Aug. 02, 2019

Planning Our Transportation, Infrastructure Future

 
I was recently appointed to a newly formed task force charged with outlining the next steps to ensure our Commonwealth is ready for future economic growth.

Development of our transportation and infrastructure systems is very important to the future of southwestern Pennsylvania and the entire state. To build and grow our economy, we must have a safe, reliable and comprehensive system of roads, bridges and infrastructure in place to entice business and industry to come here, invest here and expand here.

We also need to be strategic, not only in WHAT we do next, but in HOW we do it. Our drivers already pay the highest gasoline and diesel taxes in the entire nation…we simply cannot and will not ask for more.

The task force will work to identify alternative sources of funding, discuss how projects are prioritized and aim to ensure each and every dollar is invested wisely to maximize the benefit for residents and the economy. I will especially be working hard to ensure rural areas like ours are getting our fair share of funding.

The task force is made up of members from diverse parts of the state. It is being chaired by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), who also serves on the House Transportation Committee. Other task force members include Reps. Lynda Schlegel-Culver (R-Northumberland/Snyder), Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland), Jonathan Fritz (R-Susquehanna/Wayne), Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk), John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster), Lori Mizgorski (R-Allegheny) and Jesse Topper (R- Bedford/Franklin/Fulton).
 
 
PennDOT Wants to Hear From You

 
To help reduce crashes and fatalities on Pennsylvania roadways, PennDOT is asking drivers to participate in the department’s 2019 Highway Safety Survey.

The five-minute survey asks about seatbelt use, driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, speeding and distracted behaviors.

The survey is open until Monday, Aug. 12, and all responses, including comments, are completely anonymous.

Once data is compiled, the department will review the results for potential additions or adjustments to the department’s safety efforts.

For more information on PennDOT’s highway safety efforts, visit PennDOT.gov/safety.
 
 
Connellsville Municipal Authority Receives $19 Million in Funding

The Connellsville Municipal Authority will receive a $14.9 million loan at an interest rate of 1%, as well as a $4.1 million grant, to help bring its operations into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s long-term plan to eliminate combined sewer overflows. The funding was awarded by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST).

Combined sewer systems are sewers that are designed to collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater in the same pipe. Combined sewer systems transport all wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and then discharged. However, during periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt, the wastewater volume in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant. For this reason, combined sewer systems are designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater directly to nearby streams, rivers or other bodies of water.

The PENNVEST funding will help the authority limit such overflows by expanding the capacity of its treatment plant from 3.24 million gallons per day to 4.4 million gallons per day, adding one new pump station, upgrading an existing pump station and installing new force-mains and interceptors.

This is an important and necessary investment in the health and safety of our community and its residents. We must ensure our treatment systems have sufficient capacity to handle increased volumes of wastewater.
 
 
New Laws Will Help Grow PA Agriculture

A series of bills to support Pennsylvania farmers and help grow the state’s top industry were signed into law by the governor last month.

The measures aim to address several current challenges facing our farmers by creating a special account to help fund the state’s response to threats to livestock or crops, such as African swine fever and spotted lanternfly; providing technical and financial support to farmers for implementing best management practices; and establishing the Dairy Investment Program to provide grants for the struggling dairy industry.

The measures also address the future of the industry by reviving programs to educate school children about the importance of agriculture and healthy eating; raising awareness about career opportunities in the industry; providing tax credits to existing farmers or landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers; and creating the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help every farmer create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan, helping to ensure farm operations continue to thrive through ownership changes.

To learn more about the efforts to support Pennsylvania agriculture, click here.
 
 
Were You Affected by the Equifax Data Breach? File Your Claims Now

If you were one of the 147 million Americans affected by the 2017 Equifax security breach, a settlement has been reached with the credit reporting agency and damage claims are now being accepted.

The settlement reached by a coalition of 48 states includes a Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million to compensate those affected by the breach, with maximum payments capped at $20,000 per person. The deal also includes up to 10 years of free credit monitoring or $125 if you choose not to enroll because you already have credit monitoring services.

You can check to see if you were affected by the breach by using the tool provided by Equifax here.

For more information about the settlement and how to file a claim, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website here.
    
 
Supporting Our National Guard Members and Their Families

A new initiative to help our Pennsylvania National Guard members and their families has been signed into law.

Act 32 of 2019 extends the current Pennsylvania National Guard Military Education Program by including a Guard member’s spouse or child in this benefit program. The benefit will be offered in exchange for a Guard member’s six-year reenlistment.

Under the law, the educational benefit can be used at any Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) institution or any institution of higher learning approved by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. If the approved institution costs less than the annual tuition rate charged by the state system schools, the student would not pay anything. If it costs more than PASSHE’s annual tuition rate, the student would only pay expenses in excess of PASSHE’s annual tuition rate.

Pennsylvania National Guard members will be eligible for the benefit beginning July 1. Their family members may begin claiming the benefit on Aug. 1, 2020.
              
 
Help Track PA’s Thriving Bald Eagle Population

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is asking for the public’s help to track the state’s growing bald eagle population.

After reaching a low of just three nesting bald eagle pairs in the Commonwealth in the early 1980s, officials now estimate there are more than 300 nesting pairs here.

While bald eagles are no longer listed as a threatened species in Pennsylvania, they are still protected by the U.S. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits taking of the birds, nests or eggs.

If you spot a bald eagle nest, please use proper etiquette to avoid disturbing the birds. To review bald eagle nest guidelines, or to report your nest sighting to the game commission, click here.
 
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