WILKES-BARRE, August 11, 2017 − Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) commended the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement officials as Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the arrest of 14 people on charges stemming from a $1 million heroin and crack cocaine ring operating in Wilkes-Barre.
“Operation Outfoxed” was a collaborative effort among multiple local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies including the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Safe Streets Task Force, Edwardsville Police, Kingston Police, Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Luzerne County detectives, Luzerne County Drug Task Force, Luzerne Police, Luzerne County Sheriffs’ Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Plains Township Police and Wilkes-Barre Police.
Luzerne County continues to be at the forefront of the war against drugs and the intensifying opioid crisis gripping Pennsylvania and the country. In 2016, 140 people died because of an overdose, which was up from 95 deaths in the previous year. So far in 2017, 77 people have overdosed and another 10 deaths remain under investigation by the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.
“We must keep up the pressure on the drug networks that peddle poison on our streets and curb the sale of illegal narcotics that often leads to violence in our neighborhoods,” said Senator Yudichak. “These joint operations demonstrate that every level of law enforcement is working together and no resources will be spared as we combat this threat to our way of life in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
NANTICOKE, August 9, 2017 − Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) issued the following statement regarding Mayor Jeff Cusat’s request to place the City of Hazleton in Pennsylvania’s Act 47 Program for financially distressed communities.
“No community wants to join the fraternity of distressed cities, but sometimes it is the only responsible decision that elected leaders can make,” said Senator Yudichak. “Northeastern Pennsylvania will never fully thrive economically until Hazleton and other major cities are strong and stable once again.”
“My office will coordinate closely with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Mayor Jeff Cusat, and Hazleton’s City Council to ensure that the city emerges from Act 47 as quickly as possible and better positioned than when it entered,” he said. “With assistance from Harrisburg, I have the utmost confidence we can work together to execute a financial recovery plan that benefits all residents of the City of Hazleton.”
Representative Tarah Toohil also pledged her support to the City of Hazleton as they begin to navigate the Act 47 program.
“Entering the Act 47 program is the start of financial recovery for the City of Hazleton,” said Rep. Toohil. “We have overcome difficult challenges before and my office will utilize every resource of state government to help our city restructure its finances, meet its obligations to vendors and employees, and continue to provide public services to the people of Hazleton.” she said.
NANTICOKE, August 4, 2017 – Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) announced today that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (“DOE”) awarded a series of education grants in Luzerne County including a $306,000 Pre-K Counts grant to the Luzerne Intermediate Unit (“LIU”) as well as a $119,000 Pre-K Counts grant to Luzerne County Head Start.
“It is never too early for a child to begin learning and these Pre-K Counts grants will start many children on a successful path towards lifelong learning,” said Senator Yudichak. “Research shows that early education programs save school districts money in the long run and yield tremendous dividends for the children.” Senator Yudichak noted that although pre-K programs have been unparralled successes, many children still lack access to these programs because of insufficient funding.
“Without the grant funds, we would not be able to provide 36 children with an opportunity to learn and prepare for the transition into kindergarten,” said LIU Director Dr. Tony Grieco. “Studies continually show that children who attend quality Pre-K programs—before age five— are more likely to read on grade level by the 3rd grade and have increased success in completing high school and entering into post-secondary education and training.”
“In today’s challenging world, we cannot presume to drop children off on the first day of kindergarten and expect them to succeed,” said Lynn Biga, Director of Luzerne County Head Start. “Early childhood education programs properly prepare children for kindergarten and elementary school by equipping them with the skills they will need to thrive.” With the additional grant funds, Luzerne County Head Start will be able to educate 14 additional children. The organization already serves 126 children.
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts was established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to reduce financial barriers to starting early education programs to make quality pre-kindergarten opportunities available to children and families across the Commonwealth. As of today, 19,000 three and four-year-old children have benefitted from Pre-K Counts grants.
Senator Yudichak also announced that Luzerne County Community College received a $340,000 Family Literacy grant from DOE. These programs help parents learn the necessary skills to engage in their child’s education, obtain secondary school credentials on their own, and find gainful employment to support themselves and their children.
For more information on Pre-K Counts and family literacy grant programs, visit www.education.pa.gov.
PARRYVILLE, August 8, 2017 – The Carbon County Council of Governments (“CCCOG”) announced today the purchase of an Asphalt Zipper and a successful training session on the equipment for the members’ municipal workers. The training session took place at the Parryville Fire Company.
The Asphalt Zipper is the first piece of shared equipment purchased by the CCCOG, which will help to grind up and smooth out deteriorating roads throughout the county. The CCCOG received funding for the purchase in the 2016 grant cycle from the Commonwealth Financing Authority (“CFA”) Monroe County Local Share Account (“LSA”).
The CCCOG, spearheaded by State Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) and local elected officials from the 18 member municipalities is an organization that was created in order to improve communication, share resources, and apply for grant dollars. The CCCOG has received $231,000 from the LSA grant program since it’s official inception in early 2016 and has raised over $6,000 from an auction that was held last fall.
“The CCCOG continues to take the right steps forward in saving our municipalities money through their cooperative efforts,” said Yudichak. “With the purchase of this first piece of equipment it shows the initiative this group has taken to improve the infrastructure throughout Carbon County.”
“Just listening to the workers talk from our different municipalities, you can hear how excited they are to put this machine to work for their respective communities,” said CCCOG President Kris Hoffner. “This machine is going to make our roads better and that’s what this is all about. Working together in a collaborative way to make Carbon County better.”
“Carbon County is proud to be a part of the CCCOG,” said Chairman of the Carbon County Commissioners Wayne Nothstein. “There’s an open dialogue there now between all of us that goes far beyond sharing equipment. We can bounce ideas off each other on different projects, which is really beneficial. It’s just a great way to ensure that Carbon County continues to develop.”
HARRISBURG, August 3, 2017 – Senator John T. Yudichak (Luzerne/Carbon) announced today that the Lehighton Area School District was awarded a $170,000 Pre-Kindergarten (“Pre-K”) Counts grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to support Pre-K education.
“The implementation of a Pre-K program in the Lehighton Area School District will give children a head start on their education. Research has shown that having access to quality Pre-K programs can save schools money in the long term, yet many children still lack access to these programs. I’m pleased the Lehighton Area School District will be able to provide a quality Pre-K program that will give these children a strong foundation for the future,” said Senator John Yudichak.
“With this funding we’re going to be able to educate 40 three and four-year-old students in our district. Forty more young students will now have the opportunity to learn and grow, which is beyond great,” said Lehighton Area School District Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver. “We’ll have 20 kids in the morning and 20 kids in the afternoon, with each session going for two and a half hours. It’s just a great opportunity for them and us. The program will help the students better transition to kindergarten and it will also help us get a better understanding of the students themselves and how to best serve them.”
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, is bringing quality Pre-K education to nearly 19,000 three and four-year-old children across the Commonwealth. For more information on Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, visit www.education.pa.gov.
NANTICOKE, August 2, 2017 — Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) urged the General Assembly to approve reforms of Pennsylvania’s prison closure process as quickly as possible. Last week, the Senate passed House Bill 118, an omnibus Administrative Code bill, that included language requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to hold at least one local public hearing before any state correctional institution may be closed in the coming fiscal year.
“Closing a correctional facility affects a family’s livelihood, the economic viability of a community, and the public safety of all Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Yudichak. “A decision of this magnitude should not be made on intuition, speculative benefits, and with undue haste.”
Although the measure is limited in duration, the House of Representatives is encouraged to approve it whenever they return to session. Meanwhile, comprehensive reform legislation has been introduced in the Senate and has been referred to committee.
SB 748 –“The Public Safety Facilities Act”— was the result of months of bipartisan collaboration between Senators Yudichak, David Argall, Lisa Baker, Michele Brooks, and Wayne Fontana. The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) also provided input as the bipartisan group drafted SB 748. The bill establishes a formal process for a governor’s administration to propose, evaluate, and then decide to close any public safety facilities owned or leased by the Pennsylvania State Police or the DOC.
“Decisions that affect the safety of corrections officers—who patrol the toughest blocks in the criminal justice system—should be weighed and considered through a formal and transparent process,” said Jason Bloom, President of PSCOA. “Pennsylvania should follow the lead of other states and enact SB 748 before any other prisons are placed on the chopping block.”
“Requiring a local public hearing before a prison is closed is an important interim reform to avoid the needless anxiety and uncertainty that occurred earlier this year,” said Senator Yudichak. “However, comprehensive reform can only be achieved through permanent legislation and that remains our end goal because it ensures that any decisions to close prisons or state police barracks are carefully vetted to avoid unnecessary harm to local communities or state employees and their families.”