Today, I was in Chester, Pennsylvania to discuss the impact House cuts to Department of Justice programs would have on local law enforcement. I was joined by Chester Mayor Wendell Butler, Chester Councilwoman Portia West, Police Chief Darren Alston and Police Major’s John Gretsky and Robert Archacki. The City of Chester has benefited from two Department of Justice funding programs, specifically, over the past two years. The Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program funding over the past several years has allowed the Department to purchase nine new police vehicles, new bullet proof vests along with other communications and data equipment. And the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program helped the Chester Police Department put five additional patrol officers on the streets.
This funding is essential to the Chester Police Department, and to many other police departments across Pennsylvania. This fact was reemphasized with me today as I spoke to Mayor Butler, Chief Alston and Major’s Gretsky and Archacki. Unfortunately, Chester experienced a rash of violence in early 2010. This funding helps to ensure that local law enforcement can help prevent a similar string of violence from happening again by putting patrol officers on the streets in high-risk areas and ensuring that those officers have the necessary equipment to respond to situations safely and effectively.
On February 11, I sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, urging them to reconsider cuts to State and Local Law Enforcement and the COPS program for fiscal year 2011. My discussion today, with officials on the ground, underscores what I wrote in that letter “…the significant reduction in funding for these initiatives will negatively impact the safety of my constituents and citizens across the country.” I look forward to working in the Senate to make sure that these programs receive the appropriate funding to continue preventing and reducing crime.
I am pleased to share changes to the Post- 9/11 GI Bill. The Post-9/11 GI Bill Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 was signed into law and ensures our commitment to the men and women who serve our country. The changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill expand eligibility for our Pennsylvania National Guard and provide the ability for our veterans to receive on-the-job and apprenticeship training. Additionally it will eliminate restrictions on non-college degree programs while granting GI Bill eligible care givers an extension on their 10 year deadline for using benefits.
These are just a few of the changes and to learn more about these benefits please visit: http://www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/Post911_changes.html
Earlier this week I reintroduced three bills designed to protect Pennsylvanians and create Pennsylvania jobs. All of these bills relate to the natural gas rush the Commonwealth is experiencing. These bills would increase disclosure and regulation of chemicals that could enter Pennsylvania’s drinking water supply, improve safety for workers and emergency response procedures at drilling sites and promote job training to help give Pennsylvania workers the skills needed to get jobs in the natural gas industry so that workers are not shipped in from out-of-state.
Scientists estimate that the Marcellus Shale, a 350 million year old rock formation, contains about 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. This is enough gas to supply the energy needs of the entire Nation for roughly 15 years.
I support the development of domestic natural gas extraction and believe that it has the potential to produce significant environmental and economic benefits. I am continuing to work with all stakeholders – citizens, environmental groups, industry, and local and state officials – to ensure that we develop this resource in the right way. Learning from the lessons of the past, we must make sure that the development of the Marcellus Shale gas resource is done with the highest regard for the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians and for the protection of our environment.
This week I was proud to introduce S. 470, the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act, to help states promote quality early learning programs. My proposal builds on the success of states like Pennsylvania and is supported by business leaders who recognize the outstanding return on investment in early childhood education.
According to a new brief by the Pew Center on the States, proven early childhood programs, like high-quality pre-kindergarten, are helping states like Pennsylvania close the educational achievement gap, which helps produce the qualified workers that the state—and our nation—need for a prosperous future.
Jack Brennan, former Chairman and CEO of the Vanguard Group and member of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, joined me yesterday to discuss the importance of investing in early learning, saying “Early education is a sound investment with a proven return on investment, which is why the business community supports early learning initiatives like the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act that Senator Casey is introducing. This bill calls upon states, in partnership with private entities, to invest in improving the quality of early learning.”
Leading economists also recognize the importance of early learning. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in a recent speech stated that “The payoffs of early childhood programs can be especially high. For instance, preschool programs for disadvantaged children have been shown to increase high school graduation rates. Because high school graduates have higher earnings, pay more taxes, and are less likely to use public health programs, investing in such programs can pay off even from the narrow perspective of state budgets; of course, the returns to the overall economy and to the individuals themselves are much greater.”
The Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act will establish an Early Learning Challenge Fund to help states build and strengthen systems of early learning, so that low-income children ages zero to five have greater access to high-quality early learning and development opportunities that prepare them for success in school and beyond.
Today, I was in the Lehigh Valley to highlight Chinese policies that are hurting the businesses and employees in Pennsylvania and across the country. I joined C.F. Martin IV, Chairman and CEO of C.F. Martin & Co, to urge greater action to stop the production of counterfeit guitars bearing the C.F. Martin & Co. logo that are being made in China.
Despite repeated attempts by Martin Guitar, China continues to allow the production and sale of counterfeit guitars. I will continue to press the Obama Administration to put pressure on China to do more to protect intellectual property for U.S. companies. I will also continue to push for more action to target China’s currency manipulation that puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.
The lack of protection on the part of the Chinese harms C.F. Martin & Co. and is indicative of the experiences of countless other firms. The sale of counterfeit, low-quality merchandise hurts Pennsylvania companies and workers.