In this email edition:
Are Partisan Redistricting Organizations Just Pretending to be Neutral?
Testimony received during a hearing of the Senate State Government Committee highlighted many of the difficulties and controversies surrounding the process of congressional redistricting.
“One reason to be suspicious about the non-partisan groups is they ignore Maryland. So, you look just to the south of Pennsylvania, I saw a headline yesterday, that Maryland Democrats are considering an 8-0 map, Democrat to Republican. One reason why I became suspicious of Fair Districts Pennsylvania and ultimately was frustrated and made my concerns heard, they were not heard, and I consider them to be a Democratic activist group masquerading as a non-partisan group.”
Amanda Holt first gained her passion for redistricting in 2003, when the split of her municipality caused confusion for her neighbors at the polls. Her love of puzzles and attention to detail led to her becoming an expert on the redistricting process. Amanda advocated, above all else, keeping all counties and municipalities whole in Congressional redistricting. She submitted several maps that accomplish this goal.
David Thornbugh and Justin Villere of the Committee of Seventy’s “Draw the Lines” project gave testimony on “The Pennsylvania Citizens’ Map,” which is based on the work of over 7,000 Pennsylvanians who have submitted maps in five different public competitions since 2018. As David Thornburgh stated, redrawing districts is a “Rubik’s cube” problem – moving a boundary in Erie can have ripple effects that require changes in Berks County.
Wanted: Ideas to Welcome the Lithuanian Ambassador to our Region
I recently received a letter, which you can read above, from Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States Audra Plepytė after her visit to Harrisburg last month. It was a pleasure to meet her and introduce her on the floor of the Senate, which you can watch below, including my attempt to greet her in Lithuanian.
Rep. Tim Twardzik and I are planning to invite her to visit Schuylkill County, which has one of the highest populations of Lithuanian ancestry in the United States, for a tour and to discuss opportunities for cultural and economic development. Have an idea? Please contact my office ASAP!
Senate to Consider Redesign of PA Constitutional Amendment Process
After a year marred by critical mistakes by the Department of State, this week I chaired a hearing of the Senate State Government Committee reviewing a proposal to redesign the process of amending the state Constitution.
Earlier this year, an unprecedented error by former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar derailed a constitutional amendment to protect victims of child sex abuse. Boockvar resigned in disgrace. Two months later, the Department of State published ballot questions that were widely criticized as biased.
Senate Bill 940 would give the responsibility of advertising proposed constitutional amendments and drafting ballot questions to the Legislative Reference Bureau, a non-partisan bureau responsible for drafting legislation.
During his testimony, Shannon Royer, the former Deputy Secretary for External Affairs and Elections for the Department of State, said, “Senate Bill 940 goes a long way in helping to ensure that we will never face another situation like we experienced with the childhood sexual abuse amendment. This is a commonsense reform that will restore confidence in how Pennsylvania administers the advertising of constitutional amendments.”
Learn more about this hearing here.
Need Christmas Gifts? Shop Local!
If you’re looking for ideas for Christmas presents this year, remember to shop local! Across Berks and Schuylkill County, from Hamburg to Pottsville to McAdoo to Spring Township, there are so many stores to check out for creative gift ideas.
The Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the “Let’s Keep the Cheer Here” initiative, which provides has a variety of month-long deals for local shops. Visit this link to see the full list.
I had the chance to tour one of the locations that’s part of this program, The Arts Barn, as part of a previous edition of the Argall Report. Watch the clip below to see everything this location has to offer and my interview with the Director of the Arts Barn, Deb Cooper.
The Greater Reading Chamber Alliance is also sponsoring an event for small businesses. Learn more about their Shop Small event, which will take place on Saturday, November 25th, or Small Business Saturday, at this link.
Customer Assistance Programs for Electric Bills this Winter
With the weather getting colder by the day and inflation driving up prices across the board, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of programs available to households struggling to pay their energy bills. Visit this link to the PPL Electric Utilities website and this link to the Met Ed website to learn more about which of the different programs you may be eligible for.
November Argall Report: New Opportunities for Local Nurses in Berks, Schuylkill
The November edition of my local TV program focuses on education and career opportunities for current and prospective nurses.
Our nurses really stepped up during this terrible pandemic. In Berks and Schuylkill Counties, we are blessed with numerous educational institutions and medical centers where nurses can develop fulfilling careers with family sustaining wages. We’re going to need at least one million new registered nurses by the end of the decade to meet our country’s healthcare demands.
In this edition, I discuss opportunities for nurses in the 29th District including the partnership between Berks County and Penn State Health St. Joseph, the inaugural class of medical students at the Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health, Alvernia University’s nursing program, Penn State Schuylkill Campus’ new nursing center, and the new nursing simulation center at the Lehigh Carbon Community College’s Morgan Center in Tamaqua.
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