Mullery announces legislation to provide assistance to employees and communities affected by state facility closures

PLYMOUTH TWP., Jan. 31 – At a news conference earlier this morning, state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, flanked by state Sens. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, and Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, announced two pieces of legislation that would provide assistance to the state employees and communities directly affected by state facility closures.

“With the closure of SCI-Retreat in Newport Township and the proposed closure of White Haven Center in Dennison Township, we have seen first-hand the shock these decisions have on our state workers and the communities,” Mullery said. “We have the ability to lessen that impact and help these workers and their communities rebound.”

Under H.B. 2270, the governor would be mandated to create an Early Response Team, which would communicate resource information to affected workers, including:

  • Unemployment compensation benefits.
  • Health care benefits.
  • Job search activities.
  • Education and training programs.
  • Social service programs.
  • Crisis counseling.
  • Housing assistance.

Additionally, the bill would offer assistance to communities directly impacted by a closure. Assistance provided under this legislation could include, but is not limited to, brownfield reclamation; site preparation; blight remediation; Keystone Communities; and strategies to attract new business.

Under H.B. 2271, the Department of Community and Economic Development would be required to provide grants and loans to communities negatively impacted by state facility closures.

“I have worked with the administration and my colleagues in the Senate to draft these pieces of legislation,” Mullery said. “It is our duty as lawmakers to help those grieved by the closing of large state facilities.”

Mullery’s full comments are below:

Thank you.

You are witnessing a bit of history here this morning. These bills being discussed are the first pieces of tri-partisan legislation ever introduced in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

They are the result of nearly 2 months of meetings with Governor Wolf, several of his cabinet Secretaries, myself, and Senators Yudichak and Baker. So, not only are these bills tri-partisan, they are also bi-branchial.

The reason for this level of cooperation is quite simple. The impact of closing a large state facility, whether it be a state correctional institute or an intermediate care facility, can have a dramatic and catastrophic effect on the employees, their families and the communities that help support the daily function of these institutions.

That impact was brilliantly presented to the Wolf Administration by our neighbors and friends at multiple public hearings as prescribed by Act 133, by several rallies both locally and in Harrisburg, and by countless meetings with policy decision makers. And one question was repeated time and time again, and I’ve cleaned it up a little for the sake of this press conference, but: If your unilateral decision in Harrisburg is going to have such an affect here, what are you going to do to mitigate that damage?

Our response is the State Facility Closure Act and the Municipal Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Both pieces of legislation are specifically designed to provide assistance, in a variety of forms, to both employees and communities impacted by decisions made in Harrisburg to shutter large state facilities.

In the House, I began circulating our co-sponsorship memorandum yesterday and the immediate response has been very positive. I look forward to returning to Harrisburg on Monday to discuss these bills in greater detail with my House colleagues with the plan to garner additional support. Moreover, my Democratic leadership is in full throated support of this legislation and looks forward to its passage.

One final note, specifically to the residents of White Haven Center, their families, caregivers & the Greater White Haven Community: this legislation in no way, shape, or form distracts from our continued fight for SB 906. We will do all we can to secure the votes needed to override Governor Wolf’s expected veto. That fight continues concurrent with this legislation.

Thank you for being here & I am available for questions.