Senator Cris Dush E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Hearing from Female Veterans About Their Military Experiences
  • Reuniting Veterans with Military Decorations
  • Ensuring Pennsylvania Homes, Employers Have Access to Diverse Energy Options
  • Approving Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers
  • EV Fast-Charging Funding Opportunities
  • Information on PennDOT Bridge Tolling Final Public Comment Period
  • Bill Crowell honored with the Artisan of the Year
  • Lock Haven Jams and Art on Main Street Festival honored with the Event of the Year
  • Julie Brennan honored with the Outstanding Leader Award
  • Paul Lilja honored with the Inspiring Youth Award
  • Remembering Our Military Veterans on Veterans Day

Hearing from Female Veterans About Their Military Experiences

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hosted a roundtable discussion with female veterans about their military experiences.

The discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges for females in a historically male-dominated field. They spoke of how common it was to be the only woman in a classroom filled with men and the exhaustion that comes from needing to work harder than their male peers without feeling like the work pays off.

The women also spoke of how military sexual trauma impacted, and frequently cut short, their service. Often, services available to help people cope with sexual assault aren’t known to the victims, so the roundtable participants emphasized how important it is to make that critical information available to military members at all levels of service.

Despite challenges they faced, the women emphatically felt that their service was valuable to their own personal development and cited the character development and work ethic as benefits they received.

Reuniting Veterans with Military Decorations

The Pennsylvania Treasury’s vault holds tangible unclaimed property, including hundreds of military decorations that Treasury is working to return to each and every veteran or their family. There are military ID tags, pins, campaign ribbons and medals, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.

Most tangible property received by Treasury is auctioned off after about three years, but not military decorations. These symbols of sacrifice are kept in perpetuity and never sold.

Treasury has a database dedicated to military decorations so families can easily search to see if anything is waiting to be returned to them or a loved one. Click here to search the database of unclaimed military decorations.

Ensuring Pennsylvania Homes, Employers Have Access to Diverse Energy Options

The state Senate voted to ensure Pennsylvania homes and employers have access to diverse energy options.

Senate Bill 275, known as “Energy Choice” legislation, would limit municipal entities from banning a specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses. The language is fuel-neutral and is not specific to one energy source.

Pennsylvania’s history of energy choice has resulted in reductions in energy costs as well as emissions. While other states are seeking to ban fuel sources, such as natural gas, Pennsylvania residents have a myriad of energy options from which to choose, helping to keep energy bills lower. By allowing businesses to retain the option to choose energy sources, the bill helps employers stay competitive in an increasingly challenging global market.

The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Approving Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers

To help Pennsylvania move out of a pandemic economy and create jobs, the Senate passed a bill to bring state tax law governing expense deductions in line with federal law. It would eliminate the unequal treatment of small businesses in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 349 is part of a Small Business Tax Reform Package to help employers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated shutdowns.

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 raised the federal limit for IRS Section 179 expense deductions from $500,000 to $1 million annually. However, Pennsylvania law limits the deduction to $25,000 for personal income tax purposes, which covers S Corporations, partnerships and individuals.

The increase in limits makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and to invest, which promotes job growth in Pennsylvania.

Small businesses create 65% of the jobs in Pennsylvania. Passage of Senate Bill 349 is part of a broader recovery effort to rebuild Pennsylvania’s economy.

The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

EV Fast-Charging Funding Opportunities

PennDOT is continuing to work towards shifting Pennsylvania’s Alternative Fuels Corridors from pending to ready. As part of that effort, PennDOT has published the I-81/I-78 corridor deployment plan (166 miles from the MD/PA border to NJ/PA border). PennDOT and our Clean Cities partners are part of a multiple state I-80 deployment grant for the installation of both electric vehicles and compressed natural gas fueling infrastructure along the I-80 corridor from New Jersey to the Iowa/Nebraska border.

To promote the benefits of DC fast charging and existing funding opportunities to businesses on all alternative fuel corridors, PennDOT has developed a fact sheet on EV Fast-Charging FAQs and Funding Opportunities. The 2021 cycle of the DC Fast Charging Grant is now open (as of Oct. 29) and is scheduled to remain open through the end of January 2022.

More details about the DC Fast Charging and Hydrogen Fueling Grant Program:

  • The program will have a new maximum award amount of $750,000 per organization per funding round. This will ensure that a larger number of organizations receive funding. The funding cap per project remains at $250,000 for DC fast charging projects.
  • The program will offer a maximum of 60% funding.
  • Projects that qualify as “corridor expansion” by being located along an interstate highway charging gap of greater than 50 miles will be eligible for the following benefits: increased maximum funding amount of 65%; lower peak power requirement of 120 kW; and scoring advantages.
  • Project scoring will place a greater emphasis on reducing highway corridor gaps, being located in areas without nearby DC fast charging, and exceeding minimum power output requirements. Other scoring components such as site amenities, future proofing, cost effectiveness, innovative technology, and being located in an Environmental Justice community will remain.
  • You are welcome to submit an application to this program and the Alternative Fuel Incentive Grant program (closes December 17th) for the same project. If you apply to both, please indicate which program you would prefer if selected for funding by both.
  • The full program guidelines and application instructions will be posted on Driving PA Forward.

Information on PennDOT Bridge Tolling Final Public Comment Period

Last week I made note of the announcement by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for the final public comment periods related to their plans to impose a new toll on up to nine candidate bridges without legislative approval, with one of the four projects to have their public comment periods announced being the Canoe Creek Bridges in Clarion County.

PennDOT had not yet provided information regarding the public comment periods for the remaining five candidate toll bridges, but during the past week, the dates for those periods were announced.

Included within those five potential tolling projects are the North Forks Bridges, which carry Interstate 80 over Redbank Creek and Water Plant Road in Jefferson County’s Brookville Borough and Pine Creek Township.

The 30-Day Comment Period will be Nov. 22 through Dec. 22, during which time a virtual public meeting will be scheduled (date and time to be announced later). There will also be an in-person Open House, held on Dec. 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., in the Hickory Grove Elementary School located at 304 Jenks St., Brookville, PA.

Additionally, PennDOT has indicated that in response to public feedback, it will seek to pursue one-way tolling on the four candidate bridge projects on Interstate 80, which include both the Canoe Creek Bridges and the North Fork Bridges. PennDOT intends to toll only the eastbound traffic at Canoe Creek, and only the westbound traffic at North Fork, with the agency saying tolls are expected to be $1 to $2 for passenger cars using E-ZPass at each toll location. The department explains that one-way tolling will reduce the number of tolls drivers would have to pay on Interstate 80, as well as overall diversions and the need for additional tolling infrastructure.

I urge Pennsylvanians to voice their concerns regarding the bridge tolling by participating in PennDOT’s public comment period.

The DRIVE SMART Act, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria), provides a short-term and long-term plan to overhaul Pennsylvania’s transportation system. The comprehensive plan includes Senate Bill 382, which is currently in the House Transportation Committee, to reform the P3 statute and to terminate PennDOT’s P3 bridge tolling initiative. The plan also recommends innovative federal financing as a better alternative to improve the interstate bridges.

Front: Zack Ankeny (Senator Cris Dush’s office), Julie Brennan (Clinton County Chamber / Tourism Director, Rich Wykoff (Board member for the Clinton County Arts Council )Steve Getz (Board member for the Clinton County Arts Council  and LH JAMS Director), State Representative Stephanie Borowicz (76th Legislative District); LaKeshia Knarr (PA Wilds Communications Director)

Back: Clinton County Commissioners Angela Harding, Miles Kessinger and Jeff Snyder; Not pictured is Bill Crowell (participated virtually and recipient of the Artisan of the Year Award)

Bill Crowell honored with the Artisan of the Year Award by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship

A juried artisan in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, Mr. Crowell uses his creative photography and graphic design skills to celebrate the Pennsylvania Wilds region and the beauty and rural traditions for which it is known. Through his business, Budget Artist, he works with a variety of clients to document the lives and special moments for local residents and visitors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Crowell embarked on a series of portraits that featured families on their porches with various household items to comically reflect how they were surviving the pandemic. To his great credit, he has won several awards for his work and has donated the use of his photographs to local businesses and organizations, including the PA Wilds Center, the Millbrook Playhouse and the Clinton County Visitors Bureau, in an effort to promote the area.

Lock Haven JAMS and Art on Main Street Festival honored with the Event of the Year Award by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship

Lock Haven JAMS is a music and arts festival that was created to attract visitors to Clinton County and the Pennsylvania Wilds region. The organizing committee, partnering with Downtown Lock Haven and Lock Haven University, works year-round to keep the mix of art and entertainment fresh and exciting. The event features two stages with musicians and bands, outdoor café-style dining, plein air painting, fine art and crafts. A full afternoon of music, art and entertainment flows into the evening and fans of jazz and blues music can watch performances in smaller setting at local establishments, including the Broken Axe, Avenue 209, Odd Fellas and Stella A’s.

Julie Brennan honored with the Outstanding Leader Award by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship

Employed as the Clinton County Tourism Director for six years, Ms. Brennan regularly promotes the Pennsylvania Wilds region and serves on several boards and committees designed to help the county thrive as a destination and great place to live. Her advocacy on behalf of the Bald Eagle Valley Trail led to the annual commitment of twenty thousand dollars from the hotel tax revenue for trail maintenance, and she was instrumental in securing the Elk Scenic Drive signage for the Route 120 corridor. Ms. Brennan has also been involved with events critical to the regional economy, including the Lock Haven JAMS Festival, the Hyner Challenge, Boulder Beast and the Great Island Triathlon. During the COVID-19 pandemic , she transformed her weekly newsletter into a daily Moving Forward update that provided vital information about available programs to assist cultural, hospitality, tourism and other businesses and organization.

From left to right are Terry Gerner (Black Forest Conservation Assn. , Jackie Lilja Manno (Paul Lilja’s daughter and Asst. Director of the program), Paul Lilja, Deborah Rudy (Senator Cris Dush’s office), Hannah Brock (PA Wilds)

Paul Lilja is being honored with the Inspiring Youth Award by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship

Mr. Lilja, in partnership with the Black Forest Conservation Association, has been coordinating a Junior Conservation School for more than forty years. A week-long summer camp, the school provides students with a wide variety of outdoor skills classes and conservation lessons. Based outside of Coudersport at the Black Forest Conservation Club, it teaches students about conservation issues and careers by taking them on field trips across the region, including a trip to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Bennett Branch Forest, where they learn about acid mine discharge and its treatment.

Remembering Our Military Veterans on Veterans Day

On Thursday, Nov. 11, we will honor all Americans who have served.

In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

The day was chosen because a year earlier, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, effectively ending World War I.

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

In 1938, Armistice Day – Nov. 11 – was recognized, in federal statute, as a legal holiday.

Up until the end of World War II, the holiday only honored veterans of World War I. But in 1954, Congress amended the statute creating the federal holiday by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting the word “Veterans,” making Nov. 11 a day to honor all American war veterans.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” on Oct. 8, 1954.

According the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, there are approximately 17.4 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces, with roughly half of them being age 65 or older, while 8.4 percent are under the age of 35. Of that, more than 782,000 are estimated by the U.S. Census to live in Pennsylvania.

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