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Senator Judy SchwankHello friends! Pennsylvania is home to 1 million veterans of the Armed Services and their families. As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, be sure to show your appreciation to the men and women who served our country by personally thanking a veteran or by simply displaying an American flag outside your home or office. I am grateful for the sacrifices of our military members and their efforts to ensure that we remain safe and free. 

For all the latest news and events in the 11th Senatorial District and in Harrisburg, visit my website, my Facebook page and Twitter page.


Berks Legislators Work Together on Property Tax Reform

School property tax reform is a much-discussed topic in Berks County. Homeowners here and across Pennsylvania are looking for some relief from these increasingly burdensome taxes, even as local governments and school districts grapple with tighter budgets.

In an effort to find an alternative to the current system, I have formed a 15-member bipartisan caucus comprised of senators from across the commonwealth to look into this issue on a statewide level.  The Local and School Property Tax Relief Caucus formed in June and we have continued to have an open and honest dialogue about addressing the momentous task of property tax reform.

It is my intention that this caucus will not only be a catalyst for research and data collection but also serve as a conduit between the Senate and the House of Representatives, assisting with the development of future legislation that may result from our findings. 

The caucus is currently exploring alternatives to the current property tax reform system and will meet again soon to review our findings. In the meantime, I have co-sponsored legislation that hopefully will begin the process of the debate over eliminating school property taxes.  Since taking office in April, I have repeatedly said that I would support any plan — Democrat or Republican — that would eliminate property taxes.  It’s time we get beyond the rhetoric and pursue all viable options.


Public Hearing Discusses Plight of Small Cities

Senate Democratic Policy hearing

Sen. Schwank listens to testimony at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee public hearing. With her are Sens. John Wozniak (left) and John Blake (right).

Harrisburg, the state’s capital, is drawing national attention for economic woes that have driven a state takeover, but local government leaders across Pennsylvania say many other municipalities are struggling with the same shifting demographics and outdated tax policy.

To address this plight, my colleagues and I on the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing on Nov. 2 in Johnstown to hear from local government leaders about the challenges facing the commonwealth’s small cities.

As Harrisburg prepares for a standoff with state officials over whether to declare bankruptcy or operate under Act 47, cities like Reading, Lock Haven and Altoona are facing challenges nearly as daunting. 

“It’s better to help us now before we’re in Act 47,” said Lock Haven Mayor Richard Vilello. “Harrisburg is going to be much more expensive to fix now.”

Officials in Altoona have been discussing whether to apply for “distressed city” status.

“We have certainly reached a crisis mode in Pennsylvania,” said Bruce Kelley, Altoona’s vice-mayor. “The issues facing third class cities aren’t new, but they’re getting worse.”

In different degrees, all of Pennsylvania’s small cities are suffering from the same problems. Without help, Reading and other cities will end up in the same situation. We must learn from Harrisburg’s missteps and take action now or face a wave of insolvency that will take us from crisis to catastrophe.


Schwank Applauds Senate Passage of Ban on Texting While Driving

Texting while drivingPennsylvania is on the verge of implementing a statewide ban on texting while driving.  

Senate Bill 314, which recently passed the Senate by a 45-5 vote, prohibits the operation of a moving vehicle while using a wireless communication device to send, read or write a text message.

This violation would be considered a primary offense, which means a law enforcement officer can pull over a driver for that offense alone, and would be punishable by a $50 fine. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

This legislation will protect all motorists from the careless drivers who engage in the dangerous act of texting while driving.

Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Texting while driving a vehicle completely impairs a driver’s awareness of the road and their surroundings. No message is worth endangering lives.