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

Week of September 12, 2016

Pathways to Pardons: Empowering with Knowledge to Help Improve Lives
Lt. Governor Stack, as Chairman of the PA Board of Pardons, and I will be hosting a Pathways to Pardons program on Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lebanon YMCA, 201 North 7th Street, Lebanon, PA 17046.  The program is free, open to the public, and designed to inform constituents of the pardons process with time allotted for Q&A and discussion.  RSVP is requested (but not required) to fbinner@pasen.gov or (717) 787-5708.

Column:  A History of Protecting Religious Rights & Freedom of Conscience
Religious rights and protections for freedom of conscience were key principles in the founding of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In 1670, Pennsylvania’s founder William Penn was imprisoned in an Irish jail for his religious beliefs.  During this time, he wrote “The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience”, arguing humans should not be “so ignorant as to think it is within the reach of human power to fetter conscience or to restrain its liberty”.  Penn’s writing of this treatise is commemorated in a mural in the Governor’s Reception Room of the Pennsylvania Capitol.

In 1682, Penn sailed to America to pursue his “Holy Experiment” – a colony where he could put into practice a community that could function without any persecution or dissension.  William Penn named his province “Sylvania”, Latin for “woodland”.  Later, Penn’s name was added to commemorate “Penn’s woods”.  Hence, the name, “Pennsylvania”.

In 1701, Penn approved the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges where he announced that he “do declare, grant and confirm, unto all the Freemen, Planters and Adventurers, and other Inhabitants of this Province and Territories, these following Liberties, Franchises and Privileges, so far as in me lies, to be held, enjoyed and kept, by the Freemen, Planters and Adventurers, and other Inhabitants of and in the said Province and territories thereunto annexed, FOREVER”.

The first principle of the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges states, in part:  “no Person or Persons, inhabiting this Province or Territories, who shall confess and Acknowledge One almighty God, the Creator Upholder and Ruler of the World; & profess Him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their Conscientious Persuasion or Practice”.

“NOR BE COMPELLED to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or SUFFER ANY OTHER ACT OR THING CONTRARY TO THEIR RELIGIOUS PERSUASION”.

In his “Address to Protestants,” Penn also argued about the impossibility of restraining true belief, stating:  “It is not in the power of any man or men in the world to say or compel the mind in matters of worship to God”.  In the 1970’s the United States Supreme Court agreed with William Penn noting in a decision:  “the loss of 1st Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury”.

In 1751, the Pennsylvania General Assembly ordered a bell to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges.  In ordering that bell, the General Assembly of that time referenced the Bible’s Leviticus 25:10:  “and ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof:  it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family”.

Today, we call that bell with its inscription:  “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” the “Liberty Bell”.  Religious rights and protection of liberty of conscience have long been part of our history.

September Community Report Cable Show:  Paramount Sports Complex
My September Community Report Cable Show is now airing, featuring Paramount Sports Complex in Annville, Lebanon County. Paramount offers gymnastics and fitness centers, a climbing wall, pre-school, and more, and features a Ninja Warrior Training Course with obstacles based upon NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior”.  You can also watch on my website, while Comcast on Demand (Lebanon), Harrisburg Broadcast Network (Harrisburg, WHBG-20), and Blue Ridge Communications (York, Channel 8) should also be airing the show.

September 2016 - Paramount Sports Complex

Inspector General Tackles Welfare Fraud
According to a press release from the PA Office of Inspector General (OIG), between January 1 and June 30, 2016, the office successfully adjudicated 346 welfare fraud cases resulting in either a finding of guilt, or a guilty plea, and will bring the Commonwealth $2.3 million in restitution.  The defendants were also disqualified from the public benefits programs they defrauded, saving approximately $700,000.

The OIG’s Bureau of Fraud Prevention and Prosecution investigates and prosecutes welfare fraud, working with the PA Department of Human Services’ county assistance offices to identify suspected cases of public assistance fraud.  The OIG also relies on tips from concerned citizens.  To report suspected fraud, call the Welfare Fraud Tipline at 1-800-932-0582, or visit www.oig.pa.gov.  Tipsters may remain anonymous.

The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, reported House Bill 1618 to the full Senate for consideration, to better allow the Inspector General to further eliminate waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct.  Currently, the Inspector General is a cabinet-level official who is appointed by and reports to the Governor.  HB 1618 would make the position independent, with the Governor nominating the Inspector General and the Senate confirming the nominee through a 2/3 vote.

Disability Employment Outreach Day
The State Civil Service Commission, the Governor’s Cabinet for People with Disabilities, and the Office of Administration are holding a Disability Employment Outreach Day on Friday, October 21 at the PA Fish & Boat Commission Headquarters, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg.  Employment presentations will be at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and job counselors will be available from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  This is an informational event only where individuals with disabilities are invited to learn about the state’s civil service application, testing, and hiring process, and are asked to bring an up-to-date resume (no interviews or hiring will take place at the outreach event).  To request accommodations for this event, contact pmarinak@pa.gov or (717) 214-4933 by October 7.


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

When contacting my office by e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.

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