Senator Michele Brooks E-Newsletter

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A Veteran’s Best Friend

Pittsburgh Steelers great and proud Vietnam veteran Rocky Bleier (far right) is also a hero off the football field.  He is devoted to helping veterans and is working with Sen. Michele Brooks and Carol Borden of Guardian Angels Dogs (based in Florida but soon to be based in Pennsylvania as well) to help our veterans find specially trained medical service dogs.

“I am so happy that Rocky Bleier has agreed to visit everyone at SCI Mercer to help with this program,” Brooks said.

“I want to thank the employees at SCI Mercer for welcoming this program and working with us to include the facility’s Veterans Unit in this valuable program for our nation’s heroes,” she added.

The veterans in Mercer SCI will help train these gifted dogs to be partners for their fellow veterans living in the community.

Two Brooks’ Bills Signed into Law to Help Farmers and Veterans

Legislation introduced by Sen. Michele Brooks to give northwestern Pennsylvania farmers a stronger voice in Harrisburg and to increase assistance to Pennsylvania veterans was signed into law in October.

Senate Bill 1171 modifies membership of the Nutrient Management Advisory Board by adding a farmer and requiring that all six regions of the state, including northwestern Pennsylvania, be represented.

“When I served in the House of Representatives, I heard from a farmer who was fined for protecting his cornfield. From that day on, I’ve worked to give farmers a stronger voice in the process that impacts their lives and the entire field of agriculture,” Sen. Brooks said.

“This is the first time in Commonwealth history that northwestern Pennsylvania farmers are guaranteed a vote on the Nutrient Management Advisory Board,” Sen. Brooks added. “The decisions made by this board affect the lives of farmers in our region every day, and local farmers should have more say. With the enactment of this new law, they will have that voice.”

Also signed into law was Senate Bill 945, Sen. Brooks’ bill to allow Pennsylvanians who are renewing their vehicle registration for a two-year period to double their contribution to the Veterans Trust Fund (VTF) from the current $3 amount to $6.

The VTF was established in 2012 and issues grants to statewide charitable organizations that assist veterans, veterans service organizations and county directors of veterans affairs, who then aid veterans in need of shelter, food, heat and other necessities of living.

Current law requires PennDOT to place the $3 VTF donation check-off on the registration renewal coupon. The fund now faces a potential loss in donations if registrants opt for the two-year registration renewal and also opt to donate only once every two years instead of every year.

Noting that PennDOT collected $1.1 million in VTF donations in 2015 and saw a 5.21 percent increase in 2016, she said, “We don’t want to see this trend reversed by the move to a two-year registration process.  By encouraging motorists to double their donation to $6 when they renew for a two-year process, we hope to keep this revenue stream for veterans in need growing.”

“I want to thank the public for their wonderful generosity and support for this program,” Brooks said.

Nov. 30 is the deadline for organizations to apply for VTF funding.  Please go to www.dmva.pa.gov for more information.

NFIB Honors Brooks with Small Business Champion Award

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Pennsylvania, the state’s leading small-business association, announced that Sen. Michele Brooks is among the state lawmakers with a strong pro-business, job growth voting record.

For her pro-business support, Sen. Brooks was presented with NFIB’s “Guardian of Small Business” Award.

This award is the most prestigious honor that NFIB bestows on legislators in recognition of their efforts to support small businesses and the jobs they provide.

“These state Senators and House members have proven themselves a steadfast ally of small business,” said NFIB’s Legislative Director in Pennsylvania, Rebecca Oyler. “It’s easy to forget, but stopping bad legislation is just as important as passing good legislation.”

“These lawmakers know the importance of Pennsylvania’s small, family-owned businesses and understand the necessity of reducing the government’s role in their lives and the importance that business plays in creating jobs,” added Oyler.

This award is the third Brooks has earned in the past year.  She also earned the AARP “Capitol Caregiver Award” for her work in helping senior citizens, in addition to the “50 Over 50” Award from City and State PA as one of the most influential people in Pennsylvania.

This year, Brooks was the prime sponsor of legislation, signed into law as Act 72, to allow job-creators to take advantage of federal tax changes on depreciation, thus incentivizing job growth and expansion.

“I am humbled to have received these awards this past year, and I look forward to continuing to work with job-creators in making Pennsylvania the most competitive it can be in strengthening our economy,” Brooks said.

Prison Closure Process Bill Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Michele Brooks and four other senators was signed into law in late October to establish a more transparent process on the closure of state prisons, state police barracks, and other public safety facilities.   

“No longer will any Governor be permitted to close a public safety facility unilaterally, without transparency or public input,” Sen. Brooks said.  “Public safety is too vital a function to abruptly close facilities that employ hundreds and that could potentially result in putting people back on the streets who shouldn’t be.” 

“We need the benefit of time and clear procedures to evaluate potential prison closures, especially from the vantage point of public safety, efficiency, effectiveness, and community impact and input.  Our citizens deserve a seat at the table and a voice in the process.”

Senators David G. Argall (R-29), Lisa Baker (R-20), Wayne Fontana (D-42) and John Yudichak (D-14) joined Sen. Brooks in sponsoring Senate Bill 748, which would establish the Public Safety Facilities Act, in response to recent state prison closures over the last few years that happened with little input from residents in affected communities.

The bill was drafted in 2017, after the Wolf Administration announced that they would close down two state prisons, from a potential five prisons, which included SCI Mercer, SCI Frackville, SCI Pittsburgh, SCI Retreat and SCI Waymart. 

The five senators convened a bipartisan hearing in January 2017, immediately following the announcement of the Governor’s plans. The hearing examined the process of how a state prison is closed, noting the shock waves that rippled through the communities who were notified of a possible closure at the eleventh hour.

“The process of closing prisons should be open and transparent, and should involve the community,” Sen. Brooks said. “It is troubling that closure decisions, which affect the lives of so many Pennsylvanians, can be made hastily and unilaterally. Senate Bill 748 will make it a transparent, deliberate process if the state decides to close any other facilities going forward.”

The bill would require the state to notify state and local stakeholders, including local lawmakers, within three months of a planned facility closure, as well as thoroughly review any local implications of the planned closure. The agency seeking to close the facility must also hold a public hearing in the county where the facility is located and provide a written report detailing the recommendations to the governor and leaders in the General Assembly.

“Transparency is key.  This bill will ensure transparency, and a better process moving forward,” she said.  “We thank the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, who represent the state corrections officers at our state prisons, for their input and support, as well as their dedication to the difficult job they do every day in a challenging environment.”

Another Great Program at Edinboro University

Representatives from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf visited Sen. Brooks’ office in Harrisburg recently to share good news about the opening of the Children’s Center at Edinboro University (EU).

This center offers a high-quality preschool program, tailored to children ages 3 to school age. The program gives EU students real-world educational experience, while supporting children and families affected by hearing loss and enhancing preschool students’ language and foundational skills.

For more information or a tour, please call Casie Lucas-Szumigala at 814-920-2578, or email clucas@wpsd.org.

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