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Fiscal Code Enacted into Law
I am thankful that the Governor has allowed the 2015-16 budget Fiscal Code to become law. As a result, schools in Beaver, Lawrence, and Butler Counties will not have their funding cut and they will receive the full increase allotted to them by the bipartisan, fair funding formula developed by the Basic Education Funding Commission. In addition to the increase in Basic Education Funding, the Fiscal Code authorizes over $350 million in PlanCon reimbursements owed to school districts for construction projects. I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature on the 2016-17 budget in the very near future.
Medical Marijuana Legislation Signed Into Law
After months of hearings, debates, and compromises on both sides of the argument, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Senate Bill 3, bipartisan legislation authorizing a tightly-regulated Medical Marijuana program in Pennsylvania. Over the past few months, I’ve heard an overwhelming outpouring of support for this bill from my constituents. I’ve met with children suffering debilitating diseases and the parents that are desperate for a cure to alleviate their child’s suffering.
Tax-Free Savings Plan for Individuals w/ Disabilities Signed into Law
I voted for, the Senate approved, and the Governor signed into law legislation providing for a state Treasury administered 529-ABLE Plan account to encourage families to set aside funds for future costs related to the disability of the beneficiary, much like ourPA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan.
Act 17 of 2016 will alleviate some of the financial challenges faced by families raising and caring for those with disabilities by allowing families to continue to receive essential services while also planning for their financial future. Setting aside money to overcome barriers or for protection against serious setbacks would be encouraged instead of being penalized via these accounts.
Senate Approves Resolution to Review Corrections Department Overtime
I voted for and the Senate approved a Resolution authorizing an official study of mandatory overtime in the Department of Corrections. Senate Resolution 263 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review costs associated with mandatory overtime for corrections officers versus the costs to hire, train and equip additional corrections officers.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel testified at a Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing that overtime costs for his department amount to approximately $90 million annually. The Department of Corrections receives the third largest state appropriation from the General Fund and its overtime costs have outpaced all other state agencies from 2010 through 2014.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice recently held a hearing on this and other issues within the Department of Corrections.Click here to watch the hearing.
Senate Holds Hearing on Job Creation and Economic Development
I recently participated in a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing reviewing the burdensome permitting process in Pennsylvania and exploring different ways to incentivize job creation and investment in Pennsylvania.
Testimony and recommendations from a number of state offices and organizations regarding our regulatory climate and permitting process was presented. Testifiers included representatives from the PA Economic Development Association (PEDA), the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Pennsylvania Business Council.
Particular attention was paid to the permitting process. I have heard from many constituents in the district that want to build in Pennsylvania and create jobs here, but continuously run into roadblocks erected by state government regulatory agencies. This especially hurts small businesses and new entrepreneurs that can’t afford to pay for the legal staff to make sure the business is in compliance with regulations, whether it’s local, state, or federal. Click here to watch video of my comments during the hearing.
Pennsylvania cannot afford to continue to lose out on jobs and economic development to other states and countries. From the testimony gathered at this hearing, it is apparent to me that the myriad permits, bureaucracy, and regulations on business is impeding economic development in Pennsylvania. I’ve recently introduced legislation to streamline the DEP permitting process and make it much more business-friendly and navigable. Click here to read more about Senate Bill 1092.
Marcellus Shale Impact Fee Grants
The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) is currently accepting applications for grants funded by the Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund. The deadline for applications is June 30 and will be considered at the September 2016 CFA Board meeting.
For more information and instructions on how to apply, visit the Act 13 Programs webpage.
Be Aware of Identify Theft Scams
As part of Financial Education Month, Pennsylvania senior citizens are urged to be on guard for identity theft and tax-related scams. Family, friends and caregivers are encouraged to remind the older adults in their lives not to give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the internet unless they initiate contact and are absolutely certain of the recipient. Here are some tips to identify potential scams:http://www.media.pa.gov/Pages/Revenue-Details.aspx?newsid=158
2 New Publications on Blight and Land Banks
The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania recently released two publications on blight and land banks: “ We Can DO This: A Five-Step, Fast-Track Blight Plan,” and "The Pennsylvania Land Bank Resource Guide.” These two reports are a follow up to the "From Blight to Bright" Toolkit, a data-driven manual that identifies key strategies to eradicate the harmful effects abandoned, blighted properties have on communities. The two new reports explain a process for vetting strategies locally and also how to effectively utilize land banks as one of those strategies
Both publications are available as e-books at www.PABlightLibrary.com
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