Sen. Judy Schwank says her mission to get ‘revenge porn’ bill passed gaining momentum in Legislature

A Berks lawmaker’s mission to ban the practice of posting sexually explicit photos or videos of ex-romantic partners online is gaining momentum in the Legislature but isn’t over yet.

On Wednesday the state House passed its own version of a bill outlawing “revenge porn” The measure is similar but not identical to state Sen. Judy Schwank’s bill, which the Senate passed in January. Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Longtime member honored for service to League of Women Voters of Berks County, the community

More than 50 years ago, Renee Dietrich walked up to a booth on Penn Street and found members of the League of Women Voters of Berks County distributing voter materials.

She was a Reading School District civics teacher at the time and was looking for information to share with her students.

Dietrich joined up, and has remained active in the group since then.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Local lawmakers react to decision not to appeal gay-marriage ruling

State legislators representing Berks County react to Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision not to appeal a federal court’s decision allowing gay marriages in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Judy Schwank, Ruscombmanor Democrat: “I hope that this is not just a simple political calculation by the Governor, but that it really is a sincere understanding that this is a matter of fundamental human and civil rights. I would agree that the right decision is to not appeal the ruling.”  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Another meeting on heroin abuse planned at Kutztown High School

Community action groups concerned about heroin use in the Kutztown area will meet May 29 at 7 p.m. in the Kutztown High School auditorium.

At an April 21 meeting of the Kutztown Community Substance Abuse Task Force, organizers formed volunteer groups to focus on various aspects of illegal drug use.

Topics the groups will focus on include funding, community resources, education, policy review and public relations. Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Business leaders on economic forecast: Now what?

The numbers are showing an economic recovery nationally and in Berks County.

How Reading and Berks are to take advantage of it was a topic of discussion for about 50 business and community leaders Wednesday at Stokesay Castle.

The Reading Eagle and Business Weekly presented the forum, which was moderated by Peter D. Barbey, president and CEO of Reading Eagle Company. The focus of the event was an economic forecast report published May 6 in Business Weekly. Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Hardworking young musician from Reading gets violin that Schwank played as a child

Kaylah Garcia works hard at her craft.

According to her orchestra teacher, the fourth-grader at 13th & Union Elementary School practices more than anyone else. And all that work paid off with an invitation to the All-City Elementary Orchestra.

It also earned her something else – a new violin.

Kaylah was selected to receive the refurbished childhood violin of state Sen. Judy Schwank, who presented the instrument to Kaylah during Tuesday night’s 13th & Union spring concert.

The donation by the Ruscombmanor Township Democrat was arranged by the Reading Musical Foundation through its Operation Replay.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Mother’s Tree Rededicated, Tradition Renewed

State Sen. Judy L. Schwank, like a lot of Berks Countians, said she used to drive down Angora Road at the edge of Antietam Lake and spy a dead tree and a broken-down fence and wonder “What was that?”

She’s not wondering anymore, because the site isn’t looking so shabby these days since the rededication Friday of the historic Mother’s Tree, a weeping white birch, surrounded by gleaming monuments and bedecked with flowing white ribbons and a wreath of pink and white carnations.

All of it is neatly bordered today by a black iron fence.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Pennsylvania Senate OKs bill to halt ‘doctor shopping’

A new tool that Pennsylvania political and law enforcement leaders say would help fight the growing menace of prescription drug and heroin addiction came a step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday.

The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would create a statewide database of prescriptions used by millions of Pennsylvanians. The House already had passed a bill to create such a database, and attempts to resolve differences between the two bills have already started.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Indoor sunblock: Pennsylvania passes law on tanning beds and booths

Proponents call them a good source of vitamin D that produce a healthy glow.

Opponents call them cigarettes for the skin.

Wherever you stand on indoor tanning beds and booths, Gov. Tom Corbett and the state Legislature spoke out against them in a big way Tuesday.

Corbett signed House Bill 1259, the Indoor Tanning Regulation Act, that imposes licensing fees and prohibits anyone 16 and under from going to a commercial tanning salon unless they’re getting a spray tan. Seventeen-year-olds must have a signed consent form from a parent or guardian. The law does not impact those 18 and over.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Forum airs impact of high incarceration rate

Put a lot of people in prison and you affect a lot of kids.

That was one sentiment shared Saturday afternoon during a panel discussion in Reading that focused on disruption and economic pain caused by the historically high incarceration rate in Pennsylvania’s state prison system. “I love my daddy,” said Gordon Diem, a staffer at Berks-based New Person Ministries, putting words to the thought process of the child of an inmate. “It must be OK to be in prison.”  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Shuman Development offers more details on Big Mill

The Reading Outlet Center’s Building 10 closed more than a decade ago, but the outlet sign still hangs on the hulking brick building.

Now, there’s another sign, one announcing commercial space is available.

Shuman Development Group is renovating the 200,000-square-foot building. Amid the din of construction noise, company founder Alan Shuman Thursday announced plans for what he calls the Big Mill building. The building will have 42,000-square-feet of commercial space and 69 apartments, 12 of which will be reserved for those receiving medical assistance, he said.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Desserts take center stage at Friend’s auction

Something’s got to be right with a world in which a community comes together on a warm Saturday evening to raise the dough and offer a variety of other coveted knick-knacks for auction to bolster finances for several causes.

Celebrating its 25th year, the Annual Benefit Auction is a flagship event of Friend, Inc. Community Services that was founded in 1972 and re-established in 1987 by the Kutztown Ministerium.  Read more at Berks-Mont News →

As drug abuse rises in Kutztown area, residents struggle to understand why

In a classroom at Kutztown High School on Monday night, about 30 people struggled to understand why so many young people with connections to the borough are dying of drug overdoses.

Explanations differed as to why six graduates of Kutztown and neighboring Brandywine Heights High School have died of drug abuse in the past year.

One thing, though, was certain – illegal drugs, particularly heroin, have become a fact of life in a region known for its Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Lawmakers air views on variety of topics

Legislators attending a breakfast held Friday by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry covered a lot of state government ground, with each talking briefly about a different topic. 

Sen. Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, on agriculture and economic development: “It’s a leading economic driver. We’re looking at legislation to increase education for farmers. We’re looking at legislation to reform the horse racing industry. Please look for these products (with the Pennsylvania preferred mark). Buy them. Support our agricultural industry.”  Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Schwank Promotes Natural Gas Tax as Way to Boost State Coffers

With the desolate lot where an ICI Paints plant once stood as her backdrop, state Sen. Judy Schwank promoted charging a severance tax on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

The proposed 5 percent tax would generate $720 million in state revenue for the 2014-15 budget year, with $195 million to be pumped into efforts to create jobs and stabilize the economy, Schwank said at a press conference Thursday in Reading.

“This industry is here to stay,” the Ruscombmanor Township Democrat said. “But it needs to be environmentally and fiscally responsible.”    Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Lower Alsace-Mount Penn Merger Committee Begins Work

If voters are to decide in November’s election whether Lower Alsace Township and Mount Penn should merge, officials need to agree on a proposal by Aug. 4.

About 40 residents came out to voice concerns and learn about the next steps during a merger committee kickoff meeting Monday at Antietam Middle-Senior High School.

Residents wanted to know if taxes would go up or down, who would collect their trash and what the sewer situation would be. Many also were concerned about voting for something without fully knowing what it would entail.     Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Bill Targets Rising Electric Rates in Pa.

Electricity customers upset over rate hikes would be able to switch suppliers within days under a proposal introduced in Harrisburg this week.

State Sen. Lisa Boscola, a Democrat representing parts of Northampton and Lehigh counties, said her bill would change the period consumers must wait to switch suppliers to five days from the current 45 days, which she said is supported by the state Public Utility Commission.

The current 45-day waiting period, she said, is poorly designed and allows electricity suppliers to hit customers with up to three monthly billing cycles before they can switch to a supplier offering lower rates.     Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Senate committee votes to approve creation of prescription drug database

State lawmakers Wednesday took another step toward creating a tool that some say would help fight prescription drug addiction and others say will compromise personal medical privacy.

The state Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee voted unanimously in favor of creating a broad database to store records of many prescriptions taken by Pennsylvania residents. The database would be accessible via a court order to law enforcement officers investigating illegal distribution of prescription pills.    Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Casey Seeks Federal Law to Curtail Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse

Even as U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. on Friday lobbied for support of federal legislation to combat a trend in which prescription drug abusers switch to heroin, new signs of concern about the trend emerged in Berks County.

At a press conference in Philadelphia where he was joined by prosecutors from Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery counties, the Scranton Democrat said communities across the state have struggled with an increase in heroin and prescription drug abuse. He called for training for prescribers, linked state prescription drug registries and grants to pay for states to develop ways to evaluate prescribing and pharmacy dispensing patterns.   Read more at The Reading Eagle →

Berks County students take part in Model Senate at Albright College

State Senate committees in a brief session Tuesday agreed to pass to the full Senate for a vote proposed laws that would legalize marijuana and tax the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale.

They killed a proposal that would have raised the sales tax to 9 percent from 6 percent to eliminate school property taxes and another that would have required all voters to show government-issued identification before casting their ballots in elections.   Read more at The Reading Eagle →