Blake, Schwank to Propose Expansion of City-Revitalizing Legislation

HARRISBURG, Jan. 14, 2014 –  Sen. John Blake and Sen. Judy Schwank will hold a press conference at 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 15, in the Capitol to unveil a bill that would expand the state’s new City Revitalization and Improvement Zones.

Lancaster and Bethlehem were selected last month to participate in the inaugural CRIZ program, which is designed to provide significant economic development and a way out for cities struggling with declining property values, job loss and escalating crime.

Many other cities would benefit from the expanded program, the senators contend.

Media coverage is welcomed.

WHAT:          Sens. Judy Schwank and John Blake to hold news conference announcing new CRIZ legislation

WHEN:          1:00 p.m.

WHERE:        Lt. Governor’s Balcony, Main Rotunda, Harrisburg


Sen. Blake: Deadline Approaching for Valley Forge Military College Appointment

HARRISBURG, Jan. 7, 2014 — State Sen. John Blake today said the deadline for area high school students wanting to be his appointee to the Valley Forge Military Academy & College in suburban Philadelphia is just around the corner.

Valley Forge partners with Sen. Blake and other Pennsylvania lawmakers to award one appointment from each legislative district to the two-year military academy in Wayne.

Scholarships range from $12,000 to $17,000 and are awarded based on academic performance in high school. Blake’s appointee will earn a fully accredited associates degree and have the opportunity to become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army after only two years of college.

“We have received some good applications to date, but we want to make sure everyone who is sincerely interested has the opportunity to apply for this unique opportunity,” Blake said.

The Valley Forge Military Academy & College educates students in an academic and military environment to prepare them for a four-year college or university education. The accredited 78-year-old institution enrolls more than 300 cadets each year.

To be considered as a Valley Forge Military Academy & College appointee, a student must carry a minimum 2.5 GPA, a combined SAT score of at least 1,000 (or 21 on the ACT), pass a Department of Defense medical exam, be at least 17 years old, and be a U.S. citizen “with good moral character.”

Acceptance and participation in the Army ROTC/Early Commissioning program can result in the cadet leaving college with no debt.

Applications for this appointment can be found in high school guidance offices or by calling Sen. Blake’s district office at 570-207-2881.


Blake, Carroll Welcome PA’s $2.6M Investment in WB/Scranton International

HARRISBURG, Dec. 13, 2013 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) and Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne) voiced their approval today of a $2.6 million investment in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport by the Pennsylvania Transportation Commission.

The money will help the vital transportation hub tear down the airport’s old terminal building complex and build a commercial aircraft hangar.

“This important state investment will keep the airport competitive and it will modernize facilities to meet the needs and demands of a 21st century traveling public,” Blake said.

“An investment in our region’s airport infrastructure is an investment in our present and future economic vitality,” Carroll said.

The new support comes on the heels of PennDOT’s decision in July to move forward on a $42 million highway safety project that will link the Grimes Industrial Park with the airport, add longer on- and off-ramps on Exit 178 of I-81, and include three roundabouts for more efficient traffic flow.

Rep. Carroll said the two projects will work well together.

“This development at our airport, combined with the nearby airport connector highway project, significantly enhances safe and efficient travel,” the Hughestown Democrat said.

Sen. Blake, an Archbald Democrat, agreed.

“It is a very important investment at the airport, and timely in the wake of the start of the $42 million I-81 interchange upgrade,” Blake said. “I am very encouraged to see this funding commitment by the transportation commission.”

The 47-year-old terminal building complex closed seven years ago. Airport officials say that site will be converted to park airplanes once it is demolished.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International is a full-service airport that is operated jointly by Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. The Joseph M. McDade Terminal, which has been open since May 2006, is about 70 percent larger than the older facility and was built at a cost of $41 million.


Blake’s Veterans Pension Bills Win Senate Approval

HARRISBURG, Dec. 11, 2013 – Legislation introduced by state Sen. John Blake to help veterans who are employed by the City of Scranton more quickly participate in its pension program have won the Senate’s approval.

Senate Bill 703 amends the Scranton Police and Firemen’s Pension Law and Senate Bill 704 changes the Scranton City Employee Pension Law so city employees can buy military service credits and apply them to their retirement benefits without having to wait three years, which is the requirement of current state law. The changes would achieve parity with workers from other cities across Pennsylvania.

A state commission has determined that the proposals will not add to Scranton’s cost for operating the pension system. The reason it does not increase costs for the city is because of the military service credits.

“The women and men who have served to defend our liberties are committed to whatever task that lies before them. When they return from service they should be afforded every opportunity to pursue retirement security for themselves and their families,” Blake said following the Senate vote Tuesday. “These measures pose no additional costs for Scranton.

When an eligible member decides to purchase non-intervening military service credits, he or she erases the city’s expense. That payment is equal to the amount the member would have contributed had he or she been a member of the pension fund during their military service, plus the equivalent of the city’s contributions that otherwise may have occurred during that service.

“As veterans take up public safety positions and public service positions in our community it is good to know that they can have some peace of mind for their future.

“I am looking forward to working with colleagues in the PA House to swiftly get this legislation through their chamber and to the governor for his signature,” Sen. Blake said.


Careers, Education Focal Points of Sen. Blake’s 2nd ‘E2 Summit’

SCRANTON, Nov. 20, 2013 – State Sen. John Blake today continued his work with parents, education leaders, labor leaders, business executives and fellow lawmakers to find effective solutions to advance career-focused education for K-12 public school students, and close the worker skills gap that continues to trouble the business community in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Blake’s second annual “E2 Summit: Education & the Economy” convened at Marywood University where participants renewed their commitment to finding good ways to inform students about the scope of career opportunities that await them in the 21st century economy and, importantly, to inform their parents, teachers and school administrators about the best possible pathways to these careers.

Summiteers also reviewed the inroads they’ve achieved since last year’s inaugural E2 Summit.

“We are continuing this endeavor because it is imperative that we keep our lines of communication open and continue to share best practices and integrate proven methods to ensure student achievement and successful career development,” Blake said. “Northeast Pennsylvania continues to suffer from the highest unemployment rate in the state, and this is due in part to the fact that employers are not able to identify the skilled workers they need.”

The E2 Summit is focused on making K-12 career development improvements in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Pike, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

Since last December, Blake said an E2 committee has met with area school district superintendents to work on this comprehensive career development initiative. Participants have worked on building comprehensive kindergarten through 12th grade counseling programs, and have examined trends and the emerging labor market to help map a blueprint for change.

“When people ask if our children are making the proper connection between fundamental learning and how that will help them find work, our answer, without hesitation, must be an unequivocal yes, and that’s what this work is all about” Sen. Blake said. “Our children need to know how what they are learning is relevant to what it is they will be doing after graduation.

“If employees are not trained or certified in the skills demanded in a regional economy, if they haven’t demonstrated academic achievement, if they lack the resources to get the training they need to pursue upward mobility, economic development will be stifled,” the senator said.

Today’s E2 Summit attendees said the focus on career-focused education is a positive push forward.

“Meaningful and dynamic presentations of facts showing the path,” said Dominick Carachilo of Johnson College. “K-16 educators need to go for the good of our commonwealth and, more importantly, for the good of its current and future students.”

Greater PA Regional Council of Carpenters member Drew Simpson agreed.

“Great event! I appreciate the opportunity to sit in a room with business, education, workforce development, and economic development officials to discuss how to give our youth the information they need about the career opportunities for the future,” Simpson said.