EBENSBURG, Dec. 13 – Seeking to reward those working the front lines of emergency services, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, wants the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to award scholarships to fire company, ambulance service and rescue squad volunteers. Burns is seeking co-sponsors for his proposed Volunteer Recruitment Service Scholarship Act, which would authorize PHEAA to award the scholarships to eligible active members of the aforementioned groups. "We all know about the shortage of volunteers, particularly for fire departments, and this is one practical way to provide an inducement to undertake community service," Burns said. "Many of our smaller communities – where people pay their share of state taxes – can’t afford to pay for these services and thus rely on volunteers. Offering them scholarships through PHEAA is a novel and effective way to keep these services staffed." Burns said under his upcoming bill, applicants would be required to be a member of a volunteer organization for at least six months and maintain active volunteer status, have graduated from high school or have received a high school equivalency diploma. They would also have to enroll in a degree-producing curriculum at an institution of higher education within a 50-mile radius of the volunteer organization (or if none exists, the next-closest institution), be a legal resident of the commonwealth, maintain a minimum 2.0 grade-point Read more
EBENSBURG, Dec. 5 – As promised after his initial bill failed to move through the Republican-led House last year, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is seeking co-sponsors from both parties for his planned reintroduction of a Blue Lives Matter bill in January. Burns’ legislation would classify crimes committed against law enforcement and corrections officers as hate crimes in Pennsylvania, something he believes is long overdue. His bill would add employment as a law enforcement officer to the categories of race, color, religion and national origin currently protected by the state’s hate crime law. “Law enforcement personnel have been singled out for attacks across the country, just because they wear the uniform,” Burns said. “While these incidents have taken place from Dallas to Des Moines, they also have hit close to home, with a suspect firing on two police officers in Canonsburg, Washington County, leaving one dead.” Mirroring his H.B. 2261 from the last legislative session, which had 22 co-sponsors, Burns’ upcoming bill would seek to give law enforcement officers of the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions, as well as corrections officers at state or county institutions, protected status under the state's ethnic intimidation law. Probation and parole officers also would be covered. Burns said his legislation has the support of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has Read more
EBENSBURG, Dec. 5 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is informing 72 nd Legislative District entities that the Keystone Communities grant program is accepting fiscal year 2016-17 Round 2 applications through Jan. 25. Burns said eligibility is open to local governments, redevelopment and/or housing authorities, certain nonprofit organizations, community development corporations and business/neighborhood/downtown improvement districts (or similar organizations incorporated as authorities). “Anyone who thinks their agency could benefit from this state grant money should seriously look into applying,” Burns said. “If they need questions answered or any help along the way, my offices can assist.” Operated through the state Department of Community and Economic Development, this financial assistance tool can be used for such things as planning activities, facade grant programs, accessible housing programs and development grants. It encourages public and private sector partnerships, and allows communities to tailor assistance to meet specific revitalization efforts. Burns said communities may want to consider designation through the Keystone Communities program as a Keystone Main Street, Keystone Elm Street, Keystone Enterprise Zone or Keystone Community. More information on the program and how to apply is available at http://dced.pa.gov/programs/keystone-communities-program Burns’ district office in Ebensburg can be reached at Read more
EBENSBURG, Nov. 18 – The state's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is accepting applications for the winter season and state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, reminds eligible 72nd Legislative District residents to apply for the federally funded help. Burns said the program offers cash grants to help with home heating bills and crisis grants to help with emergency situations, such as a broken furnace or an unexpected fuel shortage. Applicants do not have to be on welfare to receive this help, nor will any lien be placed on a person's property if he or she receives this assistance. Currently, the maximum income allowed for eligibility based on household size is as follows: Household Size Maximum Income 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 $17,820 $24,030 $30,240 $36,450 $42,660 $48,870 $55,095 For each additional family member over seven, the maximum income limit increases by $6,240. "LIHEAP helps those who are struggling to heat their homes, often for reasons that are beyond their control," Burns said. "As with any state program, if you or someone you know is interested, please contact one of my offices for any help you may need with applying." Those offices are: Ebensburg, 119 S. Center St., (814) 472-8021; Portage, 112-A Munster Road, (814) 736-7339; Lower Yoder Township, 535 Fairfield Ave., (814) 536-8400; and Patton, 405 Park Ave. (9 a.m. to 2 Read more
EBENSBURG, Nov. 17 – Urging 72nd Legislative District entities to apply, state Rep. Frank Burns is promoting separate state grant programs offering $2 million to senior community centers and $24 million for natural gas pipeline connections. "I urge everyone who thinks they might be eligible to consider applying – and to contact my offices if they need any help or clarification," Burns said. "This funding will be awarded to someone, but you’ve got to apply first." Burns said the senior community center funding, through the Pennsylvania Department of Aging with an application deadline of Dec. 12, will be awarded for enhancements that increase program participation, encourage sustainable and innovative programs, attract a new generation of older adults and enable senior community centers to provide a safe and healthy environment for participants. More information can be obtained by visiting www.aging.pa.gov/SeniorCommunityCenterGrants , emailing SCCgrants@pa.gov or calling Robert Cherry at (717) 772-1221. Separately, Burns said the state’s Pipeline Investment Program is offering grants of up to $1 million for "last-mile" projects that help build the infrastructure to connect existing gas supply with interested consumers. However, for this program, applicants must provide matching funds equal to at least 50 percent of the total project cost. Burns said eligible PIPE funding applicants include businesses, economic Read more
EBENSBURG, Nov. 10 – After this morning’s ambush of two police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call in western Pennsylvania, state Rep. Frank Burns said it reinforces the urgent need for the passage of his Blue Lives Matter bill. Burns said the incident in Canonsburg, Washington County , where a suspect opened fire on two police officers as they arrived at a house responding to a domestic disturbance, leaving one officer dead and the other injured, is the latest in a growing line of incidents where law enforcement is being targeted for harm. “We can't just sit here doing nothing, hoping that these tragedies won't happen,” Burns said. “The attacks on law enforcement are hitting close to home. There is a pressing need for this legislation to protect law enforcement and it needs to happen now.” Burns’ H.B. 2261 , introduced in July, would make such attacks a hate crime in Pennsylvania, with a commensurate stiffer penalty. The legislation has attracted 22 co-sponsors and is backed by the 40,000-member Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police. The bill would make employment as a law enforcement officer a covered class under Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law. It would stiffen penalties for assaulting a police, corrections, probation or parole officer – making the offense one degree higher than current law. “I've made numerous attempts to get a vote on the bill but so far that hasn’t Read more
EBENSBURG, Nov. 3 – Undeterred that the Republican-led House is leaving his Blue Lives Matter bill in committee to die upon expiration of the current legislative session, state Rep. Frank Burns plans to reintroduce the bill in January with a ramped-up passage effort. Introduced in July after a spate of purposeful attacks on police nationwide, Burns’ H.B. 2261 would make it a hate crime to assault a police, corrections, probation or parole officer. The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where it remains as the clock will run out on the current legislative session. “Under the rules, any proposed bills that don’t become law by the end of a two-year legislative session must be reintroduced in the next session, which is precisely what I intend to do,” said Burns, D-Cambria. “This matter is far too important to let fall by the procedural wayside, and I’m not going to give up easily.” Burns said unprovoked attacks on law enforcement have continued unabated, as witnessed by this week’s ambush-style murders of two police officers in Des Moines, Iowa . Burns said he agrees with that police department spokesman’s quote that, “There is a clear and present danger to police officers right now,” and is confident more members of the Pennsylvania state legislature will join him in pushing for Blue Lives Matter protections. Burns is seeking to add employment as a law enforcement officer a protected Read more
EBENSBURG, Oct. 19 – In a move designed to improve public and aquatic health, state Rep. Frank Burns has announced $10.8 million in state funding for a Lower Yoder Township sewerage project that will replace 58,000 feet of rickety 65-year-old clay pipe. Burns said 1,233 customers and a population of 2,800, along with waterways St. Clair Run and the Conemaugh River, will see reduced wet-weather sewage overflows from work enabled by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s $6.39 million loan and $4.49 million grant. "It’s extremely gratifying to see this nearly $11 million investment added to the more than $115 million I’ve helped deliver to the 72nd Legislative District over eight years," said Burns, D-Cambria. "I thank the Pennvest board for helping improve the quality of life in Lower Yoder Township and positioning it for the future growth that we all desire." Burns said rehabilitation and replacement of archaic brick manholes is also part of the project, which includes replacement of sewerage line laterals to within 5 feet of a property if the owner signs an easement. The need for a significant upgrade was detected, Burns said, after miniature closed-circuit television cameras inserted into the lines found many defects. "It became quite apparent that these old clay lines were a problem in need of correction, unless we wanted more sewage overflows in wet weather," Burns said. "That’s never Read more
HARRISBURG, Oct. 18 – Hoping to make it undesirable for some municipalities to turn a blind eye to unauthorized alien criminals, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, voted Monday for a bill that would withhold state funding and allow primarily cities to be sued if they continue the practice. Burns supported H.B. 1885, which passed the House 136-55 and had a Republican prime sponsor, because he believes it’s morally wrong to fail to detain and turn over such people to federal deportation authorities. “We are a society that’s built on having law and order, so it makes zero sense to purposely allow an entire group of people to slip through the cracks,” Burns said. “The safety and security of our citizens and law enforcement officers should not be compromised by self-perceived ‘do-gooders’ who are in actuality putting everyone at risk.” The bill supported by Burns would hold sanctuary municipalities liable for damages to people or property as a result of criminal activity by unauthorized aliens if: It has been determined by federal immigration officials that the person who engaged in the criminal activity is an unauthorized alien; The unauthorized alien is a resident of the sanctuary municipality; The unauthorized alien is convicted of the crime; and The criminal activity is a proximate cause of the injury. The bill also would prohibit restrictions that keep an official or employee of the municipality from: Read more
Pa. state Rep. Frank Burns welcomed the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee to Ebensburg for a hearing on economic development. Burns asked the committee to come to Cambria County to talk about how to keep momentum going with job growth. The committee heard testimony from labor, business and government groups about what has worked in other areas and what is needed for Cambria County. Read more
EBENSBURG, Oct. 6 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on economic development today at the Ebensburg Borough Municipal Building. Committee chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, co-chaired the hearing, which Burns sought to explore established and innovative ways to promote solid job creation in the 72 nd Legislative District and surrounding region. “I chose economic development to focus on because our area is in need of something to simulate the local economy,” Burns said. “This gave us the opportunity to learn about initiatives to create jobs, especially in counties like Cambria, as well as a primer on employer needs and employee training. I thank chairman Sturla and the Policy Committee for seeing the value in this.” Sturla said, “The creation and retention of good-paying jobs is always a top priority in the commonwealth, and learning about specific local needs and challenges is one way we in the Democratic Caucus gather information to help guide state policy and programs. The concerns and ideas put forth today, at Representative Burns’ behest, will become part of that mix.” Burns also discussed his initiative to change state law to permit the hiring of a broker to facilitate the sale of state properties such as the dormant 327-acre SCI-Cresson prison site. Currently, the state is limited to posting the property’s availability on the state Department of Read more
EBENSBURG, Oct. 5 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, issued the following statement regarding today’s announcement that the state Department of Human Services has opened its client service center in the Hiram G. Andrews Center: “This move adds 50 stable jobs to the Cambria County economy, which is located in the 72 nd Legislative District portion of the county,” Burns said. “We all know that our region has been decimated by the demise of the coal and steel industries, and diversification like this is key to the rebuilding process. I’m proud to have been an early and active catalyst for this project. “These jobs are basically being moved from Dauphin County, where DHS has had trouble retaining employees due to the availability of other job options. The employees will still report to the Dauphin County Assistance Office, which is made possible by the use of electronic communications and technology. “The even better news is that no one lost their job because of this shift. DHS believes in the quality in the stability of the Cambria County workforce, which is a sentiment I share.” Staff reported to the new location Sept. 23. Burns is hosting a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on economic development 10 a.m. tomorrow at Ebensburg Borough Municipal Building. Read more
EBENSBURG, Oct. 4 – Knowing many 72 nd Legislative District residents treasure their Second Amendment rights, state Rep. Frank Burns is reminding constituents to attend his Concealed Carry Seminar at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Co., 176 Adams Ave., Vinco. Burns said law enforcement representatives will speak on the rules and regulations regarding firearm transport and use in Pennsylvania – including primers on concealed carry, the Castle Doctrine, using firearms for personal protection and related legal liabilities. “I’m inviting everyone to come find out your rights as a law-abiding gun owner,” Burns said. “We live in an increasingly dangerous world and response to this event has thus far been extremely positive. Some who cannot make it at this time have asked us to schedule another one.” Anyone wishing to attend the Concealed Carry Seminar is asked to call Burns’ Portage office at (814) 736-7339. Burns said he is also prepared to update meeting attendees on his Blue Lives Matter bill, which seeks to make assault on a police, corrections, probation or parole office a hate crime, with commensurate stiffer penalties. Read more
EBENSBURG, Oct. 3 – Seeking up-to-date insights to help stoke the local economy, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on economic development at 10 am. Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Ebensburg Borough Municipal Building, 300 W. High St., Ebensburg, 15391. House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, will co-chair the hearing. Burns said he requested the hearing to further explore what more can be done to increase economic development in the region. Burns also plans to discuss his initiative to change state law to permit the hiring of a broker to facilitate the sale of state properties such as the dormant 327-acre SCI-Cresson prison site. The hearing agenda is: 10 a.m. Welcome and opening remarks 10:10 a.m. Panel from local unions: Augie Didiano, president, Johnstown Building and Construction Trades Council Don Arena, business agent, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 354 10:40 a.m. Debi Balog, workforce development director, Johnstown Area Regional Industries 11 a.m. Barry Surma, director, Saint Francis University Small Business Development Center 11:20 a.m. Closing remarks Read more
EBENSBURG, Sept. 30 – Shocked over a state audit finding that 2,324 dead people received $693,161 in ACCESS card benefits during a 12-month period, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is renewing his call to place photo IDs on the cards, among other welfare reforms. Burns said the report released by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was an eye-opener, uncovering an instance of $800 in ACCESS card purchases seven months after that cardholder’s death, post-death ACCESS card spending of between $601 and $1,945 in nine of 30 cases examined more closely, and aggregate ACCESS card spending of $14 million in Florida and $6 million in North Carolina. “Clearly, our welfare system is being abused, which isn’t fair to the hardworking taxpayers of Pennsylvania,” Burns said. “I have long supported placing a photo ID on ACCESS cards as a means to cut down on fraud. Hopefully, with facts like those documented by Auditor General DePasquale, a majority of the legislature will start to feel the same.” Burns has favored adding photo IDs to welfare benefits cards as a means of cracking down on fraud as far back as 2011, when he was a co-sponsor of H.B. 487 , one of several bills that has sought the change, none of which had garnered enough legislative support over the years to become law. Burns has also sponsored or supported welfare reform bills that would require drug testing to receive public assistance, enhance income eligibility Read more
Pa. state Rep. Frank Burns joined advocates, survivors and legislators to call on House leadership to run H.B. 1947 with the retroactive component, giving victims of sexual abuse a chance to have their day in court. Burns was joined by Shaun Dougherty, a clergy abuse survivor from Altoona/Johnstown, who shared his story.
HARRISBURG, Sept. 27 – After a March grand jury report documented widespread child sex abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, state Rep. Frank Burns was still trying to fathom the magnitude of a decades-long cover-up when Shaun Dougherty , a friend of more than 20 years, called him to detail his experience as one of the victims. “My heart dropped and I was speechless,” Burns recounted at a Capitol news conference held today to push for statute of limitations reform in such cases. Dougherty also wanted to know how close this change was to becoming law, telling Burns, “I don’t know if I want to come forward unless this has a real legitimate chance at passing.” In the face of a sickening pattern of abuse that included his friends like Dougherty and his classmates at Bishop McCort High School, Burns resolved to support the reform effort led by state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, who hosted today’s event to help press for Senate approval of H.B. 1947, which the House passed earlier this year. “I could not sit there and do nothing,” Burns said. “Leaders in the past had done nothing. And that’s why we’re here (seeking justice) today. I promise each and every one of you: we will fight for you, and together we can change the world.” Dougherty, 46 and a U.S. Navy veteran, said the retroactive component of Rozzi’s statute of limitations reform bill is critically needed so that people like him can Read more
EBENSBURG, Sept. 22 – Responding to news that the state has dropped the minimum bid for the remaining former SCI-Cresson property from $730,000 to $500,000, state Rep. Frank Burns is reminding economic planners of his quest to obtain tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zone status for the site. Burns, D-Cambria, said the state Department of General Services’ decision to lower the minimum bid for the 329 acres and related buildings, and to rebid the site for public purchase through Dec. 13, shows that the additional sweetener of KOZ status might be needed to foster redevelopment. "I am writing to respectfully request that any Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) expansion in Cambria County be designated at the former SCI Cresson Prison site located in Cresson Township," Burns wrote in an Aug. 23 letter seeking local support for his proposal. "This parcel of land has never been taxable in the past, therefore no tax revenue would be lost by designating this site as a KOZ. Future development at this former prison faces many challenges and expensive demolition, so offering this land as a KOZ would provide incentive for businesses to tackle such obstacles." Burns’ letter was separately sent to Cresson Borough and Cresson Township officials, the Cambria County commissioners, the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority, and the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce. Read more
HARRISBURG, Sept. 20 – As promised, state Rep. Frank Burns has sent a letter to the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asking for his support in bringing Burns’ Blue Lives Matter bill up for a quick vote. Introduced in July, Burns’ H.B. 2261 would add assault of a police, corrections, probation or parole officer to Pennsylvania’s hate crimes statute, with corresponding criminal penalties. Burns said the steady number of purposeful attacks on police officers nationwide since then is a driving force behind his quest for swift committee action. "In light of the recent shootings across the country and now close to home in Philadelphia , I believe we need to act quickly to protect those who are to protect us," Burns wrote to state Rep. Ron Marsico. "House Bill 2261 adds law enforcement officers, including state and county corrections officers, to the protected class of individuals under Pennsylvania’s hate crimes statute." Buttressing his belief that the law is needed, Burns pointed to the 78 percent increase in the number of shooting deaths of law enforcement officers nationwide in the past year, noting that through July, 32 were killed in firearms-related incidents compared to 18 during the same period in 2015. "It’s my hope that the House will take up this bill without delay, so Pennsylvania can send a clear, unified and strong message to would-be attackers that assaulting our law Read more
EBENSBURG, Sept. 19 – Cresson Volunteer Fire Co. with $3,900 and Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Co. with $7,036 are two of 142 rural departments in Pennsylvania awarded grants to help guard against fire threats in forests and undeveloped areas, state Rep. Frank Burns announced today. Burns said the grants come through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry, with funding supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The money is awarded to volunteer fire departments in rural areas or communities with fewer than 10,000 residents, and the maximum award is $7,500. “One of the main goals of this program is to help fire departments in areas where forest and brush fires are common,” said Burns, D-Cambria. “That is definitely the case in Jackson Township and Cresson, and I’m glad to have helped firefighters in those areas procure these needed state funds.” Burns said a key objective of the grant program is to better equip and train volunteers to save lives and protect property in unprotected or inadequately protected rural areas. Grant recipients are selected based on vulnerability and adequacy of existing fire protection, he added. Aid is granted on a cost-share basis, with recipients supplying matching funds. The Bureau of Forestry will begin accepting 2017 applications online next spring. Burns said any volunteer fire department interested in applying for the next Read more
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