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22 News & Views from State Senator John Blake

City of Scranton Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Scranton 150th Remarks

Senator Blake speaks on the Senate floor about the history of Scranton in honor of the City's 150th anniversary celebration

I am very proud to join the entire City of Scranton this weekend as we celebrate the city’s sesquicentennial on Charter Day, Saturday, April 23.

Since the beginnings of our nation, Pennsylvania has been the Keystone State  -- and many of the success stories that mark the economic and industrial ascendency of America -- began right here in Scranton -- in the Lackawanna Valley.
 
The industrial revolution in iron and coal – which transformed the national and global economy – was fueled from here in Scranton -- from here in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Scranton was officially incorporated as a city on April 23, 1866, when the 20 square miles comprising the boroughs of Scranton, Providence and Hyde Park combined to become the City of Scranton in Luzerne County.

The city of Scranton took its first step toward earning its reputation as the Electric City on Dec. 6, 1880 when electric lights were introduced at the Dickson Locomotive Works. And in 1887 we became the first city in the nation to boast a commercially successful electric trolley line.
 
Scranton 150th AnniversaryIn the early years of the 20th century, this proud City forged ahead as the center of Pennsylvania's anthracite coal industry, fueling the industrial revolution and warming homes around the globe.
 
Whether it was rails, coal, electricity, or in textiles – where so many women made their way into the labor force – Scranton was a leader and it continues to be a leader today with some of the best manufacturers, health care facilities and academic institutions in the world.

Though we are only the sixth largest city in this Commonwealth, our influence and importance are unmatched in the social and political history of this region and indeed, of our nation.

The residents of our region – from the coal miners to the rail operators to the factory workers – have always been hard-working, honest and reliable people… a fact that has not been lost on local officials, state officials or United States presidents.
 
The same families who poured their blood, sweat and tears into this city 150 years ago continue to live on through their children’s children -- and their legacy of pride, perseverance, resiliency and hope are as strong now as they were then.

Congratulations to the City of Scranton on the 150th Anniversary and I look forward to the great celebration planned this weekend.

For a full list of events taking place this weekend to celebrate Scranton’s 150th anniversary, click here.

Pennsylvania Becomes 24th State to Legalize Medical Cannabis

SB3 signed into lawLast weekend, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 3, which will allow physicians in Pennsylvania to prescribe medical cannabis to patients who would benefit from such a treatment.

As a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3, I am thrilled that the legislature was able to work in a bipartisan manner to provide this medical relief to patients suffering from serious conditions and whose quality of life could significantly improve through the use of medical cannabis. I want to extend special thanks to Senators Mike Folmer and Daylin Leach who championed this cause in the General Assembly

Pennsylvania is the 24th state to approve the use of medical cannabis and it is important to note that a patient’s use of medical cannabis will be strictly regulated by the state. The medical cannabis authorized under the new law may only be dispensed as a pill, oil, tincture or liquid; in a topical form, such as a gel, cream or ointment; or in a form medically appropriate for vaporization or nebulization. Patients will not be able to legally obtain cannabis in a form they could smoke under the current statute.

It is my understanding that the implementation of the program by the Pennsylvania Department of Health is expected to take between 18 and 24 months and, when completed, will offer medical marijuana to patients who are under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition.

For more information on how patients will be able to obtain medical marijuana and which conditions its use will be authorized for, click here.

2nd Annual Inclusion Initiative Panel Discusses Poverty in NEPAInclusion Initiative Panel

Earlier this week, I hosted a number of local community leaders at Marywood University for a panel discussion on poverty in northeastern Pennsylvania as part of his second Inclusion Initiative Summit.

Our forum convened leaders with a diverse set of perspectives on the issue of poverty in our region and I felt very strongly that the conversation was productive, honest, informative and engaging.

We are faced with a number of challenges here in our region and across the state with so many of our neighbors and citizens struggling in poverty. We need to continue to engage community leaders in business, in our schools and at all levels of government to foster opportunities to advance prospects for living wages so our young men and women and our families can escape the generational cycle of poverty.

A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development found that in 2013-14, 13.6% of Lackawanna County residents and 20.5 % of Scranton residents were living below the federal poverty level.
 
Sen. Blake at the Inclusion Initiative panel discussion at Marywood UniversityThere are too many people – including seniors – who are living in daily financial stress right now in northeastern Pennsylvania. We need to remove outdated stereotypes about poverty and take up a collaborative engagement with a variety of partners in academic, health care, governmental, charitable, nonprofit, business and judicial circles – to change the scale and the scope of poverty in our region. I believe that it is the responsibility of all of these stakeholders to continue to advocate for and to continue to work together to improve the quality of life for hard-working residents. No one should be working 40+ hours per week and living below the federal poverty level.

I joined on the panel by Gary Drapek, president and CEO of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties; Monsignor Joseph Kelly, executive director of the Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen; Maureen Sullivan, community outreach organizer at the Community Intervention Center of Lackawanna County; and Alejandra Marroquin, intern at the Office of Diversity at Marywood University.

The forum was planned and coordinated in great measure by Ly’Esha Fleming, a Marywood University Social Work student who interned in my Scranton Office this year.

To watch video coverage of the Inclusion Initiative panel discussion, click here.

Increasing Awareness and Understanding of Lead Exposure in Pennsylvania

Sen. Blake speaks at press conference

Video of Senator Blake's remarks at a recent press conference discussing lead exposure in Pennsylvania.

I recently joined Congressman Matt Cartwright, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George at a news conference to discuss ways the federal, state and local government can work together to raise awareness and increase testing of lead exposure across Pennsylvania.

I am very proud of Congressman Matt Cartwright and I applaud him for elevating the profile of this very important national conversation regarding lead exposure. This is a very serious issue but we need to ensure that the facts about lead exposure and its dangers are accurate and properly presented to the public. We also need to be sure the people of PA know how and where they can get more information to protect themselves and their children.

Senate Democrats recently introduced a package of legislation that would increase awareness and understanding of the lead issue in Pennsylvania and also strengthen lead testing measures for our schools and daycare centers.

The bills in the legislative package include:

  • Senate Bill 1173, which would create a task force to study the scope of the lead issue, including an accounting of the age of the state’s housing stock, pipelines, school buildings and day care centers. The Task Force would study the age of our housing stock, lead pipes, school buildings and day care centers.  In addition, the task force would study best practices and make recommendations to remediate the lead issues throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Senate Bill 1174, which would require every school building to be tested (water, paint, soil) for lead before a school year begins. Test results would be sent to parents of every enrolled child and posted on school district websites. If a school tests at lead levels higher than the Centers for Disease Control’s acceptable amount, it would be required to submit a remediation plan to the state Department of Education.
  • Senate Bill 1175, which seeks to require lead testing (water, paint, soil) in day care centers licensed by the PA Department of Human Services. DHS would be prohibited from issuing a license to a day care operator if lead levels are higher than CDC recommended readings.
  • Senate Bill 1176, which would require any agreement of sale for real property in the commonwealth to include an option to have the water tested for lead. This would be similar to the current inspection contingency in a standard agreement of sale.
  • Senate Bill 1177, which would create a “SuperFund for Lead Abatement.” The SuperFund may be utilized by entities, such as schools and day cares, to defray costs associated with remediating lead. Some of those remediation projects may include: replacing lead or copper lead-soldered pipes, removing lead paint, or removing soil with elevated lead levels.

Around the District

Dress for Success

It was a pleasure to meet with representatives from all six of our Dress for Success organizations from across the state. This wonderful program helps over 12,000 Pennsylvania women in need each year by ensuring they have appropriate professional clothing and the job interview skills needed to secure employment -- and ultimately, economic independence.

Civil Air Patrol presentation

Congratulations to Cadet 2LT/ Robert Klemens for receiving the prestigious Billy Mitchell Award at the Scranton Composite Squadron 201, Civil Air Patrol award and promotion presentation ceremony! Cadet Klemens is an impressive young man who also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout as member of the Boy Scouts of America earlier this month.

   
Luzerne County Realtors legislative panel

Thank you to the Luzerne County Association of Realtors for the invitation to participate in a recent legislative panel with a number of my colleagues in both the House and Senate to discuss pending legislation that can benefit the real estate industry in Pennsylvania.

Speaking to class at ESU

As East Stroudsburg University's 2015-16 Legislative Fellow, I recently had the opportunity to serve as the keynote speaker at a youth and political participation event hosted by the ESU political science department and political science club.

   

Legislation Seeks to Fast-Track Foreclosure Process in PennsylvaniaSenator Blake

I am proud to work with my friend and colleague Senator David Argall to introduce legislation that provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property.

Blighted properties continue to be a major problem for our boroughs, townships and cities. These abandoned properties are extremely detrimental to our communities and the values of neighboring properties.

Currently, our foreclosure process lasts from 300 to 540 days – our legislation can reduce that timeframe on abandoned and vacant properties to 60 days. Specifically, our bill will limit the use of the “fast track” foreclosure process to vacant and abandoned properties.  It provides a process to have a property certified as vacant and abandoned, either by a municipal code officer or through judicial certification, before an expedited foreclosure may commence.  The legislation also specifies the process a lender must follow when using expedited foreclosure on these properties.

Since 2009, seven states have enacted “fast-track” foreclosure laws as a way to help local governments and responsible taxpayers maintain and rebuild their communities. 

Our bill is the culmination of three years of work by the bicameral, bipartisan Blight Task Force and it is my hope that it quickly moves through the legislative process.

Click here to read a Scranton Times story regarding our legislation.

Villanova Wildcats Win the National Championship at the Buzzer! Nova Nation

Congratulations to my alma mater Villanova University for winning the NCAA National Championship earlier this month in Houston! Kris Jenkins’ incredible buzzer beater will certainly go down in history as one of the most memorable shots in sports history.

In honor of the Wildcats' National Championship, the state Capitol building was turned Villanova blue for the night!

Capitol buildingThe Villanova Basketball team had a very special season and the National Championship is a proper reward for this hard-working, unselfish, outstanding team.

To Coach Jay Wright; Ryan Arcidiacono; Josh Hart; Kris Jenkins; Jalen Brunson; Daniel Ochefu; Darryl Reynolds; Phil Booth and the entire Villanova team...Congratulations!!!!! Nova Nation is proud of you.

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Offices to Serve You

 

District Office
Oppenheim Building
409 Lackawanna Ave., Ste. 210
Scranton, PA 18503
Phone: (570) 207-2881
Fax: (570) 207-2897
Toll free: 1-877-346-5721
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Harrisburg Office
Room 17 East Wing
The State Capitol
Senate Box 203022
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3022
Phone: (717) 787-6481
Fax: (717) 783-5198
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.