HARRISBURG, April 23 – State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, voted Wednesday to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program through Dec. 31, 2017. "CHIP is a valuable program for many low-income families," Freeman said. "This bill ensures that all children eligible for CHIP continue to have access to the coverage they need, when they need it." Currently, 148,137 children are enrolled in CHIP statewide. In Northampton County, 3,395 are enrolled. CHIP provides free and low-cost health insurance to children from birth through 18 in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to buy private insurance. It covers immunizations, check-ups, diagnostic testing, prescriptions, dental, vision and hearing services, emergency care, mental health benefits, hospitalization and substance abuse rehabilitation, among other services. The cost of the insurance depends on a family's income. Freeman said that when it was created, CHIP was a one-of-a-kind program, the first in the nation, and the federal government used Pennsylvania's program as the model for its State Children's Health Insurance Program. He voted for the original legislation that created the state program in 1992. Freeman voted to expand CHIP and cover additional families in 2006, and since then the legislature has periodically voted to reauthorize CHIP every few years. Freeman also supported ending the requirement that children go without Read more
HARRISBURG, April 23 – Three entities in Latrobe have been awarded state environmental education grants, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca announced today. Westmoreland Cleanways and Saint Vincent College each received $3,000, while Eastern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center received $1,500, all from the Department of Environmental Protection. "Grants such as these help our schools and nonprofits educate the public about today's environmental issues," said Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana. Grant recipients will use the funding for various initiatives, including farm field days, summer camps, exploratory learning activities, professional development and explanatory signage along watersheds. Through these initiatives, students, teachers, farmers and others will learn about a variety of environmental issues ranging from pollination, stormwater management and hydroponics in agriculture, to Marcellus Shale and the Chesapeake Bay. Petrarca said the Environmental Education Grant Program was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993, which mandates setting aside 5 percent of the pollution fines and penalties DEP collects annually for environmental education in Pennsylvania. Since the program’s enactment, DEP has awarded more than $9.6 million in grants to support environmental education throughout Pennsylvania. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 23 – State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, today declared that the 12th annual Preservation Ball held last month in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg was “a complete and unconditional success.” Readshaw said this year’s ball included more than 175 attendees from as far away as Iowa and Texas; most of the ladies wearing period gowns and gentlemen donning period civilian or military attire. Sponsored by the Victorian Dance Ensemble of the Civil War Dance Foundation, the ball benefits the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Project, which Readshaw founded in 1997 after reading about the deterioration of the more than 1,000 monuments in the Gettysburg National Military Park. Pennsylvania has more than 140 unit monuments and markers on the battlefield including the iconic Pennsylvania Memorial. They mark the locations of the Pennsylvania regiments during the three-day battle of July 1863, pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the units, and recognize the special actions of individual soldiers and officers, many of whom lost their lives. Most were erected by the veteran survivors of the battle, assisted by allocations from the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Time, weather and human contact have caused damage to these monuments. As they entered the majestic Capitol Rotunda, ball attendees were greeted by the Boy Scouts of America Venture Crew 1861 Fife and Drum Corps portraying the Civil War Field Music of the 1 st Pennsylvania Read more
HARRISBURG, April 23 – Two bills recently reintroduced by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, aim to improve public safety across the commonwealth. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 22 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today unanimously adopted a pair of resolutions introduced by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware.
HARRISBURG, April 22 – State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, announced the Renovo Borough Water Authority will replace obsolete water system infrastructure with about $4 million in help from the state. The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or Pennvest, today approved $3.7 million in grant funding and a $386,071 low-interest loan to help the authority replace 10,850 linear feet of water distribution mains, 125 water service lines, 70 gate valves, 22 fire hydrants, rehabilitation of their 300,000 gallon finished water storage tank and incidental treatment and distribution equipment needed for maintenance and leak detection. “By replacing the main water system, we’re directly benefitting public health, infrastructure health, source water protection and community health and we’re ensuring future compliance with the authority’s regulations” Hanna said. “We’re being proactive in fixing a problem before it worsens.” Hanna said the century old water system still utilizes much of the original cast iron waterline from 1906, which has caused an array of problems, including traces of iron present in the water, frequent water breaks, high unaccounted for water loss and unusually high friction losses. Pennvest offers low-cost loans and grants to communities throughout Pennsylvania to fund sewer, storm water and drinking water maintenance and improvement projects. More information is Read more
HARRISBURG, April 22 – A bill that would name a bridge in Conyngham Township in honor of a corrections officer killed in the line of duty unanimously passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday. “Eric Williams laid down his life behind the walls of the federal prison in Canaan while working to keep us safe,” said state Rep. Gerald Mullery, the author of the bill. “Certainly, his memory and his sacrifice deserve a lasting tribute." A corrections officer at the U.S. Penitentiary, Canaan, Williams was killed during an unprovoked attack by an inmate in February 2013. He was 34 years old. House Bill 629, which now goes to the state Senate for review, would name the bridge on S.R. 3005 over the outlet of Lily Lake as the Senior Officer Eric J. Williams Memorial Bridge. Williams was an avid outdoorsman, and he enjoyed spending time at a cottage he owned on Lilly Lake. Williams was a 1996 graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, and graduated from King's College with a criminal justice degree. Before he began serving as a federal corrections officer on Sept. 11, 2011, he worked for several years as a police officer. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 22 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, today voted to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program through Dec. 31, 2017. "Since 1992, CHIP has been covering children of working, low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to buy private insurance," Petrarca said. "Since then, CHIP has helped hundreds of thousands of families afford health insurance coverage for their children, and this bill will ensure it continues to do so." CHIP provides free and low-cost health insurance to children from birth through age 18. It covers immunizations, check-ups, diagnostic testing, prescriptions, dental, vision and hearing services, emergency care, mental health benefits, hospitalization and substance abuse rehabilitation, among other services. The cost of the insurance depends on a family's income. Petrarca said that when it was created, CHIP was a one-of-a-kind program, the first in the nation, and the federal government used Pennsylvania's program as the model for its State Children's Health Insurance Program. Currently, statewide, 148,137 children are enrolled in CHIP. In Westmoreland County, 4,168 are enrolled, 903 in Armstrong County and 922 in Indiana County. Petrarca voted to expand CHIP and cover additional families in 2006, and since then, the legislature has periodically voted to reauthorize CHIP every few years. Petrarca also voted to end the Read more
HARRISBURG, April 22 – State Rep. Mark Longietti announced that Greenville will receive a state grant and low-interest loan totaling $995,000 to replace a deteriorated section of its stormwater collection system. The funding, approved by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, will enable the borough to replace 1,254 linear feet of stormwater sewer pipe, install 16 new catch basins and build an outfall headwall. "After a torrential rain fall last year, a section of Greenville’s stormwater collection system under Brackin Alley collapsed, opening several sinkholes and sending sediment into the Shenango River," said Longietti, D-Mercer. "This funding will help the borough replace both pipe that collapsed and other deteriorated sections of the collection system in Brackin Alley." Pennvest will give the borough a $497,500 grant and a $497,500 low-interest loan. The term of the loan is 20 years, with a 1 percent interest rate. An independent agency, Pennvest funds sewer, stormwater and drinking water projects throughout the state. These projects contribute to improving Pennsylvania's environment and the health of residents, as well as provide opportunities for economic growth and jobs for Pennsylvania workers. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 22 – State Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-Lackawanna, today voted to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program that provides health insurance for children in low-income working families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid through Dec. 31, 2017. “For nearly 150,000 kids in Pennsylvania, CHIP is literally a lifesaver, and for hundreds of thousands of parents this health care offers peace of mind knowing their child can see a doctor when illness or injury strikes,” Kavulich said. “CHIP provides coverage for preventative care, emergencies and even inoculations. The healthier our kids are, the better they’ll do in school and the more success they’ll have in life. Renewing this program is a smart investment in our state’s present and future.” Created in Pennsylvania under Gov. Bob Casey in 1992, CHIP has since become the model for children’s health insurance programs nationwide and was the inspiration for the federal SCHIP initiative signed into law by President Clinton in 1997. Without today’s unanimous vote, the program would have expired on Dec. 31. To find out more or to see if your child is eligible, contact Kavulich’s constituent service office or visit CHIP online at www.chipcoverspakids.com . Read more
Rep. Pam Snyder reports that Pennvest has approved $3.4 million for the Dry Tavern Sewer Authority to extend and bolster sewer service in the Pumpkin Run area of Jefferson Township, Greene County, while sparing customers from rate increases. The financing includes a $2.7 million grant as well as a $741,500, 20-year loan at 1 percent interest. Read more
JOHNSTOWN, April 22 – State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria/Somerset, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on education funding and property tax reduction at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 28 in the Greater Johnstown High School Auditorium, 222 Central Ave. , Johnstown. The hearing will examine Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget that includes increased education funding and a plan to reduce property taxes. Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, will co-chair the hearing, which will feature testimony by local school districts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The current hearing agenda is: 2 p.m. Welcome and opening remarks 2:10 p.m. Beth Olanoff , director of policy, Pennsylvania Department of Education 2:40 p.m. Panel from local school districts: Amy Arcurio , Freshman Academy principal, Greater Johnstown School District Donald Irwin, Jr. , superintendent/business manager, Westmont Hilltop School District 3:30 p.m. Closing remarks The hearing is open to the public, and media is encouraged to attend. Read more
JOHNSTOWN, April 22 – State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria/Somerset, announced today the award of nearly $15 million in low-interest state infrastructure investment loans for ongoing sewer improvements in the Johnstown region. The PennVest loans, which are issued at 1 percent interest, will fund improvements in Woodvale, Oakdale and Westmont Borough. Ongoing construction projects in Woodvale and Oakdale will receive loans of $6.7 million and $1.86 million. Ongoing construction projects in Westmont Borough will receive $6.38 million. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 21 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, today said the House rejected amendments he wrote that would save the 911 centers in Allentown and Bethlehem. House Bill 911, which Schweyer attempted to amend, would increase 911 surcharges on monthly phone bills. It would also force municipalities to join a county or regional center. Schweyer said it’s bad for the Lehigh Valley because it would force Allentown’s and Bethlehem’s 911 to join county systems without a study, without a hearing and without the cities agreeing to it. “The preservation of these 911 centers is not just about these two cities,” Schweyer said. “It is an issue of public safety, fiscal prudence and good government for the entire Lehigh Valley. I once again thank every member from the region for recognizing this. “I’m proud that the entire Lehigh Valley delegation – Democrats and Republicans – came together to stand up for public safety in our region. I will continue to work with leaders in the Senate, PEMA and Governor Tom Wolf’s office to ensure that the Lehigh Valley can choose for ourselves the best way to deliver public safety in our region.” Read more
HARRISBURG, April 21 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., has been appointed as the House Democratic member of the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority for the 2015-16 legislative session. The PMBDA offers low-interest loan financing to businesses owned and operated by ethnic minorities. The recommendation to appoint Kinsey was made by House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny. "The PMBDA mission is one that aligns with my goals as a state representative," Kinsey said. "I look forward to having a say as I work to help increase the growth and success of minority-owned businesses across the commonwealth. Entrepreneurship is a hard-fought goal for many Pennsylvanians, and I believe that the PMBDA can be that vehicle and play an integral role in helping minorities to realize their dreams. "Minority success in entrepreneurship directly and positively affects Pennsylvania’s economic climate, and the jobs that they create make real differences in the communities we call home." Read more
HARRISBURG, April 21 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, said the state House of Representatives today unanimously passed his legislation to provide extra protection against elder abuse committed by people acting with power of attorney. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 21 – The state House of Representatives today unanimously adopted a resolution sponsored by Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, designating April 19-25 as Pennsylvania Family Center Network Week. The Family Center network serves nearly 5,000 families in the Parents as Teachers home visiting program and hundreds more families with supportive services. Sixty-five percent of the families served are considered high risk due to low educational attainment, poverty or disability. “Today, we make clear -- our belief and our commitment that all young children and their families deserve the same opportunities to succeed -- regardless of any demographic, geographic or economic considerations,” Flynn told a group of parents and children attending a Capitol rally to request more funding for the program, including several people from Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. “Parents as Teachers' vision is that all children will learn, grow and develop to reach their full potential – and the House of Representatives recognizes that the early years of life are critical for optimal development that will provide the foundation for success in both school and in life.” More than 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s population lives in the 28 counties served by family centers, in urban, rural and suburban communities and Family Center services are tailored to the resources and needs of each of the communities served. Family Centers promote Read more
HARRISBURG, April 20 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today unanimously adopted a resolution authored by state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, that honors the freight rail industry.
House Resolution 252 credits the U.S. freight rail industry with being the most efficient and productive system of its kind in the world. Additionally, the resolution honors the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, which was completed by the state in 1834 as part of the Main Line of Public Works system; and the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which was also completed by the state in 1834 and was the first railroad to travel through the Allegheny Mountains.
HARRISBURG, April 20 – A bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Mark Longietti that would give flexibility to a program that helps growing businesses access capital was approved Monday by the House of Representatives’ Commerce Committee. The Second Stage Loan Program provides guarantees to banks that make loans to life sciences, advanced technology or manufacturing businesses that are 2 to 7 years old. Under H.B. 810, the 7-year-old age limit would be removed. Currently, the loan guarantee is capped at 50 percent of the amount of principal. It shrinks to 25 percent at the end of the second year of the loan, and remains at that percentage until the seventh year of the loan or the end of the loan. The bill would give the Commonwealth Financing Authority, which administers the program, the authority to determine the maximum guarantee amount and percentage, as long as it does not exceed $1 million. “The program has about $46 million available, and we should put this money to work to help more businesses access the capital they need to grow and create jobs,” said Longietti, D-Mercer. “These changes to the Second Stage Loan Program would do that.” The bill also would add some requirements to the loan application. Businesses would have to demonstrate that the loan would result in jobs being created in Pennsylvania, and they would have to provide an estimate of the number of new or retained employees resulting Read more
HARRISBURG, April 20 – In an effort to explore the ever-growing cost of health care in the commonwealth, state Rep. Tony DeLuca, Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, is introducing legislation that would provide for pharmaceutical cost transparency. "As a result of the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare industry has implemented cost control measures, yet the rising cost of some prescription drugs continues to far outpace the other sectors of the health care industry," said DeLuca, D-Allegheny. DeLuca noted that while the pharmaceutical industry has issued prescription drug rebates to ease the financial burden on patients, the industry is also a big winner in the passage and enactment of the ACA due to more insured people being able to afford prescriptions. "I understand that research and development are part of the overhead costs of a prescription, but for the sticker price of a prescription drug to reach $100,000 or more for annual use is frightening and not sustainable," DeLuca said. "The insurance industry and health care providers are held accountable with profit ratios, rate caps and Medicare negotiations. We need insight into the pharmaceutical industry to examine the cost spikes in prescription drugs and determine if similar cost controls are needed there, as well." House Bill 1042 will likely be referred to the House Insurance Committee. ### Read more
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