Pa. touts civic program to get more teens to register to vote

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

WILKES-BARRE — During the inaugural year of the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award program for Pennsylvania high schools, 2,955 eligible students from 16 high schools across the state registered to vote.

Eligible students must be 18 or turn 18 on or before the date of the next primary, special, municipal or general election.

Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres launched — as part of National Voter Registration Month — the second year of the program that promotes student-led voter registration efforts at high schools and recognizes schools that register at least 65 percent of their eligible students.

“We hope to engage more schools and surpass last year’s participation and voter registration numbers,” Torres said. “This program is a great way to teach young people civics and get them involved as active citizens in our democratic process.”

Schools that register at least 65 percent of their eligible students earn a Silver Level Award, while schools that register 85 percent or more of their eligible students earn a Gold Level Award.

New this year will be individual awards to outstanding students 17 or older who both actively engage in efforts to register their fellow students to vote and serve as poll workers during the November election. Individual award recipients will be invited to participate in a program and ceremony in Harrisburg to recognize their achievement.

The GCEA program was initiated at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The program offers resources and guidance for student leaders as they educate their peers regarding the electoral process and the importance of civic engagement.

“Registering to vote is a fundamental step for students to become active participants in the democratic process,” Rivera said. “We encourage all eligible students to register to vote through this initiative, and we applaud the students who are teaching their peers about their civic responsibilities and becoming informed citizens.”

September is National

Voter Registration Month

In 2002, September was established as National Voter Registration Month as a non-partisan means of encouraging voter participation and increasing awareness of state requirements and deadlines for voting.

National Voter Registration Day — a national holiday celebrating our democracy — will be held on Sept. 25.

Individuals wishing to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 6 election must be:

• A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the election.

• A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which the individual desires to register and vote for at least 30 days before the election.

• At least 18 years of age on or before the date of the election.

The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9.

Wolf urges passage of bills

to stop sex assaults at schools

Gov. Tom Wolf this week renewed his call for the General Assembly to swiftly pass a package of bipartisan bills that would help protect students at Pennsylvania’s K-12 schools and at colleges and universities.

“The federal government may be turning its back on these survivor/victims, but Pennsylvania must continue to make progress,” Wolf said.

Pennsylvania launched “It’s On Us PA” in 2016 to combat sexual assault in schools and on campuses, becoming the first state in the nation to join the national campaign. The governor has secured $3 million — $1 million in each of the last three state budgets — to provide grants to colleges and universities, reaching tens of thousands of students and professional staff to develop evidence-based prevention, reporting, and response systems to address campus sexual assault.

The first six weeks of the fall semester until about the Thanksgiving break are often referred to as the “red zone,” when sexual assaults on college campuses often spike, a press release says. First-year students are especially vulnerable.

The governor has urged passage of the pending bipartisan bills. All of the bills remain in the House or Senate Education committees.

Workplace reforms are

aimed at sexual harassment

Gov. Tom Wolf this week again promoted a package of reforms he announced in April designed to strengthen protections against sexual harassment and discrimination for employees, provide new legal options for victims and hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions.

The House Labor and Industry Committee this week held a second hearing on the legislative package.

“Workplace discrimination or sexual harassment are unacceptable, and millions of Pennsylvania workers deserve this protection now, not more delays and studies,” Wolf said.

The proposals include:

Protect more workers: All employees should be protected, regardless of the size of the employer or the type of job. Today, these protections are given only to those who work for an employer with at least four employees.

Workplace training: No employee should experience harassment or discrimination. This legislation requires training for employees and supervisors to prevent discrimination and harassment for all employees. Employers must display discrimination and harassment protection rights in the workplace.

Extend statute of limitations: Some victims and whistle-blowers can be afraid to come forward. To encourage reporting, the amount of time victims have to file a discrimination or whistle-blower complaint should be extended from only 180 days to two years.

Right to a jury trial: Victims and whistle-blowers should have the option for a jury to hear their case in state court.

Punitive damages: Pennsylvania, through the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Whistle-blower Law, should join other states, like New Jersey and Ohio, that allow victims and whistle-blowers to seek punitive damages in workplace discrimination cases.

Payment of attorney fees: Burdensome legal fees can discourage some victims from pursuing their case. Sexual harassment victims who win their case in state court should have the attorney fees paid by the defendant.

Retail group: Barletta

a ‘Hero of Main Street’

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, has been named a “Hero of Main Street” by the National Retail Federation — the world’s largest retail trade association — in recognition of his consistent support for policies important to the retail industry, including millions of small businesses, a press release says.

The award was presented to Barletta by John Holub, executive director of the Pennsylvania Retailers Association.

Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs or 42 million working Americans.

In Pennsylvania alone, there are 8,563 retail establishments that directly employ over 61,000 and support more than 86,000 jobs.

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.