Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's
happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress
of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few
moments to visit my website at
www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and
Week of March 20 and 27, 2017
Due to a glitch with the e-newsletter
system, I was unable to send Mike’s Memo last week. I apologize for any
inconvenience, and hope you enjoy this combined edition!
Thanks for following the happenings of the 48th Senatorial District and the
Senate State Government Committee Activity
Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, held a meeting to consider
the following legislation. All votes were unanimous. My
Senate Resolution 36, as amended, urges US Congress to reauthorize the
Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to restrict the
US Department of Justice from spending funds to interfere with the
implementation of state medical marijuana laws; Senator
Senate Bill 178, as amended, updates and modernizes the History Code, and;
Senate Bill 303, as committed, releases Project 70 restrictions in Berks
County. All will now go to the full Senate for further consideration. Video of
the meeting can be found
Bills Pass Senate, Go to House for Further Consideration
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 123 – allows falconry on Sundays;
Senate Bill 137 – codifies the Civil Air Patrol’s state operations under the
Senate Bill 169 – requires lobbyists to register and file electronic reports
PA Department of State;
Senate Bill 274 (46-1)
– recognizes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists under PA statute.
Column: Local Tax Reform
During my travels throughout the 48th Senatorial District, I hear a
persistent drumbeat: “eliminate school property taxes” – not partial
elimination or reduced school property taxes – total elimination.
That’s why I’ve joined with
Senator Argall to fight for
Senate Bill 76 to eliminate school property taxes. In 2015, the Senate fell
one vote short:
This isn’t the first time we’ve been down this road. Other
plans have been offered to reduce property taxes and some have become law. However, none have totally eliminated school property taxes as proposed by
Act 511 was passed in 1965 to reduce both school and
municipal property taxes through a myriad of other taxes, which proved to be
equally unpopular and were changed or repealed over the years while school
property taxes continued to rise.
In 1987, Governor Casey and the General Assembly sent a
bipartisan tax mixture to the voters that was overwhelmingly rejected by the
voters statewide by a margin of over four-to-one.
During the Rendell Administration, gaming was promised to
reduce property taxes by a minimum of 20 percent. Today, we have both gambling
and school property taxes.
Every plan to eliminate school property taxes faces the
same challenge: finding nearly $14 Billion in replacement revenues. It’s a big
number – nearly half the total state budget. But it’s the amount needed to
eliminate school property taxes. And, there are just four basic options to
raise $14 Billion in replacement revenues: Personal Income Tax (PIT), Earned
Income Tax (EIT), Sales & Use Tax, and/or some other, new tax.
SB 76, the Sales Tax would be broadened and expanded to 7% and the Personal
Income Tax would be increased from 3.07% to 4.95%. Not only does this totally
eliminate school property taxes, it’s fair because people have some control over
paying the Sales Tax – a consumption tax. For each $1,000 you now pay in school
property taxes, you would need to spend $14,285.71 in newly taxable items before
it would cost you more.
SB 76 also gives schools the ability to raise revenues through either a
locally imposed Personal Income Tax or an Earned Income Tax – after voter
SB 76 also succeeds where other plans have fallen short because more people
pay Sales and Personal Income taxes than those paying property taxes. Plus, the
Sales and PIT are paid over time while property taxes are often a big sum paid
at one time.
Home ownership is a fundamental principle within the
Declaration of Independence and the US and Pennsylvania Constitutions.
Article I, Section 1 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution,
“Inherent Rights of Mankind,” states: “All men are born equally free and
independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are
those of enjoying and Defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and
protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.”
I don’t think any tax should have the
power to leave you homeless.
Senate Bill 76 changes the status quo by replacing existing school property
taxes – dollar-for-dollar – with revenues from the expanded Sales and Personal
SB 76 have raised two main objections: the numbers don’t work and it’s
technically flawed. I’m proud to have worked with
Senator Argall to address both of these issues – and correct them.
SB 76 works. The numbers add up. It’s technically correct.
Do you support the proposed changes of
Senate Bill 76 or do you prefer the status quo? For those who oppose
SB 76, I say: show us your plan. Until then, you’re supporting the status
quo, which isn’t working for either taxpayers or schools.
(I also spoke on
the Senate Floor this week regarding the importance of
SB 76. You can watch my remarks
here. This is a fight I will not give up!)
PA Department of Agriculture Approves Industrial Hemp
PA Department of Agriculture approved 16 research proposals under the
Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program to demonstrate the value and
viability of industrial hemp cultivation in PA. Industrial hemp was grown
commercially in the US, including PA, through the World War II era, but later
became regulated along with marijuana, prohibiting cultivation. Industrial hemp
and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant, but unlike
marijuana, industrial hemp is grown for fiber and seed, and must maintain a THC
concentration below 0.3 percent. The 2014 Farm Bill opened the door to limited
legal growth of industrial hemp as part of agriculture research pilot programs,
and in July 2016,
Act 92 was signed into law to research the economic potential hemp could
offer PA. China and Canada dominate hemp production, and the US is the largest
importer of the cash crop, where it is estimated to be a nearly $600 million
department is awaiting approval from the
US Drug Enforcement Agency to take possession of hemp seed needed for the
research. For a full list of projects, click
PA DCNR Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Application
Period Now Open
Rural volunteer fire companies in communities under 10,000 people can apply
Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant through
PA DCNR now through May 18. The
grant is to prevent, control, and suppress fires that threaten human life,
livestock, wildlife, crops, pastures, orchards, woodlands, farmsteads or other
improvements in rural areas. This is a cost-share program, and the maximum
grant is $7,500 per fire company. Click
here for more information, call (717) 787-2925 or e-mail
Kaia Scott, Highspire Borough Junior Council Person,
According to the
PA State Association of Boroughs March 2017 edition of Borough News, Kaia
Scott is serving as a Junior Council Person in Highspire Borough, Dauphin
County. She is a junior at Steelton-Highspire High School where she is a member
of the Student Council and Yearbook Committee, and has been on the Honor or
Distinguished Honor Roll since eighth grade. Kaia became a Junior Council
Person because she is interested in the borough’s future, and wants to serve as
a liaison between the school and borough council.
Rt. 422 and Ramona Rd. Construction Project, Jackson
Twp., Lebanon Co.
Construction is underway to improve the intersection between Rt. 422 and
Ramona Rd. in Jackson Twp., Lebanon County. The project extends on Rt. 422 from
Scenic Dr. to W. Washington Ave. About 15,000 vehicles travel this intersection
daily, and the intent is to maintain traffic on Rt. 422 in a single lane in both
directions throughout the project. Pennsy Supply, Inc. of Annville will conduct
the $1,574,364 project, which includes widening westbound Rt. 422 so the
eastbound roadway west of Ramona Rd. can be shifted north and aligned with the
westbound roadway. The existing crisscrossing of eastbound Rt. 422 and W. Main
Ave. west of Ramona Rd. will be removed, the traffic signal at Rt. 422 and
Ramona Rd. will be upgraded, and the traffic lanes will be reconfigured to have
one through lane in each direction with left and right turn lanes. The road
will also be resurfaced and W. Main Ave. will be realigned with Ramona Rd. to
the south to provide more room for vehicles on northbound Ramona Rd. “to stack”
in preparation for making a left turn onto westbound Rt. 422. The project is
scheduled to be completed by the end of October.
Bethel Township, Lebanon County Bridge Replacements
Work began to replace the bridge that carries U.S. 22 (William Penn Highway)
over Elizabeth Run east of the Rt. 343 intersection in Fredericksburg, Bethel
Twp., Lebanon County. Initially motorists may encounter a single lane
restriction between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., but eventually will be restricted
around-the-clock, and shifted to one side of the bridge while the other half is
demolished and reconstructed. On April 10, the Mt. Zion Rd. bridge over Deep
Run will be closed to traffic and detoured by way of Union Rd. and Greble Rd.
Kinsley Construction, Inc. of York County will conduct the $2,586,310 bridge
PennDOT expects both bridges be replaced and reopened by mid-September.
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are
of concern to you. I may be reached through my
website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.
When contacting my office by
e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone
number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many
inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.
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