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I hope you had a most enjoyable summer of 2013. As kids return to school, and as cool nights arrive at the change of the season, I am preparing for another busy legislative session in the fall.  Our work remains unfinished and deliberations continue on several important public policy decisions for our commonwealth. These decisions will chart a future course for individuals and families in the 22nd Senatorial District and, indeed, for the entire state. Transportation infrastructure, pension reform, enhancements and reforms to our liquor control system, and the state’s role in addressing the fiscal condition of our smaller cities are but a few of the issues on our agenda in the fall legislative session.

I want to reassure you of my vigilance in serving you, and my constant attention to your interests and needs as I continue my work for you in the PA Senate in Harrisburg.

Sen. John P. Blake

'Innovate in PA Ready' for Launch

Senator BlakeThe governor made the Innovate in Pennsylvania tax credit program a reality a few months ago when he signed into law House Bill 465 -- the PA Tax Code. This legislation advances important programs that will deliver positive impact for many communities throughout the state.

One program included in the tax code is “Innovate in PA,” which I introduced earlier this year as SB 456.  This program will improve Pennsylvania’s capacity to support the job creators of the future because it will assist promising start-up businesses while delivering job-creating investments through the state’s proven and capable network of economic development agents like our Ben Franklin Technology Partners, PA Venture Investment Partners, and Life Science Greenhouses.

The program provides for new investment of nearly $100 million to foster success and growth in business sectors such as life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information technology and energy.

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (Pocono Northeast) -- said in June of this year that it believes the “Innovate in PA” program will help restore some of the much-needed capital that had been stripped by the state during the recent economic recession.  For every dollar BFTP invests in companies with good business plans more than $3 dollars are returned to state coffers in the form of taxes from new employees, new sales or corporate earnings.

Successful new and strong small businesses are the backbone of Pennsylvania’s economy. We need them and we need more of them. My prior experience as an economic development professional tells me that “Innovate in PA” will make a great difference by ensuring that successful companies will grow their ideas and become viable, job-creating engines here in Pennsylvania instead of elsewhere around the nation or around the world. For more information on “Innovate in PA” please click here.

Airport Extension Taking Off

Senator Blake joined local elected officials, PennDOT officials, and other dignitaries for a groundbreaking ceremony at the W-B/Scranton International Airport.

When it comes to economic development, our state’s vitality and growth prospects are only as good as our roads and bridges. We’re blessed to have a first-class airport in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International, but it hasn’t always been easy or safe for companies -- or for travelers -- to move in and out of that region of I-81.

Shortly after the Independence Day holiday, we broke ground on a $42 million highway improvement project at Exit 178 that will improve traffic safety, make it easier for businesses to conduct inter- and intra-state commerce, and to generate new investment opportunities while enhancing public safety for residents as well as for visitors to the region.

The project, one of the few “new capacity” highway construction projects underway at present, will include roundabouts, the expansion of four bridges along I-81, the replacement of a pedestrian bridge, and the repaving of a 1.5-mile section of the highway. It will open acres of land to development adjacent to the existing Grimes Industrial Park and, for our local neighborhoods and commuters, favorably impact truck traffic patterns on the I-81 corridor.

This project was a long-time coming to Northeast PA and my thanks and appreciation go to the many local officials who stayed focused on its successful implementation: particularly Barry Centini, airport director; State Rep. Mike Carroll; the Lackawanna County Commissioners; the Luzerne County Council; and, of course, officials from our PA Department of Transportation.

Troubled Bridges Over Troubled Waters

As promised, the Corbett administration has weight-restricted 1,000 additional bridges.  These weight limits interrupt commercial activity and add costs to small businesses in the 22nd District.

These actions were necessary due to the failure to successfully achieve a transportation investment plan to upgrade our roads and bridges before the end of our legislative session in July.

PhoneThis latest development of weight limitations on our bridges imposes particular hardship in the 22nd Senate District.

Fifty-two of the bridges affected by PennDOT’s latest directive are in Monroe County and that includes a weight limitation on the 151-foot span that carries Business Route 209 over Pocono Creek in Stroudsburg.  In Lackawanna County, 16 bridges are on the new weight-restricted list, including the 127-foot Albright Avenue bridge over the Lackawanna River in Scranton. Another Lackawanna River overpass – Stephenson Street in Duryea – is one of the 14 weight-restricted bridges in Luzerne County.

PennDOT insists that it added these bridges to slow their deterioration. The bridges are safe, the administration said, but they are aging and structurally deficient -- they were not designed or built to handle modern volumes of heavy truck traffic.

We need to come together in Pennsylvania and find the proper means to invest in all of our transportation needs: bridges, roads, mass transit, ports and airports.  It is essential to public safety and to our economic competitiveness.

Dialing 5-7-0

PhoneI want to remind the citizens of the 22nd District that you will have to include “570” when dialing local telephone calls later next month.

This new requirement is happening because the telephone companies are running out of phone numbers and a new area code, 272, is being added in Northeastern PA. People who get a phone with a new number on or after Oct. 21 will be assigned the new area code and callers will have to dial that area code as well when making local calls to those new numbers.

Should you have any concerns or questions, call my office and we will help.

Open Records – Free Advice

Open RecordsSince being sworn in to the Senate in 2011, I’ve been an advocate of transparency in governmental operations.  Also, in my prior experience in the executive branch at the Department of Community and Economic Development, I worked with the state’s first – and current – Office of Open Records executive director, Terry Mutchler. While I did not support Gov. Corbett’s most recent budget proposal, I was very happy to advocate for and to see an increase in the budget for the Office of Open Records in the final state spending plan approved in July.

I am always ready to assist you in your information search about state government operations but the Office of Open Records also has a great guide on its website.  It is called, quite simply, a Citizen’s Guide and it is packed with definitions and directions about what the state considers to be a public record under our current right-to-know law, who is subject to the law and specific steps as to how to file a request for public records to which state agencies must respond. Please check out the Citizen’s Guide.

Terry Mutchler has capably presided over a dramatic change in the manner in which the state manages public records and the process through which the state provides access to such records to our citizens.  I commend her and her team at the OOR for the work they do every day in advancing transparency and accountability in state government.

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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