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Sen. Yudichak Reports

Vietnam Veterans Recognized in Walk of Honor Ceremony

I was joined by state and local officials last month at a special ceremony to honor more than sixty veterans of the Vietnam War and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the War.

The ceremony, held in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, recognized each veteran and presented them with a Vietnam Veteran Lapel pin.

Walk of Honor Ceremony Honoring Vietnam Veterans

A 50th anniversary commemorative plaque honoring local veterans of the Vietnam War was also unveiled on the Luzerne County Community College Walk of Honor in Nanticoke.

We stood there to participate in a long overdue national ceremony to pay tribute to Vietnam Veterans who served their nation with honor and distinction.  Like many veterans, they do not seek recognition or accolades, but the veterans of the Vietnam War most certainly deserve it.

In 2008, an act of Congress, the National Defense Authorization Act, empowered the Department of Defense to facilitate commemorative programs across America to honor and thank the more than 9 million veterans who served on active duty during the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975.

In Luzerne County, more than 11,000 men and women served in Vietnam.  The Luzerne County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument lists 83 servicemen and women who were killed during the war and 6 servicemen listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.

Steve Biernacki, a decorated Vietnam Veteran from Ashley, who earned (2) Bronze Stars, (2) Army Commendation Medals, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Vietnam Service Medal was one of the veterans recognized during the ceremony. In my remarks, I made these important points about Steve and his service to our country.

"I have never heard Steve dwell on his accomplishments. He served his country and he performed his duty. It’s that simple. Steve’s thoughts, and his heart, remains not with the medals he has earned, but with his brothers in arms.  Those who served with him, and the millions more who have answered the call of their nation in a time of war."

Thomas Leary, President of Luzerne County Community College, and James Spagnola, Director of the Luzerne County Veterans Affairs Office also offered remarks.

State Representatives Gerald Mullery (D-119th), Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121st), Aaron Kaufer (R-120th) and Nicholas Gilliland, CSM, PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs also participated in the ceremony.

Walk of Honor Ceremony Honoring Vietnam Veterans Walk of Honor Ceremony Honoring Vietnam Veterans

Veterans’ Bill Becomes Law

Exempts nonprofit vet organizations from realty transfer tax

My legislation exempting nonprofit veterans’ organizations from the realty transfer tax has been signed into law.

I was successful in adding the language from my veterans’ bill (Senate Bill 421) into the state’s tax code legislation (Act 84), which was enacted by Gov. Tom Wolf.

As our veteran’s organizations face membership fluctuations, we must work to ensure they are not penalized for merging or transferring property.

I will continue to work on legislation that provides our veterans with the appropriate benefits, support and the respect they deserve.

Veterans’ organizations play an active leadership role in communities throughout the state ranging from charitable work to social and civic activities. The organizations are important to both their membership and community.

A similar tax exemption already exists for volunteer fire and emergency service organizations.

There are two other measures in the budget package that benefitted veterans:

  • a veteran job creation tax credit that will allow businesses to claim $2,500 for every veteran they hire; and
  • the Neighborhood Assistance Program was expanded to provide more affordable housing opportunities for veterans.

Luzerne County Small Business Loan Program: A Flood Recovery Success Story

I recently joined fellow state lawmakers, local officials and Wyoming Valley residents to mark the 5th anniversary of the 2011 flood recovery efforts that began in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Lee on communities from West Pittston to Shickshinny.

From the depths of that devastation and the despair of that moment, I am proud of how the Wyoming Valley rallied and the way local leaders pulled together to get this region back on its feet.

Senator John Yudichak Discusses Small Business Loan Program :: September 9, 2016
Small Business Loan Program – Jim Lewis – Chuck’s Auction Center :: September 9, 2016

The flooding in the fall of 2011 left 46 businesses and 184 homes completely destroyed in Luzerne County. Another 800 homes and business have suffered major damages.

President Barack Obama signed an emergency disaster proclamation and directed FEMA and its state counterpart, PEMA, to get assistance to home owners in the path of the flood. While homeowners were soon getting some flood mitigation assistance, small business owners impacted by the flood found that few if any federal or state programs would help them rebuild.

Working with Commonwealth Finance Agency, the entire Luzerne County State Delegation and with both Chambers of Commerce in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre – we developed the Luzerne County Small Business Loan program. This program assisted flood impacted business with quick access to a new $4 million loan program that offered loans of $100,000 per business at a 1% interested rate.

The Luzerne County Small Business Loan Program, administered by the MetroAction organization, aided 22 businesses with $1.6 million in assistance that helped them rebuild and preserve over 200 family sustaining jobs.

The Luzerne County Small Business Loan Program is now a permanent resource for our economic development partners to foster entrepreneurship and spur the creation of family owned small businesses. In the past two years, the Luzerne County Small Business Loan Program has invested an additional $1.7 million in 33 businesses that have created or retained over 200 jobs in Luzerne County.

The credit for the Luzerne County Small Business Loan Program’s early success goes to business owners, like Jim Lewis of Chuck’s Auction Service, who demonstrated that neither hell nor high water is going to keep them from rebuilding their businesses and the communities they call home.

Robert Durkin, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and secretary of MetroAction said, “As we mark the five-year anniversary of the devastating floods of September 2011, MetroAction celebrates the success of the Luzerne County Flood Recovery Program. Nearly $3.5 million worth of capital has been deployed to small businesses in our region. Not only did the loan fund assist businesses with rebuilding after the disaster, in many cases the fund has allowed businesses to expand and thrive.”

MetroActionI was also joined at the ceremony by Representative Eddie Day Pashinski, (D-121st), and Joseph Boylan, Vice President, Economic Development, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.

Luzerne County businesses can apply at:

Senator Yudichak Senator Yudichak

Committee Approves Bill that Protects Emergency Responders on State Game Lands

The state Senate Committee on Labor and Industry approved my legislation that would provide state coverage of workers’ compensation benefits to municipal first responders who suffer injuries while providing help during emergencies on state game lands.

I’m pleased by the unanimous, bipartisan vote. No municipality should be footing the bill when one of their emergency responders are injured while volunteering their efforts on any state property.

Under my bill (Senate Bill 1363), state workers’ compensation insurance would cover volunteer firefighters, volunteer ambulance corps personnel and volunteer rescue squad members who suffer injuries while providing assistance on state game lands.

The legislation was prompted by several emergency incidents at the Glen Onoko Trail state game lands located in Jim Thorpe, Carbon County. It’s estimated that there have been between 10-20 incidents where first responders have been injured while making rescues.

Even though the volunteers were responding to emergencies on state game lands, their local municipal insurance plans were saddled with covering their injuries.

"This is about fairness. The system shouldn’t penalize municipalities when their first responders are called. The system certainly shouldn’t discourage or deter any first responder from taking action during emergencies on state game lands," Mark Nalesnik, director for the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency said. “Our volunteers are on state game lands all the time for search and rescue missions. It makes sense that state coverage be provided when these first responders suffer injuries while serving the public.”

Nalesnik pointed out that some injuries on some state property are covered when others are denied coverage. He said, for example, that first responders are covered when they respond to emergencies on property managed by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), but may not on state game lands.

Over the past five years, DCNR – which manages 2.2 million acres of state forest land — has paid a total of 17 new injury claims from volunteer first responders that would have otherwise been cover by municipal workers’ compensation policies. There are 1.5 million acres of state game lands in Pennsylvania managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The legislation now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator YudichakWilkes University Announces $3.5 Million South Campus Gateway Project

I had the pleasure of joining Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George at the announcement of the $3.5 million South Campus Gateway initiative. The three-part project includes improvements and additions that will transform Wilkes and the streets bordering it into a park-like campus in the heart of Wilkes-Barre. The project combines University resources with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Department of Community and Economic Development funds to improve pedestrian safety, alleviate traffic congestion and beautify the campus and surrounding neighborhood.

President Leahy noted the South Campus Gateway will make the campus safer and more attractive, increasing Wilkes’ unique appeal as a university that offers programs comparable to a large, research university in the mentoring culture of a small, liberal arts college.

President Leahy: “The South Campus Gateway project is an outstanding example of a public-private partnership. By matching dollar for dollar funds we have received from the state, we are able to greatly improve the look and safety of our campus. It would not be possible without state funding, and we are deeply grateful to Sen. John Yudichak and Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski for their help in securing the Multimodal Transportation Fund grant that will make this comprehensive and transformational project a reality.”

In my remarks, I praised the investments Wilkes has made in its campus and the city. The $3.5 million South Campus Gateway will make the transportation network in and around the campus and city safer and more beautiful.  It is the latest project in what has become a historic investment of tens of millions of dollars in the transformation of Wilkes University and downtown Wilkes-Barre. It illustrates that the partnership among Wilkes University, Pennsylvania and the City of Wilkes-Barre is stronger than ever.

The three parts of the South Campus Gateway include:

  • $1 million project that will create new entrances to the Henry Student Center parking lot from South River Street and South Franklin Street.  The project is funded by the Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) program, which provides grants for transportation-related projects. Wilkes received a $650,000 grant and is matching it with $350,000. The MTF grants are provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

  • $1.35 million project that will create a new pedestrian walkway in front of the Henry Student Center. It also will fund streetscape improvements. Funding for these improvements came via the PennDOT Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which provided a $1 million grant that is being matched by $350,000 from Wilkes.

  • $1.15 million project that will create a gateway from the Henry Student Center to Stark Learning Center. The project, which will be entirely funded by Wilkes, will create a gateway on south campus similar to the one which the University opened in 2015 on South Main Street. The two gateways will beautify the campus and support renovations to the engineering labs in Stark Learning Center.

Hanover Township Breaks Ground for New Fire Station

Hanover Fire Station Ground Breaking

I was pleased to join Hanover Township Firemen, Township Supervisors and members of the community to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new fire station at 1586 San Souci Parkway.

For more than 10 years, a succession of township fire chiefs — Stan Browski, Jeff Tudgay and Joe Temerantz have worked with dedicated fire department members to blend the township’s independent volunteer stations into one department. The goal is to create an efficient, consolidated fire headquarters.

The total cost of the new the 10,000-square-feet building fire station is approximately $3.18 million. Construction is expected to take approximately a year to complete.

The purchase of the four-acre parcel came after a state fire marshal study said a “centralized station would be a benefit to the community”.

There are currently stations in the Breslau, Hanover Green, Newtown and Preston sections of the township. The township also rents space in a station in neighboring Warrior Run. 

The location will allow equipment to move along the parkway and respond to calls quickly and staffing will be round the clock, each day of the year.  In addition to the large vehicle bays, the station will include two meeting rooms, offices, tool and clean-up rooms, a sleeping area, kitchen, lounge and rest rooms.

NEPA Alliance Bringing the World to Northeastern PA Event

Senator YudichakI had the honor of speaking at the Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania Luncheon, the final stop in a 10 day 'Bringing the World to PA' Tour organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Office of International Business Development (OIBD).

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, under the leadership of Jeff Box, Michael Horvath and Debbie Phillips have worked closely with DCED Secretary Dennis Davin, and the Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development.

Eight businesses from the 14th Senatorial District participated in the event. They include: Scent-Sations, Wilkes-Barre; Finch Technology, West Pittston; Lehighton Electronics, Lehighton; Acton Technologies, Pittston; Penco Medical, Wilkes-Barre; Twin Oaks Water Systems LLC, Hazle Township; BelleMarque, LLC, West Hazelton and Koehler Bright Star, Hanover Township.

Afterschool Caucus Visits the Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE After-School Program

State After-School Caucus Visits Carbon County
SHINE Program :: August 31, 2016

Recently I joined Congressman Lou Barletta (R-11th), the PA Afterschool Caucus leadership team, PA Department of Education staff, the PA State-wide Afterschool Youth Development Network (PSAYDN), students, parents and Carbon County leaders at a forum and tour of the Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE After-School Program at the Carbon County Career and Technical Center (CCTC) in Jim Thorpe.

The SHINE program is a very successful afterschool program that is improving educational attainment and having a life-long impact on the communities and families it serves.

We learned from the children and the parents in the SHINE program how it benefits them and how STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) play an important role in the curriculum. Speakers included David Reinbold, Carbon Career and Technical Institute Administrative Director; Dr. Thomas Meyer, Lehigh Carbon Community College Vice President; Laura Saccente, PSAYDN Director; Rachel Strucko, Carbon and Schuylkill SHINE Program Director; and Rose McGlone, SHINE Program Home Visit Teacher. Expo

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Walk of Honor Ceremony Honoring Vietnam Veterans Small Business Loan Program – Jim Lewis – Chuck’s Auction Center Senator John Yudichak Discusses Small Business Loan Program MetroAction After-School Caucus Visits Carbon County SHINE Program