Dec. 20, 2019 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampShort# The latest news from the State Capitol
State Grant to Rehabilitate Etchberger Memorial Park

This week, Sen. David Argall (Berks/Schuylkill) and I announced that a state grant will support much-needed improvements to Etchberger Memorial Park in Hamburg Borough.

The $183,700 grant was awarded by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The project will include construction of a parking area; installation of play equipment with required safety surfacing and lighting; ADA access, landscaping, project sign and other related site improvements.

The park was named in recognition of local hero Richard Loy Etchberger, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010 for his courageous actions in the Battle of Lima Site 85 in the Vietnam War.

The grant was awarded as part of DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program, which assists communities with planning for public parks, recreation, conservation areas, and facilities, among other community projects.
Warmest Holiday Wishes to You and Yours

I would like to extend the warmest holiday wishes and happiest new year to you and your family. May you have a wonderful and safe season that is full of peace and cheer. My district offices hours in Murrysville and Lower Burrell will be limited in light of the holidays. Please call ahead to be sure my offices are open.

PennDOT Driver License Centers will be closed on Wednesday, Dec. 25, for Christmas, and on Wednesday, Jan. 1, for New Year’s Day. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website,, or through my website at

If you’re traveling, you can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 770 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
‘Smart Justice’ Measures Address Accountability, Opportunity

An effective criminal justice system strikes a balance between holding people accountable for their actions, protecting the public and victims from dangerous criminals, and providing a second chance to people who have demonstrated the desire and the ability to become productive members of society.

This week, the House took up several bills in our “Smart Justice” initiative to help achieve those goals.

A major focus is on improving our probation and parole system to reduce recidivism and encourage rehabilitation so ex-offenders can move on with their lives outside the criminal justice system (Senate Bills 500 and 501). This will also save taxpayers the cost of monitoring or incarcerating someone who re-offends.

To further reduce recidivism, the House passed bills that will help ensure ex-offenders are not automatically excluded from pursuing work in some of the state’s licensed professions (House Bill 1477) and mandate expungement of a person’s record under limited circumstances (House Bill 440).

On the accountability front, we passed bills to increase penalties for assault of a prison staff member (House Bills 256 and 257) and preclude the parole board from prematurely releasing an inmate at the expiration of a minimum sentence if the inmate was convicted of a violent offense while incarcerated (House Bill 1855). Another measure gives corrections officers the opportunity to submit a written statement or testify in-person at parole hearings, with the stated goal being to ensure corrections officers have a voice in inmate parole proceedings (House Bill 44).

The bills now go to the Senate for consideration. Learn more about the Smart Justice initiative here.
Working Together to Strengthen Juvenile Justice, Outcomes

Working to boost public safety and accountability, and improve outcomes for Pennsylvania’s youth, state legislative leaders, justices and the governor joined together this week to announce a new interbranch effort to improve our juvenile justice system.

The newly formed Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force is charged with delivering data-driven policy recommendations to state leaders in a report by Nov. 30, 2020. The recommendations will form the basis for statutory, budgetary and administrative changes during the 2021-22 Legislative Session.

Despite efforts through entities such as the Juvenile Court Judges Commission and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Commonwealth has one of the highest rates of juvenile commitment in the nation. The task force will work to address current challenges to improve the system.

The members of the task force, to be appointed by the three branches of state government, will represent a wide range of stakeholder groups that include legislators, law enforcement, judges, district attorneys and public defenders. The task force will receive technical assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute.
PUC Says Shopping for Energy Suppliers Can Help Cut Costs

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is alerting consumers about the potential for large winter energy cost increases for electric customers who do not shop for competitive electric suppliers.

To avoid the possibility of “sticker shock” from high bills during the coming cold months, the PUC reminds consumers that the start of winter is an important time to compare prices for electric generation and evaluate competitive supplier options.

A half dozen of the state’s major electric distribution companies increased their “price to compare” (PTC) as of Dec. 1 (Penelec, Penn Power, Met-Ed, Citizens Electric, West Penn Power and PPL). Four others (UGI, Duquesne Light, PECO and Wellsboro Electric) reduced their PTC. For specific rates of increase or decrease, click here. 

In most areas of Pennsylvania, consumers can choose who supplies their electricity, based on price or other factors, such as renewable energy. To learn more about how to shop for your energy supplier, or to make a change, visit
Grants Available to Specialty Crop Growers

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is accepting concept proposals for projects to boost the state’s horticultural specialty crops, including fruit, vegetable, nursery, flower and nut products.

Concept proposals are the first step in a two-part competitive process for the federal Specialty Crop Block Grants authorized under the federal Farm Bill. Last year, 14 projects totaling $1.1 million were funded in the Commonwealth.

Applicants must submit a concept paper for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops through market development, technology innovation, food safety, nutrition knowledge, sustainable practices and/or pest management. Concept proposals should be approximately three pages in length and cover project purpose; estimated timeline; goals, objectives and expected measurable outcomes; work plan; and budget. Requests may be made for a minimum of $20,000

The deadline to apply is by 4:59 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2020. Successful applicants will be asked to submit a full proposal based on the concept paper by Feb. 21, 2020.

Applications can be submitted to the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Electronic Single Application for Assistance at
Celebrate Agriculture at 104th Pennsylvania Farm Show

The Pennsylvania Farm Show – the largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof in the nation – kicks off Saturday, Jan. 4, in Harrisburg. The show will run through Saturday, Jan. 11.

The show offers something for everyone with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibitors highlighting an industry that employs nearly half a million people and contributes $185 billion to the state’s economy every year. Visitors will find food, entertainment and plenty of opportunity to learn more about how our food goes “from farm to fork.”

Admission to the show is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle. Shuttle service is provided.

For all the latest news about the Farm Show, follow it on Facebook, or visit
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