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Senate Acts To Increase Public Safety By Expanding PA One Call
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved legislation I sponsored that would ensure greater public safety by extending and expanding provisions of the PA One Call Law.
Also known as 811, the communications system helps prevent damage to underground utilities and avoid tragedies by requiring companies and people to “Call Before You Dig.” That information is then used to determine if there are any lines at-risk in the area, so they can be marked prior to excavation.
Bipartisan support has kept this issue on the agenda and put us in position to finally succeed in improving community safety through better compliance and better enforcement of pipeline safety.
Chief among the changes proposed in SB 242 is assigning enforcement powers to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), a shift Baker believes makes sense because the agency already regulates the utilities participating in PA One Call. Currently the Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for enforcement. An important companion to the oversight structure is the creation of a Damage Prevention Committee that will work in conjunction with the PUC to promote industry best practices and collect accident data in order to achieve a stronger safety record with our underground utility lines.
All Class 1 pipelines, located in more rural areas that carry unconventional oil or natural gas, will now be included in PA One Call, as will conventional oil or natural gas pipelines with a diameter greater than 8 inches. Other implementations in the bill include new mapping enhancements to better locate existing underground lines plus those of new construction.
This bill is a substantial improvement. It is building upon a solid law that we have and it will provide responsible and reasonable action.
It is estimated there are more than 6,000 “hits” each year, approximately half involving natural gas lines. These incidents jeopardize the public, place workers at risk, and compromise infrastructure. Preventing pipeline damage increases safety and reduces costs.
The intent of this bill is to reduce the number of problems encountered. By implementing some common sense safety measures, we are acting to help prevent catastrophes.
The legislature granted a one-year extension of the program last year, but a long-term fix is warranted.
Committee Holds After Action Assessment Hearing in Pike County
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee traveled to Blooming Grove Township, Pike County on June 15 to hold an After Action Assessment Hearing on the Frein Manhunt to explore improvements to state and local emergency response based on what was experienced during this massive pursuit. Topics of discussion included officer safety needs, incident response, technology needs, costs to state and local governments, communications policies, and the experience of citizens and businesses. The committee is reviewing the information gathered to determine whether legislation is necessary to help in future situations.
National Guardsman From Pike County Promoted To Major General
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Senate offered its unanimously approval of the promotion of Pennsylvania National Guard and Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Brigadier General Andrew Schafer, Delaware Township, Pike County, to the rank of Major General.
I had the honor of introducing Major General Schafer at his confirmation hearing on June 6 as the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee considered his nomination for promotion.
He serves as Commander, Headquarters, for the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard and has served in the ROTC and National Guard since 1983 and twice was deployed overseas, once in Germany and another time to Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In Iraq he served as Deputy Commander, Headquarters, for the 56th Brigade.
In my remarks to the committee, I noted that five years ago, almost to the day, I had the privilege of introducing then-Colonel Andrew Schafer, who was being promoted to Brigadier General. His career is continuing its upward trajectory, for he is now recommended for promotion to Major General. Looking at his service record and resume, we find an admirable commitment to our commonwealth and country. He is well-educated, well-trained, and well-regarded.
Schafer, who earned a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College in Carlisle, has received more than a dozen medals and ribbons including a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal with four bronze oak leaf clusters and a National Defense Service medal with one Bronze Star.
The roster of duty assignments during his career is extensive. It is apparent that he is has proved capable, experienced, and trustworthy. He has earned a substantial and impressive list of awards and decorations.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended
The deadline to apply for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate program been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2017.
Free application assistance is available at my district offices in Dallas and Hawley, or through local senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging.
Applicants may also obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-222-9190.
Claimants who already applied for rebates may check the status of claims online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES.
Payment for processed applications of direct deposit recipients will occur on July 3. After June 30, rebates will be distributed as claims are received and take 4-6 weeks to process.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650.
Since the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program’s 1971 inception, older and disabled adults have received more than $6.5 billion in property tax and rent relief. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slot machines.
Urging the Governor To Take a Closer Look At Public Disaster Fund
Following the announcement that the Commonwealth’s appeal for a federal disaster declaration for the financially-crippling snowstorm that hit northeastern Pennsylvania in March was denied, I joined Sen. John Yudichak (D-14th District) in sending a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf proposing a straight-forward solution to ensure communities dealing with storm disasters are eligible for some assistance.
We never expected to meet the high federal threshold for assistance, despite the extraordinary impact on our communities. Several years ago, we worked together to create a small disaster assistance program to help counties and municipalities impacted by disasters that do not meet the requirements for federal aid. Budget cuts have zeroed out funding for the program. It is our hope that we can work with our colleagues, Governor Wolf and PEMA to restore funding and provide relief to hard-hit communities.
All five of the counties within the 20th District – Luzerne, Susquehanna, Pike, Wayne and Wyoming – were impacted by the heavy snowfall.
Click here to see the letter.
Baker Report Focuses on Boating Safety
The summer edition of The Baker Report is now available. Take a look to learn more about boating safety and the role of a Fish and Boat Commission conservation officer, and get a special glimpse of beautiful Harveys Lake, the largest natural lake by volume located entirely within Pennsylvania.