The Riot at the National Capitol in Washington, DC
The words of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, just as our awful civil war was about to erupt, are just as important in January 2021:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Abraham Lincoln was correct. I support the constitutional right to peaceful protest, but what we saw Wednesday afternoon at the national capitol was just plain wrong. There’s a big difference between peaceful protest and breaking and entering, destruction and chaos. I hope we never, ever, see this again.
Swearing-in Day in Harrisburg
Schuylkill Representatives Left to Right: Tim Twardzik, Jerry Knowles, Joe Kerwin, and Me
I was sworn into office for an additional four-year term in the Senate on Tuesday. Thank you to all the residents of Schuylkill and Berks Counties – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – who overwhelmingly voted to send me to represent them in the Pennsylvania Senate through 2024.
Congratulations are in order for our two new local State Representatives, Tim Twardzik (R-123) and Joseph Kerwin (R-125), on their first terms in office and Representative Jerry Knowles (R-124) on being named Chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee for the first time.
On the Knowles appointment- I chaired this committee in the House and the Senate. This committee has worked in a strongly bipartisan manner for years, passing a number of important anti-blight laws including providing additional enforcement tools to local governments and funding for demolition and revitalization. Rep. Knowles is an excellent choice, as a former police officer, borough council member, and mayor, to lead this important committee and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to his new role as committee chairman.
You can read more here.
Berks Representatives: Me, Jerry Knowles, Mark Gillen, Barry Jozwiak, and Ryan McKenzie
Pennsylvania Schools Receive $1.9 Billion in COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grants
The recently passed federal stimulus package contains $1.9 billion in emergency relief funds for both public and private schools across Pennsylvania. This includes 20 school districts and charter schools in the 29th Senatorial District. This news comes after the Senate Majority Policy Committee, which I chaired, heard testimony from educators who raised concerns as to whether school districts would be able to handle the financial burden placed on them by the COVID-19 mitigation measures of the Department of Education.
You can learn more here.
Lebanon VAMC Begins Scheduling COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution for Veterans 75 or Older
Lebanon VA Medical Center (VAMC) announced it will begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations for veterans aged 75 years and older this week. All veterans, regardless of their age or priority group, may indicate their interest in receiving the COVID vaccine on the VA’s Stay Informed page. Veterans should NOT contact the medical center to schedule an appointment for the vaccine; instead, VA staff will contact and schedule them based on priority and availability of vaccine.
Virtual PA Farm Show Kicks Off January 9
Although all in-person events for the 2021 Pennsylvania Farm Show have been cancelled due to COVID-19, many exhibits and events will still take place virtually. A schedule of events details the exhibits that will be available each day from January 9-16.
Fire and EMS Companies Can Apply Now for Federal Grants
Volunteer and career fire departments and EMS organizations can apply now for grants to support training, equipment purchases and other critical public safety priorities through the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. Applications are available through February 12.
Workshops and webinars are scheduled throughout January to help fire and EMS companies learn more about the program and how to apply.
The Passing of Former Governor Dick Thornburgh and Representative Mike Reese
Former Pennsylvania Governor Richard (Dick) Thornburgh passed away on December 31, 2020, at the age of 88. My condolences to his wife Virginia (Ginny) Judson and his four sons: Peter, David, John and William.
In addition, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Representative Mike Reese over the weekend. Mike served the people of the 59th Legislative District in Somerset and Westmoreland counties with honor and distinction since 2009, and his tireless leadership and dedicated advocacy will be sorely missed in the halls of the state Capitol.
He is survived by his wife Angela and three children. My heartfelt condolences go out to Mike’s family during this difficult time.
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