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Legislation from House panel would create commission to study rural population decline in Pa.

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John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 30, 2024

With Pennsylvania’s rural population projected to decline nearly 6% by the year 2050, a state House panel on Tuesday voted to advance legislation that would create a commission to seek solutions.

The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to support House Bill 2225, which would establish the Rural Population Revitalization Commission

State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) said the purpose of the commission would be “to report on the rural population changes and recommendations for attracting and retaining residents in rural Pennsylvania.”

According to an October 2023 report from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s urban areas are projected to grow 4.1% by 2050, while rural areas face a 5.8% population decline.

“These projections are just that, projections of what could happen if nothing changes,” Pashinski said during a press conference following the voting meeting.

Members of the commission would include state and local officials, as well as organizations specializing in rural issues, such as education, health care, and business development. The commission would be tasked with putting a report forward every two years with updates on population shifts, as well as new policy recommendations for retaining and attracting residents to the rural regions of the Keystone State. 

Pashinski praised rural leaders for efforts to address concerns in their communities, but said they need more help.

“This legislation would provide that help and make sure rural leaders are leading and revitalizing our communities,” Pashinski said.

Following the vote, Pashinski, state Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams), and state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), who serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, celebrated the bill advancing out of committee on a bipartisan basis.

“We don’t have time to waste,” Yaw said. “We need to establish this rural population revitalization commission so that we can talk about these things, connect and be proactive rather than reactive.”

Yaw cited data that showed 73% of the state’s population lives in 19 counties, meaning that the other 48 counties, —or 27% of the state’s population—, are rural.

Pashinski said the report citing population decline spurred the idea of creating a commission.

“Establishing this commission will position Pennsylvania as a national leader in addressing rural population challenges,” Pashinski said. “We believe this may be the first commission in the entire country to take on this challenge.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal includes earmarks for investments into rural communities, including hundreds of millions for agriculture, a medical debt relief program, plus increased funding for the Whole-Home Repairs Program and the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

During Tuesday’s meeting the committee also unanimously advanced House Bill 997, which would allow whole milk to be served in Pennsylvania public schools.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.