses a threat to their home or other buildings.
According to the department, more than one million homes in the state sit on the top of abandoned mines. When mine subsidence occurs on a property, the damage is often financially burdensome and can cost a homeowner more than $100,000 in damages or even the total loss of the structure.
Homeowners can purchase mine subsidence insurance (MSI) coverage that is administered by DEP through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Homeowners can also visit the Mine Subsidence Insurance website, www.pamsi.org, to see if their home sits on top of an abandoned mine, as well as to examine maps, data and risk areas. You can also call 1-800-922-1678 for more information about mine subsidence.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, April 24 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.