In this Update:
Senate Launches Hearings into Train Derailment at Pennsylvania-Ohio Border
The Pennsylvania Senate is holding hearings on the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals near the Pennsylvania border.
The derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, near the border with Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was followed by a “controlled burn” of train cars containing vinyl chloride.
Thursday’s hearing in Monaca, Beaver County by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee focused on the emergency response to the train derailment and subsequent controlled chemical burn. It also featured testimony from concerned residents. I attended the hearing and the reports of the responses of their bodies to the chemicals in the air and the lack of communication were disturbing.
We had a number of Secretaries and Directors from the Administration there as well to provide testimony. The lack of timely communication from officials in Ohio and the Norfolk Southern railroad to the people within just a few miles across the border in Pennsylvania is very concerning. The fact that Norfolk Southern appeared to be driving the actions after the crash is indeed very concerning. As a former accident investigator it would be like a police officer standing aside and letting the person who caused a vehicle crash write the investigation report and directing the response of the emergency responders. During the hearing other members and I provided the various departments with questions we want answered as this investigation unfolds.
On Feb. 27, the Senate Transportation Committee will conduct a hearing on hazardous materials transported by rail in Pennsylvania. The panel will review federal and state laws, regulations and policies covering the safe transport and management of hazardous materials by rail. The public is invited to submit questions here.
Pennsylvania ranks first in the nation with the highest number of operating railroads, 65, and fifth in total track mileage, with more than 5,600 miles.
Bellefonte District Office Open House
Thank you to everyone who came to our open house for my new Bellefonte district office.
It was a well-attended event and I enjoyed meeting and speaking with all those who came to see the new office.
The office is located at 301 North Spring Street, Bellefonte, PA 16823. The office phone number is (814) 355-0477 and the office Fax number is (814) 355-6046. Currently, those interested in receiving constituent services from this office should call ahead as physical access to the building is limited.
Constituent services offered by the office include such things as helping with problems encountered when dealing with state government and its agencies; providing copies of Pennsylvania House and Senate bills and state laws; assistance with processing PennDOT motor vehicle titles, registrations, driver’s licenses and learner’s permits renewals, and disability plate/placards; and offering applications for Pennsylvania birth and death certificates, criminal history clearance, child abuse history clearance, PACE/PACENET, property tax and rent rebate, and absentee ballots and voter registration.
University Area Joint Authority Visit
I was pleased to recently visit with Cory Miller, executive director of University Area Joint Authority (UAJA) and learn about the forward-thinking ideas that happen there.
UAJA is the municipal authority that provides wastewater treatment, or water recycling services, to much of State College and the Centre Region. They also operate an award-winning biosolids composting facility.
There are reasons they have been award winning. The water that flows into this sewage treatment plant has the volatile organic compounds broken down so the biosolids entering the composting facility is clean to the point that it can be safely used in gardens. This also helps the water exiting the plant being cleaner than the source water that entered the drinking water system.
To learn more about UAJA, visit their website.
Friday Deadline for Business Taxpayers to Sign Up for New Online State Tax-Filing System
If you are friends with a business owner who may not get my newsletter please forward this information on to them.
Business taxpayers in Pennsylvania are encouraged to sign up for an account on myPATH – the new online system that enables them to register, file and pay their state taxes through the Department of Revenue – before the old system goes offline this Friday.
The myPATH system was created to replace the prior online filing system known as e-TIDES, which the Department of Revenue will retire on Friday, Feb. 24. Taxpayers no longer will be able to use e-TIDES after that day. They will need to use myPATH to file their taxes.
Businesses can migrate their prior account information from e-TIDES into their new myPATH accounts.
An informational website about myPATH features step-by-step instructions and video tutorials on switching over, and an online customer service center can help taxpayers who still need assistance.
Resources for Understanding Military Benefits and Tax Filing
If you are a member of the military or veteran, you earned benefits from grateful citizens in honor of your service to our nation. You may find these resources on taxes and their benefits helpful this tax season.
For Pennsylvania state taxes, this U.S. Army site provides information on:
For federal taxes, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides information on how veterans can maximize their tax benefits. It covers what’s taxable and what’s not and includes AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, which offers free tax help to anyone, with a focus on taxpayers who are 50 and older and have low to moderate incomes.
PA Senate Library Holds 200 Years of History
The Library of the Senate of Pennsylvania has served as the major source of information on the chamber for more than 200 years. It has in-person exhibitions and online exhibits that intrigue and inform to this day.
The current exhibition is Officers of the Pennsylvania Senate, which focuses on the President, President Pro Tempore, Chief Clerk and Secretary of the Pennsylvania State Senate, positions critical to making the chamber function.
The Senate Library includes collections of legislative documents, and historical biographies, as well as sections for educators and children.
The library is located in Room 157 of the Main Capitol Building. Exhibition hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with limited access when the Senate is in session.
Heart Healthy: How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often called the silent killer. You might not have symptoms, but it’s a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Monitoring your own blood pressure at home can help you keep your blood pressure under control.
Understanding the risks posed by high blood pressure is one step you can take to be heart healthy during American Heart Month.
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