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The largest indoor agricultural exposition in the nation, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and countless delicious food vendors was held from Jan. 10 – 17. The 99th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show was a great success and fun for the whole family.
Committee Assignments Announced
I will serve as a member of five Senate Committees in addition to my chairmanship of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee for the 2015-16 Legislative Session. I will serve on the Appropriations, Banking & Insurance, Communications & Technology, Environmental Resources & Energy, and Local Government committees.
My committee assignments cover a wide ranges of issues that could have a direct impact on the lives of the people of western Pennsylvania. The Appropriations Committee is especially important since it is the panel within the Senate that works most closely with the state budget each year and reviews all bills that involve state spending. That is going to be critical as we face a potential $2 billion structural deficit for the coming year.
Also important for our region, especially with the development of the Marcellus Shale industry, is the work of the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee. That committee will be tasked with reviewing many of the proposals from the Wolf Administration in regards to Marcellus Shale and other environmental regulations that could impact jobs and the quality of life for local residents.
Senate Approves Oil and Gas Lease Protection Bills
The Senate approved two bills last Wednesday aimed at expanding the rights of landowners who currently hold leases with natural gas companies.
Senate Bill 147 would expand the Oil and Gas Lease Act by allowing royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments. The bill also requires all royalty payments to be made within 60 days of production unless otherwise stated in the contract. Any delinquent payments would be paid with interest.
Senate Bill 148 would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against any royalty interest owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property because the owner questions the accuracy of royalty payments. Companies violating the provisions of this bill would face civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day.
The bills are now before the House of Representatives for consideration.
Committee Approves Age Exemption for Jury Duty
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure on Thursday that would provide an age exemption from jury duty.
Senate Bill 210 would exempt those persons 75 years of age or older who wish to be excused from jury duty. At least 26 states exempt elderly persons from serving on juries. Generally, states have set the age qualifying for the exemption at 65, 70 or 75. For example, in West Virginia the age is 65, in Maryland the age is 70, and in New Jersey the age is 75.
Department of Revenue Opens Personal Income Tax Filing Season
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is offering assistance online and by telephone to help residents file their personal income tax returns.
All taxpayers who received more than $33 in total gross taxable income in calendar year 2014 must file Pennsylvania personal income tax returns by midnight, Wednesday, April 15. Tax forms and instructions are available at www.revenue.pa.gov.
Personal income tax assistance is available through the department’s Online Customer Service Center at www.revenue.pa.gov and by calling (717) 787-8201 between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
PA Free File software allows taxpayers with federal adjusted gross incomes of $60,000 or less to file state and federal personal income tax returns simultaneously for free through a safe and convenient electronic filing platform available at www.pafreefile.com.
The software is available through reputable vendors approved to prepare state
and federal filings at no cost to taxpayers or the commonwealth. Free offers
vary by vendor, and details of each free offer and a link to each vendor’s free
filing product will be available at
Applications Now Accepted for Park/Recreational Grants
Applications are now being accepted for a state grant program that promotes the rehabilitation and development of parks and recreation facilities. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is now accepting applications for grants under the 2015 Community Conservation Partnerships Program.
The application period for the upcoming round of C2P2 grants is open until April 16. More information and grant applications are available here. Pre-application workshops and webinars will be held across the state beginning in late January.
Over the past 20 years the C2P2 program has funded more than 4,000 projects that have helped plan, acquire, and develop parks, recreation facilities, trails, and conserved critical conservation areas and watersheds; supported education and training on conservation and recreation topics; and built conservation, heritage, and recreation partnerships.
DMVA Offers Grants to Support PTSD Programs
The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is accepting applications for up to $750,000 in competitive grants for programs providing treatment of Pennsylvania veterans for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse.
Veterans’ service organizations and statewide charitable organizations that serve veterans are eligible to apply for the funding. More information and the application are available by clicking here. Applications must be received by 3 p.m., Friday, February 13, 2015.
Guard Against Utility Imposters
You hear about it all too often in the news: An unsuspecting homeowner victimized by thieves posing as utility company workers to gain entry and rob the house. You can prevent utility imposters from targeting you by taking precautions to protect yourself.
Individuals claiming to represent the “water company” or another utility will approach the resident and use a variety of excuses to enter the home. For example, they are supposedly investigating a “dirty water” complaint by a neighbor or checking water pressure due to a main break nearby. Once inside the home, the imposters typically divert the resident’s attention by sending him/her to the basement or kitchen to run a faucet while they or an accomplice robs another area of the home.
First, it is extremely rare for water company personnel to show up at a customer’s home without an appointment. However, if a utility worker comes to your door and you are not expecting them, DO NOT let them inside without proper identification.
Don’t be afraid to ask for photo ID, and take the time to examine the ID badge whenever someone from a utility company arrives at your home. If you are still unsure and have any suspicions about the individual’s identity, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Please share this advice with family and friends, particularly seniors who often fall prey to these thieves.
Free FAFSA Completion Sessions
The PA Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is offering free FAFSA Completion Sessions throughout the Commonwealth through April. The sessions inform students and families about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), with hands-on access to guidance from PHEAA’s Higher Education Access Partners and college financial aid administrators. You can find a session here.
LIHEAP Accepting Applications
Reminder: The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is accepting applications for heating assistance. LIHEAP offers assistance in the form of a cash grant sent directly to the utility company, or a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of being without heat. For more information, click here.
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I have a Twitter account to better connect with my constituents and provide daily updates on my voting record, whereabouts, state government, and local news affecting the 47 S.D. To access my Twitter page, click here.
Please contact me to provide input on any state-related matter, or to
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Senate Box 203047