By Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland)
The legislative session has been quite productive. The House passed numerous bills to improve Pennsylvania and those who live here. Though the General Assembly is not currently in voting session, I have been busy here in Adams and Cumberland counties meeting with residents to learn how the bills we passed would impact them and to get their feedback.
Earlier this year, the House passed comprehensive legislation to improve career and technical education (CTE) in the Commonwealth. For years, students were told the road toward making “good” money and having a successful career was attending a four-year college or university. While college is the right fit for some students, it is not the cookie-cutter education path for everyone. A better fit for some students is the trades professions. In fact, there is a large skills gap in the trades because there are not enough trained workers to fill all the open jobs.
The package of legislation we passed in the House would establish partnerships between education and businesses to create youth apprenticeships, career pathways and rigorous CTE to build a stronger workforce. Jobs in this sector are far removed from the old stereotypical labor some may recall. Rather, they are high-tech, ever-evolving jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.
To see firsthand how these bills would impact people here in southcentral Pennsylvania, I visited several places within the 193rd district, starting with the PA CareerLink in Cumberland County. This statewide system helps connect would-be workers with employers and also offers training to make sure they are ready for the workforce. I visited Pella, a window and door manufacturing company, that has a location in Gettysburg as well as Vitro Architecture Glass in South Middleton Township, to discuss ways to partner with local businesses and schools to attract young people into manufacturing.
The General Assembly also passed legislation to assist the agricultural industry. These bills will help Pennsylvania’s top industry and include initiatives to protect the state’s food supply and animal health, combat threats to both crops and livestock; assist farmers with the cost and expertise to further implement best management practices on their farms; support the dairy industry; educate young people about the importance of agriculture; and prepare the next generation of farmers.
Included in the 2019-20 state budget is an overall agriculture investment increase of $19.5 million. Recognizing the importance of animal health, new line items devote $2 million to the Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission and $1 million to livestock and consumer health protection.
I do not have to tell anyone how important agriculture is in our part of the state. It is truly the lifeblood of our local economy. Earlier this month, I toured just a small fraction of Adams County’s agriculture businesses. We are so fortunate to live so close to the food we get to enjoy. It was wonderful learning more about the industry and getting a firsthand view of our local food production. I also tried unsuccessfully at showing a pig during the South Mountain Fair Market Swine Show. My hat goes off to those in all aspects of the farming industry.
I spent quite a bit of time at carnivals and fairs over the summer. From the York Springs Fire Company Carnival to the Bendersville Community Fire Department Carnival, and everywhere in between, I was more than happy to attend and support our local first responders. These carnivals may seem like just a fun time, but they are also very important fundraising events for our fire departments.
On the legislative side, I introduced a bill, which was passed by the House and is now with the Senate, to remove a barrier for some potential junior firefighters. Specifically, House Bill 1522
would eliminate a requirement that junior firefighters take training on how to battle wildfires. This training isn’t needed in all parts of the Commonwealth. However, departments would still be able to require the training if deemed necessary.
I believe this bill will help increase volunteer levels at fire departments. Most fire departments have witnessed drastic drops in the number of volunteers over the years. In addition to my bill, the General Assembly is expected to take up several initiatives that stem from a report on emergency services in Pennsylvania. The report includes 92 concepts incorporated into 27 recommendations to address challenges in the fire and EMS communities with most of them focused on staffing, funding and training needs. I plan to introduce another bill dealing with junior firefighter training this fall.
This session has, so far, been productive and I suspect this fall will be just as busy. I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead as we work to make Pennsylvania a better place to call home.
Representative Torren Ecker
193rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross