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In this email update:
Celebrating family milestones
I hope you all enjoyed Mother’s Day earlier this week.
The Argall clan celebrated near Reading to thank my mom for all that she has done for us throughout her many years with us. As noted in the photo, three of her four grandchildren were able to join her: My nephew Brady Argall and niece Kaitlyn Argall and my daughter Elise (center); my son AJ was finishing up his law school finals at NYU, so no celebrations for him, yet!
I’d also like to congratulate all of the local high school and college graduates! This past Thursday, AJ graduated from the NYU School of Law.
Reforming lieutenant governor selection process
I will soon be introducing legislation that will change the way lieutenant governors are selected. My proposal would amend the state’s Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate, which is a process similar to how Presidential candidates select theirs.
Under this bill, gubernatorial candidates would be required to select their running mate within 30 days after the primary election.
The goal of this initiative is to foster better cooperation, communication and trust between the governor and the lieutenant governor. By allowing the governor to have input in selecting a lieutenant governor, a stronger relationship will be forged, taxpayer money and resources would be saved and these two important members of the executive branch can lead more effectively and efficiently.
Right now, we are witnessing a troubled relationship between the governor and the lieutenant governor waste time and taxpayer resources. And this is not the first time that a forced marriage with our top two members of the executive branch has failed the people of Pennsylvania.
The constitutional amendment process to this proposal is threefold: (1) it requires the proposal to be approved during this legislative session which ends November 2018, (2) it has to be approved again in the next legislative session which begins in 2019, and (3) it would then be placed on the ballot for the approval of Pennsylvania’s voters.
Read more about the legislation here.
Review of DNC Host Committee spending
Saving taxpayer money and eliminating wasteful spending is a top priority for the General Assembly, so when we hear about taxpayer funds being misused, our goal is to remedy this issue immediately.
Recent reports indicate that the DNC Host Committee had a $4 million surplus of funds leftover after the Democratic National Convention that was held in Philadelphia last summer. At least $1 million was used to pay for bonuses and special interests – taxpayers contributed $10 million for this event.
Given the fact that the host committee had $4 million in surplus funding and none of these dollars were given back to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers, many people, including the governor and members of the legislature, have asked that the Pennsylvania Auditor General thoroughly review the committee’s fiscally irresponsible spending.
Both the governor and the Senate Majority Leader, President Pro Tempore and Appropriations Committee Chairman formally requested that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, conduct a review on how the money that was received from taxpayers was utilized during the convention earlier this week.
Read the Senate’s letter to the Auditor General here.
Read more about the committee’s spending from the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
Tour of Hamburg Center
Last Thursday afternoon, I toured the exterior property of the Hamburg Center in Berks County. The tour was led by Ford Thompson from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
In January, the Department of Human Services announced the closing of the Hamburg Center, which has provided care and health services to individuals with intellectual disabilities for more than 50 years.
Prior to this announcement, I testified at a public hearing on the center’s potential closure, where I stressed the importance of ensuring that each resident at the center will receive appropriate placement and continue to receive quality care and attention during the transition. I also highlighted the need for local government officials to be well-informed every step of the way during this process in order to have a sound grasp on budgetary planning, municipal services and infrastructure upgrades.
To read my full testimony or learn more about the Hamburg Center, please click here.
Later that same day, I held a public meeting (with more than 100 people in attendance) at the Hamburg Area High School to hear what local residents want to see the property become in the future because we certainly do not want it to become a vacant, dilapidated property that is more of a liability than a resource for the community.
The majority of attendees supported turning the Hamburg Center into a VA hospital. Some other ideas that were suggested include: an educational center, a retirement village and a nursing home. Watch the meeting here.
You can read more about the public meeting from the Reading Eagle here.
30th anniversary of SCI Frackville
Last Friday, Representatives Goodman, Knowles, Tobash and I attended the 30th anniversary of SCI Frackville.
For the past 30 years, SCI Frackville has helped to maintain the public’s safety and created more than 400 jobs for local residents.
During the anniversary celebration, I presented several correctional officers with certificates congratulating them on their well-deserved retirement, as well as thanking them for their service over the years. I even received a certificate of appreciation from SCI Frackville recognizing my efforts to keep this efficiently-run facility open.
As you can remember, back in January, there was an announcement regarding the proposed closing of SCI Frackville. Upon hearing this news, many local residents reached out to us to voice their concerns about the negative impact it would personally have on them. 5,670 local residents even signed a petition urging the governor and Secretary Wetzel to keep this facility open.
Luckily, the Department of Corrections agreed with us that SCI Frackville is an efficiently-run facility that should be expanded – not eliminated. Following this decision to keep the facility open, we held meetings in Schuylkill County and at the State Capitol to discuss ways that we can further improve SCI Frackville so that we can avoid any potential closings in the future.
Representative Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill) and I also highlighted the efforts that led to keeping SCI Frackville open earlier this year as part of “The Argall Report.” You can read more about this program here.
Berks County Police Heroes Fund memorial service
On May 5, I attended the Berks County Police Heroes Fund dedication and memorial service in Bern Township.
This event was to honor, recognize and remember the 18 members of the Berks County law enforcement who selflessly gave their lives in order to protect our communities. The service also honored the police K-9’s who work loyally and tirelessly alongside their partners. Statutes were created to memorialize these valiant members of our law enforcement.
Thank you for your service!
Vietnam Vets Memorial dedication ceremony
This past Saturday, I attended the Schuylkill County Vietnam Veterans Memorial 20th year dedication service.
During this event, I presented a citation honoring the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Schuylkill County Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
It is important to take time to honor our veterans – both living and deceased, who have demonstrated both sacrifice and an unwavering commitment to fighting for our freedoms and liberties.
Read more about the event from the Republican Herald here.
Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations Seminar
On Thursday, June 1, the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO), along with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, will be holding a community service seminar hosted by the Lewistown Grange.
The purpose of this seminar is to provide farmers and agriculture producers with information about compliance requirements as laid out in the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
During the seminar, a discussion regarding risk management will also take place. The topics that will be covered regarding risk management include: food safety, crop insurance and key questions farmers should ask insurance agents in order to make sure their specific needs are met.
The event is free of charge and will take place at the Zion Church Social Hall located at 489 Valley Road in Tamaqua from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. A light lunch will be provided in the afternoon.
For more information about the seminar, please contact Vince Phillips at the PSCFO at: 717-232-9665 or Manager@PSCFO.com.
Walk In Art Center show at the Capitol
The Walk In Art Center, located in Schuylkill Haven, recently held an art show at the State Capitol. The show featured several pieces of art created by local artists. I purchased a copper painting of the State Capitol that was made by Kathi Mengle. The painting is hanging in my Harrisburg office.
Swatara State Park
Jon Hopcraft from my Harrisburg office and I recently explored what is now one of my favorite spots in the 29th Senate district – the hills and trails of Swatara State Park in western Schuylkill and Lebanon Counties.
After biking 18 miles, Jon begged me to stop. And if you believe that, there’s this bridge for sale…
Tax Amnesty Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is offering a Tax Amnesty Program, waiving all penalties and cutting in half the interest owed, through June 19, 2017. It is estimated some 862,600 taxpayers are eligible to participate.
Nearly 80 percent of those eligible are Pennsylvanians owing more than $2.1 billion in back taxes, with another 21 percent from out-of-state owing a total of $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth.
The 2010 tax amnesty program, only the second ever offered, generated $254.6 million from nearly 59,500 delinquent taxpayers. Those participating in the 2010 PA Tax Amnesty Program are not eligible for the 2017 program.
Preventing pedestrian injuries and fatalities
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wants to know if your community has an intersection with a documented car/pedestrian crash history or a location where pedestrians have difficulty crossing the roadway because motorists fail to yield.
Following the loss of 77 pedestrians in Pennsylvania during the first six months of 2016, representing a 30.5 percent increase over 2015, PennDOT is reminding municipalities of the availability of “Yield to Pedestrian” signs. The portable free-standing signs are to be placed within the driver’s line of sight.
Consult the Regional Offices map to identify your county’s region and refer to the Pedestrian Brochure for your local PennDOT Engineering District Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator to obtain free safety signage for your community.
Road safety reminder
Pennsylvania safety laws require motorists driving with their wipers on, to also turn on their vehicle’s lights, according to the PA Department of Transportation.
Critical times that your vehicle’s lights are required to be on include:
Motorists with daytime running lights are required to switch on headlights thereby activating their taillights. Wipers On, Lights On became law with the enactment of Act 159 of 2006.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, May 22 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.