Senator Argall E-Newsletter

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  • Schuylkill River: More Improvement Needed
  • Controversy over Critical Race Theory in Berks County
  • Tamaqua Revitalization: Preserving another Important Landmark
  • New PennDOT Fee Hikes Dead on Arrival
  • Berks County Conservation District Celebrates 75th Anniversary
  • Hearing Examines COVID-19 Policies for the 2021-22 School Year
  • Congratulations to the Gold Medal North Schuylkill Girls’ Track and Field Team

Schuylkill River: More Improvement Needed

The Schuylkill River was once considered one of the dirtiest, most polluted waterways in the country.  Now we all have a responsibility to continue its remarkable comeback—to make things better, as suggested in my worn, 1972 Scout handbook, which I referenced at the public hearing

On Tuesday morning, I chaired a public hearing with legislators from Berks and Schuylkill County, agency representatives, and members of the public in Schuylkill Haven to review the progress of longstanding efforts to clean up the Schuylkill River and its nearby creeks and streams.  While many parts of the river have seen major improvements throughout the last 50 years, there was one thing everyone could agree on: much more needs to be done.

I began the two-hour hearing by asking these questions:

  • Why have some of our local towns enjoyed major improvements in water quality, while in other nearby towns the same creek is still choked with pollutants?
  • How do we prevent future flooding in Port Carbon, Gilberton, Pine Grove, and so many other local towns? 
  • How do we assist small towns like Coaldale and Lansford in preventing raw sewerage from reaching the Little Schuylkill River at Tamaqua and eventually, Berks County and points further south? How much will it cost?

Read this article to learn more.  To watch the full roundtable, visit this link.

I was joined by Rep. Joe Kerwin (R-Schuylkill), Rep. Tim Twardzik (R-Schuylkill), Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) and Rep. Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks) at Tuesday’s roundtable

Controversy over Critical Race Theory in Berks County

I’ve heard from many of my constituents in Berks and Schuylkill Counties about critical race theory and whether it should be included in schools. As illustrated in this article from the Reading Eagle, this issue has created controversy at every level of government, from local school boards to the state Senate and House in Harrisburg, including Wilson and Kutztown Area School Districts.

Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Barbara Gleim (R-Cumberland) recently introduced a bill that would disallow critical race theory  in public schools, which you can learn more about here.  

Tamaqua Revitalization: Preserving another Important Landmark

In the last few months, more and more visitors have been arriving in Tamaqua thanks to the train excursions operated by the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad.  Some of the visitors make the trip in order to enjoy the local restaurants and others visit to see the local museum and the historic architecture.  Read more about the fully restored and operational train station here.

Last week, Rep. Jerry Knowles and I visited the historic Daniel Shepp House in Tamaqua to celebrate another successful historic restoration.  Dale Freudenberger, the Chairman of Tamaqua’s Historic Architectural Review Commission, noted the difficulties faced by the property owners and local officials when considering how to address the deterioration of the building:

“As the years passed by, the front façade of the historic 1888 Daniel Shepp House at 204 East Broad Street in Tamaqua was starting to fade, wood rot became visible, and the windows were drafty and allowed cold air to come in.  The current property and business owners faced a dilemma: they occupied a rare 1888 Eastlake Style, center turret Victorian home in the Tamaqua National Historic District in the heart of downtown Tamaqua.  Should they cover the façade with vinyl siding to prevent further damage, or do they restore the ornate, original façade?”

Ultimately, they chose restoration, and the results speak for themselves!! Learn more here.

Rep. Jerry Knowles and I view the fully restored facade of the historic Daniel Shepp House alongside Dale Freudenberger, Christine Holman, and Linda Marchalk

New PennDOT Fee Hikes Dead on Arrival

This week, the Transportation Revenue Options Committee, which was created by Governor Wolf to recommend solutions to the significant funding issues facing PennDOT, published their final report.  The recommendations include a fee of 8.1 cents per mile driven on Pennsylvania roads and a new tax on delivery services. 

Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington), threw cold water on these recommendations stating, “He’s a lame duck governor, and our leadership has already alluded to the fact that this is dead on arrival… You didn’t include us in the process and now you want to get this passed through the General Assembly?  No thank you.”

Read more about the proposal and responses from members of the General Assembly here.

Berks County Conservation District Celebrates 75th Anniversary

I spoke on the importance of the occasion next to Piper Sherburne, the Chair of the Board of Directors for the conservation district

This week, Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach and I celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Berks County Conservation District.  This important local organization has worked diligently to improve and sustain Berks County’s natural resources so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.  Congratulations on the milestone!

Learn more about the wide array of programs offered through the conservation district here.

Hearing Examines COVID-19 Policies for the 2021-22 School Year

With the start of the new school year approaching, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on COVID-19 policies and guidance for Pennsylvania schools.

The hearing featured Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam and Education Secretary Noe Ortega. Committee members questioned the constitutional authority for school districts to impose pandemic-related mandates on students without an emergency declaration.

You can view the hearing and read testimony here.

Congratulations to the Gold Medal North Schuylkill Girls’ Track and Field Team

On Wednesday, I joined Rep. Tim Twardzik to honor the North Schuylkill Girls’ Track and Field team. We presented them with House and Senate citations for winning the Class AA Track and Field State Champions, the first in school history for that sport!

Pictured here:
Front row (seated l to r): Jordann Bridy, assistant coach; Megan Osilka; Cori McCormick; Sarah Wagner; Katie McCormick; and Brooke Ennis, assistant coach.
Standing (l to r): Rep. Tim Twardzik and Myself
Middle row (l to r): Kevin Keating, Head Track and Field Coach; Bryonna Bolich; Ryley Schwalm; Kailey Roberts; and Tony Chatkiewicz; assistant coach.
Top Row (l to r): Corey Mentzer, assistant coach; Mike Russell, assistant coach; and Bob Moyer, assistant coach.

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