Harrisburg Happenings

Senate Sends Bill to Increase Support for Housing Program to Governor

The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a House Bill that would increase state support for a program that promotes housing affordability and rehabilitation in communities across the Commonwealth.

House Bill 792 would dedicate a portion of funds raised from the state’s Realty Transfer Tax (RTT) for use by the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) for projects across the state. The legislation does not increase the RTT rate, but solely changes how the revenues under the existing rate are used.

I introduced the measure in the Senate as Senate Bill 566.

House Bill 792 now goes to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

Currently, PHARE’s only revenue is from Act 13 impact fees and those monies may only be spent in Marcellus Shale counties.  Revenues generated through impact fees provide resources for home repairs, new construction, rental assistance, home rehabilitation and demolition.

The economic case for strengthening PHARE – which has already proven its power to help alleviate blight, reduce homelessness, create jobs and drive economic activity – is compelling. But the broader good that we have the opportunity to offer vulnerable residents, families and communities, is even more profound.

Across Pennsylvania, we see blighted and abandoned properties overwhelming the housing market.  PHARE funds can be used to remediate blight as well as develop homes within reach of low-wage workers and people on fixed income.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, there is a statewide shortage of 266,000 rental homes that are both affordable and available to households earning about $20,000 or less.  The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that 270,000 Pennsylvanians are homeless, including those living doubled up with friends or family.

Click here for audio or here for video of my remarks from the floor of the Senate on House Bill 792.

Senate Passes Union Intimidation Bill

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit harassment, stalking or making threats by parties involved in a labor dispute. House Bill 874 returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

The measure does not impact unions engaged in lawful disputes or protests, but addresses issues in previous labor disputes in which violent protests by the union workers ensued, including intimidation and harassment in the form of physical abuse of on-site contractors and property damage.

The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association.

Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans’ Bonus Extension Goes to Governor

A measure extending the deadline for Pennsylvania veterans to apply for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans’ Bonus received final legislative approval and was sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

House Bill 175 extends the application filing deadline for the program to August 31, 2018.

The bonus pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For personnel whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm, there is an additional $5,000 available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war may also be eligible for an additional $5,000. More information is available by clicking here.

Senate Votes to Give Firefighters “The Boot”

The Senate voted Wednesday in favor of giving local volunteer firefighters “the boot” – in a good way.

The Senate approved House Bill 138, legislation which would allow first responders — after getting local approval — to fundraise on local roadways, with programs such as those in which firefighters collect donations in a boot. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

The Senate sent four other bills to the House this week.

Senate Bill 751 prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

Senate Bill 857 provides new penalties for illegal household goods movers.

Senate Bill 931 amends Title 26 (Eminent Domain) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes regarding moving and related expenses of displaced persons, replacement housing for homeowners and replacement housing for tenants and others.

House Bill 1275 authorizes dentists from other states and countries to take clinical continuing education courses at Pennsylvania dental schools, and permits dentists from other countries to obtain restricted faculty licenses authorizing them to teach at dental schools in Pennsylvania. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Measure Strengthening Right-to-Know Law Sent to House

Legislation that will significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Senate Bill 411 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The measure strengthens the law for both requesters and agencies by simplifying the appeals process for requesters, giving the Office of Open Records much-needed flexibility in addressing complex appeals, and reducing the burden of requests from inmates.

Senate Bill 411 also establishes a new, reasonable fee structure for commercial requests and ensures that requests made to campus police departments receive the same treatment as requests to municipal police departments. The bill clarifies that entities such as economic development authorities and industrial development authorities are covered by the Right-to-Know Law.

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