News and Notes from the 20th District

First Posted: 8/14/2014

On July 15, I was honored to be inducted into the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Hall of Fame by Major General Wesley E. Craig, Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General.

As a current member and past chair of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, I had the pleasure of working with many veterans organizations on several pieces of legislation that eventually were signed into law that aid and recognize veterans in the state. Among these are the special veteran designation on state driver’s license to honor the service of the commonwealth’s 950,000 military veterans and establishing the “Honoring Our Veterans” Pennsylvania license plate, which raises money for the state’s Veterans’ Trust Fund.

The DMVA Hall of Fame, established in 1998, recognizes unique and exemplary contributions to the department and/or to the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Deadline approaching for Persian Gulf

Veterans Benefit Program

On April 24, 2006, House Bill 1820 was signed into law as Act 29 of 2006. This bill establishes the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Benefit Act. On November 7, 2006, Pennsylvania voters gave overwhelming approval to a ballot question to fund the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Benefit program. The bond issue created a fund for the payment of compensation to, or on behalf of, eligible current and former members of the United States Armed Forces, a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces, or the Pennsylvania National Guard. The program allows for compensation to be paid to eligible service members (current and former) as well as certain surviving relatives of deceased veterans. In each case, the service member/veteran must have:

• Served with the United States Armed Forces, a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces or the Pennsylvania National Guard

• Served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations during the period from 8/2/1990 to 8/31/1991 and received the Southwest Asia Service Medal

• Been a legal resident of Pennsylvania at the time of active service (8/2/1990-8/31/1991).

The deadline for submitting applications for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans Benefit Program is August 31, 2015. Call 1-866-458-9182 for more information.

Delaware River cleanup marks 25th anniversary

I recently joined a group of dedicated volunteers for an “On and Under the Delaware River Cleanup.” In addition to doing our part to remove garbage from the River, we presented a Senate Citation to Ruth Jones, of Kittatinny Canoes, honoring her years of service to the Delaware River.

Jones founded the several day-long cleanup effort 25 years ago, which has removed 439 tons of trash from the river. I was very proud to take part in this volunteer effort to keep the river clean.

“Kevin’s Law” will crack down on hit-and-run drivers

I was pleased to join Caroline and Stephen Miller of Dallas, and Al and Ann Marie Vannucchi of Plains at a ceremony to sign a new law that will increase the minimum mandatory sentence for drivers who fatally hit an individual and then flee the scene.

A year and a half ago, five-year-old Kevin Miller was killed, in the presence of his family, by an impaired driver who fled the scene. His death was one of five similar incidents occurring in Luzerne County that year. In each case, the driver fled the scene.

Seven years ago, 19-year-old Erik Vannucchi was struck down, in front of his girlfriend, while they waited for his motorcycle to be towed. The driver was found eleven hours later. Although she admitted she had been drinking, the delay in in her arrest prevented prosecutors from seeking DUI charges.

Homicide by vehicle while DUI carries a three-year mandatory minimum, but leaving the scene of an accident involving death has only a one-year mandatory minimum.

“Kevin’s Law,” named in memory Kevin Miller, will close that loophole. Act 85 of 2014 will increase the penalty from one year to three years for fleeing the scene of an accident where a death resulted.

The determination and willpower of Caroline Miller helped to make this happen. She mobilized a lot of folks into signing petitions, sending e-mails, and making calls demanding action. I would also like to thank the many families and their friends who traveled to Harrisburg to watch as the Senate approved the legislation and sent it to the governor.

If through this simple change we can save others from the tragic circumstances that claimed Kevin Miller, Erik Vannucchi, and many others across the state, Pennsylvania will be a better place.

Photo contest underway

The 20th Senatorial District spans from the Delaware River in the east to the Endless Mountains in the west with unique communities dotting the landscape in between.

From rolling farms to bustling Main Streets, picturesque vistas throughout the many boroughs and townships that make up the district are a photographer’s dream. Residents are proud of the historic structures, natural beauty, events and people that make their towns special.

Whether it’s that little old church you drive by each day or an eagle nesting above the river, the annual parade or a school sporting event, I want you to share the sights and scenes from your part of the district with your neighbors throughout the 20th.

The contest will remain open until August 31, 2014. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite pictures from Sept. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2014. To enter, and to see guidelines and contest rules, go to

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