Jan. 23, 2024

Please do not reply directly to this email, as it returns to an unmanned account.
You are welcome to contact me through this link
Capitol Report
Who is that Neighbor?

"Hi-dee-ho Neighbor" may be the greeting you receive when you enter the 68th District office in Troy, Bradford County, with our delightful, dependable, devoted Dottie behind the desk. A throw-back to a 90s sitcom, Dottie is your neighbor, just like Wilson was to Tim the Tool Man on Home Improvement. Dottie not only offers wisdom and direction but helpful resolutions to state issues you may be having.

At the age of 7, Dottie and her family moved to Troy from Williamsport to run the family orchard. She was promised a pony in the move and so begins her love and care for animals. Dottie and her husband of 25 years, Don, continue to manage Gardiner's Orchard, which is a year-round labor of love for a fall harvest of peaches and apples.

Dottie loves to surround herself with family, especially her daughter, Courtney, and three adorable grandchildren! Grandparenting is one of the greatest gifts. Since the grandchildren are not local, Dottie fills her time with what she calls her "funny farm." After a long day in the office, she looks forward to going home and caring for her mini donkey, Bougee, and mini horse, Opie. She and Don have additional horses, dogs and cats.

You can have confidence in Dottie, as she has worked as the Troy District Office Manager for 29 years. Prior to that her experience has been in retail, owning her own small business "Rags to Riches," and managing the family orchard.

Dottie enjoys helping people solve problems and how appreciative they are for her work. We know that when she says success in a day is "cleaning off my desk," she is determined, hardworking and very busy!

When the office is closed, you will find Dottie working the farm and orchard, and spending time with family and friends. She and Don are hopeful for a bountiful crop this year! Be sure to stop into the district office and meet a delightful, get it done neighbor, Dottie.
Grateful for Those Who Selflessly Serve and Protect our Communities

Dialing 911, you expect a person with knowledge and resources at their fingertips to answer the call and send help. But what if those (mostly) volunteer first responders are busy at work, out of town or otherwise unavailable? Our region is blessed by many dedicated firefighters and emergency medical personnel but due to a significant drop in volunteerism, they are the few, doing the work of what should be many.

It was my absolute pleasure this past weekend to offer my gratitude to the men and women of the Mansfield Fire and Ambulance Department for their selfless service, a year of saving lives, putting out fires, rescuing, and helping those in need both. The work of our first responders could not be without all the supporting roles in a department’s administration and operations that keeps our departments functioning. I offer my heart-filled thank you and a congratulations to Robert Darrow, 2023 Firefighter of the Year; Gigi Welch, 2023 Presidents Award recipient; Michael Bergstrom, 2023 EMT of the Year; and Derek Andrus, 2023 Chief’s Award recipient.

I ask that you take time to recognize your local fire and ambulance departments and consider what your expectation is of how many volunteer first responders will be available to show up at your distressed call for help. Consider how many behind-the-scenes volunteers it takes to successfully support a department, in operations, administration, and fundraising. In an upcoming edition of Community Connection, I will be sharing an op-ed that will shed light on the need Tioga and Bradford counties have for first responders. You may be shocked at what the numbers reveal.

Again, I am ever so thankful for those who are serving and balancing life as a first responder and a volunteer within one of our fire and ambulance departments. It may not be easy, but it is life changing, honorable and truly selfless. Thank you for serving.
Standing Up for Our Second Amendment Rights

Click here to view video.

So many of us in the Northern Tier and across the Commonwealth value our Second Amendment rights. They are guaranteed to us in both our state and U.S. constitutions. They cannot be questioned; they cannot be infringed upon. And yet, there are lawmakers – mostly in the southeastern part of our state – who try to trample on those rights.

That happened again last week when the House Judiciary Committee, on which I serve, called up five bills that targeted firearms under the guise of fighting crime. The reality is these proposals would do nothing more than take rights away from law-abiding citizens, not to mention violate our state and federal constitutions.

I spoke up about House Bill 336, which would allow current owners of certain types of firearms to keep them but would not allow any future sales of the same type of firearms. I asked several pointed questions about the bill that lead them to admit this bill does question someone’s right to bear arms. This is 100% unconstitutional. I also explained the role these firearms play in self-protection and sporting activities in our region. Please watch the exchange above.

Unfortunately, the bill was approved by the committee along party lines. Rest assured I will continue to oppose any measure that aims to limit your Second Amendment rights.
Education Funding Recommendations Fail Students, Taxpayers

Presented with an opportunity to make transformational changes to the Commonwealth’s education system, the Democrat-leaning Basic Education Funding Commission last week approved a series of recommendations that simply throw more money at the problem.

Early in 2023, Commonwealth Court deemed our education funding system unconstitutional, and directed lawmakers to develop a remedy with attention to adequacy, equity and timeliness. In response, the commission hosted 11 hearings across the state to gather input from public school finance experts, education advocates and others.

The House Appropriations Committee has estimated the Democrat-approved recommendations, if enacted by the Legislature, would require more than $8 billion in recurring revenue each year, leading to a significant tax increase.

Alternative recommendations were offered by Republican members of the committee, but they did not earn the support of the commission.

Ultimately, it is now up to the full House and Senate to make the necessary changes to ensure all students have access to a quality education.
Learn more about the Basic Education Funding Commission, including the final recommendations, at https://basiceducationfundingcommission.com.
2023 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Open

The application period for the state’s 2023 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is now open for eligible Pennsylvanians to begin claiming rebates on property taxes or rent paid last year.

Income limits increased this year to $45,000 annually for both homeowners and renters, so if you were earning too much to qualify before, you may be eligible now. Remember to exclude 50% of Social Security when determining your income.

The law I supported to increase income limits also increased the maximum rebate to $1,000.

The program is open to residents age 65 years and older; widows and widowers 50 years and older; and people with disabilities 18 years and older.

Remember – you do not need to pay anyone for assistance to apply for the rebates. Apply online at mypath.pa.gov or contact my office to set up an appointment for help. In Wellsboro, dial 570-724-1390, and in Troy, dial 570-297-3045. Additional information about the program is available here.
Applications for 2024 Pennsylvania House Scholarship Available

High school seniors interested in receiving financial assistance to help pay for college can now apply for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Scholarship.

Each year the program awards a four-year scholarship to two students preparing for post-secondary education. It is open to graduating high school seniors who are Pennsylvania residents with plans to attend a Pennsylvania college, university or career school as a full-time student.

To qualify, students must have attained a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average in high school. Other factors taken into consideration for the awards are a student’s commitment to community, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities and financial need.

The scholarship program is administered through the Foundation for Enhancing Communities. Click here for more information and an application. Deadline to apply is April 15.

The scholarship is privately funded by individual and corporate donors; no tax or other public funds are used. Scholarships are awarded through an independent panel of judges chosen by the foundation.
$155 Million in Grants Available for School Safety, Security

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has approved a framework to invest more than $155 million in federal and state school safety funding: 

  •   $90 million for noncompetitive school mental health grants.
  •   $32.2 million for competitive school safety and security grants.
  •   $18.6 million for formula-based school safety and security meritorious grants.
  •   $14.5 million for targeted school safety grants for nonpublic schools.

Applications and information about each of these grants, including eligibility criteria and application instructions, can be found on PCCD’s School Safety and Security webpage. PCCD staff will also host informational webinars and provide other resources to assist school entities and eligible applicants as they navigate these funding opportunities.

The seven-week application period will close on Thursday, Feb. 29.
Applications Now Being Accepted for Fishing, Boating Education Grants

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is now taking applications for its popular R3 Education Grant Program through March 1.

The R3 grant program was established to support partner organizations by providing hands-on education for the “recruitment, retention and reactivation” of anglers and boaters in Pennsylvania.

Organizations eligible for funding include school districts, universities and colleges, community and civic groups, sporting and conservation organizations, and local recreation departments.

The grants reimburse qualifying organizations up to $25,000 for eligible expenses for projects conducted from approximately July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025. The grant requires a minimum 25% match of total project costs. At this time, applications for multi-year grants are not being accepted.

More information about the R3 grant program can be found here.