In this email edition:
My Bill to Prevent Department of State Failures Passes Senate
After an error by the Department of State derailed a bipartisan effort to bring justice to victims of childhood sexual abuse and led to the resignation of its top officer, Secretary Kathy Boockvar, the Senate passed my bill this week to make sure the department never makes such an awful mistake again.
Senate Bill 764 is based on the findings of an investigation undertaken by the Office of the Inspector General after the Department of State failed to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment earlier this year. The bill will require formal training for the Department’s employees regarding their legislative responsibilities and the constitutional amendment process, ensuring these critical requirements never again are allowed to slip through the cracks.
Watch my remarks on the floor of the Senate below. Read more here.
Reviewing the Needs of our Local State Corrections Officers
Last Friday, Rep. Knowles, Rep. Twardzik and I visited SCI Frackville to review the needs of our local state corrections officers–people who put their personal safety on the line every day to protect us from Pennsylvania’s most dangerous criminals. Unfortunately, they’ve been dealing with more challenges than ever in recent months.
A recent article from the Republican Herald highlighted some of the mandatory overtime challenges facing corrections officers at SCI Mahanoy. The article states that one “officer said he feels like the staff is ‘treated worse than the inmates.’” Read the full article here.
Bipartisan Updates to Election Code, Transparency Measures Passed by Senate State Government Committee
The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, met again this week to pass five bills, including updates to the election code and measures that increase transparency while protecting individual privacy.
This week’s votes reflect the bipartisan focus of the committee on how Pennsylvania’s elections should be conducted and how we should improve the state government’s commitment to openness and transparency, especially when compared to the multiple sins of past decades. Learn more about the bills here and watch the full meeting above.
The State Government Committee will hold two public hearings next week. The first will be a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewing the Department of State’s failure to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment to allow victims of child sexual abuse to file civil actions. The second hearing will review my bipartisan election reform bill, Senate Bill 878.
Check out the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum’s “Full Steam Ahead” Educational Events
The Reading Railroad Heritage Museum will hold the “Full Steam Ahead” educational program the next three Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to teach children about the history and engineering behind the Reading Railroad. Visit this link to the museum’s website to learn more about the program and to register your child today!
September 24: Commemorating Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving Day
This year marks the 287th anniversary of the Schwenkfelder immigration from eastern Europe. As an 11th generation descendent of the Schwenkfelders, September 24th will always hold a special meaning for me. The Schwenkfelders originally lived in what is now eastern Germany and Poland but were forced to flee their homes to escape religious persecution.
Upon reaching Pennsylvania after a grueling voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, they settled in the region between Philadelphia and Allentown, including what I always knew as a child as Great-Grandmother Schultz’s farm on the Berks/Montgomery County line. On September 24, 1734, the Schwenkfelders gathered for the first time to give thanks for their safe arrival in the new land of freedom. Every year after, they continued to meet in worship and called the day Gedächtnistag, or Day of Remembrance.
Gedächtnistag is considered the oldest continuous celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States. Learn more about this here.
Bills to Fight Pollution of our Local Streams and Rivers Passed by Senate Committee
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee passed two bills this week which I have cosponsored to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in improving rivers, streams, state parks, and other natural resources around Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 525 would support infrastructure projects in state parks and forests across Pennsylvania, preserve thousands of acres of farmland, and fund grants to upgrade municipal sewer systems. Senate Bill 832 would establish a Clean Streams Fund of over $250 million to curb pollution in rivers and streams across Pennsylvania. Every dollar spent would come from funds allocated to Pennsylvania from the federal American Rescue Plan.
I was a sponsor of the original Growing Greener Program that was established decades ago. While many of our rivers and streams have seen considerable improvement, much remains to be done to assist small towns like Coaldale and Lansford, which desperately need to stop the awful pollution of the Panther Creek, but do not have the tax base to properly fund the upgrade of their system. We also need this assistance to improve our flood control efforts in communities such as Spring Township, Wernersville, Gilberton, Pine Grove, and Port Carbon.
Watch this short preview of the next edition of the Argall Report, which reviews our recent Schuylkill Haven public roundtable on how we can expand the environmental progress we’ve witnessed on the Schuylkill River in Berks and Schuylkill Counties.
Mother Jones, Child Labor, and the Awful 1882 Death of Thomas Argall
I mentioned in this newsletter last week that when watching the one-woman play on the life of Mother Jones at the Tamaqua Arts Center, her advocacy against the issue of child labor had special meaning for my family. With the assistance of the Schuylkill County Historical Society, I have learned of the tragic life and death of my great-grandfather’s Uncle Thomas.
First, he lost a leg in a terrible accident while working in a coal mine near Pottsville when he was just 15 years old.
According to one newspaper account, because of his disability he was given a different job as a night telegraph operator at a railyard in northeast Philadelphia, where he was considered one of the best operators at the division where he worked. Tragically however, at the age of 18, he slipped and fell near an oncoming train due to his disability. He was buried in Pottsville, where I wondered why his gravestone above is marked with a telegraph key, of all things. Thanks to the Schuylkill County Historical Society, I now understand. And, because of advocates like “Mother” Jones, child labor has long since been outlawed…. after a terrible cost to people like my distant cousin Tom!
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