By Rep. Anita Kulik
This past week my work took me through Pennsylvania to places I have not visited. Our commonwealth is absolutely beautiful, especially at this time of year.
I joined constituents on a bus trip to the Laurel Highlands area for a tour of the Flight 93 Memorial. The ride up was beautiful as this part of Pennsylvania is filled with farmlands and forests. I was warned that being at the memorial could be overwhelming, and it certainly was. So many on the tour, including myself, were overtaken with emotion not only by the memorial itself, but by the aura that pervades the area.
The design of the memorial is inspirational. As I walked toward the overlook, I was taken on the flight path the plane took as it went down. The site is marked by a boulder which is flanked by stone monuments carved with the names of those who died on the flight.
A walk through the visitor’s center brought me and others to tears as we read the narratives and saw the artifacts retrieved from the site. Some were brave enough to listen to the voice recordings from the final phone messages of the passengers to their families.
These passengers and crew members knew what was happening and took it upon themselves to save our country and our citizens from further tragedy. From some of the recordings, it is clear that they knew they may not live through the hijacking. Photos of these heroes are throughout the center – ordinary faces of extraordinary people.
Many in our group commented how they remembered exactly what they were doing when they got the news of what was happening on that September day. Many also commented on how the country united. It was a time not of divisiveness, but a time of healthy patriotism – a time where we all came together for the common good of our nation and those who suffered and died, many in aid of others.
I also traveled to a far corner of our commonwealth for another perspective. I traveled with colleagues from the Game and Fisheries Committee to Elk County. We stopped in the towns of St. Marys and Benezette and then traveled to the Elk Country Visitor Center.
Again, our commonwealth has some absolutely stunning landscapes. I am grateful to be chair of the Game and Fisheries Committee in that I am not only learning about our game and aquatic species, but also about the abundant natural resources this state has to offer.
Seeing elk in their natural habitat was an amazing experience. These animals are majestic and we were able to learn all about them and their history in Pennsylvania. Thousands of people visit the Elk Center this time of year to hear the bugling of these magnificent creatures, and catch sightings of the bulls and cows in their mating season.
Our elk, deer, and other wildlife, along with our beautiful game lands, forests, and mountains, make Pennsylvania one of the best (and I will argue the best) states in the country for conservation, hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities. Locals and thousands of out-of-state visitors take great advantage of all our commonwealth has to offer. I cannot overstate the important financial impact that our natural resources provide to us in so many ways. I had the occasion to speak to many people from different states who were there to see the elk. These environmental tourists use their entertainment dollars to support the local economies of this region.
In connection with this theme, I was pleased to have House Bill 1409 pass the House and move on to the Senate. This bill will amend Act 56 of 2020 to extend the sunset on the ability of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to set fees. The Fish and Boat Commission, an independent conservation agency, receives its funding through the sale of fishing licenses and boat registrations, among other things. The commission receives no funding from the state’s general fund. It is important to allow the commission to set its own fees, while still allowing for checks and balances through the Legislature.
I am also happy to report that although the fiscal bills are not yet complete, House Bill 1300, the Fiscal Code, does not contain the language that would remove millions from the Game Commission monies. This issue is of great concern to thousands of hunters and conservationists across the commonwealth. The initial proposals for the bill would have been devastating, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars of federal money. I received countless phone calls, emails, and letters with regard to this legislation. A multi-pronged effort involving hard work with house leadership, and the support of many of my colleagues and interested stakeholders was necessary to address the bill. It appears we have been successful in keeping this language out of the Fiscal Code. I will continue to advocate for proposals that benefit our commonwealth and oppose those that clearly can be detrimental to the overall good.