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September 2017

Baker Report Features Innovative Approach to Learning

Fall 2017 Baker Report - Interview with 2017 PA Teacher of the Year

Bridges built with gumdrops and toothpicks. Skyping with students around the globe. Mining for macaroni. Just a typical day in the life of a student in Michael Soskil’s Wallenpaupack South Elementary School classroom in Newfoundland.

I recently visited the 2017 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year to see for myself how he uses technology in the classroom, opening it to the world and beyond. He is a passionate mentor with a knack for getting kids motivated to discover. It was exciting to watch the enthusiasm the students had for science, and the hands-on interaction and outside-the-box thinking they utilized was impressive. We can all learn something from Mr. Soskil and his unique approach to education.

Voters will Decide on Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Expand Homestead Exclusion

On November 7, 2017, Pennsylvania voters will be asked to consider a proposed constitutional amendment to enact legislation to expand the current homestead exclusion. The existing homestead provision was approved by the electorate on November 4, 1997 by a vote of 1,240,406 to 778,104.

In order for the Pennsylvania constitution to be amended outside of a constitutional convention, the General Assembly must pass identical legislation containing the proposed amendment in two consecutive legislative sessions. The proposal must then be approved by the voters. In the 2015-2016 legislative session, the proposed language was contained in House Bill 147, which passed the House 200-0 and the Senate 45-2. During the current session, House Bill 1285, containing the proposed change, passed the House 190-0 and the Senate 46-2.

Under Section 1, Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution, after passage by the General Assembly, the proposed amendment must be published in at least two newspapers in every county in which such newspapers are published. The Secretary of the Commonwealth is responsible for ensuring the proper publication of the amendment. Pursuant to law, the Secretary of the Commonwealth will submit the proposed amendment to the electors of Pennsylvania in the form of a ballot question at the Municipal Election to be held on November 7, 2017. If a ballot question is approved by a majority of electors voting on it, the corresponding amendment becomes part of the Constitution.

The question which will appear on the ballot states:

“Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?”

Stay tuned for more information on how this constitutional amendment could impact you and your family.

Addressing Sexual Violence on College Campuses Through “It’s On Us PA” Initiative

Baker remarks - "It's on Us" Rally

A package of six bills was recently announced as part of the “It’s On Us PA” initiative to combat sexual assaults. I was among legislators, advocates and college students in joining Governor Wolf to announce efforts to offer better protections for students and improved reporting and response protocols.

Existing policies are regarded as less than victim accessible for several significant reasons, including stigma and privacy concerns. My legislation would offer a substantial remedy by requiring Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to offer online and anonymous options to report sexual misconduct. It would give students and the rest of the campus community another option to provide information on alleged incidents of sexual misconduct.

Other legislative measures include establishing amnesty policies protecting students who report assaults at post-secondary institutions from being disciplined for other policy violations such as drug or alcohol use; publishing an annual report card on sexual violence and harassment in K-12 schools and colleges using multiple data sources; and expanding K-12 health education standards to explicitly address areas of consent and healthy relationships in middle and high school.

To learn more, click here.

State Police Offer Drug Take-Back Boxes

As part of ongoing efforts to combat Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic, 65 prescription drug take-back boxes have been installed at Pennsylvania State Police stations across the commonwealth. The take-back boxes, which were donated by CVS Health, offer a safe method for the disposal of expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medication. Medicines that sit in home medicine cabinets and other locations are at risk of misuse and abuse.

A statewide interactive map has been created to help people find the nearest prescription drug take-back box. Any solid prescription or over-the-counter medication (pills and capsules) may be anonymously deposited in the secure boxes, including pet medicine. “Sharps” (needles, syringes, EpiPens), liquids, and illicit drugs (heroin, marijuana, LSD, etc.) are not accepted at these boxes.

In addition to the boxes at 65 state police stations, there are dozens of drug drop off locations throughout the state including those in or near the 20th District including the Wayne County Courthouse, Lords Valley Pharmacy, the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Eastern Pike Regional Police headquarters in Matamoras, the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office, Geisinger Caresite Pharmacy in Dallas and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office.

Honoring and Remembering

9/11 is a profoundly pivotal day in our experience. 16 years have passed, but time has not dimmed the memories of that horrific day. Above, left, members of The Hideout community in Lake Ariel remember the victims and the survivors, the rescuers and the heroes, the compassionate and the contributors. Above, right, former FDNY members Larry Lutz, Ted Rohlfing and Dennis Asher recall the courage and commitment of our emergency responders during the rescue and recovery efforts.

When men and women make their commitment to serve in our armed forces, we promise to honor their service. When they tragically do not come home, we promise to remember them. And that is exactly what the community of Great Bend did in dedicating the Spc. William “Billy” Evans Memorial Park. Billy had a life of experience and contribution in front of him. But on September 19, 2005, the hazards of warfare cut his journey far too short. Everyone who uses the trail, all who see the marker and learn about his story, will ensure his memory and legacy do not come to an end. So many volunteers contributed to the success of this effort including project organizers Joe Gaughan and Ken Wescott, above, left. Above, right, parents Bill Evans and Judy Parker help officials from American Legion Post 357 and the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs unveil the formal monument.

Held in conjunction with National POW/MIA Remembrance Day, Back Mountain Harvest Assembly’s Watchfire Ceremony is significant and touching. It is important for us to hold open a place in our hearts and prayers for those whose fate remains unknown. This year’s observance featured Iranian Crisis hostage Bruce German, who offered some powerful reflections on his time held captive in Tehran. Attorney Gary Michak served as keynote speaker and paid tribute to all of our veterans and POW/MIAs. Sadly, Gary passed away suddenly, just days later. He was an active and interested member of our community, and he will be remembered fondly for his contributions. Above, left, Pastor Ray Petts offers a prayer as the “watchfire” burns in the background. Above, right, Attorney Gary Michak joins me for a photo.

Offices of Senator Lisa Baker

Harrisburg Office
362 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-7428
FAX: 717-787-9242
M-F: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Western District Office

22 Dallas Shopping Center
Memorial Highway
Dallas, PA 18612
Phone: 570-675-3931
FAX: 570-674-5037
M-F: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Eastern District Office

2512 Route 6
Hawley, PA 18428
Phone: 570-226-5960
FAX: 570-226-5964
M-F: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM