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In this email update:
Discussion on opioid crisis and alternative health care
On Tuesday, the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a discussion with Dr. Eric Osterberg of the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association.
During this discussion, the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities to address the ongoing opioid epidemic that is rapidly afflicting our communities.
Dr. Osterberg discussed the “Conservative Care First” (CCF) approach to healthcare, whereby chiropractors are aiming to break patients away from pain medication by addressing the root causes of injuries. Under the current system, patients are introduced to opioids where a dependency could be created.
An article published from PennLive last month makes the case that our Medicaid system provides more opioids for those who overdose on opioids. You can read the article here.
This discussion was a timely learning opportunity, because as policymakers and public servants, CCF provides us with the opportunity to grasp a better understanding of how dependency occurs and alternative solutions to addressing injuries, rather than through the use of opioids.
Reforming our school property tax system
Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) and I continued our series of bipartisan, statewide policy discussions regarding our existing school property tax system this past Wednesday evening at the Bethlehem Township Municipal Building.
During this bipartisan public forum held by the Senate Majority and Democratic Policy Committees, the primary legislation of interest that we discussed included:
Watch the discussion here.
If approved by the voters, what impact will the proposed homestead exclusion expansion have on my property taxes?
In recent weeks, I have been discussing the homestead exclusion expansion question that will be appearing on the ballot at the upcoming November election. Specifically, Pennsylvania voters will be asked to consider a proposed constitutional amendment to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation to expand the homestead exclusion. Currently, the state Constitution only allows up to “one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property within the taxing district” to be exempt from taxation.
Once the amendment is approved, the General Assembly will be authorized to pass legislation exempting up to “100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction” from taxation by the local taxing authorities. Not only will the change increase the amount of the homestead property that may be exempt from local property taxes, it bases that relief on the value of that particular property, not a figure based on the value of all properties in a taxing jurisdiction. The sponsor of the original legislation authorizing the constitutional change notes that this legislation provides the potential for “the elimination” – not just the reduction – of residential school property taxes via the homestead exclusion.
So…..the impact the proposed homestead exclusion expansion will have on a person’s property taxes ultimately depends on the legislation adopted by the General Assembly.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks on how this constitutional amendment could impact you and your family.
Commemorating the Schwenkfelder Day of Remembrance
Earlier this week, I introduced a unanimous consent resolution commemorating the 283rd anniversary of the Schwenkfelder immigration from Germany.
As an 11th generation descendent of the Schwenkfelders, I was pleased to meet several Schwenkfelders (pictured below) on the Senate Floor with Senator Bob Mensch (R-Berks/Bucks/Montgomery).
Schwenkfelders originally lived in Silesia, Germany and are named after Protestant Reformer Caspar Schwenkel Von Ossig, a contemporary of Martin Luther.
To escape persecution, the Schwenkfelders fled their homeland in 1726 and first emigrated to seek sanctuary in Saxony, Germany, provided by County Nicholas Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravian Church.
With the assistance of the Mennonites in Holland, the Schwenkfelders then immigrated to Pennsylvania between 1731 and 1738.
Pictured: A farm that has been in my mom’s family for 251 years that was built by Jacob and Anna Schultz. The farm is located along the Berks and Montgomery county line and has been in use for 10 generations.
The Schwenkfelders established four churches in Pennsylvania, and on September 24, 1734, the Schwenkfelders gathered for a time of worship to thank God for their safe arrival in the new land of freedom.
Each year thereafter on the same date, the Schwenkfelders met in worship to honor that occasion which they called Gedächtnistag, or Day of Remembrance.
Gedächtnistag is considered the oldest continuous celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Senate acts to complete work on state budget
The Senate took steps Wednesday to complete the state’s Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget.
The Senate voted 43-7 on Wednesday to non-concur on House amendments to House Bill 453 and empowered Senate President Pro-Tempore Joe Scarnati to appoint members of the Senate to serve on a bicameral Conference Committee to iron out a final Fiscal Code component for the FY 2017-18 budget package.
A bipartisan Conference Committee, made up of members representing the General Assembly’s four caucuses, is created when the Senate and House of Representatives are deadlocked on developing language for a bill. Once a compromise is reached, the Committee will submit a report to the two chambers for an “up or down” vote -- meaning no amendments can be made and the compromise must be considered on its own merit.
Bills passed by the Senate
In addition to our continued discussions on the state budget, the Senate passed the following bills this week:
Senate Bill 785 which expands golf carts and low-speed utility vehicles on public highways.
Senate Bill 135 which permits the use of a leashed tracking dog to track white-tailed deer to aid in recovering an animal that has been legally harvested or wounded.
Senate Bill 252 which amends the Pittsburg Parking Authority’s enabling act to assist in supporting private development.
Senate Bill 751 which provides for regulation and licensure of mortgage servicers.
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Vietnam Veterans Pinning Ceremony
On Tuesday, September 26, a Vietnam Veterans Pinning Ceremony will be held for Schuylkill County Vietnam Veterans.
Led by Col. Bob DeSousa, who serves as U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s State Director, the ceremony will recognize the dedication and sacrifice of our brave men and women who fought to defend our freedom and liberties.
During the event, each veteran will receive a special commemorative pin on behalf of Senator Toomey.
The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in Courtroom #1 of the Schuylkill County Courthouse located at 401 N. 2nd Street in Pottsville.
All Schuylkill County Vietnam Veterans are encouraged to attend this ceremony.
For more information about the ceremony, please contact my Mahanoy City office at: 570-773-0891.
“Talk to Your Senator” statewide video contest launched to fight growing drug epidemic
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.
The legislature has been actively seeking input on how we can combat this health crisis that is quickly growing in our communities at an alarming rate. We want to enlist the help of young people in our schools who have witnessed first-hand, the negative impact that drugs can have on individuals.
This video contest provides students with the opportunity to hone their creativity in raising awareness, as well as assisting us with crafting policy and legislation to combat drug abuse.
“Talk to Your Senator” is open to Pennsylvania students in grades 6 through 12 and will provide a total of $10,000 in cash prizes to winning entries that focus on ways to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young people. Prize money will be awarded through the TAP 529 Account program in the PA Department of Treasury and will be deposited into a college savings account in the winner(s) name. Videos will be judged based on creativity, content and effectiveness of message delivery.
Schools and students can find more information on the contest, including guidelines on submitting videos, content, judging, and prizes at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com, a website established by the Pennsylvania Senate as a tool to provide information and resources on the heroin and opioid crisis.
Entries must be submitted using the registration form available online at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com/talk-to-your-state-senator/. The deadline for video entries is December 10, 2017.
Listen to my audio clip about the initiative here.
Discussing state issues at the NE Berks Chamber event
Last Friday, I attended the Berks Chamber event at the Berkleigh Golf Club in Kutztown.
This event provided a good opportunity for local business leaders to ask me about key issues in Harrisburg and where we are headed in terms of tackling various state-related matters.
Some of the top legislative items that were discussed included the state budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18 and school property tax elimination.
Cracking down on welfare fraud
It’s not a secret that welfare fraud and abuse exists not only in our state, but across the country. To highlight the problem we are facing with welfare abuse, PennLive recently published an article regarding 73 residents in Pennsylvania charged with committing $281K in welfare fraud. You can read the full article here.
The legislature is working on a number of initiatives to combat this problem. I introduced Senate Bill 425 this legislative session 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 passed the Senate on July 10 and is currently under review in the House Health Committee.
Schuylkill County Firemen’s Parade
Last weekend, the 63rd Annual Schuylkill County Firemen’s Convention & Parade was hosted by the Schuylkill Hose Company #2.
Schuylkill County has the second-largest population of volunteer firefighters, and these men and women deserve to be recognized for their commitment to protecting our communities and ensuring the well-being of their fellow citizens.
Thank you for your unwavering service!
Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grants available
Applications for the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program are being accepted until October 20, 2017 at 4 p.m.
The Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program provides grants to fire companies, emergency medical services and volunteer rescue squads across the state so they can improve and enhance the services that they provide to their communities such as firefighting and rescue operations.
All fire companies, emergency medical services and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grants for the following projects: facilities, equipment, debt reduction, training, training and education materials regarding fire prevention for the public and career departments.
For more information about the grant program and application process, you can contact the Office of the State Fire Commissioner at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also click here for more details about the program.
Reminder: recognize your friends and neighbors
No act of kindness is too small or too big! I look forward to reading your submissions!
Leaf peeping planning season begins
Zone 2, or the Central Zone, is home to Big Pocono State Park, Oil Heritage Region, Presque Isle State Park, Great Allegheny Passage, Three Rivers Heritage Trail, and Rothrock State Forest and will see peak color in mid-October.