In this email edition:
Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment Limiting the Length of Disaster Declarations
After a long debate this week where every Senator representing Berks and Schuylkill Counties spoke regarding the impact of this terrible pandemic, on our health and our economy, the state Senate approved a constitutional amendment by a bipartisan vote of 28-20 that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, moving it one step closer to a voter referendum.
As of today, Pennsylvania has had an active COVID-19 emergency declaration for 328 days and one to combat the opioid crisis for 3 years. There should be no scenario in our democracy where one person can wield this kind of power indefinitely.
Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 2, the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved a longer duration.
Senate Bill 2 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being placed on the ballot for voters to decide. The measure was approved by the General Assembly in the previous legislative session by bipartisan votes of 33-17 in the Senate and 115-86 in the House.
I have seen friends, neighbors, and colleagues struggle with the symptoms of COVID-19. Some of them lost their battle with this deadly virus. My goal will continue to be to protect our health AND our local economy. Passing this amendment will strengthen our system of checks and balances and ensure that the voices of all Pennsylvanians are heard during future emergencies….not just one person!
Judge Christina Hale Recovering from Tough COVID-19 Battle
As I’ve noted above, we’ve all known people here in Berks and Schuylkill Counties who have been harmed by this deadly virus. This week, one page-one story in a local newspaper described the case of Schuylkill County Judge Christina Hale, recently nominated to the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas through a bipartisan effort which I helped shepherd through the state Senate. Unfortunately, Judge Hale contracted a very bad case of COVID-19 in November and she is still dealing with lingering symptoms. I wish her a full and speedy recovery!
You can read the full story here.
Pottsville Parking Garage Update
Photo from the Republican Herald
Real progress is finally being made on a new parking garage in downtown Pottsville! The new garage will have over 200 parking spaces available and will support both local business and visitors to the area. This project is part of a wider effort by Pottsville’s Continued Progress to revitalize the city in its comprehensive redevelopment efforts.
As with many community revitalization projects, this project could not have been completed without dedicated efforts from both public entities and private citizens. This well-deserving project received a $2 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant, which are awarded to regional economic, civic and historical improvement projects, due to how close it is to the most well-known tourist destination in Schuylkill County, Yuengling Brewery. All monies received have been matched with an equal amount of private investment. My office worked with the City of Pottsville’s Redevelopment Authority, Greater Pottsville Sewer Authority, Dick Yuengling (who personally donated $2.8 million), and the USDA Rural Development office with assistance from Congressman Meuser to bring this project to fruition.
State’s Vaccine Distribution Receives Bipartisan Criticism
As of January 26th, Pennsylvania was ranked 35th in the country in terms of vaccines administered per 100,000 residents. This poor effort has led to bipartisan questioning of how the Department of Health is handling the rollout of the vaccine.
Senator Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) said, “Pennsylvanians are confused and anxious to receive a vaccine, and they deserve clearer communication and more concrete answers.”
On Thursday, February 4th, I will join the Senate Aging & Youth Committee and the Senate Health & Human Services Committee in a public hearing to demand more answers on the troubled implementation of the state vaccination plan from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Representative Kathy Rapp (R-65th), as chairwoman of the House Health Committee, also plans to use her committee to investigate the rollout of the vaccine in PA.
You can learn more here.
Applications Available for Recreation and Conservation Grants
Local governments and conservation organizations can apply now for grants to support parks, recreation and conservation projects. The grants are funded through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Applications can be submitted through 4 p.m. on April 14. Tutorials are available to help potential applicants learn how to apply.
District Offices Now Open by Appointment Only for Property Tax/Rent Rebate
While my Hamburg office in Borough Hall remains closed at the request of Borough Hall and only available for appointments, my offices in Pottsville and Mahanoy City will now be open by appointment only to assist residents with their property tax/rent rebate paperwork due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the current volume of walk-ins these offices are experiencing.
Staff will be strictly adhering to CDC and Department of Health guidelines regarding cleaning, social distancing and wearing masks. This move is to ensure that our offices can continue to help constituents as Pennsylvanians continue to grapple with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lengthy shutdown it has caused.
Any of my district offices can be contacted to set up an appointment. Inquiries can also be submitted online at www.senatorargall.com.
Mahanoy City: 570-773-0891
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