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In this email update:
Cost savings for welfare fraud detection in Berks and Schuylkill counties
As Chairman of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, one of the biggest issues my colleagues and I continue to tackle is welfare fraud and abuse in Pennsylvania. My goal regarding welfare reform is to end the abuse of the system so that we can save the state money and afford to provide additional assistance to those who are truly needy.
Based on figures provided by the Office of Inspector General for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year, the office saved approximately $2.4 million in Berks County and $622,774 in Schuylkill County through various welfare fraud prevention initiatives.
While these cost savings are significant in the region and across the state, I believe more needs to be done.
I have been at the forefront of several welfare reform initiatives over the years, including one that was vetoed by the governor during the 2015-16 legislative session which would require the state to hire more investigators within the Office of Inspector General in order to detect more welfare fraud. I reintroduced the same bill this legislative session as Senate Bill 425.
I am very disappointed in the governor’s recent veto of welfare reform measures in House Bill 59 which would establish a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. The goal of this requirement was to reduce costs in the long-term by encouraging recipients to find employment and become self-sufficient, rather than continue to rely upon the taxpayer. This has been the case in other states which have enacted this requirement and it is incomprehensible as to why the governor chose to veto this legislation which would reduce fraud and save taxpayers money.
The focus should be on more jobs, more people working, better education and training – not more welfare costs. My colleagues and I will continue to find ways to cut costs and provide the Office of Inspector General with the resources they need to tackle welfare fraud.
In a recent statement issued by Pennsylvania Inspector General Bruce Beemer, he stated, “Illegal trafficking in public benefits is a real problem in our communities. Our office works every day to prevent fraud and recover taxpayer money. The Senate has helped to give our office new tools to fight fraud, and I encourage constituents to report suspected welfare fraud to our tip line at 1-800-932-0582.”
The fight for school property tax elimination
Senator Mike Folmer (R-Dauphin/Lebanon/York), a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 76, recently submitted a column highlighting the major components of the constitutional amendment on property taxes that Pennsylvania’s voters approved by a vote of 54 percent to 46 percent on November 7.
As the map indicates, Berks County (77 percent approval) and Schuylkill County (69 percent approval) were two of the strongest supporters of the referendum in the entire state.
This constitutional amendment permits the General Assembly, for the first time ever, to enact legislation to expand the homestead exclusion up to 100 percent.
With the approval of this referendum, we now have several more options in the Senate to move school property tax elimination forward that we did not possess before the election. I will soon meet with the grassroots advocacy groups that are pushing for school property tax elimination to select our best options to present to members of the Senate so we can obtain their support.
We are certainly not giving up on this #1 issue!
Read more about Pennsylvania voters’ desire for property tax elimination from The Heartland Institute here.
Read Senator Folmer’s column from PennLive here.
Latest Argall Report highlights legislation changing the way the lieutenant governor is elected in PA
My latest monthly television report, The Argall Report, highlights the Senate State Government Committee’s hearing on legislation seeking to change the way the lieutenant governor is elected in Pennsylvania.
Right now, we are witnessing a tumultuous relationship between our current governor and lieutenant governor where both have admitted they often do not even speak to each other for weeks at a time. To be honest, this is downright embarrassing.
While this is certainly not the first time a forced political marriage between our top two leaders of the executive branch has failed the people of Pennsylvania, continuing this kind of arrangement is guaranteed to hurt our efforts to streamline state government.
This legislation, which has already garnered bipartisan support from my colleagues in the Senate and received widespread coverage in the media, would amend the state’s Constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate following the primary election – subject to the approval of their state committees – which is a similar process to how presidential candidates currently select their vice presidential running mates.
The goal of this legislation is to foster better cooperation, communication and trust between the governor and the lieutenant governor. By allowing the governor to provide input in selecting a lieutenant governor, a stronger relationship will be forged, taxpayer money would be saved and these two important members of the executive branch can lead more effectively and efficiently on behalf of Pennsylvania’s citizens.
During the hearing, former Lieutenant Governors Jim Cawley, Robert Jubelirer and Mark Singel provided testimony to discuss their experiences working alongside Pennsylvania’s former governors, as well as the benefits to reforming our current lieutenant governor election process. Also sharing testimony were Alan Novak, former Republican State Committee Chairman, and TJ Rooney, former Democratic State Committee Chairman.
The program will air on:
The Argall Report is also available online at: www.SenatorArgall.com.
Discussing anti-blight initiatives with the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
On Tuesday, I joined some of my colleagues in the General Assembly for a bipartisan panel discussion with the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania where I focused on anti-blight initiatives.
Addressing the issue of blight is one of my key priorities. After 30 years since my first visit as a Scout leader to Germany, I still continue to ask myself this: Knowing how terrible the conditions were throughout eastern Germany from the 1920s to the 1980s, why are East Berlin and Dresden more prosperous today than many cities and towns here in Pennsylvania, including many of the communities which I represent? What are they doing right? What are we doing wrong?
During this panel discussion, I highlighted the numerous hearings and roundtables that my colleagues and I have held throughout the state to discuss the issue of blight in our communities and encourage revitalization initiatives. During these events, in-depth reviews on anti-blight initiatives were examined that illustrate the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as provided input on solutions to combat blight and abandonment from stakeholders and local elected officials.
I informed the Housing Alliance that, over the past 10 years, with the bipartisan efforts of the Pennsylvania Blight Task Force which is comprised of members from both the House and Senate, significant progress in the war against blight has been made.
Some of the new laws aimed at fighting blight that I highlighted to the Housing Alliance included:
The positive, ongoing transformation of many of our local communities would be seen as a marvel to my parents’ ancestors, local coal miners, teachers, farmers, and factory workers who came to this region in search of a new life. We see it here every day: Because of grassroots teamwork, “left behind” communities here are much improved, but no one denies that much work remains undone.
Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations seminar
On Thursday, December 14, the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO) and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will be hosting a community seminar event.
The purpose of this seminar is to provide farmers and agriculture producers with information regarding compliance requirements as laid out in the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
During this seminar, farmers and members of the agriculture community will also learn more about risk management in the areas of food safety and crop insurance.
This no charge event will be held at the Kutztown Grange Hall located at Kemp and James Streets in Kutztown from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
For more information about the seminar, please contact Vince Phillips at the PSCFO at 717-232-9665 or Manager@PSCFO.com, or former State Representative Lynn Herman at 814-880-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the event can be found here.
Combatting the opioid/heroin crisis in Pennsylvania
With the deadline approaching in a couple of days, I am encouraging middle and high school students in Berks and Schuylkill Counties to help find solutions to the growing heroin and opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities across the state by producing a video aimed at raising greater awareness about the crisis.
“Talk to Your State Senator,” a statewide video competition sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania, with support from members of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Association of PA, is intended to get students involved in legislative efforts to fight heroin and opioid abuse. Students are encouraged to submit video entries no longer than five minutes which highlight ways to combat abuse, help those who suffer from addiction and develop laws to address this current problem.
By enlisting the help of young people in our schools who have witnessed first-hand, the negative impact that drugs can have on individuals, we can tackle this problem head-on!
For more information about the video contest, click here.
Grants awarded for several community projects
In addition to the grants that were awarded to Delano Township, Frackville Borough, Pine Grove Township, North Manheim Township in Schuylkill County and Shoemakersville Borough in Berks County for several community improvement projects earlier this month, Mahanoy City Borough, Mahanoy Township, Saint Clair Borough, and Shenandoah Borough were also recently awarded with grants.
Mahanoy City Borough will receive $40,000 for improvement projects for the East End Playground and its basketball court. Mahanoy Township will receive $40,000 for the revitalization of Morea Park as well as the creation of play equipment and safety surfacing. Saint Clair Borough will receive $30,000 for improvements to the Third Street Playground and the installation of play equipment and safety surfacing. Shenandoah Borough will receive $80,000 for enhancements to Girard Park including the basketball court.
The grants were awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) through its Community Conservation Partnerships Program. The program is funded through the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund (Key 93), the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener 1), as well as several federal funding sources.
Pennsylvania ranks #3 in deer collisions
Ranking third among states experiencing deer collisions, Pennsylvania drivers have a 1-in-63 chance of colliding with a deer or other large animal according to a 2017 insurance industry report. Analysts expect a 6.3 percent increase this year over 2016 collisions.
Deer-involved crashes are not considered at-fault. A surcharge cannot be added to the policyholder’s premium as a result. Contact the PA Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau online or at 1-877-881-6388 for related problems.
Insurance industry reports tie increased collisions between vehicles and deer during autumn to outdoor enthusiasts, from hikers to hunters, and the breeding season when yearling bucks seek new territory and adult bucks roam the home range seeking doe.
Flu season precautions
Pennsylvania experienced nearly 71,000 confirmed cases of flu and 148 deaths from flu complications during the last flu season, increasing the need for exercising precaution, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season by getting vaccinated and taking specific preventive actions:
Flu symptoms come on quickly and may include a fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. Populations at particular risk include the very young, older Pennsylvanians, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, December 11 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.