In this update:
Working Together to Improve PA Colleges and Universities
I was invited to two events this week to discuss higher education as the new chair of the Senate Education Committee. At both events, I discussed the “power to convene” – in other words, if we invite people to sit down and chat with us, they are often willing to do so. Sometimes, the results are routine—and sometime, the results are spectacular.
A perfect example of this is my work with Lehigh Carbon Community College, the Morgan Foundation, and the Tamaqua Area School District to transform the vacant junior high school where my parents once taught into LCCC’s Morgan Campus in Tamaqua.
In 2002, Governor Mark Schweiker visited Tamaqua for the announcement that local students would receive free tuition at this new campus. We changed the lives of SO MANY on that day!
Solving the issues facing Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher education is not a simple task, but I’m hopeful that by collaborating on a bipartisan basis, we can make significant progress.
From Mahanoy City to Penn State Head Basketball Coach: Congrats to Mike Rhoades!
Congrats to Mike Rhoades, the new coach of Penn State’s men’s basketball team. Mike is a proud native of Mahanoy City and the son of Mary Edith and the late Senator Jim Rhoades – I keep this picture of their family from 1984 in my Mahanoy City office. During this week’s budget hearing with Penn State, I mentioned to President Neeli Bendapudi how proud Schuylkill County is!
New Apartments at St. Joseph’s Hospital?
A new plan aims to transform the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hazleton into 150 market-rate apartments, a convenience store, and more. There’s a significant housing shortage in the Hazleton area and we’re hearing more and more from local employers that their employees need places to live to avoid long, expensive, daily commutes.
Many of us have fond memories of this building, where my “little” brother Doug entered the world in March of 1968. Unfortunately, it has been vacant and blighted for 12 years – restoring it to productive use will be a huge boost for the neighborhood.
I toured the building with Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat last year and discussed potential uses for it – I’m happy to see a plan on the path to becoming a reality!
Highway Construction in Schuylkill, Carbon Counties Announced for 2023
Several large reconstruction projects on highways throughout Schuylkill and Carbon Counties will take place during 2023, including the reconstruction and widening of Route 443 in Lehighton, the paving of Route 61 from Pottsville to Schuylkill Haven, and the paving of I-81 from Pine Grove Township to Foster Township. PennDOT expects to issue their list for Luzerne County soon.
I regularly receive complaints from local people about the condition of our state roads – and for good reason. I’m thankful these important projects will proceed this year, but we need to do more to ensure our roads and bridges are safe for drivers.
Senate Concludes Week Two of Budget Hearings
The Senate Appropriations Committee continued public hearings this week on the proposed 2023-24 state budget.
As the chair of the Senate Education Committee, I participated in this week’s hearings with the Department of Education, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and State-Related Universities (Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln University).
I questioned Acting Secretary Khalid Mumin of the Department of Education about why record levels in education spending haven’t led to better performance from our students.
I also asked Acting Secretary Mumin about Governor Shapiro’s flip-flop on funding school choice programs.
I asked the presidents of Temple, Penn State, Lincoln University, and Pitt about what efforts they’re undertaking to address the teacher shortages in our state.
I asked PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein to give an update on the integration of six schools into two. Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania includes Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield. Pennsylvania Western University includes California, Clarion, and Edinboro.
Find full hearing recaps, video, livestreams and upcoming schedule at PASenateGOP.com.
Lansford’s No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum Opens for 2023 Season
The No.9 Coal Mine & Museum is opening for the season this weekend. Located between Coaldale and Lansford, the museum features a 1600-foot ride into the heart of the mountain and a huge collection of artifacts.
There’s no better place to experience what the job of a coal miner in past decades was like – I know it brought me a greater appreciation for the conditions my great-grandfather Howells worked in. You can see his pink slip from when he lost his job when the mine closed in 1932 here—note that it’s actually PINK!
Touring the Sophia Coxe Education Center
I was invited to tour the Sophia Coxe Education Center in Hazle Township with Rep. Mike Cabell and Rep. Dane Watro. Sophia was the wife of Eckley B. Coxe, who owned many local patch towns in the nineteenth century, including Eckley Miners’ Village. Sophia gave away over ninety percent of her income to charitable works and was known as the “the angel of the coal fields.”
Her home is preserved in Drifton to educate people about her family history. Thank you to Bryan Dunnigan, who gave us our tour, for the invitation!
NEPA Among Top Regions for Economic Development
For the third straight year, Northeastern Pennsylvania was recognized as one of the best locations in the Northeast U.S. for economic development projects, due to its central location amongst major cities on the east coast. Thousands of family-sustaining jobs have been created in recent years thanks to new employers investing in Luzerne, Carbon, and Schuylkill Counties.
I’ve met with local leaders in Hazleton, Lehighton, and other Luzerne and Carbon County communities to discuss how to continue the incredible progress seen in the region in recent years, which would not be possible without successful public-private partnerships.
Help Our Struggling Military Members
Anyone who is owed a Pennsylvania personal income tax return has a convenient opportunity to support our military members, veterans and their families who are facing tough times.
You can help those who serve our nation and commonwealth by making a gift to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program. All donations will benefit those with a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control.
On lines 32 through 36 of the Personal Income Tax Return, fill out Code C. If you do not have an overpayment on your return, you may make a donation by sending a check directly to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program, c/o Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Building 0-47, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003-5002.
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