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Senator Judy SchwankI am touching base with you to tell you about some important news and community events you might have missed.

We now have less than three months to negotiate Pennsylvania’s budget for 2014-’15 and, while we seem to be making some progress, there are some major differences in policy, philosophy and approach that remain and it will take some good bipartisanship to be able to meet our June 30 deadline. I promise you I will work hard in your best interest to advance a spending plan that benefits you and the community in which you live.

Passover begins at sundown on April 14. Of course, Good Friday is on the 18th and Easter is on the 20th. I am hoping this time of reflection, renewal and sense of new opportunities propels you forward.

Don’t forget to turn in your 2013 local, state and federal tax returns by midnight April 15!

Happy spring!

Sen. Judy Schwank

Marcellus Shale Tax

Seven-out-of-10 Pennsylvanians believe the commonwealth should be taxing the natural gas companies that are drilling in the state’s fertile Marcellus Shale regions. I believe the same thing.

Sen. Schwank urges adoption of tax on natural gas drilling to fund education, economic development, environmental protection.
Click here to watch

However, I – and most supporters of the tax – do not equate this proposal with the complicit acceptance of the industry’s presence in Pennsylvania. My name appears prominently on Senate Bill 1100 which will place a moratorium on fracking until the experts can determine its environmental impacts.

We do need to tax the companies that are drilling all over north-central and western Pennsylvania and making huge profits for just about free. Not levying a severance tax is costing the commonwealth about $1 billion a year in new revenue.

A 5 percent severance tax would increase Growing Greener’s annual investment from $18 million this year to $75 million 2014-’15. The popular program would receive $120 million in year two of the levy; $150 million the following year. Schools and local economies would also benefit with the new charge.

Pennsylvania is only projected to receive $217 million this year as a result of the current drilling impact fee. The proposed legislation would generate $937 million through a combination of the fee and severance tax. Thirty-six states assess some kind of severance tax on natural gas drillers. Nearly all of them apply that duty on the extraction of oil and gas.

Gift Ban Advances

You elected me to represent you in Harrisburg. You can influence me by writing, emailing, calling my office, rallying in the Capitol or meeting with me at my town hall meetings. I don’t – and wouldn’t – expect anything more than that and neither would most of my colleagues in the General Assembly.

Pennsylvania Report April 2014 :: Ban Gifts to Legislators
Click here to watch

The attorney general’s revelation a few weeks ago that some lawmakers were allegedly accepting gifts from a phony lobbyist has prompted quick and decisive action in the Senate to make sure gifts are much less of a problem in lawmaking.

This week, we voted overwhelmingly in favor of Senate Bill 1327.

I voted for the bill because it bans all cash gifts, except those from a parent, spouse, child or other close relative and the motivation for those gifts is personal.

I also supported a change to the Senate’s ethics rules that also bans cash gifts and “cash-like” gifts. The Allentown Morning Call reported the story this way.

These two efforts are a good start, but we can – and must – go further so you and constituents like you no longer have to wonder about the intent of our actions or the reasons why we vote the way we do.

We are public employees making taxpayer-provided salaries and we owe it to you to be the best example of how to work openly and honestly.

Heroin Problem

needleIt seems like we are reading about a deadly heroin overdose every day in the newspapers. It’s sad. Families are being torn apart. Action is needed.

I have been working to see if we can do better to make sure our sons and daughters are safe from this deadly drug. The Reading Eagle had a good story in early March, while WFMZ-TV interviewed me and provided a good synopsis of the local heroin problem in a more recent story.

I understand the privacy concerns raised by the ACLU when people talk about prescription monitoring. Still, a solution is out there and we are going to work together to find it.

Nice Tribute From Physicians

2014 legislators of the yearBecause of your support, I was able to receive recognition from the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians as one of its “2014 legislators of the year.”

I shared the distinction with state Rep. Matt Baker (R-Bradford), but the academy said it chose me because of my work to introduce and advance patient-centered medical home strategies in the commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1083 represents that strategy, and it would establish a patient-centered medical home advisory council that would help the Department of Public Welfare to develop policies and standards that improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care.

The bill has not yet been considered by the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee, but I hope it soon will as patient-centered medical homes will better organize primary care and deliver higher quality health care at lower costs through its focus on what the patient wants and needs to get better.

Congrats to Rep. Baker and thanks for your support!

Blood DriveBloody Swell!

Pardon the pun, but we had a great turnout for the community blood drive, April 5, at Tom Sturgis Pretzels in Shillington.

The Miller-Keystone Blood Center did a great job during the 4-hour event, and we were able to replenish some of our much-needed blood types. Folks who participated received a 10-percent-off coupon from Tom Sturgis Pretzels and we raffled off two tickets to the Bonnaroo Concert, courtesy of the blood center.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Town Hall

Pleased to report I had a good, constructive meeting April 3 with your neighbors at the Wyomissing Area Jr./Sr. High School during my latest town hall meeting.

Stay tuned for the date and location of our next meeting together.

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