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In this email update:
Public Assistance Integrity Act passes the Senate
On Monday the Senate passed Senate Bill 6, the Public Assistance Integrity Act, by a vote of 40-9.
Senate Bill 6, which was introduced by Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York), seeks to eliminate welfare fraud by strengthening benefit eligibility criteria, limiting the use of access devices and increasing penalties for instances of willful fraud. Some of the major components of the bill include:
This initiative is similar to a bill I proposed with Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Cameron/Clearfield/Clinton/Elk/Jefferson/McKean/Potter/Tioga) during the 2013-14 legislative session which sought to strengthen the integrity of our public welfare system and ensure those with genuine need would continue to receive the assistance and resources for which they are eligible.
Senate Bill 1379 addressed the following concerns as it relates to welfare assistance and fraud: lottery winnings; limit vehicle exemption; lost EBT card charges; and increased and standardized penalties for welfare fraud.
Telephone Town Hall on school property tax elimination
This past Tuesday evening I hosted a telephone town hall event with Senator Mike Folmer (R-Dauphin/Lebanon/York) to discuss school property elimination.
The school property tax is the #1 issue I hear about most from residents not only in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, but across Pennsylvania. This tax is not only burdensome, outdated and unjust, but it places a huge financial challenge on current homeowners in Pennsylvania.
During this event – which reached more than 80,000 households – Senator Folmer and I highlighted the major components of Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act, provided updates and answered residents’ comment and concerns about this measure.
This week, our fight took another step forward.
The Senate recently passed House Bill 1285 which amends the PA Constitution to allow a local taxing authority to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of the homestead property receiving the exclusion. The goal of this legislation is to eliminate the school property tax for all homeowners.
The initiative will be placed on the ballot for voters to decide this fall. Stay tuned for further details!
Fighting blight in our communities
Blight negatively affects many communities in Pennsylvania – both large and small. Unfortunately, blight isn’t a problem that has one simple fix. 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 come to fruition.
Some of the new laws aimed at fighting blight include:
Blight is not a “one size fits all” problem so it is critical to have numerous strategies to tackle the problem. If your community is not utilizing the above laws in the battle against blight, now is the time to speak up and ask “why not?”
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate was in session this past Saturday and Sunday to work on both fine-tuning the details of this year’s state budget and considering important pieces of legislation. The Senate passed the following bills over the past few days:
The Senate also passed the following bills this week:
Pennsylvania’s weak business climate
In a recent study conducted by WalletHub, the financial website ranked Pennsylvania one of the worst states in the country to establish a businesses, ranking the state in at 45.
To reach this finding, WalletHub compared each of the 50 states using three important elements: 1) business environment – for example, average growth of business revenues; 2) access to resources – for example, higher education assets; and 3) business costs – for example, office space affordability.
North Dakota was ranked the best state for starting a business, while New Jersey was ranked the worst state.
Although Pennsylvania ranked towards the bottom in metrics such as numbers of entrepreneurs per capita (Pennsylvania ranked 49th), we did receive strong rankings in the areas of adoption of technology, availability of workers and availability of higher education.
It is clear that, based on these findings we need to create incentives for businesses and employers to locate to Pennsylvania – which means tackling our corporate taxes and business structure and finding innovative ways to attract entrepreneurs to the Keystone State.
To add more salt to our wounds, Pennsylvania’s staggering property taxes certainly does not help us in achieving our goal of boosting our economy and creating more jobs.
Read more about the study here.
Tour of local recycling facility in Central PA
This past Sunday, Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington), Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and I toured Senator Scott Wagner’s (R-York) recycling facility, Penn Waste in York.
Visiting this recycling facility provided us with the opportunity to learn more about recycling programs in Pennsylvania, which was key as Senate Bill 431, which increases fines for littering, was being brought for a vote by the full Senate later that day.
Pictured from left to right: Senator Laughlin and Senator Reschenthaler.
As you can see from the picture below, Penn Waste recycles thousands of crushed aluminum cans! As a Scout Leader who established an aluminum recycling effort many years ago in my hometown to help our local scouts to attend camp, I found this portion of our tour with Senator Wagner very interesting.
Making our highways safer for construction workers and motorists
The Senate approved a joint legislative proposal I introduced with Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) which seeks to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities that have occurred on our highways due to reckless driving and speeding.
Senate Bill 172 would establish a three-year pilot program for PennDOT to utilize speed cameras in active work zones on limited access highways in order to examine whether or not the additional $100 fine motorists would incur if they commit a violation within the automated speed enforcement zone would compel them to slow down when entering and passing through a construction work zone.
Remaining fines collected during the three-year trial period would be distributed to the State Police, PennDOT, Turnpike Commission and Motor License Fund.
The goal of this legislation is to safeguard the men and women who work on repairing our roads and infrastructure in order to make them safer and more efficient for motorists. In return, it is our duty and obligation to ensure that they have the ability to do so in a secure manner.
According to data from PennDOT, there were 2,075 crashes and 16 fatalities that occurred within work zones last year.
Senate Bill 172 will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.