Sen. Blake Says Bipartisan Congressional Career & Technical Education Caucus to Hold Field Hearing

HARRISBURG, Oct. 23, 2014 – State Sen. John Blake will participate in a special field hearing at 10 a.m., tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 24, in Harrisburg that will explore career and technical education in relation to the development of a skilled workforce.

Co-Chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Career & Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson will lead the hearing here. He will be joined by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and other state and federally elected officials to hear witness testimony on “The Role of Career & Technical Education in Creating a Skilled Workforce: Perspectives from Employers and Stakeholders.”

The following people have agreed to testify before the caucus:

  • Kimberly A. Green, executive director, The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium
  • Tamar Jacoby, president, Opportunity America; on behalf of the Opportunity America Jobs and Careers Coalition
  • Jim Kunz, business manager, International Union of Operating Engineers
  • Amanda Novak, human resource manager, Tri-M Group
  • Neil Ashbaugh, training and development specialist, Oberg Industries
  • Sandra J. Himes, executive director, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute

Media coverage is invited.

WHAT:          Sen. John Blake to join bipartisan Congressional Career & Technical Education Caucus field hearing on “The Role of Career & Technical Education in Creating a Skilled Workforce: Perspectives from Employers and Stakeholders”

WHEN:          10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 24

WHERE:        Hearing Room 1, North Office Building, Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex, 401 North St., Harrisburg

The Congressional Career & Technical Education Caucus is a bipartisan group of Members of Congress committed to supporting and promoting CTE. Co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI), the CTE Caucus is comprised of federal representatives from across the United States and transcends the ideological spectrum.

The goals of the CTE Caucus are to educate and promote quality CTE programs and well-paying, family-sustaining jobs.  These fields include STEM disciplines, nursing, allied health, construction, information technology, energy, cyber security, sustainability, and other areas that keep our nation competitive in the global economy.

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Military Commission’s Codification Means Ongoing Defense of PA’s Defense Industry, Sen. Blake Says

SCRANTON, Oct. 23, 2014 – The commonwealth’s decision to cement in law the ongoing work of its Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission will mean perpetual vigilance for the state’s multi-billion dollar defense industry and the tens-of-thousands of hardworking men and women who work at its installations, state Sen. John Blake said today.

The governor codified the commission when he signed House Bill 1550 into law on Wednesday.

“From the Tobyhanna Army Depot to the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport and nine other Pennsylvania military installations in between, the governor’s decision to sign Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission into statute means the commonwealth will be better prepared to defend our vital economic defense engine when the federal government considers cuts,” Blake said today.

“In the past, due to business cycles and changing budget conditions, Pennsylvania was exposed to the adverse impact of unilateral action by a branch of the military if it decided to eliminate the mission of one of our military installations.

“Now that the commission has been codified in statute it will ensure sustained effort and we will have the real-time knowledge and the capacity to protect more than 60,000 workers across the commonwealth who work in Pennsylvania’s defense industry,” Blake said.

The economic impact of the defense industry in Pennsylvania is estimated at $30 billion. Since the inception of the federal Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process, the commonwealth has lost 18,913 full-time jobs.

Sen. Blake was named one of the commission’s four co-chairmen when Gov. Tom Corbett issued an executive order to create the precursor to the new oversight panel, the Pennsylvania Military Community Protection Commission. Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Adams), Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware) were the other three co-chairs.

All four lawmakers are part of the 40-plus member Pennsylvania Legislative Military Installations and Base Development Caucus, which Blake helped to create. The caucus also serves as an active forum for lawmakers as it works to improve Pennsylvania’s military installations, expand business development opportunities and protect them from future cuts.

“The permanent presence of the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission sends a message to the civilian and military workforce throughout the state that we appreciate their great work on behalf of our war fighters. It also signals to the Defense Department that Pennsylvania is serious about maintaining the vitality and the utility of our bases,” Blake said. “Through this action, other states will also recognize the strong alignment of this commonwealth with our federal congressional delegation on all matters affecting our military installations.”

Tobyhanna Army Depot is in Blake’s 22nd Senatorial District, but he said the installation means more to him than that.

“Tobyhanna is very close to my heart because my dad worked there for nearly 30 years after serving in the Navy in World War II,” he said.  “The quality of life I had growing up was in great measure connected to Tobyhanna.”

Close to 4,000 people now work at the depot, making it one of the largest employers in Northeast Pennsylvania. Its annual economic impact to the region is more than $3 billion.

“I have been proud to work on the commission and very glad to work with my fellow lawmakers, particularly Sen. Rich Alloway,” Blake said. “Sen. Alloway has been a staunch advocate for Pennsylvania’s military installations and he is a big reason why the commonwealth remains vigilant regarding the base closure and realignment process.”

Sen. Blake was the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1494, the companion proposal to HB 1550.

In addition to Tobyhanna and the 911th Airlift Wing, Pennsylvania’s military installations include the Naval Support Activity and the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, the PA Army and Air National Guard in Ft. Indiantown Gap, the Defense Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Naval Support Activity in Mechanicsburg, Carlisle Barracks and the Army War College, Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, and the 316th Sustainment Command in Coraopolis.

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CFA Awards $ 2.25 Million to Sen. Blake’s 22nd District

Flood control funding in Jermyn and Natural Gas Fueling Station in Lackawanna County along with other municipal projects.

SCRANTON, Oct. 21, 2014 – State Sen. John Blake’s advocacy helped secure $385,000 for a flood mitigation project in Jermyn Borough and nearly half a million dollars from the commonwealth to continue the remediation of the Old Forge borehole.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved the latest round of investments in Blake’s 22nd Senatorial District. The CFA also green-lighted $1.25 million to help Constellation New Energy build a public access CNG fueling station, and another $125,000 for projects in Jefferson Township, Moscow Borough and at West Scranton High School.

“Today’s round of funding will allow us to take the next step in addressing one of the worst sources of pollution in the Lackawanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.” Blake said today following CFA’s approval of the new investments.

“Also, today’s announcement should bring reassurance to residents in flood-prone Jermyn Borough that much-needed flood control improvements will be implemented,” he said. Blake wanted to acknowledge members of the Northeast House Democratic delegation, all of whom were strong advocates for these funding awards. Blake also wanted to express thanks to the Lackawanna County commissioners for their support on behalf of Jermyn Borough.

The $492,821 grant to Susquehanna Mining Solutions will allow the company to begin baseline site work as it prepares to build its acid mine drainage treatment facility.

Iron oxide from the Old Forge borehole, which was drilled in 1962 to release water that had pooled in underground mines, has turned the Lackawanna River orange. The 80 million gallons of water it discharges each day into the river ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.

The $1.25 million Alternative and Clean Energy Program grant to Constellation New Energy will result in a compressed natural gas, or CNG, fueling station near interstates 81, 84 and 380.

Constellation is paying the balance of the cost of construction, or $1,875,884.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority also approved the following grants today:

  • $385,000 to Lackawanna County Commissioners for a flood mitigation project in Jermyn Borough,
  • $76,683 to Jefferson Township for the construction of walking and hiking trails for the community’s only publicly owned park,
  • $24,650 to the WSHS Courtyard Fund for a courtyard beautification project at West Scranton High School, and
  • $24,000 to Moscow Sewer Authority so it may update its Act 537 sewage facilities plan.

“When Rush Brook flooded in 2003, it damaged 70 homes and businesses,” Blake said. “The county’s $385,000 flood mitigation project will enable Jermyn Borough to undertake local project responsibilities that will enable the state to construct flood control improvements that will help keep Rush Brook in its banks and better protect Jermyn against storms.”

Flood protection will come from a new hybrid channel and concrete block wall. Five of the seven bridges along Rush Brook will also be replaced with box culverts and a levee will protect the low-lying area near River Street.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is an independent agency of the commonwealth that is designed to administer Pennsylvania’s economic stimulus packages. CFA holds fiduciary responsibility over the funding of programs and investments.

CFA’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Harrisburg.

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Act 89 Investments Improving NEPA Transportation Systems, Sen. Blake Tells Committee

SCRANTON, Sept. 25, 2014 – New state investments in Northeast Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure will deliver smoother roads, better bridges and promise to positively impact future generations, Sen. John Blake today told a panel of lawmakers at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel.

“Sixteen road repaving projects are underway or have been completed in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, thanks to Act 89,” Blake told the Senate Transportation Committee. “Act 89 has also delivered four bridge replacement projects in the counties; two each in Lackawanna and Luzerne.

“Fixing roads, replacing bridges and upgrading and expanding mass transit mean fewer trips to the auto mechanic, faster transit times for businesses and commuters, and an improved quality of life for residents and visitors. It also means jobs,” Blake said.

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, District 4 Executive George Roberts, COLTS Executive Director Bob Fiume and PA Northeast Regional Railroad Authority President Larry Malski also addressed the committee.

Lawmakers also visited the Steamtown National Historic Park, Lackawanna Stadium and checked the progress of construction at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport interchange.

“I’m pleased to bring the Senate Transportation Committee to Scranton to discuss the positive impacts that are occurring in the region as a result of Act 89,” said Sen. John Rafferty, the Republican chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “A bipartisan effort that included the strong support of my friend Sen. John Blake, Act 89 touches every community in Pennsylvania through job creation, infrastructure repair and expansion, and the stabilization of our transit systems.”

Act 89 invested $321 million during the first half of this year. More than half of that, or $186 million, has been spent to upgrade roads and bridges throughout the commonwealth. Over the next 5 years, $1.3 billion is expected to be invested to improve PA roads and bridges.

Over the next 5 years, PennDOT is planning to invest as much as $2.4 billion in the other important components of the commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure, including public transportation, PA Turnpike extension projects and multi-modal ventures.

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Editor’s Note: The following projects have been completed in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties using Act 89 investments:

Lackawanna

Paving

  • SR 307, SR 3011 and SR 6307, Scranton – Keyser Avenue from Market Street to Ferdinand Street
  • SR 4026, ClarksSummit – West Grove Street from Morgan Highway to SR 6/11
  • SR 3013, Scranton – Main Street from Oak Street in Taylor to North Scranton Expressway
  • SR 6011, Scranton – Harrison Avenue from Moosic Street to North Blakely Street
  • SR 6, ClarksSummit – from Turnpike Interchange to D&H Railroad Bridge at the north end of Clarks Summit
  • SR 247 Wildcat Road, Blakely and Archbald boroughs and Scott and Greenfield townships from Gino Merli Driver to Susquehanna County line
  • I-81, Northbound and Southbound, ClarksSummit to Waverly, Nova Chip Seal Coat
  • I-84, Dunmore, RoaringBrook and Jefferson townships – from Exit 2 to Exit 8

Bridges

  • SR 3021 – Bridge Replacement – Scranton, Stafford Avenue over Meadow Brook
  • T-412 – Bridge Replacement – JeffersonTownship

Luzerne

Paving

  • SR 29, HanoverTownship – from I-81 to Susquehanna River Bridge
  • SR 309, Hazleton, Hazle, and Butler and townships from Green Street in Hazleton to Maces Road near I-80 interchange in Butler
  • SR 415 Memorial Highway, Harvey’sLakeBorough and Dallas and Lehman townships from SR 118 to Lake Drive in Harvey’s Lake Borough
  • SR 940, WhiteHavenBorough – from I-80 to Bridge Street
  • SR 2001, HanoverTownship – from Main Street to Sans Souci Parkway
  • SR 2002, HanoverTownship – from Main Street to State Street
  • SR 3001, Nanticoke, and Slocum and Newport townships from Nuangola Road to West Nanticoke Bridge
  • SR 3034, ConynghamBorough from Rock Glen Road to Borough line

Bridges

  • SR 1001, Bridge Replacement, LarksvilleBorough over Brown’s Creek
  • SR 1026, Bridge Replacement, DallasTownship over Leonard’s Creek

Sen. Blake Joins Senate in Unanimously Approving Changes to PA’s RTK Law

HARRISBURG, Sept. 24, 2014 – Sen. John Blake today applauded the passage of legislation that would make significant reforms to Pennsylvania’s open records law.

Sen. Blake stewarded the discussions with the four state-related universities – Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln – and crafted the amendment to Senate Bill 444 to bring the schools under enhanced Right to Know disclosure requirements.

If approved by the House and governor, SB 444 would require the state-related universities to publicly disclose and display their top 250 salaries, revenue and expenditure reports, academic and administrative support information, audited financial statements, minutes of any public meeting, information on the expenditure of their non-preferred General Fund appropriations, and detailed information on the goods and services contracts they procure and award.  All of this information is required to be posted on-line and must be retained for 20 years.

“This has been many months of work and it has involved six years of learning as the Office of Open Records implemented Pennsylvania’s 2008 Right to Know statute,” Blake said. “The change affecting the state-related universities is an enormous enhancement in disclosures. It assures the public can learn more about how these institutions utilize their significant, annual state appropriations with ease and predictability.”

Blake thanked and commended Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, State Government Committee chairmen Sens. Lloyd Smucker and Matt Smith and their staffs for their work in ensuring  Pennsylvania’s Open Records law be strengthened and enhanced to better serve the public interest.

Additionally, Blake urged Gov. Tom Corbett to reappoint Terry Mutchler as the executive director of the Office of Open Records. Mutchler’s term expired this past April.

“Mutchler shepherded the implementation and management of the Office of Open Records in an exemplary way,” Blake said. “She is recognized nationally as a subject-matter expert in the area of public transparency and accountability. There is no individual who is as qualified and deserving for re-appointment to her current post.”

Sen. Blake also urged his colleagues in the House to adopt Senate Bill 444 as swiftly as possible.

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