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State Senator Lisa M. Boscola - Your Voice in Harrisburg

First CRIZ Project will Help Fuel Bethlehem’s Resurgence

Recently, the City of Bethlehem’s CRIZ (City Revitalization and Improvement Zone) Board opened its first project, the Social Still, located in the century-old Goztonyi Savings and Trust building. This project is the first CRIZ project to open throughout the entire Commonwealth.

CRIZI am proud of the role I played in bringing the CRIZ designation to Bethlehem, but even more proud that a local businesswoman is making this first project happen.

Located in the very South Bethlehem neighborhood where I was raised, this new initiative will help continue Bethlehem’s evolution from a declining steel town to a modern and vibrant city.

The CRIZ program allows for the use of future tax revenues to pay for infrastructure and development costs of local projects. Its use in Bethlehem will help enhance and accelerate the city’s efforts to attract more jobs and businesses.

It is important to emphasize that CRIZ is a revenue neutral incentive.  It leverages and invests revenue from new businesses, not existing ones.  Instead of contributing real estate tax dollars, the Bethlehem Area School District and the city will benefit immediately from the economic growth and higher property values. 

All of the city’s development projects are in line with its comprehensive plan, previous revitalization efforts and commitment to smart growth. Bethlehem’s CRIZ program is expected to help generate 4,120 permanent jobs, stoke $300 million in new development and plow $83.8 million in new revenue into our economic development efforts.

On a personal level, this project also has special significance to me because of the building involved and the entrepreneur taking the risk. As someone who was privileged to succeed Jeannette Reibman, the first woman ever elected to the state Senate, I take pride in encouraging women to play an active role in business.

Elaine Pivinski is a trailblazer.  Named one of Pennsylvania’s top 50 businesswomen, she is the founder and owner of Franklin Hills winery, Pennsylvania’s first female-owned winery.  Elaine’s new project, the Social Still, is not only the state’s first CRIZ project, it is Bethlehem’s first-ever distillery. 

In the upcoming weeks and months, we should be hearing about exciting new projects in the CRIZ that will continue to fuel Bethlehem’s resurgence. 

Keeping Pennsylvania Kids Safe

child abuseIn 2011, the Task Force on Child Protection was created to make recommendations on how we as a Commonwealth could strengthen our laws to better protect our greatest asset: our children.  As a result of the Task Force’s recommendation, the General Assembly has enacted 23 new laws to change how we respond to child abuse.

These changes are broad and meant to address every facet of how we as a Commonwealth respond to child abuse from the initial need to report a case of child abuse all the way through the judicial handling of abuse cases.

As stated on the Commonwealth website www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov these changes:

  • Strengthen our ability to better protect children from abuse and neglect by amending the definitions of child abuse and perpetrator;

  • Streamline and clarify mandatory child abuse reporting processes;

  • Increase penalties for failure to report suspected child abuse and protect persons who report child abuse;

  • Promote the use of multi-disciplinary investigative teams (MDITs) to investigate child abuse related crimes and

  • Support the use of information technology to increase efficiency and tracking of child abuse data. 

Act 153 of 2014 made one of the most important changes to the child protective service law.  Prior to Act 153, a child abuse history clearance along with criminal background checks were only required prior to the initial hire in certain professions such as child care employees or teachers.  Now, Pennsylvania is requiring recertification every 36 months.  Additionally, effective July 1, 2015, volunteers who are responsible for the welfare of a child or have direct contact with children will also need a State Police criminal background check and the child abuse clearance, which will require recertification every 36 months as well.

The child abuse clearance form is also easier to obtain.  It can be requested online at https://www.compass.state.pa.us/CWIS. Applicants will be notified when the clearance has been process and will be able to view and print the results directly from their computer. Organizations can now create business accounts to pay for and access the results of their employees and volunteers.

For more information, please go to www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.

 

Protecting our Neighborhoods by Cracking Down on Absentee Landlords

shackIn both urban and rural settings, the issue of how to handle blighted and vacant properties has been a great concern. The legislature needs to continue to review the tools it provides to municipalities to counteract blight.  Blighted properties have a significant detrimental impact on the property values of surrounding buildings and homes. 

In mid-December, a new law went into effect to give municipalities a stronger tool in enforcing citations for code violations against vacant landlords to eliminate certain loopholes that became apparent in The Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act of 2010.  The loopholes that some absentee landowners took advantage of made it difficult for municipalities to deal with frequent offenders.

Prior to the new law, absentee landlords were able to shield themselves from fines for code violations by forming shell corporations or leaving control of the property to an agent such as a property manager, who could not be held liable under the act.  It was a loophole that allowed a landlord to collect the rent, but neglected to hold a party responsible for the property.

The new law added language to provide clarity with regard to the definitions associated with blighted properties to make it clear that all property owners are liable for fines associated with code violations.

Act 171 went into effect on December 22, 2014.

 

Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

www.senatorboscola.com

BETHLEHEM OFFICE
One East Broad Street
Suite 120
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 868-8667
Fax: (610) 861-2184
Toll-free: 1-877-535-1818
WHITEHALL OFFICE
West Catasauqua Prof.
Office Building
2123 N. 1st Ave | Suite A-4
Whitehall, PA 18052
(610) 266-2117
Fax: (610) 266-2169
EASTON OFFICE
1701 Washington Blvd.
Easton, PA 18042
(610) 250-5627
(610) 250-5629
Fax: (610) 250-1889
HARRISBURG OFFICE
458 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203018
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3018
(717) 787-4236
Fax: (717) 783-1257
Senate of PA:
1-800-364-158 (TTY)