My 2018 priorities

(Editor’s Note: This is the second and final part of a report to constituents by state Rep. Mike Hanna.)

As the Pennsylvania General Assembly gears up to tackle many issues during the final stretch of the 2017-18 Legislative Session, I want to provide some insight on various legislative priorities important to the district, as well as the House Democratic Caucus.

Deer Management

House Bill 1483 would implement proven, scientific, wildlife management techniques to increase deer, grouse, and other wildlife populations.

It is estimated that this legislation would significantly increase deer and other wildlife while improving the health and productivity of the forest ecosystem, return over 200,000 sportsmen who have quit hunting because of the lack of deer, reinvigorate the $5-billion tourism and recreation industry, generate $500 million per year in jobs and economic activity for rural communities and the commonwealth, increase annual state and local tax revenues by $40 million, and generate $8 million in hunting license sales for the Game Commission.

There is no cost to the general fund or taxpayers.

However, even with all the research and statistics backing the fiscal impacts of this bill, Speaker Mike Turzai continues to block efforts to consider this piece of legislation.

Why you might ask?

That question remains unanswered. I thank the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania for starting a grassroots effort to urge the speaker to bring this bill to a vote.

Education Funding

As lawmakers, we have an obligation to our constituents to provide quality schools for all children. In order to prepare them for a lifetime of learning, we must ensure that our education system isn’t passing the burden on to homeowners and hardworking taxpayers.

We also want to give workers access to the education, skills and training needed to keep up with our ever-changing workforce.

This session, I would like to see a continued focus on providing a quality education starting with pre-k, making higher education more affordable, providing working individuals with the skills they need to advance their careers and reducing student debt.

Further, I would be elated if the Senate would finally be willing to work on policies to reduce property taxes in this commonwealth.

The governor has been leading the way on property tax reform and the House has shown bipartisan support for property tax reductions. Now we just need a commitment from the other chamber.

Jobs that Pay

A sustainable economy with good paying jobs that expand opportunities and protect our financial futures.

Isn’t that what we all want for ourselves and future generations?

A priority of the House Democratic Caucus is to work on policies that would pay a fair living wage so individuals can support their families and gain economic security.

Increasing the state’s minimum wage would provide for solid reinvestments in our Commonwealth.

One of my personal priorities that coincidentally falls in line with House Democratic core values is creating family-sustaining jobs.

My district has seen an uptick in job creation.

With projects such as the First Quality Tissue plant expansion, the establishment of a power station in Renovo and the Benner Commerce Park working to attract new businesses and jobs, both Clinton and Centre counties are surely making a name for themselves.

First Quality Enterprises, the largest employer in Clinton County, is working to expand their tissue manufacturing plant in Lock Haven. This expansion project will create 184 family-sustaining jobs.

As a staple in our community and a first class operation, this expansion is guaranteed to boost economic growth in Clinton County.

Additionally, the Bechtel Development Corp.’s planned $800 million power plant in Renovo is sure to provide secure jobs with living wages and adequate benefits.

This natural gas fired electric power station is expected to break ground this year, providing 500 construction workers with employment.

Approximately 30 permanent jobs will be created at the plant.

This project has surpassed many hurdles. It is another huge investment in our local economy and one that will benefit our region for generations to come.

Retirement Security

According to a 2017 report by Bankrate, nearly six in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 or $1,000 unplanned expense, let alone save for retirement.

Working men and women and the middle class are the engines that drive our economy. But a secure retirement has become unattainable for many. We want to change the status quo.

Pennsylvanians need a bold plan, a secure plan and a common sense plan that puts working people and families first.

Approximately 2.1 million Pennsylvanians have been identified as being among the 40 percent of private-sector workers who do not have access to an employer-based plan.

We can change that as there appears to be legislative support for a plan that would implement a state-run automatic payroll deduction of retirement savings for private-sector employees.

House Bill 465 would give every working Pennsylvanian a safe and easy way to save for retirement.

While 100 percent optional, this plan would provide private-sector employees without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan an opportunity to save through automatic payroll deduction.

I am encouraging and facilitating greater retirement savings for Pennsylvania workers can reduce financial anxiety, ensure a more comfortable retirement for millions of workers, improve the economy by increasing retiree income, and ease future budget pressure by reducing demand for state services.

Significant efforts are being made to move our economy forward by providing a financially secure future for families all across the state. So, I am hopeful that this concept will hit the ground running.

Final Thoughts

As many readers know, in addition to my role as House Democratic Whip, I am also a sitting member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors. With this comes great responsibility.

Our children are our future and there is no greater reward than to provide our youth with quality educational opportunities.

Currently, PASSHE is working to select a new Lock Haven University president.

The process is long and arduous, but extremely important for the long-term viability and sustainability of the university, the system and our community.

As the BOG appointed liaison to the LHU search committee, I am excited by the number of quality applicants LHU has attracted and am confident we will present to you all a highly qualified individual who will honor PASSHE’s mission and take the university to new heights.

Last but not least is a topic that hits home for many residents in my district: The Mountaintop water crisis.

While efforts have been made to distribute clean drinking water to all residents serviced by the Mountaintop Regional Water Authority that is only a short-term fix.

Federal, state and local officials are all working with the authority to come up with a long-term plan.

Time is of the essence. For far too long, the infrastructure system has been neglected. But, there are qualified and dedicated individuals working around the clock to rectify the current situation.

I will be keeping a close eye on the progress and will do everything I can to help the authority repair and replace its infrastructure system, become a fiscally sound entity and provide clean water to the residents in Snow Shoe, Clarence, Moshannon and Pine Glen.

State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, 76th Legislative District, is the Pennsylvania House Democratic Whip.