In this email edition:
New COVID-19 Restrictions Announced by Governor
Governor Wolf has ordered a new round of COVID-19 restrictions that will begin on Saturday. The restrictions include a prohibition on indoor dining at restaurants, reduced occupancy limits on retail businesses, the suspension of all K-12 extracurricular activities and tighter capacity limits on both indoor and outdoor activities.
The new restrictions could be catastrophic for the restaurant industry, which has already seen hundreds of thousands of workers idled and more than 7,500 businesses closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Legislation to Support the Continuing Clean-up of Old Coal Mining Sites
In the past few decades, in Schuylkill County and across many coal mining sites throughout Pennsylvania, we have all seen gray and black landscapes transformed back to green meadows and forests. Today, I see people catching fish in what were dead streams just a few years ago, which is very good news for anyone living near the Schuylkill River in Berks and Schuylkill Counties. The goal of my coal refuse amendment, which passed with the budget legislation in the last few weeks, is to continue this trend. You can learn more here.
We have lost too many local jobs with the recent closing of power plants in McAdoo and Frackville. The jobs and the environmental remediation these plants provide by utilizing mountains of waste coal from decades ago, refilling abandoned strip mines for the first time in generations, and restoring local streams and rivers, are so important that I made this legislation my #1 budget priority this year.
Recapping the 2019-2020 Session
Like the lives of all of the people of Berks and Schuylkill Counties, the work of the Senate was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, we had to move quickly this year to mobilize a response aimed at saving lives and maintaining essential government services.
The Senate approved legislation to provide immediate assistance to keep hospitals running and make more PPE available to health care workers. We voted to provide more accessible unemployment compensation for workers who lost hours or jobs due to the statewide shutdown of employers, and enacted legislation allocating federal funding for county governments, community service providers, first responders and food banks that have been impacted by the virus.
As May ended, the Senate approved a five-month interim state budget to fund critical state services until the long-term impacts of Governor Wolf’s shutdown of the economy were fully known and more accurate fiscal projections could be made. In November, the Senate finalized the 2020-21 budget without increasing taxes, fees or debt.
You can read more about the accomplishments here.
Calling for Election Investigations
I have signed three letters advocating for investigations into the 2020 election process.
I call upon the Attorney General to appoint an independent prosecutor to ensure the statutes governing our elections were not violated, and to make recommendations to the General Assembly concerning further internal control policies to prevent even the appearance of election manipulation in the Commonwealth.
I call upon the Inspector General to appoint an independent prosecutor to examine the PA Department of State’s last-minute changes to ignore election laws and court decisions, as well as to review any IT issues with our voting systems.
I call upon the Governor to convene the legislature for a special session to examine the irregularities of Pennsylvania’s election and begin the process of restoring confidence in our electoral system.
From Long-Abandoned Factory to Quality Housing for Seniors: Minersville’s Miners Lofts Receive Tax Credits for Geisinger Health Center
Representative-elect Tim Twardzik (R-123) and I this week announced that Minersville’s Miners Lofts will receive $375,000 in tax credits to build a LIFE Geisinger Health Services facility within the complex. Since Miners Lofts will provide affordable housing for seniors, the inclusion of this facility will support healthy living for future residents while also allowing them to live more independently.
I would like to thank everyone involved with this project, especially former Representative Neal Goodman (D-123). This is an excellent example of converting a site which has been abandoned for generations into quality housing in our neighborhoods, which can only be accomplished through bipartisan cooperation and partnerships between public and private citizens. Congratulations to the two local business leaders who made this happen, Bud Quandel and Craig Shields!!
Above you can see the old blighted building. Below are the newly renovated rooms.
You can read more about Miners Lofts here.
New Sidewalks in McAdoo
Representative Jerry Knowles (R-124) and I joined McAdoo Mayor Dane Watro and McAdoo Borough Council members Bill Slovik, Bernie Bumbulsky, Mary Labert, and John DeBalko to commemorate a $160,000 grant given to the Borough to support the construction of new sidewalks along Route 309. This project is part of the restoration of Kennedy Drive in McAdoo.
At one point, it looked as though McAdoo would be stuck with a huge bill by PENNDOT to complete this project—or even worse, that the roads would be upgraded but the sidewalks would be left in a badly damaged condition. This was not a bill that the taxpayers of this small northern Schuylkill County borough could afford to pay.
This competitive grant will be a big boost to the borough, which has been working diligently on this effort to improve the area around Route 309 from the ground up. I was very pleased to support this local effort. Grants like this will benefit local residents for years to come.
You can learn more here.
Past Senators: Luther Keefer (1834-1908)
Luther Keefer was born in Adams County in 1834, but later moved with his family to Schuylkill Haven. He was an apprentice in Colebrookdale Iron Works in Berks County. He later worked at an iron and brass foundry in Cressona, where he made parts for the burgeoning railroad industry.
Keefer served as a local councilman and school director. His essential work in the iron works prevented him from joining the Civil War. He did however, become an enrollment officer for the Army and was part of an emergency militia during the Gettysburg Campaign. He was appointed a US marshal. His State Senate career lasted for 19 years from 1877-1896, where he served as a Republican.
You can read more about him here.
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