Apr. 12, 2019

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Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
Update on PennDOT Roadwork

I received a briefing from PennDOT district officials as to the progress of road and bridge work throughout Franklin County. Much of the work that we have seen of late in Franklin County has been paid for as a result of Act 89, the additional tax on gasoline which passed six years ago. That was before I was first elected to the Legislature.

Over the last five years, PennDOT has completed 59 projects in Franklin County totaling $90 million in contracts. Twenty-eight of those projects were bridge replacements or rebuilds which, had they not been completed, would have resulted in truck and bus traffic having to take long detours. Of the 6,000 bridges in Pennsylvania deemed structurally poor five years ago, half have now been replaced.

PennDOT officials also discussed the upcoming new Exit 12 on Interstate 81, which has been bid at $30 million. That project is expected to get underway in 2022. The reconfiguration of Exit 5 (Rt. 16 in Greencastle) is currently under study by PennDOT contractors. Engineering proposals and public meetings on Exit 5 may begin next year.

PennDOT recently updated its estimate for adding a third lane to I-81. According to PennDOT, the cost for adding a lane just from the Maryland line to the turnpike would total around $2.9 billion. Funding at that level would require a federal infrastructure bill.

Finally, PennDOT officials reported that the gas tax nets about $100 million less each year. Although the tax has been a boon for the agency, increased fuel efficiency from today’s cars and trucks means that people fill-up less often. Surrounding states have reported a similar drop in fuel sales.
Give PennDOT Feedback

PennDOT is looking for feedback on its winter services and communications. You can provide your input by taking a 10-question survey that asks about how often you travel in poor weather, how you rate PennDOT’s winter service, and how you rank its snow-removal priorities. You can take the survey by clicking here.
Road Work Ahead

Here is the list of road projects PennDOT has scheduled for Franklin County next week. Please exercise caution when driving through a work zone.
  • Buchanan Trail West in Montgomery Township – sweeping and drain cleaning
  • Corner Road in Peters Township – replacing pipes
  • Golf Course Road in Greene Township – hand patching
  • Path Valley Road in Fannett and Metal townships – shoulder cutting
  • Rocky Mountain Road in Greene and Guilford townships – hand patching
  • Wayne Highway in Washington and Quincy townships – crack sealing
Bills Seek to Expand Rights for Victims, But at the Cost of Other’s Rights

This week, Pennsylvania recognized victims of crimes as part of National Crime Victims Awareness Week. The House took up several pieces of legislation protecting victims’ rights, many of which afford victims of crime additional information or protections. Three of those bills, however, may go too far by eroding the rights of the accused.

House Bill 276, known as Marsy’s Law, would guarantee constitutional rights to victims. Among these rights are the right of a victim to be notified of every proceeding involving the criminal defendant. Fair enough, victims certainly should have the right to be present at these public proceedings. However, this constitutional referendum would also guarantee victims the right to a speedy trial and the right to decline to be interviewed by the attorney for the defendant.

In addition, the House took up House Bills 962 and 963, both involving the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. House Bill 962 would eliminate the statute of limitations entirely for criminal prosecutions and increase the statute of limitations in civil suits by an additional 25 years to age 55 of the victim. House Bill 963 would permit civil suits currently barred by the statute of limitations to be revived, creating a two-year “window.”

Statutes of limitations have always been part of our system of justice, they prevent people from being charged with or sued for events so far in the past that they cannot effectively lodge a defense. The only crime for which there is no statute of limitations is murder, which by its very nature involves some physical evidence and a victim who cannot testify.

I acknowledge that victims of child sexual abuse often take years, even a lifetime, to bring their claims forward. However, in addition to the rights of the victim, the law must also consider the rights of the accused. Defending yourself against claims decades in the past is virtually impossible. I opposed all three of these bills because I believe that they go too far by eroding the rights of the accused, rights that have been recognized under our laws since the beginning of our nation.
How Did I Vote This Week?

Find out how I voted this week here. My goal is to be as open and transparent as possible about the votes I cast on legislation that is important to you.
Honoring the Victims of the Tree of Life Shooting

On Wednesday, the House and Senate held a rare and historic joint session to remember the 11 victims of the shooting rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh nearly six months ago.

We honored their memories, prayed for those injured in the attack and applauded first responders who risked their own lives to save others.

We also unanimously adopted House Resolution 214, which designated April 10 as “Stronger Than Hate Day” in the Commonwealth. You can watch a video of the somber and moving ceremony here.
Welcome to the Capitol

A couple of folks from Shippensburg University stopped by during State System Advocacy Day at the Capitol. It was a pleasure to meet Associate Professor Michael Greenberg and Moriah Hathaway, who’s a student there.

I also met with Bill Kohler, director of economic development for Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. (left), and Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc. (right). They came to the Capitol to talk with lawmakers about Pennsylvania’s downtowns and advocate for increased funding in the Keystone Communities Program.
DEP Starts Statewide Surveillance of Ticks

The Department of Environmental Protection is beginning a five-year environmental surveillance of ticks to assess the risk of tickborne illnesses across Pennsylvania.

The study is taking place in every county to track ticks’ habitats, life stages and peak activity levels and to test them for human pathogenic diseases. Learn more here.
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1402 E. Main Street, Waynesboro, PA 17268 | Phone: (717) 749-7384
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Room 150-B, East Wing, PO Box 202090, Harrisburg PA 17120-2090 | Phone: (717) 783-5218
Email: pschemel@pahousegop.com