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Hello and Happy New Year!

Senator Judy SchwankThe start of 2014 has reminded us just how much Mother Nature can be brutal. The snowy and very cold start (it is 2 degrees as I write this) seems like it might be a portent of things to come, but let’s remain positive because we have many months ahead of us and they all won’t be this frigid.

Of course, if it is cold and snowy, it must be time for the Pennsylvania Farm Show! Actually, it’s cold and snowy because it is January, but I know how we like to remark about the irony of how bad winter weather coincides with our great annual agriculture exposition. I’ve been there many times this week, and hope you’ve had time to visit, enjoy the great food and be reminded just how important – and huge – agriculture is for Pennsylvania and the world.

I am looking forward to the work ahead of us in the General Assembly which is good because we have our work cut out for us as the session resumes. This week, during the opening session of the Senate the issues before us were discussed in remarks offered by the majority leadership. The 2014 budget and pension reform are at the top of the list as well as charter school reform. I also heard the phrase “school property tax reform” mentioned. While no specific bill was offered this gives me some hope that the issue may be on our agenda sooner rather than later.

As always, I am available to listen to your thoughts and ideas about the issues before us. And, if there is something my office can help you with, please call or email.

Happy New Year! Hoping it is happy and prosperous for you.

Sen. Judy Schwank

Women’s Health Caucus

Women's Health Caucus Press ConferenceIt is hard to believe, even today, that people must band together to seek the same treatment, dignity and respect as other factions of society, but that continues to be what is required.

As such, I was pleased to help open the Women’s Health Caucus last month to further efforts to equal the playing field for women, minorities and those who continue to suffer because something about them is different than someone else.

I am pleased to be one of the three co-chairs for the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus, along with Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) and Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks).

Part of my involvement in the caucus was to unveil legislation to try and reverse the growing, perverse trend of people who post or text naked or sexually explicit images of former intimate partners without their consent.

My bill would make “intimate partner harassment” a third-degree felony if the victim is a minor, carrying a penalty of up to seven years in prison. Otherwise, the crime would be a second-degree misdemeanor and carry a penalty of up to two years in prison. Fines could also be imposed.

So far, California and New Jersey are the only other states to have adopted laws making this a crime, although they take significantly different approaches. A number of other states, including New York and Delaware, also are in the process of considering laws.

This is a growing problem around the country that has caused serious problems for its victims. We need to stop it, and to do that, we need to make sure Pennsylvania law enforcement officials have the tools to prosecute it.

Besides intimate partner harassment prevention, the caucus is focusing on workplace accommodations for pregnant women, sanitary conditions for nursing mothers, ensuring access to health care facilities, pay equity, greater eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings, and improved protection for domestic violence victims.

Our agenda is diverse because that best reflects the experiences Pennsylvania women face every day. Each woman has a different story to tell and issues that must be addressed. These issues are not more important because they concern women. They are important because they affect all of us.

PVMA Award

PVMA AwardOur work to ensure the commonwealth is aware of important agriculture issues and takes steps to improve the treatment and care of animals has been noticed by the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.

PVMA honored me with its “President’s Award” last month for that work, and I want to thank them for the tribute.

I have been a life-long advocate for farmers, agriculture professionals and animals because all of them – separately and together – impact our quality of life in Pennsylvania, the United States and throughout the world. Agriculture continues to be one of the commonwealth’s biggest economic generators and it would not survive without the help of dedicated veterinarians.

PVMA presented its 2012 President’s Award to the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team for its work to safeguard animals through disaster preparedness and response, and to create public awareness throughout the commonwealth.

Agriculture is the number one industry in Berks County, which is I have brought fellow senators to the region to better understand how local farming and food prices work together.

Berks County has added 668 of the 4,532 farms (statewide) to Pennsylvania’s farmland preservation program. That’s nearly 67,000 acres of prime Berks County tracts that are now safeguarded from development for years to come.

MarcellusNatural Gas Drilling Ruling

We have yet to see a natural gas drill spike Berks County earth, but if they ever do arrive, I am glad the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided it is better for local municipalities to decide where drills can and can’t be situated.

The court’s Dec. 19 ruling means gas drillers will have to abide by local government decisions. Just a year ago, the industry won a ruling that gave it permission to work in every zoning district in the state, including residential areas.

This was another of the governor’s bad ideas, and I’m pleased it has been overturned.

The natural gas industry is growing in Pennsylvania and local companies are starting to benefit. We must protect our homes and our environment, however, so this Supreme Court decision accomplishes both.

Good State Grant News for Berks Co. Business

East Penn Manufacturing Inc. (Deka Batteries), is using a $644,815 grant it received from the state and its Rail Freight Capital Budget Transportation Assistance Program.

East Penn will use the investment to help offset the costs of constructing a three-track rail spur from Norfolk’s Southern east mainline to its Richmond Township facility. The nearly $1 million project will help the company ship and receive materials in a more cost effective and safe manner. It will also reduce truck traffic on public roads and create new jobs.

I worked with East Penn officials to ensure the project had the required legislative authorization in the state’s capital budget so it could apply for the vital state grant funding.

This is the type of public-private partnership that helps grow our local and state economies. East Penn is Berks County’s largest manufacturing employer, providing more that 5,400 family-sustaining jobs.


Being Social

Twitter/Facebook Facebook Twitter It’s a privilege to be your state senator, so it is important to me to be in touch with you.

I really like face-to-face meetings but understand that in this busy world, sometimes that isn’t possible. Feel free to call my office to ask questions or make suggestions. Also, you may connect with me through my pages on Facebook and Twitter. Please follow me for regular updates and comments about what’s happening in the district and in Harrisburg.

Offices to Serve You

  District Office
210 George Street
Suite 201
Reading, PA 19605
Phone: (610) 929-2151
Fax: (610) 929-2576
Harrisburg Office
457 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203011
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3011
Phone: (717) 787-8925
Fax: (717) 772-0578
emarks from Women's Health Caucus Press Conference :: December 11, 2013