Jan. 16, 2024

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Capitol Report
The Best is in the Back!

Introducing, the wizard behind the curtain, our very own woman behind the scenes from our Wellsboro District office, Seneka Gastrock!

Seneka was born and raised right here in the quaint town of Wellsboro. She enjoyed growing up in a postcard-like town that is safe for children to explore, which is why she appreciates living here as a wife and mother with two children. Her family is complete with pets, one of each a chocolate lab and a cat. Seneka looks forward to arriving home each day to spend time with her family in small-town America.

She has been serving you for 11 years as our District Constituent Outreach Specialist. She came to the district office after earning her Associate Degree and working for an accounting firm for eight years. She is experienced, kind, patient and persevering in her work. She is always busy during the Property Tax / Rent Rebate season but looks forward to helping constituents with the variety of issues they bring to our office.

Seneka recalls a wonderful success story about a veteran whose issue was life altering. She received a call from a congressman’s office in Florida. They were trying to help a homeless veteran obtain his VA benefits, but he needed his PA birth certificate, which he did not have. It took several tries, phone calls, and paperwork going back and forth to get enough ID verification to process a birth certificate for him and our office was able to assist in making this happen.
Once Florida received the official birth certificate from PA, this veteran was able to get his ID, thus receiving his VA benefits and he got off the streets. It's helping to resolve issues like these that inspire, encourage and help keep the passion for serving the public in our district office.

If you have not yet met Seneka, please stop by our Wellsboro District Office and ask for her to come out from behind the scenes in the back office to say hello. Allow her to help you through questions, concerns, or issues that you may have within the confines of PA state legislation. Her passion for family and her laughter are oh so contagious!
Contributing to the Community Through Family and Farming

It is always a pleasure to recognize a momentous occasion...happy 93rd birthday to Shirley Greeno Kinsman! It was a pleasure to have met with Shirley and her family to celebrate this milestone. I listened as she shared her life on the farm. She recalled one of the biggest differences from her early childhood days of milking to now was in the mid-1930s they got electric power, and her dad went out and purchased a milking machine directly after that!

I had to find out what her secret is to aging with such great health, and I asked her, "So, I’m 41 and want to get to 93, what’s the secret sauce?" Without missing a beat she said, "Drink Milk!" Clearly Mrs. Kinsman is a dairy farmer through and through, so much so that we found ourselves in a great conversation about the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids bill at the federal level! The Kinsman family would certainly love to see that finalized and were even calling our senators this week asking them to run the bill! If you’re not familiar with it, the bill would allow schools to start serving whole milk again! Read more about it here.

She is the beloved wife of the late Mulford Kinsman, with six adult children, and has been blessed in abundance with 17 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren! It is clear that Shirley has generously contributed to the well-being of others and provided lots of milk through her multigenerational family dairy farm. I would like to offer my best wishes for future happiness as she surrounds herself with the many fruits of labor and love from farming to family. Thank you, Mrs. Kinsman, for demonstrating the highest ideals of citizenship and family values in the rural community of this great Commonwealth.
Teacher and Students’ Idea Would Break Down Barriers

It was just a few short months ago I received an email from a very concerned constituent, a teacher at Cowanesque Valley High School in the Northern Tioga School District. Mrs. Jamie -Jo Sickler works directly with 11th-and 12th-grade students and has been shocked by the number of students over the years graduating without their drivers license.

Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of earning a drivers license? The positive impact it has on a person, the community, and our Commonwealth? Remember the feeling when you got your drivers license? Oh, that freedom when you could drive! Where would you go first? It was a rite of passage in growing up and becoming more independent. How many opportunities would a high school graduate be passing up by not having their drivers license? How many job opportunities would be missed and doors closed because one does not have their drivers license? What about the challenge of seeking to earn an advanced education while trying to live as a commuter student to a college or trade school when you are not licensed to drive and there is no mass transit available? Impossible.

Here are just some of the hurdles and barriers that our driving teenage youth are faced with, especially living in rural Pennsylvania.
  •   There are only a few DMV locations.
  •   DMV locations have extremely limited hours (one day a week for testing services).
  •   Many people live at least a 35-minute commute from home to a DMV.
  •   A student may be either coming from a single parent home or both parents working, living within poverty or low income and are not able to take their teenager to the DMV.
  •   Rural areas do not have public transportation.

Now you can better understand the concern Mrs. Sickler has for her graduating unlicensed seniors and the future of our Commonwealth. The best part of the e-mail she sent me was the idea for new legislation that will help our graduates become independent contributing members of our community. Her idea is to have an option set up in schools that will allow for students to take their learner’s permit test at the school.

Many of you have learned the legislative process in government classes, an idea becomes a bill and a bill becomes a law. Mind you there is a lot of voting and amending in each phase of the process. This idea from a local teacher and her students has made it into my House Bill 1929, where I am seeking to have a pilot program set up at voluntary schools where students may take their written learner’s permit exams. This will eliminate the many hurdles and barriers as listed above and create opportunities for these students to thrive in the future for their families and the workforce within the Commonwealth. There is nothing better than offering options for students to be able to earn their drivers licenses before they graduate to help open up doors for their future success. As this bill continues to be worked through the legislative process, I want to encourage you to share any ideas you may have that can improve life in our community and the Commonwealth. Contact me online at www.RepOwlett.com or give us a call in Wellsboro or Troy. I truly look forward to hearing from you and connecting to the community by bringing about much-needed legislation that can impact our lives.
A Great Time at the 108th Pennsylvania Farm Show!

Click here to view video.

If there was ever any doubt, spending just one day at the Pennsylvania Farm Show proves it – agriculture rules! And that’s because of the outstanding people who work in all facets of the agriculture industry.

I was truly encouraged by the theme, participation and engagement in this year’s show, Connecting our Communities. Oh, how this rang true to my heart in that in District 68 we bring you weekly news, through our “Community Connection: Building connections for a stronger community and Commonwealth.”

I would not have missed taking my family to the Farm Show and while I was there, I had the opportunity to interview many of our local agribusinesses, students, county commissioners, and even the PA State Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding. Connections were made all week long! Congratulations to the many Tioga and Bradford County participants and winners from the Farm Show. These experiences and memories last a lifetime.

For all the news about the 2024 PA Farm Show, follow up on it through Facebook or visit www.farmshow.pa.gov.

Click here to view video.
Health Coverage Enrollment Deadline Extended to Jan. 19

The deadline to enroll in 2024 health coverage through Pennie, the Commonwealth’s official health insurance marketplace, has been extended to Friday, Jan. 19, due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Anyone who misses the deadline will need to wait until next November to enroll unless there is a qualifying life event like losing other health coverage or moving.

Pennie is the only place where Pennsylvanians can get financial savings to reduce the cost of coverage and care. Currently, nine in 10 enrollees qualify and save over $500 a month on average.

Health plans and prices change every year, so anyone needing coverage should review their options even if they have looked before. All health plans offered through Pennie provide comprehensive coverage, including care for pre-existing conditions and many free preventive screenings and vaccines. Current Pennie customers should update their account (family size, income and contact information) and see if they still have the best plan for their needs.

The monthly cost for health coverage through Pennie is based on income. Individuals making less will pay less, sometimes under $1 a month. Those with higher incomes will pay a higher share of the health insurance premiums, and no one will pay more than 8.5% of their household income.

Pennsylvanians interested in shopping for and purchasing health coverage through Pennie can visit pennie.com or call Pennie customer service at 1-844-844-8040. Individuals in need of assistance navigating coverage options, can go to pennie.com/connect to find help.
Does Your Home Contain Radon?

January is National Radon Action Month. An estimated 40% of Pennsylvania homes have higher levels of radon than national safety standards, due to the state’s geology. However, residents can perform a simple test to detect this gas, which is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks and enters homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings. High levels of radon tend to be found in basements, but the gas can be found anywhere in the home.

Winter is a good time to test for radon, because doors and windows are generally closed, providing more accurate results. Simple radon test kits are inexpensive and available at home improvement and hardware stores.

To learn more about radon and how to test your home, click here.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation, and sadly, Pennsylvania ranks 10th among states for the most reported cases.

It is a crime that harms adults and children of all ages and demographics. Through force, fraud and coercion, traffickers push their victims into demeaning forms of abuse, including domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. These crimes often remain hidden because victims are reluctant to seek help for a variety of reasons, including language barriers, fear of traffickers and law enforcement, and lack of trust.

To help educate the public about the crime and prevent more people from becoming victims, January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

If you are a victim of human trafficking in need of help, or you suspect that someone else is a victim:  
  •   Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
  •   Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
  •   Text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733) to reach the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.