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A good time was had by all at my annual Kids Extravaganza! Thank you to all volunteers, participants, attendees, and CCBC for making it a great one!
Public Assistance Reforms Approved by Senate
I voted for and the Senate approved legislation reforming various aspects of the Commonwealth’s public assistance system. This reform package will inevitably help to ensure that public benefits—provided by the citizens of Pennsylvania—are not abused by individuals who seek to defraud the system, but remain available for Pennsylvanians truly in need.
Senate Bill 6, the Public Assistance Integrity Act, addresses many long-existing deficiencies in our state program which have resulted in countless millions in misappropriated tax dollars. Provisions include, but are not limited to:
(1.) Eligibility requirement strengthening by, for instance, requiring the declaration of any lottery winnings over $600 as an available resource (to be cross-referenced w/ winners’ database maintained by PA Lottery). Convicted sex offenders with outstanding Megan’s Law Registration compliance issues would be cut off from public assistance. Furthermore, individuals convicted of drug distribution felonies would now face the loss of benefits if they fail to uphold their obligations imposed by the court system.
(2.) Prohibiting the use of public benefits in a casino or gaming establishment, or any retail establishment providing adult entertainment. Entities licensed by the PA Gaming Board or the PA Liquor Control Board would also be prohibited from allowing withdrawal of cash funds from an access card through a point-of-sale “cash back” transaction.
(3.) Increasing the penalties on individuals who commit willful benefit fraud to a 3rd degree felony for fraud totaling more than $1,000, a 1st degree misdemeanor for any less. Access Card replacement fees are also instituted to discourage habitual requests for new cards which are currently provided without penalty, at significant costs to the department.
Click here for more information about Senate Bill 6.
Independent Office of Inspector General Legislation Signed Into Law
Legislation that I voted for to statutorily create the State Office of Inspector General (OIG) was recently signed into law. This critical, good-government reform establishes the legal independence of the OIG—Pennsylvania’s top fraud, waste, and abuse investigator.
The mission of the OIG, since its creation in 1987, is as follows: To prevent, investigate, and eradicate fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct in the programs, operations, and contracting of executive agencies under the Governor’s Authority.
Prior to passage of Act 29 of 2017, the OIG was a cabinet-level official appointed by, and serving at the discretion of, the Governor. The authority of the office derived solely from executive order, making Pennsylvania one of only a few remaining states to not have a separate statute on the books providing for appointment, term, and duties of this position. Since 1987, Pennsylvania has had the dubious predicament of having the top financial watchdog of the executive branch serving at the will of the Governor—who, of course, controls the executive branch.
Moving forward, the OIG’s existence, duties, and powers are now codified in state law. Its funding will be appropriated via a separate line-item in the budget—no longer dependent solely on the discretion of the executive. Additionally, the office will have subpoena powers and limited law enforcement authority—this was not the case prior to enactment. I’m confident that this legislation will give the OIG the independence and tools necessary, as set forth in law, to transparently carry out the duties of the office to the best of their abilities and safeguard state taxpayer dollars.
Homestead Exemption Constitutional Amendment Approved
I voted for and the Legislature approved a measure to amend the State Constitution to provide local taxing authorities the option to completely eliminate property taxes via the Homestead Exclusion, pending approval by the voters in the next statewide election.
Currently, the State Constitution permits local taxing authorities to exclude up to 50% of the median assessed value of homesteads in that area from property taxes. House Bill 1285 would increase that allowable exclusion to 100% of the assessed value of that homestead, effectively eliminating the property tax in that taxing jurisdiction. This was the second consecutive time this proposal was approved by the Legislature; therefore, it must now be approved by the electorate via referendum in order to become law.
Statewide 2-1-1 System Grant Approved by Senate
The Senate voted to establish a program to provide grants to qualified applicants to develop, implement, and operate a statewide 2-1-1 system. I voted in favor of the measure.
2-1-1 is a regionally-structured system that connects Pennsylvanians in need of health and human services with the appropriate assistance programs provided by government, non-profits, and private organizations. It is maintained and operated by local United Way organizations in their respective counties. It’s estimated that 15% of Pennsylvanians do not currently have access to this resource.
Senate Bill 211 would create a streamlined, more efficient 2-1-1 network that would be available to all Pennsylvanians in need. Click here for more information about 2-1-1.
It was a pleasure to speak at and participate in the Enon Valley Community Days celebration. A great showing of community spirit!
Funding Approved for Wampum Borough Water Upgrades
I’m very happy to announce that The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) has approved a low-interest loan in the amount of $460,000 for upgrades to Wampum Borough’s public water system.
The funding will be used to install a sand-based filtration system to remove impurities (iron and manganese) from the well waters that feed the borough’s public water system. From all indications, these impurities did not negatively impact the water’s drinkability, but they did significantly discolor the water.
In the past, constituents from Wampum have brought tap water-stained clothes and water filters to my office to illustrate how much of a nuisance this was. I’m very happy that the state was able to provide this funding support so that the residents of Wampum borough can once again have clear, clean tap water on demand.
Candidates wanted for Game Commission Board
The Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation is seeking a qualified candidate to represent District 2 on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s board of directors. District 2 includes the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington, and Westmoreland.
Per the Game Code, applicants must be well-informed about wildlife conservation and restoration and be residents of the district. Commissioners serve a four-year term after being confirmed by the Senate and may be reappointed for a maximum of two additional terms. They receive no compensation for their services but are reimbursed for travel expenses.
Individuals interested in applying should send a resume and detailed cover letter explaining their desire to serve to Robb Miller, Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation, 400 Market St., 7th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301. Individuals can also email the information to Robb Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications will be accepted until Friday, September 15, 2017.
Veterans’ Specialist Hours at New Castle District Office
Reminder: Once a month, my New Castle District Office (1905 W State St. N.C. 16101) hosts a veterans’ benefits specialist to assist constituents with any and all issues related to benefits earned by their service to our nation.
Ms. Stephanie Bengoa, a service officer with the American Legion Veterans Assistance Program, is available on the third Wednesday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. No appointment is necessary, but appointments can be made in advance.
Ms. Bengoa can assist veterans and their families understand the benefits they have earned, enroll in the V.A. health care system, assist with the appeals process, and much more. Please bring any documentation and paperwork you may need.
For more information or to make an appointment, please call 724-654-1444.
Notary Service Now Available M-F at Rochester District Office
To better serve my constituents, I'm happy to announce that my Rochester District Office now has a free notary public Mon-Fri from 8:30 to 4:30 PM. This service is available to all residents of the 47th Senate District.
This complimentary service covers any sort of documentation needing a notarized signature, provided that the signer has valid, Pennsylvania Photo ID and signs in the presence of the notary.
Note: My office is unable to process certain PennDOT documents, such as vehicle title transfers, which can only be notarized by an authorized PennDOT agent. If you have any questions, please call 724-774-0444.
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Senate Box 203047