Senator Elder Vogel, Jr. E-Newsletter

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Dear Friend,

I am pleased to present my electronic newsletter. These e-newsletters enable me to provide information about issues, events and activities in Harrisburg and around the 47th Senatorial District to you in a timely manner while saving postage costs.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatoreldervogel.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the page.

Sincerely,

Elder Vogel Jr.

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Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Opens For First Time

The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program was a measure I authored, to provide an incentive to landowners who lease or sell their land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers. Landowners will receive a one-time personal income tax credit for the sale or a multi-year lease of property. The legislation, Senate Bill 478 (Act 65 of 2019), requires all leases be enforced through written agreements and that the sale of property be for fair market value in order to qualify for the tax credit.

The facts clearly show the ‘graying’ of Pennsylvania’s farming industry. That is an issue that we need to quickly address as a state. I have heard throughout the state that the top hurdle facing new farmers is finding affordable farmland.

The tax credits provided under this new program will reward landowners who help new farmers get started. None of our neighboring states offer a similar tax credit program, so this is a great way to show the agriculture community that Pennsylvania is open for business.

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) , in coordination with the Departments of Agriculture and Revenue, will allocate up to $5 million in tax year 2020, and up to $6 million annually through the 2030 tax year, for credits of five percent of the lesser of the sale price of fair market value of the agricultural asset, up to $32,000; or 10 percent of the gross rental income of the first, second and third year of the rental agreement, up to $7,000 per year.

For every farmer under the age of 35 in Pennsylvania there are four farmers over the age of 65. Of the 7.7 million acres of farmland across Pennsylvania, 41 percent is managed by a farmer 55 years of age or older and 11 percent of that land is expected to transfer in the next five years.

Those statistics highlight the challenges that new farmers face when looking to start a farm of their own. A lot of people are talking about the crisis in the dairy industry and agriculture. This tax credit program provides a solution that will incentivize a new generation of farmers.

Beginning farmers must meet eligibility criteria. Applications for certification, which are evaluated by the Department of Agriculture, can be found on the department’s website, agriculture.pa.gov.

Applications for the tax credit can be filed at esa.dced.state.pa.us. Complete program guidelines, eligibility, and application instructions can be found on DCED’s website, dced.pa.gov.

Senate Approves Probation Reform

The Senate approved a bipartisan bill today to improve Pennsylvania’s probation system by addressing serious flaws that have trapped nonviolent offenders in a cycle of incarceration without improving public safety.

Senate Bill 14 would help to ensure the probation system ultimately serves as a pathway out of the criminal justice system. Under the bill, courts would have stronger guidelines and restrictions on imposing new sentences of incarceration on probationers.

Incarceration would be reserved for individuals convicted of new crimes and more serious technical violations. The bill also creates incentives for probationers to succeed through credits for good behavior, such as maintaining a job and performing community services.

Currently, technical violations that are not actual crimes – such as being late for an appointment, traveling out of state or being unable to pay fines and restitution – can lead to extensions of probation or prison time that far exceed the original sentence handed down at trial. The cost to incarcerate these individuals is far greater than the cost of supervision, resulting in wasted taxpayer dollars without any benefit in terms of public safety.

The bill also creates a mandatory probation review conference after three years for misdemeanor convictions or five years for felony convictions, with a presumption that probation will be terminated unless the individual does not qualify. The review could occur earlier based on the good conduct of probationers and on the achievement of educational, employment and other goals.

Helping Teachers Obtain Certification During COVID-19 Disruption

The State Senate has approved legislation that would assist recent teaching graduates who are attempting to navigate the state certification process, which was disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to enabling graduates to obtain certification, the additional flexibility will ensure schools are not faced with additional challenges in recruiting staff when reopening.

This legislation has been worked toward and necessary since before the pandemic. The COVID-19 emergency has made it abundantly clear how much we need our teachers, and we want to assist them in anyway we can. We are know this measure will make their important work easier as we delve into the intricacies of a new school year during a pandemic.

Senate Bill 1216 would assist teachers, recent graduates, undergraduate students and paraprofessionals when attempting to navigate the state required certification process by:

  • Allowing the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to issue a temporary certificate to individuals that have completed all of their teacher preparation requirements except their final assessment (i.e. praxis)
    • Allowing PDE to issue an exceptional case permit for current educators who are unable to take their assessment to move from an Instructional I certificate to an Instructional II certificate
    • Allowing PDE to issue a temporary certificate under limited circumstances for individuals who were seeking to add on a certification (physical education/health, cooperative education and special education are exempted). Individuals will have to provide proof to PDE that their assessment was cancelled
    • Waiving requirement for undergraduate sophomores to take the basic skills exam. This test is required for teacher preparation programs
    • Extending the deadline for paraprofessionals to satisfy staff development requirements

The flexible provisions would expire June 30, 2021.

Constitutional Amendment to Limit the Emergency Declaration Time Passes the Senate

The Senate voted in favor of a bipartisan bill this week that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to limit future emergency declarations and require legislative approval of any declaration lasting more than 21 days.

The bill would create three separate ballot questions: one to limit emergency declarations, another to clarify the General Assembly’s authority to terminate or extend a disaster declaration without the governor’s approval, and a third to ensure equality under the law and prevent discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, it does not need to be approved by the Governor. Instead, it must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being approved by voters via referendum. This referendum puts the power to implement this amendment in the hands of the voters of the 47th District and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

More information regarding the changes to our Senior Expo’s will be in our next e-newsletter. The dates for the events will be August 27th (Beaver County at CCBC) and September 3rd (Lawrence County). We will also be having a tele-townhall on August 24th.

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