In this email edition:
Memorial Day: Honoring Four-Star Army General George A. Joulwan and a Local Tragedy from the Civil War
On Sunday night, I attended a Schuylkill County Historical Society dinner to honor retired four-star Army General George A. Joulwan. Joulwan, who is a Pottsville native, rose throughout the ranks of the military throughout his distinguished career and ultimately served as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe.
His message reminded me of what my European history professor from Lycoming College explained about the events of D Day when we visited Omaha Beach in 2014: it was a terrible place for our soldiers to land, but the other alternatives were worse!
Read more about the event here.
When we consider the sacrifices made by our brave service members, remember the story of Agnes Allison, a Port Carbon resident who lost four sons throughout the course the Civil War. A monument in Port Carbon recalls the sacrifices her family made in defense of our country. You can read the full story of the Allison family here.
To all former and current service members in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, thank you for your service and your sacrifice on our behalf.
Election results: Reporter asks: Is this the first quack of a lame-duck governor?
After Pennsylvania voters decisively supported two constitutional amendments to limit any PA governor’s future emergency powers in this year’s primary election, an article from the Pennsylvania Capital-Star questioned whether the votes were the “first quacks of a lame-duck governor.” The term “lame duck” refers to the fact that Governor Wolf is prohibited by the state constitution from running for re-election in 2022.
Throughout the pandemic, Governor Wolf often took a unilateral approach to emergency management, including his administration’s arbitrary business shutdowns that devastated many smaller employers in Pennsylvania. Voters clearly did not favor his approach and voted by a significant margin to allow the state Senate and House to have a say in future emergency declarations.
In Berks County, the questions were approved by a margin of 22%. In Schuylkill County, voters approved the questions by a margin of more than 31%.
Reading Eagle: Bill to support volunteer firefighters faces opposition from Governor Wolf
Volunteer firefighting companies across Pennsylvania are currently experiencing a severe shortage in volunteers that has become much worse in recent years. To help attract new volunteers to provide this incredibly important community service, Senator Michele Brooks (R-Mercer) introduced a bill that would provide a tax credit to firefighters who actively volunteer for more than two years.
I signed onto this bill because I believe it would be a step in the right direction for our volunteer firefighters. Governor Wolf’s administration opposes the bill though because they believe the program would be too expensive. As I stated in an article from the Reading Eagle, can you imagine what would the impact be on local property taxes if the volunteer system collapsed and boroughs and townships in Berks and Schuylkill counties had to pay for professional firemen?
Schuylkill County receives $980,000 in Blight Remediation Grants
Schuylkill County organizations recently received over $980,000 in grants to fight blight. Blight affects us all – it lowers our property values, it strains the real estate market, it hurts our schools, it breeds crime, and poses a serious threat to our safety and well-being. This issue continues to be a top issue in many of our older communities. I was pleased to work with State Representatives Knowles, Kerwin, and Twardzik to see that Schuylkill County was selected to receive this highly competitive funding.
The following communities and organizations received funding:
Population losses in rural areas contribute to loss of seat for Pennsylvania in Congress
During a recent hearing I chaired of the Senate State Government Committee that focused on congressional redistricting, the committee heard testimony about Pennsylvania’s demographic trends. Kyle Kopko, the Director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, testified that many rural counties have seen significant population decreases in the past decade, while urban areas have seen increases. This combination has led to statewide population growth that lags behind the national average and ultimately led to Pennsylvania losing a seat in Congress for the next decade.
Pennsylvania has a long history of congressional map making which has included the loss of many congressional seats due to slow population growth. The continuing decline of rural populations is the main contributor to this problem.
More information about Pennsylvania’s changing demographics will be available later this summer when the Census Bureau releases more details of their 2020 count. Read more here.
How can we encourage environmentalists and manufacturers to work together?
Last week, I traveled to Pittsburgh for a hearing of the Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee to review a recently cancelled U.S. Steel $1.4 billion-dollar expansion that would have create 1,000 high-paying jobs. Finger-pointing in the local media blames permitting problems, loud opposition from environmental groups, and 101 other possible causes, much to the dismay of the union workers who hoped to work there.
At the public hearing, I asked a simple question: Can’t we work together to ensure clean air and water AND bring good-paying jobs to our state, rather than ship those jobs off to Arkansas? Watch my full comments above, as well as a Senator who spoke in defense of “radical greens.”
New Small Businesses in Downtown Shenandoah
I visited downtown Shenandoah last week to tour their ongoing revitalization efforts. Susan Williams, the Executive Director for Downtown Shenandoh Inc., and I stopped by a new business on Main St – Sweety Multi Service, owned and managed by Dulce Cruz. New small businesses like this one help breathe new life into older communities like Shenandoah. It was a pleasure to welcome Dulce, and I wish her great success!
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