On Tuesday I had the privilege of attending the 2011 Inaugural Swearing-In Ceremony for Governor Tom Corbett in Harrisburg. I was joined by former Governors Ridge, Rendell, Thornburgh, and Schweiker as well as members of the Pennsylvania State House, Senate and the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation. In addition to these elected officials who attended the ceremony we were joined by many citizens from across our Commonwealth. These individuals braved the cold and inclement weather to participate in one of the hallmarks of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another.
I was proud to take part in this historic ceremony and look forward to working with Governor Corbett and his administration in the future, on a host of important issues facing our great Commonwealth. I believe this ceremony was the beginning of that work and I look forward to continuing our efforts on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.
Friday I had the privilege to speak to members of Pennsylvania's agriculture community during the opening of the 95th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show. Over the next week nearly 500,000 people will visit the show to see nearly 8,000 animals, 13,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibitors. It’s no secret that agriculture is important both economically and culturally to Pennsylvania and this event showcases the best we have to offer. With over 63,000 farms in Pennsylvania, agriculture is the top industry in the state. That is why, as a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I’ll continue working to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to a safe, nutritious, abundant and affordable food supply, and that our farmers have the support they need to do their job.
If you haven’t been to the Farm Show, I encourage you to visit. If you are a Farm Show regular, please come back and see all the new displays and try the tasty foods.
Yesterday, I traveled to Harrisburg to participate in the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s Annual Conference. At the conference, I had the honor of being awarded the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s 2010 Pink Ribbon Award. This award is given to individuals and organizations who demonstrate outstanding leadership in breast cancer research, education, treatment and advocacy. Martin’s Potato Chips, Inc. was also given the Pink Ribbon Award during the conference. I was joined by Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, as well as many survivors and advocates.
Breast cancer is a terrible disease affecting millions of men and women each year in the United States, and thousands of men and women in Pennsylvania. That is why it is so important to raise awareness of this disease, and hopefully one day find a cure. Throughout my career, I have been a strong breast cancer advocate: I fought to pass the Affordable Care Act to ensure all women access to preventive services and screenings without additional costs, including annual mammography screenings for women over age 40; and I have consistently joined with my colleagues to request additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.
My advocacy on this issue is only one piece of the overall effort, but I will continue my efforts in earnest until a cure is found. I am truly honored to have been able to participate in this important event and to have played a small role in bringing attention to this very important issue.
As more of Pennsylvania’s children head back to school, on Friday, I travelled to Harrisburg to continue my conversations with state and local leaders about early learning opportunities in Pennsylvania to understand how we can ensure more of our youngest citizens get off to a good start in school and in life.
Whereas the week before I held a roundtable with leaders in Pottstown involved in the district’s pre-k readiness initiative (PEAK), this past Friday I met with leaders from across the state who are involved in implementing, overseeing and supporting early learning programs in the Commonwealth, including Head Start, Pre-K Counts, and Keystone Stars.
As was the case in Pottstown, leaders in Harrisburg voiced tremendous support for the programs and talked about the many ways that families and children have been helped by Pennsylvania’s investment in early learning. They emphasized that investments in early education and child care offer great value for the workforce of today, as well as the workforce of tomorrow, and that even in the face of tight budgets for families and the Commonwealth, they should be sustained. They also noted the need to support not just low-income families, but middle class families who also struggle to afford quality care and education for their young children.
I agree that such investments must be a priority – and not just for states. I was gratified that before the August recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out a Labor-Health-Education bill that for FY2011 includes an increase of $1 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant – a program that supports states investments in child care – and an increase of nearly $1 billion for Head Start. This funding will help to ensure that states and communities continue to build on the strong work that has been done over the past several years to ensure more hard working American families and their children have access to high-quality early learning opportunities.
Of note, in the Labor-Health-Education bill, $300 million has been requested for the Early Learning Challenge Fund (ELCF). This fund is a terrific idea, as it would provide competitive grants to states to raise the bar for early childhood programs, encourage them to coordinate quality improvement activities across early learning settings, and increase the number of low-income children in high-quality programs. We must preserve support for ELCF in the final Appropriations package, as it will help to incentivize states to continue making investments in early learning.
On Monday, March 22, I joined members and guests of the Rotary Club of Harrisburg to discuss a very important issue: jobs for Pennsylvanians. During the event, I spoke with many members and guests who are committed to energizing the economy in Central Pennsylvania. I also outlined some of the benefits that Pennsylvanians can expect to receive from the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE Act) that was passed by Congress and signed into law last week. This bill is the first in a planned series of bills targeted towards job creation and retention. As this work continues in Congress, I will continue to listen to workers, business leaders and economists on the best ways to move forward to create jobs and help our economy.