State Senators Tout Bills In Response To Lee Flooding

Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

Five state senators — including John Gordner, R-27, Berwick — said this afternoon that they will be introducing a comprehensive, legislative package aimed at bringing relief to those whose homes and property suffered damage from heavy flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month.

Gordner, R-27, and co-sponsors Gene Yaw, R-23, Loyalsock Township, Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Township, John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Township, and John Blake, D-22, Archbald, unveiled the seven-piece package at a news conference at the state capitol, which combines financial assistance, infrastructure funding and tax breaks for affected areas.

“Our goal is to provide financial assistance to communities affected by flooding and provide the resources to ensure that the recovery effort will take place as quickly as possible” said Gordner. “We’ve all toured our flooded communities and we have seen how hard-hit they have been by these storms.”

Shortly after the news conference, Gordner said the bill was still being drafted. “I hope it can reach the Senate floor no later than Monday,” he said.

Gordner added that on the House side, State Representatives Linda Schlegel Culver, R-108, Sunbury, and Kurt Masser, R-107, Elysburg, would both be introducing companion bills.

Meanwhile, Baker, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said she is planning to conduct several committee hearings on issues ranging from creating a state disaster assistance fund to the utilities’ response to prolonged power outages after Hurricane Irene.

“We have a bipartisan commitment to helping our residents and local officials get back on their feet,” Baker said. “There is widespread damage so we need to have a good plan in place to jump start our recovery effort.”

Among the bills announced today are measures to:

— Establish a restricted account in the State Treasury to provide additional state grant monies to individuals and families based on income eligibility and damage losses.

— Authorize $250 million for the state share of flood-related highway and bridge rehabilitation projects.

— Allow local taxing bodies to abate real estate taxes for properties substantially affected by the flood.

— Authorize a county-by-county list of highway, bridge, flood control and hazard mitigation projects that need rehabilitation.

— Give the Secretary of Education the authority to waive certain requirements for public and non-public schools that were substantially affected by the flood.

— “People in my district have lost their homes, their livelihoods and even a few have lost lives, as a result of this catastrophic flood,” said Yaw. “This legislative package is a lifeline for those individuals, families, business owners and municipal governments who are in dire need of assistance.”