Senator Mike Folmer E-Newsletter

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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Senatorial District and the State Capitol. If you haven't done so already, please take a moment to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about my legislative priorities issues that may affect you and your family.

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Week of April 22, 2019

Constituent Highlight:  Ed Brensinger of North Lebanon Township

Congratulations Edward A. Brensinger, who was recently honored by the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services in the Department of Community and Economic Development with a 2019 Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence!

Ed is a Roadmaster and Chair of the Board of Supervisors for North Lebanon Township, and is a past Vice Chair and Treasurer of the Board.  He presently serves on the PA State Association of Township Supervisors’ Executive Committee, Conference Planning Committee and Grassroots Lobbying Network.  He is also affiliated with the Lebanon County Metropolitan Planning Organization Planning Committee, the Mt. Zion Fire Company and the Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails Phase 6 Steering Committee.

Ed is married to Tammy Brensinger and is the father of six daughters and one son.  Ed was nominated for this great honor in recognition of his creativity and accomplishments, as well as his continuous efforts to assist his community in dealing with the many challenges it faces and to improve community life.  Job well done! 

Lebanon County Commission for Women Hall of Fame Inductions

Congratulations to the following women who have made significant contributions to Lebanon County through their profession or volunteerism while serving as a role model, and who were recently inducted into the Lebanon County Commission for Women Hall of Fame!  Thank you all for being shining examples of community spirit whose many contributions are worthy of deep gratitude and respect!

Trailblazer – Cindy Heisey

Women Advocating Athletics – Erin Ulrich

Women Contributing to the Arts – Renee Krizan

Women Contributing to the Community – Jan Wessell and Jennifer Bower

Women Demonstrating Leadership – Honorable Gloria Ebling

Women Promoting Agriculture – Gretchen L. Oberst

Women Promoting Healthy Lifestyles – Susan Szydlowski

Women Providing Leadership in Education – Cynthia Van Aken

Women Serving the Military – Margaret Wilson, R.N.

Women Working for Justice – Pamela A. Weiss, Esq. 

Column:  Advancing Redistricting Reforms

I’m pleased to partner with Senator Boscola in reintroducing bipartisan legislation to change how Pennsylvania’s election maps are drawn.

These proposed reforms come after countless meetings over many months with citizens and advocacy groups from across the Commonwealth.  I carefully listened to why people supported bills last Session to establish an independent citizens’ commission to draw maps for both the General Assembly and Congress.

Additional input came from nearly seven hours of public hearings (March 27, 2018 and April 24, 2018) of the Senate State Government Committee, which I chair.  This feedback was key to a compromise I crafted.  When offered last year, my plan was called an important step in putting citizens in charge of redistricting.  While no one got everything they wanted, most agreed it was a good starting point.

The current legislation Senator Boscola and I have introduced picks up where we left off.  It’s the same bill advanced last year – minus a provision to change how judges are elected.

I remain committed to reform – real reform, not red reform or blue reform – but, real – purple – reform.  Reform – like a journey of 1,000 miles – begins with a single step.

I’m pleased the Senate State Government Committee has taken that first step by advancing the Boscola/Folmer bill this session.  While additional work is needed, I’m happy to continue the fight to put citizens in charge of redistricting.

However, I’m less than thrilled to be asked to revisit recommendations that would take us backwards rather than forward.

In particular, I have problems with proposals to require random selection to choose citizen commissioners to an independent redistricting commission.  In my opinion, random selection is bad public policy.

Throughout our history, we’ve turned to the best and the brightest to lead.  Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution gives the Legislature responsibility for enumerating election districts.  Random selection abdicates this responsibility.

Random selection by computers really isn’t random.  Computers aren’t able to generate a truly random number on their own – let alone selecting names or drawing maps.  They must be told how to make random selections.

Advocates of random selection insist bias can be eliminated through algorithms – instructing computers to do tasks like GPS determining the shortest route between two addresses.

However, algorithms are written and maintained by humans.  Programmers may intentionally or absentmindedly incorporate biases into their algorithms, resulting in reinforced and/or magnified human prejudices.

Academics and experts have long warned about “algorithmic bias” as computers look for trigger words, which can result in racial, gender, socio-economic, political, or other biases.

Plus, once an algorithm is developed, there is no way of knowing the reasons behind outcomes.  It’s a computer generated black box.  There is absolutely no openness, transparency, or accountability.

Advocates of random selection also insist on the need to include other factors in the so-called “random selection” process – things like geographic, gender, and racial diversity.  However, including any non-random data for statistical purposes results in “sample selection bias”:  some data is treated differently, which distorts results.

As someone who takes his oath of office seriously and as chair of the Senate State Government Committee, it’s my responsibility to ensure we’ve done – and will continue to do – our due diligence according to both the US and Pennsylvania Constitutions.

This has sometimes meant asking questions some people don’t like.  It means dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s to ensure any proposed constitutional amendment is properly vetted.  Most importantly, it means getting answers to questions that have been raised.

I believe we’ve worked to fulfill these responsibilities and I’m looking forward to continued deliberations to advance redistricting reform in the weeks and months ahead.

PennDOT Rehab of Vine Street, Dauphin County

PennDOT has started work and closed the northbound and southbound passing lanes of Vine Street north of Middletown Borough, and set a long-term single-lane traffic pattern for up to 25 days.  The project is to rehabilitate a 1.52-mile concrete section of Vine Street just north of Interstate 76 (PA Turnpike) overpass from Swatara Park Road at the Middletown BoroughLower Swatara Township line through Londonderry Township to just north of Swatara Creek Road in Derry Township, Dauphin County.

The project includes replacing the existing median guiderail with concrete mountable curb; patching concrete pavement; replacing two drainage pipes; reconstructing the roadway shoulder; diamond grinding the concrete portion of the roadway; removing the top layer of asphalt at the southern end of the project and resurfacing that portion of roadway with a 3-inch Superpave warm-mix asphalt overlay, and; installing new guiderail, signs and pavement markings.  Work is scheduled to be complete by the end of November. 

Spotted Lanternfly Informational Session

THANK YOU PA Department of Agriculture (PDASecretary Russell Redding and State Plant Regulatory Official Dana Rhodes for a recent informative presentation on the Spotted Lanternfly.  If you missed it, you can watch below.

The Spotted Lanternfly is the worst invasive pest since the introduction of the gypsy moth nearly 150 years ago.  It was found for the first time in the United States in Berks County, PA in 2014, and has since spread throughout 13 counties currently under quarantine:  Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill.

The quarantine gives PDA the authority to regulate the movement of commodities that may be within or leaving the quarantine zone.  It restricts the movement of articles that contain any life stages of the Spotted Lanternfly, including egg masses, nymphs and adults.  All businesses are required to take an online training course designated to help them recognize the Spotted Lanternfly and prevent its movement, after which they will receive a permit from PDA.

This insect threatens about $18 Billion in agricultural products in PA, and can make outdoor areas unusable by excreting a sticky substance called honeydew, which serves as a host for sooty mold.    Please help spread the word and engage in efforts against the Spotted Lanternfly by using the hotline 1-888-4BADFLY (1-888-422-3359), where you can get further information and report a sighting.

4/3/19 - Spotted Lanternfly Informational Session

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