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In this Email Update:
Senator Argall goes “Over the Edge”
As part of a fundraising and awareness campaign, Bethany Children’s Home invited me to go “Over the Edge” on Wednesday to help children who have suffered traumatic events and build skills for the future.
The 3-day fundraising event includes over 90 individuals rappelling 5 stories down the side of 525 Student Apartments, located on Lancaster Avenue in Reading.
Based in Womelsdorf, Bethany Children’s Home was founded in 1863 and has helped families and children who experienced trauma in their lives. The funds raised through their “Over the Edge” event will benefit Bethany’s mission to build skillsets for children through art, music, recreation and academic enrichment therapy programs.
Congratulations to Bethany Children’s Home and all involved for a successful event in raising both awareness and funds!!
Learn more about Bethany Children’s Home here.
Senate committee explores waste coal opportunities for region
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a public hearing in Jim Thorpe on Tuesday to review the importance of Pennsylvania’s waste coal facilities on the environment and economy.
The hearing provided an opportunity to learn about the major role these waste coal facilities play in efforts to clean up legacy coal refuse sites. Most importantly, without these waste coal facilities, the Department of Environmental Protection estimates that the cleanup would cost billions of tax dollars over a 500-year period.
You can learn more about this hearing on the committee’s website.
PPL grant program for teachers
In an effort to boost interest among students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), WITF, PBS39 and WVIA have partnered together through the PPLEmpowering Educators program to accomplish this endeavor.
Sponsored by PPL Corporation, the PPLEmpowering Educators program will provide grants to schools in the 29 Pennsylvania counties that receive service from PPL in order for them to provide their students with educational STEM-related projects such as math competitions and science fairs.
Teachers can receive $1,000 for these projects, and since its creation in 2003, PPL has awarded over $165,000 to 93 schools across the state.
The application process is open until October 31, 2016 and the winners of these grants will be announced December 2, 2016.
For more information about the grant program or to apply, please click here.
Applying for the Fire Company, Emergency Medical Service Grant Program
Applications for the Fire Company, Emergency Medical Service Grant Program are being accepted until October 21, 2016 at 4 p.m.
The Fire Company, Emergency Medical Service Grant Program provides grants to fire companies, emergency medical services and volunteer rescue squads across the state so they can improve and enhance the services that they provide to their communities such as firefighting and rescue operations.
All fire companies, emergency medical services and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grants for the following projects: facilities, equipment, debt reduction, training, training and education materials regarding fire prevention for the public and career departments.
For more information about the grant program and application process, you can contact the Office of the State Fire Commissioner at 800-670-3473 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also click here for more details about the program.
Protecting customers in Pennsylvania key to proposal
This session, I’ve worked with Representative Gary Day on a proposal that would increase penalties on illegally operating commercial household goods movers in Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, I participated in the 11th annual Pennsylvania Moving and Storage Associates Conference and Expo to provide an update on efforts to protect consumers.
I’ve fielded complaints from residents who hired unlicensed/illegal household goods movers that had horrific experiences – damaged furniture that was not replaced or covered, threats and more.
Household goods movers in the Pennsylvania are required by law to register and obtain a permit with the Public Utility Commission (PUC). However, a number of companies operate outside the law by failing to register with the PUC. These companies also fail to carry adequate insurance coverage for the contents they transport, and others do not carry worker’s compensation coverage for employees.
Senate Bill 857 and House Bill 1769 would make it a $5,000 fine and a third degree misdemeanor for illegal household goods movers. Vehicles used in an illegal move would be confiscated and registration would be suspended.
Repeat offenders would be subject to a $10,000 fine. The bill only applies to commercial, for-hire entities.
Schuylkill Farm Bureau meeting in Orwigsburg
I recently participated in a meeting with the Schuylkill Farm Bureau to provide several legislative updates to local farmers and attendees.
I provided updates on a new law allowing for industrial hemp in Pennsylvania. Another key issue that has the strong support of local farmers, as well as the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the Property Tax Independence Act. I reminded them that we are still searching for two additional votes in the Senate to pass – for the first time in history – a bill that would completely eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania. Farmers, along with a majority of homeowners, would benefit greatly from the elimination of this unfair and archaic tax that dates back to the 1830s.
We also spoke on issues surrounding the dairy industry, updates to the noxious weeds law as well as state funding for important agricultural program.
Thank you to all who attended and again, thank you to the Farm Bureau for the invitation to provide a few updates!!
Redistricting process in Pennsylvania
Several local residents have contacted my office regarding their concerns with redistricting in Pennsylvania. This is a subject I have reviewed extensively, both as a legislator and as a part-time public policy instructor at Penn State and I thought it would be helpful if I provided more information about the process and its establishment.
Gerrymandering dates back to the 1700s. As you may already know, legislative redistricting, under the terms of the PA Constitution, is a more bipartisan process than congressional redistricting here. Under the PA Constitution, legislative districts for both the House and Senate are required to be redrawn every decade following the federal census. Article 2, Section 16 states, “The Commonwealth shall be divided into 50 senatorial and 203 representative districts, which shall be composed of compact and contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable. Each senatorial district shall elect one Senator, and each representative district one Representative. Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district”.
In regards to the timeline for when redistricting takes place, Article 2, Section 17 provides this information, whereby a bipartisan Legislative Reapportionment Commission redistricts both the House and Senate in the year following the Federal decennial census.
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission is comprised of five members, four of which are both the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House, or deputies that are appointed by the leaders, and then a chairman is selected. The commission is responsible for reapportioning districts in Pennsylvania. This is different than the congressional redistricting process, which is not handled by the commission, but rather through legislation that needs a simple majority vote by the House, the Senate, and then must be signed into law by the governor.
One of the first bills I ever introduced was on this subject and I do believe that we should reform this process, but do not for one moment imagine that this will be a simple task. What I will not support, as some local residents have suggested, is to allow this or any future governor to appoint the people who draw the legislative boundary lines. The governor already can frequently "blackmail" the members of the House and Senate throughout the legislative process and I am not interested in giving him additional weapons for his already-considerable political arsenal.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, October 17 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.
Also on Monday, October 17, the Senate Majority Policy Committee is holding a joint public hearing with the Senate Education Committee to review issues related to student loans and financial literacy for students and parents. The hearing will start at 10 a.m.
Learn more about next week’s hearing here.