Breathing New Life into Schuylkill and Berks County Communities
One of the most important issues before us is revitalizing our older communities.
Why have some of our local towns seen some real progress? Because local Republicans, Democrats, and Independents–from the local, county, state, and federal governments–have put party labels aside and worked together with local volunteers and the private sector to combat the economic devastation which hit this region decades ago.
The full story is here. Check out a recent edition of the Argall Report, which covers revitalization efforts in Pottsville, above.
Governor Wolf Pulls Nomination for Acting Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid
Governor Wolf announced last week that he was recalling his nomination of Veronica Degraffenreid as Secretary of the Commonwealth after the Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, scheduled public oversight hearings to probe decisions and actions of the Department. In a direct challenge to our long-established constitutional concepts of separation of powers, the Governor stated that Acting Secretary Degraffenreid will continue to serve in her role without Senate confirmation.
I scheduled these hearings because the Department of State has dealt with unprecedented turmoil under the Wolf Administration. Acting Secretary Degraffenreid is now the fourth person to serve in this role since Governor Wolf took office, while both Governors Rendell and Corbett both only had one for the duration of their tenures in office. It is especially important to review the Department’s actions since the previous Secretary, Kathy Boockvar, resigned in disgrace after an egregious error derailed a constitutional amendment that aimed to bring justice to victims of childhood sexual abuse.
In response to this unusual and questionable move by the Governor, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman stated that the Senate will not honor the recall request. The Senate will fulfill its constitutional obligation to advise and consent – not watch and submit. Read Senator Corman’s full statement here.
New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Spur Additional Revitalization Efforts
Tamaqua was the first borough in Pennsylvania to be selected for the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) pilot program seven years ago. This program aims to encourage business growth in underdeveloped properties by keeping state and local tax dollars collected within the zone to aid revitalization efforts. Since Tamaqua received this coveted designation, Governor Wolf has refused to allow any new communities to receive a CRIZ designation since 2015.
One of my newest colleagues in the Senate, Senator Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna), recently announced he will introduce a bill that would require the Department of Community and Economic Development to approve at least one CRIZ application per year. I will support this bill so more communities across Pennsylvania can experience the same improvements that Tamaqua, Lancaster, and Bethlehem have witnessed. Learn more about the proposal here.
Check out the video above to learn more about revitalization efforts in Tamaqua, many of which were directly benefited by the CRIZ program.
State Government Committee Reviews Bipartisan Election Reforms
Watch my opening remarks from Thursday’s hearing
I chaired both a hearing and a voting meeting of the Senate State Government Committee this week.
On Thursday, I chaired a public hearing reviewing Senate Bill 878, a bipartisan election reform bill I introduced with Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia). While Senator Street and I represent very different districts, there are some necessary changes to our election code that we both can agree need to be implemented. The proposed changes in this bill originated from the bipartisan Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, which was created to make recommendations on how Pennsylvania’s election code could be improved. Learn more about this hearing here.
On Tuesday, the committee voted on six bills, four of which were updates to Pennsylvania’s election code. Learn more about this voting meeting here.
Another Busy Weekend in Berks and Schuylkill Counties!
Rep. Kerwin and I joined Valley View Park Association President David Williams, and Mr. Buffington’s sons Blake and Scott at the ribbon cutting for the newly named A. Donald Buffington Bridge
One of the best things about this job representing you as your Senator: It is NEVER a 9-5, Monday through Friday, “same old, same old” responsibility, and last weekend is a perfect example.
Last Saturday, Representative Joe Kerwin and I were invited to a dedication ceremony at the Valley View Park in Hegins. The ceremony honored three men – A. Donald Buffington, Franklin R. Stahl, and William H. Wagner – for their volunteer efforts that helped maintain the park and make it the community gathering place it is today. A nearby bridge was named for Mr. Buffington, the park’s pavilion was named for Mr. Stahl, and the park’s chapel was named for Mr. Wagner. Read more here.
Check out this picture from 2017 featuring the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum’s beautiful mural.
I then travelled to Hamburg, where I participated in a ribbon cutting for the brand-new Rail Car Protection Building at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum. This new structure will protect some of the most vulnerable equipment from the museum’s extensive collection of historic locomotives and cars from weather damage. Visit this link to the museum’s website to learn more about their exhibits and to plan your trip to see this incredible piece of Pennsylvania history!
Beth and I then travelled to Kempton at the invitation of the WK & S Railroad’s for their scenic Harvest Moon Special Train Ride. We both enjoyed the ride and all the beautiful sights to see! Learn more about their train rides here.
On Sunday, Beth and I enjoyed “Mother Jones in Heaven” at the Stitch Theater in Tamaqua. Mother Jones was a legendary labor organizer who led efforts more than one hundred years ago to improve working conditions for coal miners and fought the use of child labor across the nation–more on why that issue is so important to my family next week! Learn more about this production here.
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