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In this email update:
I would like to wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!
As we give thanks for all of the blessings we have in our lives, I would also like to take this time to show gratitude towards the brave men and women in our military who are unable to be with their families over the holiday – for their selfless service in protecting our nation’s freedoms and values.
Also, as a reminder for all those traveling to visit their friends and loved ones, please be safe and allow yourself plenty of travel time so you can arrive to your destination safely.
For more information on safe travel tips, please click here.
Allentown NIZ receives award as one of the best revitalization efforts on the planet, but Governor Wolf continues to oppose it?
The Urban Land Institute has awarded Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) a Global Award for Excellence –one of the highest awards of its kind in a global competition with every city and nation on the planet. Allentown’s NIZ was chosen for its recent efforts to revitalize the downtown area, creating more than $1 billion in new construction and renovations and thousands of new jobs for local residents.
Despite the proven results of such zones, the governor has refused to allow any additional communities to enter the program despite bipartisan requests from struggling towns and cities, large and small, across the state.
During the state budget hearings this year, I asked why the governor is not utilizing these powerful economic development tools passed by the legislature on a bipartisan basis—despite the fact that he signed the law to expand the efforts.
During the budget hearings with the Department of Community and Economic Development, I reminded them of their mission, which is to “foster opportunities for businesses to grow and for communities to succeed and thrive.”
Since the 1950s, many of our smaller communities and our mid-sized cities such as Reading and Pottsville have seen a rapid decline.
My question to Secretary Davin highlighted his department’s claim on its website regarding the KOZ program, which noted that “KOZs are such a breakthrough idea that Business Facilities magazine calls them the number one economic development strategy in the nation.” Given such a definitive statement from the governor’s own agency, I simply cannot understand why the governor has refused to use this powerful bipartisan tool to rebuild our struggling communities.
If the Urban Land Institute recognizes the NIZ as a positive force for community revitalization, along with its CRIZ and KOZ cousins in Tamaqua, Bethlehem and Lancaster, why won’t the governor?
Read more about Allentown’s NIZ award here.
Pennsylvania voters support property tax elimination
Despite the governor’s opposition, Pennsylvania voters approved a constitutional amendment which permits the General Assembly, for the first time ever, to enact legislation to expand the homestead exclusion up to 100 percent.
As a response to the opposition to this initiative, I recently submitted the following Letter to the Editor to The Republican Herald regarding the urgent need to eliminate our current school property tax system which is hurting homeowners across the state:
In response to the pre-election editorial in the Republican Herald titled, “Amendment not worth voting for,” Pennsylvania’s voters spoke loud and clear on November 7 regarding their desire to completely eliminate the school property tax once and for all. On that day, Pennsylvania voters approved a constitutional amendment by a vote of 958,607 to 817,144, or 54 percent to 46 percent, to permit the General Assembly to enact additional legislation regarding the much-hated property tax.
In Schuylkill County, it was a complete landslide: 69 percent of voters approved the measure, and only 31 percent of voters opposed.
Thanks to the “yes” voters, we now have several more legislative options to move school property tax elimination forward that we did not possess before the election. I will soon meet with the grassroots advocacy groups that are pushing for school property tax elimination to select our best options.
Then, my strongest bipartisan Senate allies and I will meet with every single senator and ask each of them, “Which one do you support?” The proposals that obtain the most votes will be the ones that we will vote upon in the Senate and from my perspective, the sooner, the better!
School property tax elimination is by far the #1 issue that I hear about from residents not only in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, but across Pennsylvania.
The school property tax is severely antiquated and in need of complete replacement. This burdensome tax, which dates back to the 1830s, is not only crippling the American dream of home ownership for current homeowners, but for future buyers as well.
We came close to passing a measure in the Senate for the first time in history in 2015 that would completely eliminate the school property tax, as proposed in Senate Bill 76, however the lieutenant governor cast the tie-breaking vote against the measure.
Countless local people have voiced their personal stories to me regarding the negative impact the school property tax has had on their lives. Some residents have told me they are months away from losing their homes, others are considering moving to another state where school property taxes are significantly lower, and some have shared that their mortgages are actually less expensive than their ever-rising school property tax bill each year, therefore welcoming almost any tax shift.
Their message is clear to me: they want the school property tax to be completely eliminated – not reduced, not reformed – eliminated.
Based on the results from Tuesday’s election, a 141,463 vote victory, we now have an even stronger mandate to move forward, winning 56 of 67 counties. The people I represent here have been very clear in their instructions to me on this issue, despite the many obstacles: Don’t give up!
You can read the full Letter to the Editor from The Republican Herald here.
Recognizing good Samaritans in your community
I am encouraging residents in the 29th Senate district in Berks and Schuylkill Counties to nominate their friends and neighbors who serve their communities and help their fellow citizens each and every day.
When submitting your nominations, please provide the following information:
Periodically in my e-newsletter, I will feature an individual who has been nominated for their public service.
I look forward to reading about these good Samaritans!
Addressing the growing opioid/heroin crisis in Pennsylvania
With the deadline fast approaching on December 10, I am encouraging middle and high school students in Berks and Schuylkill Counties to help us combat the growing heroin and opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities by creating a video that will shed light on this crisis.
“Talk to Your State Senator,” a statewide video competition sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania, with support from members of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Association of PA, is intended to get students involved in legislative efforts to fight heroin and opioid abuse. Students are encouraged to submit video entries no longer than five minutes which highlight ways to combat abuse, help those who suffer from addiction and develop laws to address this current problem.
Through the help of students across Pennsylvania, who have witnessed first-hand, the negative impact that drugs can have on individuals, we can raise awareness and provide support to those suffering with substance abuse.
For more information about the video contest, please click here.
Registering for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program
As you know, Senate Bill 3, which was signed into law last year, legalizes medical marijuana and permits physicians to recommend medicinal cannabis to patients who would benefit from such a treatment.
Since the Medical Marijuana Patient and Caregiver Registry opened on November 1, over 6,000 patients and more than 300 caregivers have registered to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. In addition, more than 100 physicians have also been approved to join the program.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is encouraging patients and caregivers who are interested in registering for the medical marijuana program to prepare with the following steps:
For more information about the medical marijuana program, click here.