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Senator Judy SchwankHello!

I am hoping your summer has gotten off to a good start. Once again the PA budget process failed to address the real issues the people of the Commonwealth face. I will share some more later in this newsletter, but after nine days of “thought,” the governor finally signed his $29 billion 2014-‘15 budget into law.

Some other significant bills that would – and still could – positively affect Berks County were stalled by the budget dealings. Things like reducing the size of the legislature, pension reform, and banning all gifts to elected officials.

My proposal to make it a crime to publish sexually explicit pictures of a former partner without their permission has been signed into law. This is good news for women and men.

Safe travels if you will soon be going on vacation! Enjoy this time of the year in Berks County and thank you for your continued interest, support and encouragement as your elected senator in the 11th Senatorial District!

Sen. Judy Schwank

Why PA’s New Budget Got My ‘NO’ Vote

CapitolThe General Assembly sent the governor’s $29.1 billion budget back to him June 30, but it took him until July 10 to sign it. And, he decided to blue-line veto some serious funding for low-income residents, the arts and job-training programs.

I voted no on the budget and want to take some time to explain why I voted that way.

As a list, my reasons for my opposition are: no Marcellus Shale severance tax, no property tax reform, and continued reluctance to expand Medicaid.

Had Pennsylvania levied a 5 percent severance tax on gas drillers, as Senate Democrats proposed in March, the tax would have generated $700 million in new revenue to improve education, better protect the environment and spark new economic development.

Coupled with the $400 million that also would have flowed to the commonwealth under Medicaid expansion, most of the state’s $1.5 billion deficit would have been painlessly covered and 500,000 residents, including 23,000 veterans, would finally have received health care insurance.

Instead, our $1.5 billion Corbett deficit has been “covered” by inflated projections and deep cuts to essential economic development, environmental protection and job creation programs. No new funding streams mean we will have less ability to offset fiscal shortfalls if projections fall short, as some are anticipating could happen by early 2015 to the tune of $2.5 billion.

The governor rationalized his budgetary vetoes as punishment for not delivering pension reform. I won’t speak for the House, but the Senate delivered the only pension reform proposal before it. And that wasn’t a very effective bill.

Most of us understand that we must do much more to correct the dramatically escalating price of the state pension systems, but that is an issue we could and should have dealt with much earlier.

If we do pension reform wrong, if we fail to properly study the potential impact on any changes and fail to address the almost $50 billion unfunded liability that we now face, then we will be doing a great – and probably irreversible – disservice to Pennsylvania taxpayers everywhere.

Gift Ban Advances

SB1327In my last newsletter to you, I told you the Senate had adopted a bill to ban all gifts to state lawmakers and other elected officials.

Action on Senate Bill 1327 was prompted by the attorney general’s revelation that some lawmakers had been accepting gifts from a phony lobbyist.

So much for momentum.

I voted in favor of this proposal, but the House did not act on it before the legislature went home for the summer. It is now before the House State Government Committee where it has not been considered since its delivery there on April 10.

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.

Hopefully, it will be considered in the fall before the 2013-14 session expires.

Intimate Harassment Protection Has Arrived!

PrisonIt’s now illegal in Pennsylvania to illicitly publish sexually explicit pictures of a former partner.

The Senate approved HB 2107 July 1 that largely reflects my original proposal, SB 1167, to deliver intimate harassment protection for all Pennsylvanians. The governor signed it into law July 9.

The new law targets what has been called “revenge porn” and means people who publicly post sexual images of their partners to annoy and harm them will commit a crime that carries potential penalties of up to two years in jail when an adult is the victim and up to five years when the victim is a minor.

There are some who don't appreciate how harmful these acts can be to victims. They don’t just hurt; they devastate. And, to make things worse, they have no expiration date. Nothing ever disappears from the internet.

Our new law was endorsed by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Women's Law Project.

Jarrett M. YoderNever Forgetting Jarett Yoder

I’m hoping you noticed the change when you drove along Route 662 in Ruscombmanor Township this weekend. The stretch of highway – from Fleetwood to Oley Township – is now and forever known as the “Chief Warrant Officer-2 Jarett M. Yoder Highway.”

The bill naming this stretch after the Oley Valley High School grad wound its way through the legislature last year and became law in November. We held a dedication ceremony Friday morning at Reuben Strauss Park where the family, members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and locally elected officials remembered Officer Yoder and talked about how important this tribute is to him, his family and the ideal of serving country.

Yoder was 26 when his Apache helicopter crashed in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan in April 2013.

The chief warrant officer was married to Heather Garay-Yoder and he was the son of Diane and Gary Yoder.

YoderOfficer Yoder was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and NATO Medal for his service in Afghanistan. He also received the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one bronze star, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with one bronze star.

When he died, he was serving his second deployment since enlisting in the National Guard in 2005, which is the year he graduated from high school.

Jarett Yoder paid the ultimate sacrifice to help keep our country free. Remember that when you drive along Route 662.

License(s) to Hunt

Game CommissionIf you hunt in Pennsylvania, you know you need a license. Whether you use bow and arrow, muzzleloaders, traps or rifles, permits for the 2014-‘15 hunting season – including deer, elk, furtaker and bear – can now be purchased.

You may either get your license through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) website, or in person at any of the Pennsylvania Game Commission regional offices or the commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, as well as through more than 600 in-state and out-of-state issuing agents.

Be safe out there!

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Extension

Tax RebateIf you rely – or look forward to receiving – the annual rebate for property taxes or rent that you paid during the previous year, there is good news!

The PA Department of Revenue has extended the deadline to apply for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program to Dec. 31.

This program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters; and half of Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975.

Some 600,000 older residents and individuals with disabilities are expected to benefit from the program.

Get your claim forms and answers to any questions by visiting or by calling 1-888-222-9190. If you have already applied for a rebate, check the status of your claim online or by calling 1-888-PATAXES.

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
SB1327 Game Commission Revenue