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Addressing Transparency at State-Related Universities

CapitolWhen the Senate returns to Harrisburg in early 2012, I plan to introduce legislation that would amend the Right-to-Know Law to bring greater transparency to the records of our four state-related universities.

Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year from Pennsylvania taxpayers and should be governed by the same open records provisions currently applied to our 14 state-owned schools.

Our institutions of higher learning are powerful engines for the state’s economy. My measure to expand the extent to which the state-related institutions are subject to the Right-to-Know Law will not undermine key elements of their operations or mission and they are not intended to undermine their competitive position or economic impact. There is, however, plenty of room for improvement in the level of transparency and accountability we can expect from these world-class institutions.

While the alleged tragedy at Penn State is one that could not have been prevented by what I will suggest in my legislation, changes in the manner in which our state-related universities are covered under the law may have brought these tragic facts to light much sooner.

Redistricting Process Disregards Pennsylvania Voters

With Senate passage of newly drawn boundaries for our Senatorial, House and Congressional Districts, Pennsylvania has been guaranteed partisan politics and incumbent protection for the next decade.

22nd District 22nd Senatorial District Legislative Reapportionment

My district has not been seriously or adversely affected by the redistricting process and I am absolutely honored to be able to continue to represent Lackawanna County in its entirety.  The most dramatic change for the 22nd District is, of course, the loss of four communities in Monroe County -- communities that I have been proud to represent in my first year in office.  I am both excited and honored, however, to be able to represent more citizens in Luzerne County and I look forward with great anticipation to working for the City of Pittston; the

Boroughs of Exeter, Hughestown, Lafflin, West Pittston and Yatesville; and the Townships of Jenkins and Pittston.  I have many personal and professional ties to these communities and I welcome them to the 22nd Senatorial District.
Notwithstanding the results related to my Senate District I am deeply disappointed in the overall process of reapportionment and the lack of transparency attending it.  I believe the final Senate redistricting map approved by the Reapportionment Commission and passed by a party-line Senate vote is, on a statewide basis, a power grab by the Republican Party that disenfranchises Pennsylvania's voters; undermines communities of interest; and indeed may, with respect to the splitting ofmunicipalities, violate the reapportionment instructions of the PennsylvaniaConstitution. 

I am losing a dear colleague and Pennsylvania voters are losing a remarkable, committed, dedicated and unselfish public servant in Senator James Brewster whose 45th District was relocated out of Western Pennsylvania and into Monroe County.   Other colleagues of mine in the Senate Democratic Caucus have also suffered dramatic changes to their Districts which will undermine their competitive positions.  Pennsylvanians respect and deserve fair play but they certainly aren't getting that from the Republican Party.

Click here to view a state map with the newly drawn Senatorial district boundaries.

First Int'l Business Forum Surpasses Expectations

International Business Forum Video

    Click to watch video from the Int'l Business Forum

On November 29, I joined numerous business experts to discuss the benefits of helping local businesses grow internationally at my first annual International Business Development Forum at Marywood University.

I was very pleased with the turnout and participation at today’s forum and expect this to be an annual tradition because the market and products are always changing and our local businesses need to know of the opportunities and support available to them statewide, nationally and globally.

By increasing export capacity and establishing new connections between Pennsylvania companies and customers worldwide, Pennsylvania businesses become more competitive in the global marketplace, which translates into job creation and job retention statewide.

The International Business Development Forum afforded local businessmen and women an opportunity to learn about the benefits of growing their businesses internationally and learning of the valuable financial and technical assistance available through both state and federal government programs.

It is essential for the General Assembly to continue to support activities and programs that promote Pennsylvania exports in key international markets as well as those that attract direct foreign investment to Pennsylvania.

Job creation remains a top priority in Harrisburg; and by growing our local businesses and their presence in the global marketplace, we will create and retain good jobs for Pennsylvania residents.

Click here to read a testimonial from one of the participants.

Congressional Redistricting Map Violates Public Trust

Floor Remarks

Sen. Blake: Redistricting proposal is a violation of public trust

The Congressional reapportionment map put forth by the Republican majority in Harrisburg is a violation of the public trust.  It evidences no attention by the Republican Party to the sensibilities of Pennsylvania's voters who expect and deserve both transparency and fairness in the conduct of the peoples' business by elected officials.

Because Republicans do not trust their ideas to the judgment of all the people of this state, they decide rather to use their majority position to further consolidate and sustain their political power in disregard to the majority opinion of all voters.

The Congressional Redistricting map put forth by the majority party is a travesty.  Any fair-minded Pennsylvanian looking at the map, particularly with respect to Congressional Districts in the eastern half of the state, would come to the same conclusion. Notwithstanding, my deep respect and admiration of Congressman Tim Holden who would, under the plan put forth, represent most citizens in the 22nd Senatorial District, I could not, as a Democrat or as a person of good conscience, support it.

Click here to view a state map with the newly drawn Congressional district lines.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications Due By Dec. 31

Property Tax/Rent Rebate ProgramIn difficult economic times, we all need to ensure we are taking advantage of every program that is available to us. That is especially true for our senior citizens living on a fixed income.

One of the best state programs to financially assist our elderly family and friends is the Department of Revenue’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

Eligible senior citizens must act fast though, the application deadline for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is December 31.

The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. When determining your eligibility, remember that only half of your Social Security income is counted toward the income limits.

The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase rebates to $975.

Program applications and free filing assistance is also available at Department of Revenue district offices, local Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and at any of my local district offices. To print an application online, click here.

 For more information on the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, click here.

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Video Greeting

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