In this Edition:
Homestead Exclusion Program Update
Last week, voters approved the statewide ballot referendum to expand the state’s existing Homestead Exclusion program to provide up to 100% elimination of property taxes on owner-occupied residential homes.
Now that the referendum has passed, I am completing final tweaks to enabling legislation which will 1) expand the Homestead program and 2) provide the state revenue that will provide 100% elimination of school property taxes on residential homes.
We are currently reviewing revenue estimates from the Commonwealth’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to verify the level of state personal income tax (PIT) funding needed to offset school property taxes.
Once the fiscal review is complete, I plan to introduce the legislation in December. I remain hopeful that the Senate will take up the legislation quickly to provide this critical relief.
Around the 40th District
This week I joined State Rep. Marcia Hahn and the Young at Heart Club in Pen Argyl to honor WWII Veteran Donald Jones and Vietnam Veteran Stephen DeFranco for their exemplary military service and dedication to the citizens of the United States. Don and Steve, we cannot express enough our sincere gratitude for your sacrifice to protect the rights and freedoms of our country and put others’ safety before your own.
Congratulations to the Pleasant Valley Manor graduates of the PA Empowered Expert Resident (PEER) Program. Tillie, Larry, Ginny, Janet and Elizabeth all completed and educational training to help assist the Manor staff and residents with enhancing the quality of care and life of their "peers." Thank you to the Monroe County Ombudsman, Bernadette Jones, and the office of Serving Seniors, Inc. for providing this opportunity.
The Slate Belt Chamber this week honored Lucy Flinn and Nick Russo as Business Person of the Year and Volunteer of the year respectively. These two individuals have given back to the community in countless ways and represent the community spirit of the Chamber. Lucy has served the Slate Belt for many years with State Farm, extensive involvement with Rotary Club and a host of other volunteer roles. Nick serves our country as a member of the Army National Guard and has worked at Reagle Dodge for several years. In response to recent hurricanes, he founded American Way Disaster Relief to provide supplies and disaster response for those in need. He will be leaving with a team for Puerto Rico soon and is looking to expand the organization to serve the Slate Belt. Congratulations to both of you for this well-deserved honor.
On Saturday I joined PA State Rep. Marcia Hahn in honoring two Volunteers of the Year for Bushkill Township Volunteer Fire Company. Congratulations to Jordan Kranich and Ken Brown who were honored as Bushkill Township Fire Company’s Volunteers of the Year. Thank you for all you have done to protect the safety of the citizens of Bushkill Township. It was a pleasure to join Rep. Hahn in recognizing you with this well-deserved honor and thank you for your continued service.
A special congratulations to Richard Kern who was honored for his 50 years of service to the East Bangor Fire Company. Thank you for your service and your willingness to respond day or night to those in need. We owe you a debt of gratitude.
Scavello Lauds Solar Energy Jobs Law during Bill Signing Ceremony
I was pleased to join Governor Tom Wolf at a ceremony in Harrisburg on Monday to sign into law my legislation that would promote clean energy by boosting the use of solar energy credits in Pennsylvania.
This Solar Energy Jobs legislation, Senate Bill 404, was included in House Bill 118, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature last month. I thank the legislature and clean energy advocates for their support of the legislation, which will help to bring businesses to Pennsylvania, create new jobs, and promote a positive footprint on the environment.
Passage of this law, now Act 40 of 2017, demonstrates that solar energy is fast becoming a viable addition to our diverse energy portfolio. We have the best fabrication, engineering, manufacturing and distribution networks in the country. The solar energy industry and the clean energy sector in general, offers communities – both rural and urban – the opportunity to retool, reposition and modernize our economy to attract additional 21st century jobs.
The 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards requires that increasing percentages of electricity sold in Pennsylvania be generated through alternative energy sources like solar energy. Solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) are used to demonstrate compliance with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act through the purchase of these credits from homeowners and businesses with solar panels.
Act 40 essentially “closes the borders” of the Commonwealth on SREC purchases, similar to many neighboring states. Electric distributors will now be required to purchase their credits from within the Commonwealth, protecting Pennsylvania-based solar credits and putting us in line with many of our neighboring states. In addition, “closing the borders” ensures that PA rate-payers are supporting jobs, investment and tax revenue here in Pennsylvania.
Protections for Senior Citizen Drug Assistance Sent to Governor
The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday extending protections to seniors enrolled in PACE and PACENET who would lose eligibility for these programs due to increases in income from Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).
House Bill 425 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. Act 91 of 2015 provided for the COLA exemption through Dec. 31, 2017 and protected the eligibility of 16,500 senior citizens. House Bill 425 continues the exemption until Dec. 31, 2019.
Other Bills Sent to Governor
House Bill 165 creates the Pennsylvania Achievement Medal and the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award and adds those two new decorations to the list of awards that the Governor may present in the name of the Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Medal of Achievement would be ranked fifth, under the Pennsylvania Commendation Medal, and the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award would be ranked 13th, under the Pennsylvania Outstanding Aeronautical Achievement Award.
Senate Bill 785 allows golf carts on highway crossovers for recreational purposes and allows golf carts and low-speed utility vehicles to be used for maintenance purposes on public highways.
House Bill 1019, which establishes procedures for the sale and purchase of a cemetery and reasonable access guidelines.
Bill Approved Allowing Local Police to Use Radar under Certain Conditions
The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would allow Pennsylvania’s municipal police departments to use radar as a means of speed enforcement. Currently in Pennsylvania, only the State Police are authorized to use radar.
Senate Bill 251 sets the following conditions:
The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association.
Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
Senate Bill 113 allows family members to have access and visitation rights with regard to a family member who is incapacitated and under court-appointed guardianship.
Senate Bill 540 allows students who are performing at events and funerals honoring our veterans to be excused from school, and allow that time to be counted toward volunteering or community service requirements.
Senate Bill 629 updates the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act.
Senate Bill 658 designates the Eastern Hellbender as the State Amphibian.
Senate Bill 826 is a land conveyance bill.
Senate Bill 837 is a highway renaming bill.
Senate Bill 877 amends the Insurance Department Act to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.
Senate Bill 878 amends the Insurance Company Law to allow producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 in marketing insurance to a client or prospective client.
Senate Bill 894 renames roads and bridges.
House Bill 1009 releases Project 70 restrictions on properties. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Panel Would Study Health Needs of Women Veterans
A resolution adopted by the Senate on Tuesday would establish a special panel to address the needs of Pennsylvania’s growing female veteran population. The Women’s Veterans’ Health Care Task Force created by Senate Resolution 5 is intended to improve the delivery of health care services to the state’s nearly 71,000 female veterans.
Pennsylvania ranks as having the seventh-highest population of women veterans in the U.S., following Texas, California, Florida, Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina. The task force would review issues such as PTSD, alcohol and drug abuse and sexual trauma. It would also serve as an advocate for all of the Pennsylvania women who have served in uniform as the Commonwealth shapes new health care policies and reviews existing ones.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.
House Bill 411 amends the state Bingo Law to increase the monetary limits for payouts and jackpots.
House Bill 425 provides for a COLA exemption for PACE/PACENET recipients through December 31, 2019.
Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure
The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved Senate Bill 764 on Tuesday. The bill creates a recreational vehicle (RV) specific law which would govern RV dealers, manufacturers, and salespeople.
Health & Human Services
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.
House Bill 478 requires outpatient psychiatric clinics to have a psychiatrist on site for two hours of psychiatric time per week for each full-time equivalent treatment staff member employed by the clinic.
House Bill 644 removes the cap on funds which can be obtained by federally qualified health centers.
House Bill 1234 amends the definition of ambulatory surgical facility in the Health Care Facilities Act to reflect that surgical procedures in the facility may not exceed 24 hours.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved three bills on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 196 allows judges to order an electronic monitoring device on a defendant in a protection from abuse order.
Senate Bill 313 provides victims of domestic violence with certain exemptions when terminating a shared telephone plan contract if it is with an abuser.
Senate Bill 500 ensures that law enforcement protection is available to a victim before or while the petition and PFA orders are being served.
The committee also held two public hearings on Monday, one on Safe Harbor Legislation and the other on Safe Harbor and Criminal Justice Reform and its impact on the community and other related issues.
Labor & Industry
The Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 21 promotes the employment of people with disabilities.
House Bill 1597 increases the time allotted for parties to appeal the determination of an Unemployment Compensation (UC) Service Center and the decision of a UC referee from 15 days to 21 days.
Law & Justice
The Senate Law and Justice Committee approved Senate Bill 959 on Wednesday. The bill amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) regarding the purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor or malt or brewed beverages by minors.
Legislative Audit Advisory Commission
The Senate State Government Committee approved three bills on Monday.
Senate Bill 263 eliminates the requirement that disabled voters with permanent absentee voter status submit a written statement every four years.
House Bill 1009 releases Project 70 restrictions on a property and structure in Westmoreland County.
House Bill 1175 amends state law relating to lobbying disclosure to provide for an electronic registration filing system and to increase fines and penalties for violations of the act.
The committee also held a public hearing on Tuesday on SB 761 (Process of Electing the Lieutenant Governor).
The Senate Transportation Committee approved two bills on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 266 provides for vehicle registration plates for recipients of the Soldier’s Medal.
Senate Bill 729 provides for vehicle registration plates for veterans of an allied foreign country.
Following the approval of bills, the committee held a public hearing with the PA Turnpike Commission.
The Senate returns to voting session Monday, December 11 at 1 p.m. You can watch live at PASenateGOP.com.
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