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In this email update:
Fighting welfare fraud in Pennsylvania
On Tuesday evening, Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton) and I provided a bipartisan update on Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act, and this year’s state budget process during PCN’s LIVE Call-In Program.
Throughout the program we answered viewer comments and questions on a variety of state issues. Some of the items that were addressed included: education funding in this year’s state budget, the proposed consolidation of state agencies such as the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and reforming the way the lieutenant governor is elected in Pennsylvania.
One key topic we discussed during the program was welfare reform and the need to crack down on fraud and abuse within the system.
I mentioned my welfare reform bill, Senate Bill 425, which would increase the number of welfare fraud investigators within the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The goal of this legislation is to create more manpower to detect and eliminate fraudulent welfare activities. The bill is currently under review in the Senate State Government Committee.
Another welfare reform measure in the Senate is Senate Bill 6, which aims to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse within Pennsylvania’s human services system.
Senate Bill 6 is currently under review in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
To highlight the problem our state is facing with welfare abuse, PennLive recently published an article regarding 68 residents in Pennsylvania charged with committing almost $270,000 in welfare fraud. You can read the full article here.
Discussion on reforms to the lieutenant governor election process
Lancaster Online recently published a story about Senate Bill 761, my proposed legislation that would change the way the lieutenant governor is elected in Pennsylvania.
In this article, it highlights my comments regarding the timing being right for this type of initiative to be examined given the troublesome relationship between our current #1 and #2 leaders of the executive branch. Read the full article here.
I also did a radio interview with Lowman Henry from the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research on this bill. You can listen to the full discussion here.
Update on school property tax elimination
During a recent bipartisan town hall meeting I held last Thursday with Senator Scavello in the Poconos, we had more than 250 residents turn out to hear a discussion on school property tax reforms.
The meeting provided residents with the opportunity to hear testimony on various proposals seeking to eliminate the school property tax and provide relief to Pennsylvania’s homeowners. Some of the proposals that were discussed included Senate Bill 76 and a school property tax freeze for senior citizens.
A special thanks to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, the statewide grassroots organization which spearheaded the creation of Senate Bill 76, for their presentation at the meeting.
A recent news report from ABC 27 News discusses the staggering property tax hikes homeowners are about to be faced with in order to help fund our public schools. Watch/read here.
In order to address these property tax hikes in our communities, Representative David Maloney (R-Berks) introduced House Bill 1285 this legislative session which would amend the state’s constitution to provide for more significant residential property tax reductions across the state. Unanimously the bill passed the House and the Senate Finance Committee.
It’s time that we eliminate the school property tax once and for all.
Also, stay tuned for similar meetings held across the state in the future!
Senate approves bill to protect consumers
On Wednesday, the Senate approved my proposed legislation, Senate Bill 458 which strengthens penalties for illegal household goods movers operating in Pennsylvania.
Given the uneven playing field we have in Pennsylvania, the goal of this legislation is to make sure consumers are protected in the future. In our state, it is more advantageous to operate a household goods moving company illegally than it is to comply with the law. These illegal companies often lack the necessary insurance coverage to protect damaged goods during a move, leaving the consumer at risk.
Under current law, household goods moving companies are required to register with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). For-hire household goods movers must carry adequate insurance to protect property moved and workers compensation for their employees.
Senate Bill 458 would make it a punishable offense to perform an illegal move in Pennsylvania with a $5,000 fine. Vehicles used in an illegal household goods move would be confiscated and registration would be suspended. Repeat offenders would be subject to a $10,000 fine.
Revenue generated under the bill would be invested into future motor carrier enforcement through the PUC. The bill only applies to commercial, for-hire entities.
The legislation will now move over to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Comprehensive animal welfare package signed into law
The governor signed House Bill 1238 into law on Wednesday as Act No. 10 of 2017.
Act No. 10 strengthens Pennsylvania’s existing animal abuse laws and makes the process easier to prosecute an individual who knowingly mistreats, neglects and abuses an animal.
This is certainly a positive step forward for our state in protecting our furry friends!
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate passed a number of appropriations bills this week, as well as the following pieces of legislation:
Senate Bill 691 which establishes uniform residential qualifications of office for persons seeking election to, or appointment to fill a vacancy in, a municipal elected office where recent service in the military might interfere with the person’s ability to satisfy the relevant residency requirements.
Senate Bill 662 which establishes a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.
Senate Bill 529 which provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.
Senate Bill 383 which clarifies the authority school boards have to allow certain school employees to carry firearms on school property.
House Bill 239 which establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council within the Department of Health.
Senate Bill 630 which reforms the insurance licensure requirements for Pennsylvania travel agents.
House Bill 1269 which amends the Municipal Authorities Act to provide an extension for construct of infrastructure.
Groundbreaking ceremony of LogistiCenter
On Wednesday, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the LogistiCenter at Midway in Bethel.
The development of this 1,081,200 square-foot industrial facility will not only create hundreds of jobs for local residents, but attract major companies and retailers from across the country who want to store their products in this warehouse facility.
Any large endeavor such as this requires teamwork and patience. The development stages of this initiative was not easy, given the issues with permitting at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). My role in helping this project come to fruition was working with Representative Jozwiak and DEP to get this permit through the final stages.
This kind of quality, private sector investment will not only help to alleviate some of the real estate property taxes for Berks County, Bethel Township and Tulpehocken Area School District (this business will pay more than $700,000 in real estate property taxes), but also help with the state’s staggering budget deficit.
Handbook about family caregiving
Across Pennsylvania, more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians are caring for older parents, spouses, or other loved ones, assisting them to live independently rather than in one of the Commonwealth’s long-term, institutional nursing homes, according to the PA Homecare Association.
Dedicated family and friends are providing $20 billion annually in uncompensated care allowing seniors to safely live at home and in their community.
The Association is making available “ Secrets No One Told You About Family Caregiving. ” The 48-page handbook features tips, tricks, and helpful hints for family members caring for a loved one. Obtain your copy by calling PHA at 1-800-382-1211.
Advance the level of care delivered through 59 free online video training courses offered by the PA Homecare Association’s “My Learning Center.” Find resources for everything from caring for an Alzheimer’s victim to understanding the family dynamics within which you are functioning.
Check out Pennsylvania’s amusement parks
Amusement parks with a history abound in PA. Some have risen from a fish hatchery, another as a picnic and relaxation area for a company’s employees, and two others with ties to popular children’s TV shows.
For safe and fun-filled memories of your trip to the amusement park, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures Division registers, inspects, and educates park visitors, as well as owners and attraction operators. Questions may be directed to the Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. through 4 p.m., at 717-787-2291.
Exercising in heat
When summer is delivering high temperatures, exercise special safety precautions, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Combine summer heat with high humidity and the human body’s ability to cool itself through evaporation is impaired. Heat stress becomes heat stroke as the body’s core temperature rises. Within 10-15 minutes, a 98.6 degree body temperature can increase to 106 degrees leading to permanent disability or death.
Prevent symptoms of a heat stroke including cramps, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headaches, confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.
PA’s Black Fly Suppression Program complaint reports
Thirty-eight Pennsylvania counties participate in the Pennsylvania Black Fly Suppression Program, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
For the remaining counties, DEP recommends avoiding black fly infected areas, participating in outdoor activities during midday, and staying indoors during warm, cloudy, and humid days. DEP finds gnats or black flies are most aggressive before summer thunderstorms and advises against exposure.
Following DEP’s tips for wearing a light-colored hat, tucked-in pants and long-sleeves, along with glasses or goggles, will significantly add to your protection against black flies. Skip attractants such as perfume, deodorant, hairspray, and toiletries, in favor of insect repellent.
Biking safely in PA
When riding between sunset and sunrise, a bike must be equipped with a front lamp and rear and side reflectors that are visible from at least 500 feet, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The appropriate lights allow you to illuminate your path while helping motorists see you.
A proper fitting helmet is a must for children under twelve years of age and younger and highly recommended for all other riders. Your rear-view mirror may be helmet-mounted or attached to the bike’s handlebars.
Add a frame-mounted water bottle and a handlebar rack-mounted bag or carrier for a small toolkit, fingerless gloves, extra clothing, and a bike lock. If your bike has not been used recently, PennDOT also recommends that a qualified mechanic assess your cranks, brakes, handlebars, and seat for comfort and safety.
Before biking the trails, see PennDOT’s Bicycle Safety and Laws webpage to refresh your memory on bicycle laws contained in the Commonwealth’s Motor Vehicle Code and detailed in the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual.
Beyond the pothole
The county-based system is available for the reporting of conditions on state-owned roads, issues with construction projects, absence or placement of signs and signals, and speed limit concerns.
Claims against the Commonwealth for damage to your vehicle or personal property should be submitted for review by the Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management of the PA Department of General Services. The Bureau also requires PennDOT to review all claims associated with state-owned highways prior to final determination. Line paint claims must be submitted to the county in which the incident occurred. Be prepared to provide the date, time, county, state route number, and the location of the occurrence.
Summer boating safety tips
Pennsylvania witnessed 70 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 11 fatalities last year, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). Seven of the eleven victims were not wearing the life jackets onboard their boats.
From the basics of boating to regulations to water safety, the PFBC offers the details for a quiet canoe ride down a meandering stream or an exciting powerboating excursion across an expansive lake. Accidents and drownings occur more frequently by a boat capsizing or passengers falling overboard rather than collision.
Enjoy great boating in PA streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. Pennsylvania’s "Where to Boat" webpage helps you locate specifics including boat launches, rentals, moorings, marinas, sailing, whitewater, scenic floats, and water trails.