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In this Email Update:
School property tax elimination focus of podcast
Earlier this week, I sat down with Jason Gottesman, the Bureau Chief of the PLS Reporter, to discuss our ongoing fight to eliminate school property taxes. The podcast explores the history of the bill over the last few years, the latest on the bill and what to look forward to in 2017.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Committee explores future waterfront development across state
On September 15, the Senate Majority Policy Committee, which I chair, held a public hearing in Chester to receive testimony from various stakeholders on the support of a waterfront development tax credit, along with concerns about its implementation.
These stakeholders included local elected officials, economic development authorities, real estate experts and two prominent riverfront development groups. I believe this could be a catalyst for future economic development along our waterways all across the state.
One of the testifiers, Jay Sukernek, who worked on the successful revitalization of Pittsburgh’s waterfront, noted that the new program could duplicate efforts across the state. You can read more about the hearing in the Delaware County Daily Times.
More information including video of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website.
Nearly 20,000 residents participate in regional telephone town hall event on opioid crisis
On Wednesday evening, I joined my Senate colleagues from the region to discuss the state’s ongoing effort to fight the heroin and opioid crisis plaguing our local communities.
Senators Gene Yaw, Lisa Baker, John Gordner, Mario Scavello and I spoke during the event, which is part of a legislative effort to gather information on how the growing epidemic is affecting Pennsylvania and what can be done to save lives and battle addiction.
If you were unable to participate in the event, you can still listen to the conversation here.
If you would like to sign up to participate in a future telephone town hall event on this topic, please sign up at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com.
If you would like to participate in local events to learn more about this problem and how you can make a difference, Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) in Tamaqua is hosting several events over the coming months. LCCC is partnering with the Pennsylvania State Police to provide a four-week course focusing on the dangers of heroin. Courses will take place on Oct. 25, Nov. 2, Nov. 9 and Nov. 16.
These events are free and open to the public.
You can learn more about the classes here.
Pennsylvania Association of Building Code Officials hosts annual conference
On Tuesday, I joined local officials from all across the state, including those from Berks and Schuylkill counties, to discuss the latest efforts to win the war on blight.
This was the third consecutive year I’ve been invited to speak at the conference. During my remarks, I noted that the bicameral and bipartisan Blight Task Force, which was created by my predecessor Senator Jim Rhoades, has been on the front lines fighting the war on blight.
Oftentimes, people associate blight as a problem reserved for only big cities. However, we have many communities throughout rural Pennsylvania battling blight. For example, over the summer, a fire ripped through 13 vacant rowhomes in Shenandoah. Shenandoah is a town that has lost 80 percent of its population since the decline in the anthracite coal industry.
One of the measures I’m supporting in the Senate would provide another tool for municipalities to pay for demolition-related projects. Senate Bill 486 would create a county-optional fee, up to $15, on deeds and mortgages recorded at the county to be used exclusively for demolition. It’s truly housing helping housing – the demolition of vacant and abandoned property will lead to growth in the real estate market locally, allowing for property values to increase by eliminating blighted properties.
I also touched on a bipartisan measure I’m working on with Senator John Blake to expedite the state’s foreclosure process for vacant properties. A vacated property could sit in the foreclosure process for over a year. These properties become dangerous eyesores that reduce property values of nearby properties, and studies have shown that these properties become prime locations for increased criminal activity, thereby reducing public safety. Seven other states have measures in place to expedite the foreclosure process on vacant properties.
Finally, during the conference, I noted that blight is like cancer – if you catch it early, you can kill it all together. Orwigsburg Borough was successful in turning a vacant knitting mill into housing for senior citizens and a public library for the community. This is just one example of a community using tools available to them both locally and statewide to turn blight into new opportunities for local residents.
Farmers market guide to PA’s finest produce
Fall into a Farmers Market near you or turn to the Pennsylvania Farm Market Guide, organized by county, for a list of hundreds of vendors located across the state and awaiting your visit, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
From apples to wines produced throughout the year, the “When to Buy Guide”, located on page 277, indicates availability of Pennsylvania produce. Or, locate just what you desire through the PA Preferred interactive products map.
VisitPA would like to introduce you to farming’s best, largest, oldest and much more. Join PA’s popular farm-to-table movement attracting everyone from moms and dads to foodies looking for clean, fresh cuisine.
Schuylkill County Firemen’s Parade a success!
Last weekend, I joined men and women who serve as volunteer firefighters all across Schuylkill County during their parade in Tremont.
Schuylkill County has the second-largest population of volunteer firefighters. These men and women devote valuable time to protecting our communities. The parade was the conclusion to a weeklong convention discussing important topics to the firefighting community.
Read more about the event here.
Senate committees explore changes to state budgeting processOn Tuesday, the Senate Majority Policy Committee teamed up with the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee to learn more about reforms to the state budget process.
Specifically, the committees heard from the state Budget Office, the National Association of State Budget Officers, local school officials, the Independent Fiscal Office and Senator Bob Mensch. Senator Mensch is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1341, which would require all departments and agencies to justify their budget requests beginning with dollar one, for all existing as well as proposed programs for each fiscal year, before they can receive consideration for budget funding.
Other states and a few school districts across the state have adopted this approach to budgeting.
To watch the hearing and read testimony presented to the committees, please click here.
Keep children safe as school buses return to the roads
Encountering a school bus on a narrow rural road versus a multi-lane highway requires differing responses by the driving public to ensure each child’s safe return home. The Pennsylvania School Bus Stopping Law outlines the requirements for motorists when encountering a stopped school bus. For example, drivers are required to STOP when:
Motorists must stop at least ten feet from a stopped school bus and remain stopped until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm has been withdrawn before moving.
Engage your students in preparing for the hours ahead spent on the school bus with PennDOT’s “School Bus Safety Activity Book” to promote safe, respectful school bus behavior.
Don’t forget! Help Senator Argall with his 2017 calendar
I’m holding my first-ever photo contest to showcase the best of Berks and Schuylkill counties. I’m compiling the best photos to create a calendar for local residents for 2017.
Photographers of all skillsets are encouraged to participate.
Here are the rules:
Contestants may submit up to five photos per category of their favorite shots.
The categories are: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The contest is open for both adults and children, but photos must have been taken by residents of the 29th Senatorial District within the boundaries of the 29th Senatorial District.
To determine whether your photo is eligible, please click here to view a map of the district.
The contest will remain open for submissions until Friday, October 7, 2016. Voting will take place from Friday, October 14, 2016 through Sunday, November 13, 2016. Voters will be permitted to cast one vote once per device.
To learn more about this exciting competition, including photos submitted to date, please visit my website.
Is it bullying?
Bullying affects 28 percent of students in grades 6 to 12 and 20 percent of students in grades 9 to 12, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Along with the “Is It Bullying?” Quiz, Pennsylvania is providing a Bullying Prevention Toolkit and Guides for parents, educators, and professionals to help differentiate between bullying and conflict. The Toolkit discusses how to respond to cyberbullying and the potential legal implications of bullying-type behaviors.
A toll-free Bullying Consultation Helpline is manned by individuals trained to help develop strategies to cope with and end bullying. Students, parents, guardians, and professionals in PA school districts may call 1-866-716-0424 to get help in addressing bullying.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, September 26 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.
On Tuesday, September 27, I am holding a public hearing of the Senate Majority Policy Committee to review demographic trends in Pennsylvania and its impact.
Locally, I continue to see the ongoing impacts of the Great Recession and many of these communities are trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves. This hearing will give us a better understanding of trends occurring not just here, but across the country as a result of the recession.
Learn more about next week’s hearing here.