This week, I spoke at an event with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on the importance of broadband access for rural Pennsylvania, and I was honored to join World War II veterans on the House floor to commemorate #DDAY75. In addition, the House has been hard at work to help our farmers with several agriculture bills.
You can find out more in my latest update below!
House Honors Pennsylvania’s D-Day Veterans
This week, the House commemorated the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and honored those who fought in the invasion to free Europe from their Nazi occupiers.
We were especially honored to be joined on the House floor of the Capitol by several World War II veterans: Louis Cinifici, Walter Davis, Charles Eberwein, William Gordon, Dr. Cedric Jimerson, Bernadine Smith, Ethan Smith, Kenneth Mosser, John Fleming and Joseph Charles Zebertavage. One of these veterans, Joseph “Zeb” Zebertavage, was part of the D-Day invasion and served as an anti-aircraft gunner on the USS O’Brien.
These brave men of the Greatest Generation deserve to be commemorated and remembered for all time. We must never forget their great sacrifice for the cause of freedom in defiance of tyranny.
Click HERE to watch the House Republican Caucus video which highlights Pennsylvanian veterans, including former members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, who served on D-Day and in the Normandy Invasion.
George A. Ferrell Elementary Nationally Recognized
Congratulations to Ferrell Elementary on its National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award! I was pleased to present a citation to the school officials from the state House of Representatives for their leadership and for setting a strong example of an exceptional education institution. The school was among 340 private and public schools across the nation to receive the honor authorized by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. You can read more HERE.
Happy Retirement to George Heiges!
Lycoming County has been served immensely by our Director of Veterans Affairs George Heiges for the past nine years. I'm honored to give George a citation for his many years of public service, which was presented to him by my District Office Manager Charley Hall.
George is also a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant. He diligently worked to help fellow veterans in our community and personally participated in numerous veteran organizations through the years. His dedication to our veterans is to be highly commended!
Thank you, George! Happy Retirement!
New Center for Rural PA Study on Broadband Access
In terms of broadband, an unfortunate fact is that we currently have two Pennsylvanias -- rural without internet and urban with internet. As vice chair of the The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, it was eye-opening to read the statistics from our latest study with improved mapping.
Internet speed is the No. 1 issue I am contacted about at my district office. It's unacceptable to me that so many residents in my district are forced to go to a library or find other public hotspots to get work or homework done. I'm eager to share our work with my colleagues in the House and Senate so we can increase access for all Pennsylvanians.
It's time to stop the brain drain from rural PA!
You can read the report HERE.
On Monday, I was proud to join my colleagues of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at a press conference to unveil the report’s findings. You can watch my remarks below.
Marcellus Shale Coalition Warns Governor About Taxes
The Marcellus Shale Coalition issued a press release warning the governor about possible unintended consequences of his proposed severance tax on natural gas to fund a $4.5 billion bond. MSC warned that the additional tax “threatens economic growth and burdens hard-working families with higher energy costs.” Read more HERE.
Continuing Support for PA Military, Veterans
In recognition of the service and sacrifice of active duty military and veterans in the Commonwealth, the House is always working to enact policies that help and support these men and women and their families.
This week, we approved House Bill 630 to extend Pennsylvania’s current employment protections to Pennsylvania citizens who are members of another state’s National Guard and are called up to serve outside of the Commonwealth.
We also approved House Bill 1050 to ensure an in-state tuition rate for military families as soon as a student enrolls in a public college or university, regardless of whether his or her military parent is reassigned out of the state. Both bills are now pending consideration in the Senate.
Finally, lawmakers joined with representatives of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to send off seven new vans that will help DAV volunteers transport veterans to their VA medical appointments.
For more information about state services and support for our military and veterans, visit the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website at dmva.pa.gov.
Committees Examine Impacts of Medical Marijuana on Second Amendment Rights
The House Judiciary and Health committees held a joint public hearing this week about medical marijuana use and Second Amendment rights.
While medical marijuana use is legal under state law, it remains a violation of federal law. Federal law also prohibits anyone who is an “unlawful user” or addicted to any controlled substance from buying or owning a firearm.
Committee members heard from law enforcement officials and representatives of gun rights organizations during the hearing. Key points of the discussion included the need to better inform medical marijuana users about the impact on their Second Amendment rights and how HIPAA laws protect patients from disclosing their use of medical cannabis.
Law enforcement officials also talked about other enforcement-related issues, such as how to administer field sobriety tests on a driver suspected of using cannabis.
Bills Advance to Grow PA Agriculture
Recognizing the important contributions of the state’s agriculture industry, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee this week approved a package of bills to support current and future farmers in the Commonwealth.
Among the bills approved by the committee are ones to create a Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account to ensure a quick state-level response to threats such as invasive species or disease; establish a Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help farmers create a business plan, transition plan or succession plan; and empower the State Conservation Commission to provide technical assistance and financing options for implementing best management practices.
To ensure our youth have greater exposure to and understanding of the importance of farming, other bills would revive the PA Farm-to-School Program to support child nutrition and reestablish the former Agriculture and Rural Youth Development Program to fund youth organizations that promote development in agriculture, community leadership, vocational training and peer fellowship.
Other measures aim to boost enrollment in the veteran farmer Homegrown by Heroes program, provide specialty crop block grants, aid with meat inspection costs for small or new processors and protect agritourism business from lawsuits where no party is at fault for injuries or damages.
The bills now go to the House for consideration.
PFBC Reminds Boaters of Storm Precautions
As the late spring and early summer seasons continue to usher in frequent, often powerful storms across the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) reminds boaters and anglers to be alert for potentially dangerous water conditions.
According to Jeff Jumper, state meteorologist for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), even storms that do not produce much rain can produce powerful winds capable of breaking tree limbs or blowing other debris into waterways that can present a safety hazard. Plus, all thunderstorms can create dangerous lightning, which can strike anywhere. He says if you can hear thunder, you're close enough to be struck. Lightning can strike 10 miles away or more from the storm and waterways do not provide safe shelter.
While high and fast-moving water can be dangerous for watercraft of all sizes, operators of unpowered boats, such as canoes and kayaks, can be especially at risk during a storm.
“Prepare yourself for inclement weather by becoming familiar with your waterway in advance. Map out your trip and file a float plan that includes several places you can stop along the way for a break, check the local forecast, and if needed, ride out a passing storm." – Jeff Jumper
Boaters can add an extra layer of protection by investing in a portable NOAA weather radio, visiting the Severe Thunderstorm Safety page at ReadyPA.gov, and wearing a life jacket at all times, regardless of weather conditions. According to PFBC boating accident reports, roughly 80-percent of all boating fatalities occur annually because boaters were not wearing life jackets.
To learn more about boating in Pennsylvania, including complete rules and regulations, registration and title information, how to find great places to boat near you, how to file a boating accident report and answers to other frequently asked questions (FAQs), visit the Boating Basics page on the PFBC website.
Measures Aim to Improve Mental Health Care Access
Working to strengthen communities and support Pennsylvania families, we are continuing our efforts to improve access to behavioral health services in the Commonwealth.
House Resolution 268 directs the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to assess the Commonwealth’s treatment capacity for mental and behavioral health care by studying the patient care and financial impacts of delayed emergency department discharge of patients with a behavioral health diagnoses, and the cause of such delays.
A second measure, House Resolution 193, calls on JSGC to study the shortages in the mental health care workforce that are leading to delays in obtaining treatment.
The House also approved a bill to clarify current law regarding consent to mental health treatment for minor children. House Bill 672 specifically states a parent can consent to care without a minor’s approval. While this is the intent of current law, there has been confusion among parents, minors and providers about who can or must consent to care.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
New Contact at Lycoming County VA
With the retirement of George W. Heiges Jr., former director of Lycoming County Office of Veterans Affairs, veterans in the 84th District can now contact Natalie Steppe at the same phone numbers: 570-320-2101 or 570-327-2365. A new director has yet to be named.
In Union County, veterans in the 84th District can still contact Director J.D. Kerstetter, Union County Office of Veterans Affairs, at 570-524-8677.
Services to veterans and their dependents include assistance with:
• Compensation, pension and death benefits.
• Education and health care.
• Veterans benefits.
Veterans do not need to be a member of the American Legion to receive services.
Veterans Outreach Hours at My Office
I want to remind the veterans in the 84th District that American Legion Service Officer Dan Falls is available at my Muncy office to meet with them. Dan stops by every fourth Tuesday of the month, or by appointment.
Call 570-546-2084 to schedule an appointment in advance.
Have an Issue or Concern?
If you are a resident of the 84th District and need assistance with a state agency, please feel free to contact my Muncy office at 570-546-2084. One of my staff members will be more than happy to assist you.
Stay in Touch with Me on Social Media
You can stay up to date on my latest news and activities by visiting my House website, repeverett.com, or my official Facebook page. You can watch my House floor speeches and press interviews at my YouTube channel HERE.