Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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Senate Panel Highlights Blair County’s Approach to Blight

Blight affects communities of all shapes and sizes throughout the state, and it can present a serious threat to the financial health of entire towns and cities. The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, which I chair, recently held a public hearing in Altoona to take a closer look at how Blair County is working to turn the tide in the war on blight and cut down on the number of dilapidated, abandoned buildings in the area.

Altoona was the first municipality in the state to take advantage of a law passed in 2018 to support the development of land banks, and the Altoona Blight Task Force has developed a comprehensive plan to address blighted properties in the city. A number of other strategies were highlighted to help return blighted properties to productive use.

After the hearing, lawmakers toured the Altoona area to see some of the major projects targeted in the ongoing blight remediation effort. I appreciated my colleagues joining me for this hearing and tour, and I am hopeful it will lead to further action to help more communities tackle this pervasive problem.

Video and written testimony from the hearing is available here.

I enjoyed conducting a town hall recently with residents of Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries in Hollidaysburg, Blair County. I appreciated the invitation to speak with the group on state matters that are important to the residents.

REMINDER: Registration for Grant Workshop Due by October 18

I look forward to hosting a grant workshop on October 24 in McConnellsburg to help connect  individuals and organizations with available state resources. Individuals and groups who are interested in attending the free workshop must pre-register here by October 18.

The workshop will include experts from a number of different departments, including Transportation (Penndot), Environmental Protection, Conservation and Natural Resources, Community and Economic Development, General Services and other fields. Each attendee will also receive a grant and resource guide with additional information.

The workshop will be held from 8:45 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. at the Buchanan State Forest Resource Center, located at 25185 Great Cove Road.

Employment & Training, Inc. of Fulton County recently received six laptops that were donated by First Energy. The donated equipment will assist in helping to connect more community residents to available job opportunities.

Grants Available to Support Senior Community Centers

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging recently began accepting applications for its 2019-2020 Senior Community Center (SCC) grant program, which provides funding to improve safety, outreach and programming for older Pennsylvanians.

An informational webinar on the program will be held at 10 a.m. on October 10. Interested individuals can join the webinar by calling 1-855-797-9485. A link to additional information on the webinar is available here.

Grant applications are due by November 15. Details about the grant program are available here.

I had a chance to spend some time at the Hollidaysburg Community Farm Show recently. Pictured with me is the Hollidaysburg High School Band who gave a performance. It was great to see everyone!

PennDOT Asks for Feedback on Construction and Maintenance

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is asking state residents to complete a 16-question survey between now and October 22 regarding construction and maintenance schedules. The survey focuses on how motorists receive roadway information and their experiences with reporting concerns.

The survey is available here.

I was invited by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) to a hospital workforce forum at UPMC Altoona. I heard from hospital staff about their personal experiences as victims of violence and violent threats, and targets of unwanted social media contact. The stories demonstrate why simple and immediate policy changes are needed to improve the safety of hospital employees, as well as to recruit and retain a high-quality health care workforce. I have introduced Senate Bill 351 to raise the penalty for an assault on a health care practitioner while in the performance of duty from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree.

Statewide Video Competition Challenges Students to Share Ideas on Farming

Pennsylvania has a rich heritage of farming that dates back centuries, and agriculture remains the state’s top industry today. However, that heritage is threatened by difficult market conditions and an aging population of farmers.

The third annual “Talk To Your State Senator” statewide video competition challenges middle and high school students to share their ideas about how Pennsylvania can reverse these trends and ensure the agriculture industry will have a bright future in our Commonwealth.

The contest, which is sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania and Rutter’s, is open to students in grades 6 through 12, including all public school, private school and home school students. Participants are encouraged to submit video entries of no longer than three minutes that promote the future of farming in Pennsylvania.

A total of $10,000 in prizes will be awarded through the PA 529 college savings program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury. Contest entries must be submitted by January 31, 2020.

More information on the contest is available online at

Ballot Question Could Offer Protection for Crime Victims

A proposed change to the Pennsylvania Constitution could offer additional protections for crime victims. On November 5, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether the Constitution should be amended to give victims of crime an equal level of legal protection as those who are accused and convicted.

Also known as Marsy’s Law, the proposed amendment would create a crime victims’ bill of rights, including the right to receive notification of proceedings in their criminal case; be present at court proceedings; be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings; assert additional statutory rights; and be treated with fairness, respect and dignity.

More information about the ballot question is available here.

Congratulations to Kordell Stevens from Fulton County on achieving his Eagle Scout award. He is pictured with his parents Niki and Troy.

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