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Legislation Would Address Issues with Vape Tax
A heavy new tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products was included as part of the 2016-17 state budget. At the time, many lawmakers – including me – expressed serious concerns that the 40 percent wholesale tax would result in many small vapor shops going out of business. In the months since the tax was enacted, our fears have proven to be correct; more than 100 small businesses have closed, impacting several hundred jobs in the industry.
That's why I recently introduced legislation that would help protect existing vapor shops and the jobs they provide by changing the way we tax vapor products. The bill would eliminate the wholesale tax and replace it with a 5-cents per milliliter retail tax on e-liquid, which is consistent with levies imposed in other states. This approach would provide stable, consistent revenues without threatening the livelihoods of those who rely on this industry.
More information about my bill is available here.
Joint Hearing Will Examine Agency Merger
Governor Wolf has proposed merging the Departments of Human Services, Health, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs into a single agency as part of his 2017-18 state budget plan in order to help reduce costs to taxpayers. While the idea certainly shows promise, it is critical to ensure the consolidation plan does not adversely impact the delivery of services, especially for those suffering due to the heroin and opioid addiction crisis.
On March 29, the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which I chair, will join with the Senate Aging and Youth and Senate Health and Human Services Committees for a joint hearing to examine the impacts of Governor Wolf’s agency merger plan. The hearing will be held from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. in Hearing Room 1 in the North Office Building at the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg.
I am hopeful that the information gathered during this hearing will help create a clearer path forward for lawmakers as we consider how to best save taxpayer dollars.
Grant Supports Educational Opportunities for Students
A grant awarded to Trinity Area School District through the Washington County Local Share Account (LSA) grant program will expand educational opportunities and help students learn more efficiently. The grant helped support the purchase of equipment for a fabrication lab (Fab Lab) to give students a hands-on educational tools to foster cooperation and innovation among students.
Technology plays an increasingly critical role in education delivery systems, especially with Trinity’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math (STEAM) programs. The Fab Lab project offers another useful avenue to help students learn in an environment that brings invention and innovation to life.
Cable Show Features Local Apparel Company
The newest edition of my “Focus on the 46th” cable show features a tour of BeeGraphix, a creative apparel firm with multiple locations in the area. I appreciated the chance to visit the Fredericktown facility and learn more about this business, which has been in operation since 2004.
You can see the show here.
New Cystic Fibrosis Caucus EstablishedCystic fibrosis is a debilitating condition that affects approximately 30,000 Americans, creating serious health risks and severely impacting the quality of life of those who are diagnosed with this affliction. I recently joined legislators on both sides of the aisle to form a new Cystic Fibrosis Caucus in the General Assembly to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis and advance policies that help people with the disease live longer, healthier lives. It is an honor to serve as co-chair of this new caucus.
The first meeting of the new panel was held this week, and we were joined in Harrisburg by members of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I am hopeful that this new legislative panel will help improve the lives of those who suffer from this terrible condition.
Great American Cleanup of PA Runs Through May 31
The Great American Cleanup of PA campaign is a statewide effort to keep our communities healthy and beautiful. The annual program relies on volunteers and civic organizations to plan and participate in community improvement events such as trash collection efforts and watershed improvement projects. Free cleanup supplies such as bags, gloves and vests are available while supplies last.
If you are interested in doing your part to pass along a cleaner, healthier environment to future generations, visit www.gacofpa.org and www.keeppabeautiful.org for more information on local cleanup efforts.
For more information on issues of importance to southwestern Pennsylvania, please visit my website at www.senatorbartolotta.com and connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/senatorbartolotta) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/senbartolotta).
SouthPointe District Office
Greene County Office Building