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Spending, Chesapeake Bay, voter ID on the menu at Commerce of Chamber breakfast | News,

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Area lawmakers updated business leaders on legislation and state and local issues of concern during the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday.

Among the legislators speaking to the audience gathered at the Williamsport Country Club was state Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, who expressed concern about spending in Harrisburg.

Also speaking at the event were state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, and state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township.

Hamm said the state budget has increased by $13 billion in the past 10 years and Gov. Tom Wolf only wants to add to the spending.

Among the governor’s proposals, which did not get included in the budget, was an increase in the personal income tax by 46%, he said.

“He was going after the severance tax on gas and to legalize marijuana and tax it,” he added.

Hamm, serving his first term in the House, took issue with a proposal to toll roads and bridges and to tax vehicle mileage.

Wolf’s vision, he said, is for everyone to drive electric cars in the next 10 years.

“The governor loves to dig further into your pockets,” he said.

Hamm also took aim at unelected bureaucrats who “don’t answer to you.”

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, he said he’s a big friend of PennDOT.

Hamm proceeded to relate a story about a local resident who couldn’t get the state agency to solve a problem on his property until he intervened.

“Someone has to fight for you,” he said.

He noted that he pushed legislation to ensure that the annual 9/11 motorcycle event did not get canceled due to a PennDOT regulation.

Hamm said, while cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay under the mandates of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System are fine, it has created financial burdens for many communities.

Yaw said he’s asked for $250 million for clean water projects including funds to help farmers comply with the mandates.

He said the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, which he chairs, considers many issues common to those residents.

He noted the migration of people from cities into rural areas of the state will have an impact on Congressional redistricting.

Due to the state’s stagnant population growth relative to other states, Pennsylvania will lose a U.S. House seat.

Yaw criticized the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, claiming it’s bad for the economy while doing little for the environment.

He noted how the governor pushed for the state to become part of the 11-state cooperative, including New York and New Jersey which have different interests than Pennsylvania.

He pondered what the Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector, will mean for the coal industry and those employed by the industry.

“Ninety percent of electric power we use will be picked up by other states,” he said.

Yaw noted recent Senate passage of legislation to limit municipalities from banning a specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses.

He said the bill is not meant to favor any one energy source.

“It just gives you choice,” he said.

Wheeland said, “Things are happening pretty darn fast in Harrisburg.”

Some of his time this past year, he said, was taken up by hearings on election reform.

The governor, he noted, vetoed House Bill 1300, which would have mandated voter identification in all elections and made a host of other changes to election law.

Wheeland said he sponsored another bill that includes voter identification provisions and includes constitutional amendments to update the state’s Election Code.

He said he takes a dim view of money from big corporations and wealthy individuals to influence elections.

Chamber President Jason Fink talked about some of the business developments in the county during the past year.

He noted that a metal rolling plant, which closed its Williamsport-based facility in January, is set to reopen the week of Nov. 8.

AA Metals Inc. bought the JW Aluminum plant on Trenton Avenue and will operate it under the name Chance Aluminum Corp.

Some of the other business happenings include the reopening of the ShopVac plant in Williamsport and the opening in the spring of Digger Specialties, a manufacturing plant in the county’s Timber Run Industrial Park along Route 15.

The fencing products manufacturer is expected to employ about 150 people.

Nancy Eischeid, vice president and chief financial officer, reported that many small businesses impacted by the pandemic applied for and received grants and loans from a pool of money established by the Chamber for COVID-19 relief.

Taryn Mueller, Chamber marketing coordinator, noted chamber membership is at between 875 and 900 businesses and organizations.

Although Chamber events set for the past year had to be canceled due to COVID-19, the hope is to bring back some of them by the beginning of year.

Sharon Jones, project coordinator, noted that the Chamber’s Leadership Lycoming program has 28 participants in its current class.

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