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Celebrate Responsibly on Labor Day Weekend

Since the late 1800s, Labor Day has served as a day to recognize the many contributions and achievements of American workers.  In recent decades, while the purpose has not changed, Labor Day has also come to serve as a milestone marking the end of summer; the return to school; and the beginning of football (and election) season.  So, while we take time to recall the energy, the commitment, the reliability and the fortitude of working class Americans, let us also enjoy the transition to Autumn with hopeful joy.

There is no better way to enjoy a holiday than in the company of family and friends and I wish all of you health and happiness throughout this holiday weekend.  

Make Your Vote Count, Know the Provisions of Voter ID

Voter IDSince the Voter ID bill was first proposed by state Republican leaders, I have been skeptical of the bill’s motives and deeply concerned for the hundreds of thousands of eligible voters who could be turned away from the polls in our critically important national election in November.

Even though many of us were dissatisfied by a recent Commonwealth Court ruling that denied a temporary injunction on the Voter ID law, we must take the proper steps to ensure that all voters – regardless of party affiliation – can properly participate in the November election.

A democracy works best when there is maximum voter participation.  Unfortunately, this new law serves to suppress the vote for partisan advantage. A recent report by the Pennsylvania Department of State estimated that 758,000 registered voters – more than 40,000 in the three counties that comprise the 22nd Senatorial District – do not have photo identification cards from the state Department of Transportation. A significant number of these voters are senior citizens or persons with disabilities that do not drive -- while still others are young voters looking to vote for the first time.

It is crucial for everyone to understand the provisions of the new law and how to ensure you are able to exercise your right to vote in November. PennDOT recently announced that voters who lack the documents necessary to secure a non-driver’s license ID card will be able to obtain a new Department of State voter identification card by visiting any PennDOT Drivers’ License Centers. For more information on applying for a Department of State voter identification card, click here.

I was very pleased with the turnout at the recent informational seminar on the provisions of the new voter ID law. With the help of state Rep. Ed Staback (D-Lackawanna/Wayne) and many other local officials, we were able to answer many questions and respond to the concerns of the local residents that turned out. While we are considering additional Voter ID informational sessions this Fall, do not hesitate to contact one of my district offices with any questions or concerns you may have on this important matter.  Voting is a fundamental right for American citizens – we all must work to defend it.

For more information on the provisions of the Voter ID law, please visit my website.

55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team Dinner

PA National GuardI was honored to serve as keynote speaker at the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s dinner last weekend at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in Scranton.

As the grandson of a World War I Army veteran and son of a World War II Navy veteran, I have a deep appreciation and respect for our military history and for all of the courageous men and women who serve our country. With over 3,500 Guardsmen from 23 communities throughout eastern Pennsylvania, the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team is one of Pennsylvania’s oldest and most respected military units.

The 55th is not only one of our strongest brigades but it is also one of our strongest partners in the community. When many local neighborhoods were devastated by flooding from Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Lee in 2011, over 1,300 Guardsmen from the 55th HBCT answered the call and assisted civil authorities in recovery across Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Since 9/11, soldiers and units from the brigade have deployed to Central Europe, Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, the Sinai and Afghanistan. In October of this year, about 1,500 service members of the 55th will be deployed to Kuwait where their presence is greatly needed and where their work will be vital in a transitioning military environment.  This deployment will be the largest deployment from the guard in Pennsylvania in three years.

I congratulate Col. Michael Konzman, who recently took command of the 55th.  My wish for him and for all of our courageous soldiers is safety, security and success during the upcoming deployment.  These brave men and women from Northeastern Pennsylvania are scheduled to return to Pennsylvania in the Fall of 2013 but I know that they -- and their families -- will be in our thoughts and our prayers every day.

Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania

Sen. BlakeBy increasing export capacity and establishing new connections between Northeastern Pennsylvania companies and customers worldwide, our region becomes more competitive and can capture a greater share of the global marketplace. Growing exports ensures job creation and job retention here in Pennsylvania.

On Friday, September 21, I will partner with the NEPA Alliance at an International Business Development event that will feature 21 trade advisors from around the world. This important networking event will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Wilkes-Barre.

This great event will allow local businesses to meet face-to-face with Pennsylvania’s international trade representatives and to discuss what their businesses need or would like to accomplish in trying to access foreign markets. PA’s trade reps will provide local businesses a native insight into foreign markets and they will discuss the potential for products or services offered by our local business community to reach foreign buyers.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, contact Michael Horvath at 570-655-5581. The registration deadline is Friday, September 14.

New Leaders Take Post at NEPA Institutions

Sen. Blake and Mr. Volk

Sen. Blake & Lackawanna College president Mark Volk

As we enter another new school year for educational institutions across Northeastern Pennsylvania, I would like to congratulate and extend all best wishes to two recently appointed school leaders.

The Commonwealth Medical College, Lackawanna College, Wilkes University and East Stroudsburg University are not only great educational institutions, but they are important economic drivers in our community. In recent months, these fine institutions have appointed new leaders.  I am very confident that they will take their respective institutions -- and their students -- to a great future.

Dr. Steven J. Scheinman has been named president and dean of The Commonwealth Medical College. Dr. Scheinman has lengthy and impressive experience in medical education that will be applied with great effect at TCMC as it continues to grow as a leader in community-focused physician education.

At Lackawanna College I was honored to take part in the inauguration for new president Mark Volk. Mr. Volk has been key to the recent growth and success at Lackawanna College.  His elevation to the role of president will certainly continue that performance and ensure more students gain access to higher education in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Dr. Patrick Leahy became the sixth president of Wilkes University earlier this summer. Prior to his appointment at Wilkes, he served as the executive vice president at The University of Scranton, where he has worked since 2004. Throughout his tenure at the University of Scranton, Dr. Leahy led the University community to great heights and I am confident in his ability to replicate those successes at Wilkes.

Lastly, Dr. Marcia G. Welsh made history at East Stroudsburg University when she was selected as the University’s first woman president this spring. Dr. Welsh, whom I recently had the privilege to meet with, brings to East Stroudsburg an incredibly impressive resume. Most recently, Dr. Welsh served as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Towson University.

Stay Connected

For updates on this and other legislative initiatives, stay in touch with me on the Internet through my website or on Facebook. Facebook

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