Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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PA GI Bill Extends Educational Benefits to National Guard Family Members

For more than two decades, Pennsylvania has honored the service of the brave men and women serving in the National Guard by providing valuable educational benefits to members who make a six-year commitment to serve.

A new law that was enacted in July extends the same educational benefits to spouses and children of National Guard members if the member commits to serve for an additional six years after completion of their first service obligation.

The amount of financial assistance is based on the in-state tuition rate for schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. More details about these new benefits for family members of Pennsylvania National Guard members is available here.

I enjoyed attending the Blair County Farm Bureau Legislative Tour at West Central Equipment in Martinsburg and discussing what is happening in modern agriculture, as well as how ordinances, laws and regulations affect the farming community.

It was so nice to attend the Huntingdon County Annual Chamber Luncheon held at Westminster Woods. I appreciated the chance to visit with Chad Evans, Executive Director of Westminster Woods.

Blair Drug and Alcohol Partnership Examines Challenges of Recreational Marijuana

I recently attended the Blair Drug and Alcohol Partnership (BDAP) Legislative Breakfast, which featured guest speaker Luke Niforatos, Chief of Staff for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), Inc.

Luke is a Colorado resident, and he shared a great deal of information about how the legalization of recreational marijuana has changed his state, including compelling statistics of its impact, employer issues and common misconceptions about legalization.

I encourage you to learn more about SAM here. I am pictured below with Frank Rosenhoover, BDAP Board President; Luke Niforatos of SAM, Inc.; Judy Rosser, BDAP Executive Director; and Aleisha Albertson, BDAP Assistant Director.

A local couple, Chris and Kim, wanted to share their personal story with me on how marijuana has greatly affected their lives. The couple gave me permission to share their experience.

Chris and Kim have an adult daughter who began her drug and alcohol addiction with recreational marijuana usage. Their daughter continued to use marijuana during three pregnancies, expanding beyond marijuana with the second and third pregnancy. Unfortunately, all three children were born with developmental and/or physical disabilities. Chris and Kim now raise their grandchildren. They truly believe their daughter’s addiction began with recreational marijuana. 

Their story does not stop there. A year ago, the couple was traveling in their vehicle with the youngest grandchild, when they were struck by another vehicle. Chris now has permanent disabilities, which has left him unable to work. The driver of the vehicle tested positive for marijuana and felt it wasn’t an issue to drive impaired.

I share Chris and Kim’s story with you, along with Luke Niforatos information, hoping to shed reality to each of you on how serious of an issue the legalization of recreational marijuana can be to our communities. Legalizing this drug can only increase scenarios like Chris and Kim’s.

It was a pleasure to visit with Renee Benise, a Power Team Coach with Self Advocacy Power Network for All (SAPNA). The organization supports self-advocacy of people with disabilities to make a positive impact in our communities and in people’s lives.

Local Hearing Will Explore Municipal Sewer System Challenges

A number of local officials have expressed concerns about laws pertaining to municipal sewer systems and the impact of these laws on local taxpayers. The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will hold a public hearing in Chambersburg on September 11 to take a closer look at these issues and explore potential solutions.

The hearing will be held at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, located at 24 Kauffman Road East, Chambersburg at 1 p.m. Additional information from the hearing will be available soon here.

Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development, Eileen Cipriani was recently in Altoona for the grand opening of the new CareerLink location at the Altoona Public Library. This forward thinking partnership of the library and the Careerlink is the only 2nd one of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. Others present for the celebration were President Southern Alleghenies Workforce Development Board Jesper Nielsen, L&I Deputy Secretary for Safety and Labor Management Relations Jennifer Berrier, Deputy Secretary & Commissioner for Libraries Glenn R. Miller, County Commissioner Bruce Erb, and Altoona School District Superintendent Dr. Charles A. Prijatelj. Feel free to stop by and learn more about employment opportunities that are available.

Caregivers Conference Scheduled for October 4

Caregivers of older adults can learn more about how to help local seniors at a free caregiver’s conference sponsored by the Geriatric Interest Network of Blair County Region on October 4 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Encompass Health, located at 2005 Valley View Boulevard in Altoona.

There is no fee, but registration is required and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is available by calling (814) 946-1235. All reservations must be made by September 27.

More information is available at

The Mercersburg Fair was a big hit again this year! I had the honor of meeting 2019 Franklin County Fair Little Miss, Amy Ocker, and the owner of On 3 Smile Photography, Darrie Spahr.

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