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Senator Judy SchwankHello!

The New Year has ushered in new opportunities in Harrisburg – for Berks County and people living throughout Pennsylvania.

I’m emailing to share some news and update you on the issues I am working on to make sure positive change happens this year.

We welcomed Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack last month during some special and momentous inaugurations. The House and Senate also swore in new members. To say the least, there is new perspective and a new determination to do what needs to be done in the commonwealth.

I’ve already introduced legislation to find a solution to our state’s pension problem and return a historic crop to farmers. I’m also working to make medical cannabis a legal option for people and families whose children suffer from seizures and many other health issues.

One good item to highlight in this newsletter is a free seminar on Valentine’s Day that will help you navigate the federal student loan application – FAFSA.

Stay warm as we move through February. Spring is only 51 days away.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sen. Judy Schwank

New Session, New Jobs

CapitolPart of the excitement of starting a new legislative session is learning how my experience and expertise will be employed by the Senate Democratic Caucus.

In January, I learned and shared that I will once again be serving as the Democratic chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. I’ll also be representing Berks County on the Senate Aging & Youth, Appropriations, Public Health & Welfare, and State Government committees.

Continuing as a leader in the Ag committee will enable us to keep Berks County farmers’ interests at heart and infused in Pennsylvania agriculture policy.

Working on the Appropriations committee means we have an immediate voice and vote on how precious tax dollars are prioritized. This is especially important this year as the legacy we’ve been left means a more than $2 billion deficit.

Pension Reform the Right Way

There has been a lot of debate about what we should do to cure Pennsylvania’s public and municipal pension problem, but the discourse has lacked one thing: all of the possibilities and the ramifications if we adopted one of those barely researched ideas.

In our earnest attempt to alleviate the financial burden and ensure the ongoing retirements of thousands of teachers and former state employees, we’ve not found an idea that a majority can embrace and will move us forward.

This reality is why I proposed a bill that would create a Public Pensions Review Commission that would study the issue over six dedicated months and propose a way out that more of us can understand and adopt.

BankIf my bill to form the commission is approved, it would be comprised of representatives from each branch of state government plus state system universities, state-related universities, the separate state organizations of county governments, municipal governments and school districts, major public employee unions, and people like you.

The PPRC would be authorized to conduct hearings and receive appropriate information and analysis and be supported by the Joint State Government Commission.

We have wasted too much time rehashing the same proposals as the pension issue festers. We need to get the right people to the table and find the right solutions to the pension problem.

We need solutions that are equitable to state and public school employees as well as Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Hemp -- The Good Kinds

FarmShowMarijuana can be a touchy subject, depending on the audience. But there are two offshoots of the controversial plant that could help many Pennsylvanians in very positive ways: industrial hemp and medical marijuana.

I proposed a bill with Sen. Mike Folmer from Lebanon County that would once again give farmers the legal authority to grow industrial hemp.

The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp and Senate Bill 50 is designed to provide oversight for the growing, harvesting and marketing of this traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers. The pilot crops would be grown in conjunction with research programs that are being conducted by a college or university located in the commonwealth.

Industrial hemp has been used for thousands of years in numerous applications and, until the last century, was commonly grown in Pennsylvania.

An estimated 50,000 potential applications exist for hemp’s use across a wide spectrum of industries, including textiles, building materials, industrial products, paper and energy and environmental products.

I believe this would be a great cash crop for farmers.

Medical Marijuana

If you’ve never talked to a worried parent who has tried everything to help their son or daughter stop having seizures, you will know where I am coming from on my next point.

Med CannabisYou see, even though they’ve tried everything, there is one thing they haven’t tried because it is against Pennsylvania law to do it. That thing is medical cannabis.

People are spending thousands of dollars and are traveling hundreds of miles to go to places that do allow medical cannabis. They come home, though, and experience the same anguish because the same help isn’t available here.

I urged lawmakers at a recent press conference in Harrisburg to finally adopt a medical cannabis proposal.

Senate Bill 3 (also by Sen. Folmer and Sen. Daylin Leach) would allow plants containing cannabidiol, Tetrahydrocannabinol or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid to be used for medical purposes.

Big words, yes, but their legal availability in PA would mean a night and day difference for thousands of Pennsylvania residents.

This treatment is legitimate, its time has come, and our medical professionals ought to have the opportunity to prescribe it as they see fit for patients with many different kinds of illness.

Student Loan Help

GraduatePaying for college is a growing concern for many families. Many have to borrow and hope for grants and scholarships to make it all work.

One good way to pay for higher education is with the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is used to determine eligibility for most federal and state college aid programs. It’s also used by many colleges to award school-based student assistance.

My office will be helping you and others navigate the process at my district office, 210 George St., Muhlenberg Township.

The free FAFSA preparation seminar will start at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 14th.

Financial aid professionals from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and Kutztown University will be on hand to guide you through the FAFSA form.

During the seminar, families will have access to computer terminals on which they can actually complete their online FAFSA form.

Call my office at 610-929-2151 to pre-register for the event because slots are limited.

My staff will also tell you what information you’ll need to complete the application and answer any other questions you might have.

Depending on interest, additional sessions may be added the day of the event. (The snow date is Feb. 28.)


LIHEAPLow temperatures might not be the only thing making you shiver this winter. What about your electric bills?

Remember, Pennsylvania can help you pay your bill if you need help. Our Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program can also help you pay for emergency repairs related to your warmth – or sudden lack thereof.

LIHEAP is still accepting applications, but there is a limited amount of money available so make sure you apply soon. Here are the financial eligibility requirements:

Household Size Income Limit:

1: $17,505
2: $23,595
3: $29,685
4: $35,775
5: $41,865

For each additional person in the home add $6,090.

If you need help with this, contact my office at 610-929-2151.

AwardHonored to be Honored

What a great surprise and thrill it was to be named by the PA Association of County Fairs as its 2014 legislator of the year!

I am humbled by the recognition and thank you for being a great supporter of mine. This is your award, too! I can't do my work without good input from you and many other constituents who want to move Berks County forward.

Thank you!

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