Chamber Hosts Legislative Forum

From left: Attorney Richard Bishop, chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee; state Rep. Mike Carroll (D-118); state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe); and Bob Durkin, president, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee hosted its annual Legislative Forum on Wednesday, Nov. 30, welcoming state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and state Rep. Mike Carroll (D-118). Both Sen. Blake and Rep. Carroll discussed their vision and plans for the Commonwealth for 2017 and beyond.

The roughly one-hour forum allowed for Chamber members to publicly ask questions of both officials. Topics discussed included state redistricting, pension reform, property tax elimination, and gaming and transportation funding, among others.

Senator Blake expressed hope for the next year, especially regarding fiscal challenges.

“We have a Democratic governor and a very strong Republican majority in both houses of the General Assembly, which makes for a divided government and contentious debate,” he said. “There are significant ideological differences between both parties, but there are also fiscal challenges we all understand and can’t avoid. We’re going into a new legislative session and I am hopeful and bullish that we will not want to revisit what happened in the first year of the Wolf Administration in terms of the budget. My hope and expectation is that we come to a solution; I honestly believe we will not get back into an impasse. We do not want to inflict pain on the very taxpayers who elected us to do our jobs. I am very hopeful for 2017.”

Rep. Carroll explained that all members of the Commonwealth government try to advocate not only for their constituents, but also for any issue that might directly or indirectly affect the regions in which their districts are located.

“It is our responsibility to cast informed votes on bills and amendments and to be involved in the legislative process,” he said. “As a government official, you are an ambassador and an advocate for your citizens and communities in Harrisburg. We try to make sure the communities we represent have a seat at that table and that decisions are made that matter. What happens in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre matters to the people I represent, so it is important that these cities thrive and are healthy. There are plenty of opportunities for successes in our Commonwealth in the next 12 months that are important to the growth of this community. We have the opportunity to make sure our area is better tomorrow than it is today.”

Chamber president Bob Durkin said that the Legislative Forum is a way to give attendees a closer look at what is happening in our government.

“We want to thank state Sen. John Blake and state Rep. Mike Carroll for their ongoing interaction with the Chamber and support of the business community of Lackawanna County,” he said.  “Their openness in fielding a wide range of questions from Chamber members offered refreshingly direct insights into developments in Harrisburg.”