Get Involved

2011 – 2014

Being available to constituents throughout the 22nd District continues to be a priority for me. From 2011 right up to the present, I have initiated and maintained a series of hearings, roundtables, forums and conversations designed to accomplish the dual objectives of sharing pertinent information -- first hand -- with interested parties as well as being able to learn -- first hand -- about pressing areas of interest and concern to people living and working in the 22nd District.

Among the events I’ve hosted, planned or facilitated are:

  • Local Government Breakfasts – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
    These annual breakfast forums invite local government officials (county commissioners, mayors, borough council members, township supervisors, school board members and other appointed officials) to review the state budget process; discuss public policies important to local government; and to receive state-related information and technical assistance of value in the execution of specific local objectives.
  • Policy Hearing - Medicaid Expansion – held at The Commonwealth Medical College
    I hosted the Senate Democratic Policy Committee as well as several Senate Democrats in a discussion of the Affordable Care Act. Of specific interest to attendees were provisions regarding Medicaid Expansion which is designed to ensure affordable health care coverage for over 500,000 uninsured, WORKING Pennsylvanians; the addition of over 30,000 jobs in the health care and human service industry sectors in PA; as well as efforts to provide over $400 million in state budget relief in this fiscal year from new federal investments in PA.
  • Policy Hearing – Economic Development/Job Growth and “Innovate in PA” – held at the University of Scranton
    I hosted the Senate Democratic Policy Committee as well as several Senate Democrats to discuss the Senate Democratic Caucus PA Works Plan. The plan is a job growth legislative initiative. My “Innovate in PA” program, which was included in this jobs package, is designed to stimulate new early stage investment in promising companies that are the job creators of the future in advanced manufacturing, information technology, and the life sciences.
  • Regional Bioscience Initiative Forum - Held at The Commonwealth Medical College
    Myself, along with former Lt. Governor William Scranton; the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce; the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of NEPA; the Life Science Greenhouse of NEPA; and Lackawanna County higher education institutions announced the Northeast Pa Regional Bioscience Initiative (RBI). The RBI, which is funded in part by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), is an economic development initiative focused on the life science, bioscience and health care industries in NEPA. It involves tracking an inventory of talent, research and laboratory assets in the region to support an economic development marketing efforts focused on attracting and growing life science, research and healthcare-related jobs in NEPA.
  • International Business Development Showcase -- held at Marywood University
    Working with DCED’s Office of International Business Development (OIBD) and the U.S Department of Commerce, I hosted an event to provide technical assistance to small businesses in Northeast Pennsylvania as well as to outline state and federal funding sources available to assist small businesses in accessing and in selling products and services to global export markets. At this forum, small business owners in Northeast PA who had benefitted from state support and who had grown company sales and jobs by export sales offered testimonials on their experience.
  • Focus on Aging Issues’ Forum -- held at Allied Services Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing facility in Scranton.
    This forum was facilitated, in part, by Tara Burns, a student from Seton Hall University who interned in my district office. The forum brought together social work students and other human service professionals as well as Allied Services management and staff; representatives from the faculty at the Commonwealth Medical College; and local nurses and physicians to discuss issues and concerns affecting Lackawanna County’s growing, aging population. Health care, nutrition, independent living, social supports and prescription drugs were among the issues discussed.
  • Career-Focused Education and Economic Development -- “E2” Summits -- 2012 and 2013
    The first E2 Summit (2012) was held at the University of Scranton; the second E2 Summit (2013) was held at Marywood University.

    I hosted these Annual E2 Summits to call attention to the relationship between career-focused education in K-12 public education and economic development/job growth in Northeast PA. The two summits were widely attended with nearly 150 participants at each. Participation included school superintendents, administrators, school board members and guidance counselors. Leaders from organized labor, business, higher education, vocational technical schools and workforce development stakeholders also attended. Rounding out participants were representatives from state agencies including the PA Department of Labor and Industry, the PA Department of Education, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development. This E2 initiative (i.e. Education and Economic Development) has engaged school districts across two Intermediate Units in Northeast PA (IU 18 and IU 19).

    The focus of these annual E2 Summits, which feature national and regional experts on career-focused education, is to ensure that all public schools in Northeastern PA integrate and implement the PA Department of Education’s Academic Standards for Career Education and Work. Stakeholder meetings occur periodically throughout the year and I report the progress of those meetings at my annual E2 Summits.

    In 2013, 26 of 40 school districts; 21 school principals and 153 guidance counselors were engaged in training and orientation led by consultants of the PA Department of Education and facilitated by my Senior Policy Advisor Cindy Klenk -- along with other regional workforce development professionals. In the 2013 E2 Summit, students and graduates from several schools offered testimony on their successful career development experiences which were a direct result of business and education partnerships and the work of career counselors in Northeast PA. Students’ testimony asserted and confirmed that the experience they had properly connected their classroom learning activities to real-world business settings and working environments.

  • Transportation Summit -- at Genetti Manor in Dickson City.
    In October of 2012 I hosted a Transportation Summit. The primary focus of the summit was to call attention to the need for investment in transportation infrastructure that would ensure public safety, economic competitiveness and the long term economic vitality of Northeastern PA. Participating in this summit were executives from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport; the Northeastern PA Rail Authority; the County of Lackawanna Transportation System (COLTS); as well as Monroe and Luzerne Counties’ transit agencies. I outlined the Commonwealth’s $2 Billion+ funding deficit in road maintenance and bridge reconstruction and described the job growth and economic development benefits of transportation infrastructure investment -- a core responsibility of state government.
  • Symposium on Sustainability -- at the University of Scranton
    As a member of the Adjunct/Part-Time Faculty at the University of Scranton, I joined full time faculty and researchers at a Symposium on Sustainability at the University of Scranton. The Symposium focused on alternative and renewable energy sources, recycling, and other best practices in environmental protection. I outlined the financial and environmental impacts of the state recycling laws, high performance building materials and LEED certification in building construction. I also discussed the state’s alternative energy portfolio standards (AEPS) which require energy producers in the Commonwealth to achieve a particular percentage of energy generation from non-fossil fuels such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power. I also participated in a second Spring Sustainability Forum in April, 2014. This forum was entitled "Water, Our Most Precious Resource". I discussed with faculty and students at the University the water-rich resources of PA: 86,000 miles of rivers and streams; more than 4,000 lakes, reservoirs and ponds; 23 square miles of estuary; 400,000 acres of wetlands and 500 acres of tidal wetlands. I further discussed regulatory issues surrounding water quality as well as historical and modern industrial threats to water quality, namely, the coal industry's impact on the Lackawanna River (e.g., the Old Forge Bore Hole) and the advent of water-intensive hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale gas play, respectively.
  • Affordable Housing
    Working with student interns from Marywood University’s Graduate School of Social Work, Senator Blake hosted an Affordable Housing Forum on April 4th, 2014. This event brought together local and statewide housing experts to discuss the challenges facing many Pennsylvanians trying to access or maintain adequate, affordable or barrier free housing. The forum explored federal and state programs and possible solutions to affordable housing challenges. Included in this important and timely panel discussion were: Nicole Bennett and Michael Hanley of United Neighborhood Centers; Athena Aardweg of the Pa Self-Determination Housing Project; Peg Ruddy of the Lackawanna County Women's Resource Center; Jesse Ergott of Neighborworks of NEPA; Bryce Maretzki of the Pa Housing Finance Agency; and Cindy Daley of the Pa Housing Alliance.
  • Other activities/events hosted or facilitated by Senator Blake
    I hosted and facilitated a tour of The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) with the Secretary of the PA Department of Health to elevate the profile of the state’s newest medical college and to inform state officials on the research of TCMC’s medical students. I hosted and facilitated a tour of Tobyhanna Army Depot with Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley. The visit included a command briefing by Tobyhanna Commander Col. Gerhard Shroter and it highlighted the military value of the facility as well as its economic impact in Northeastern Pennsylvania’s regional economy.