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In this Email Update:
The Senate approved legislation I sponsored last Tuesday to give counties a new option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties.
Senate Bill 486 would give counties the option to levy up to an additional $15 fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county.
Blight is not the kind of problem that can be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. Every community faces its own unique challenges in dealing with the cost of remediating abandoned and blighted structures.
SB 486 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Read more about my proposal here.
The hearing featured several leaders in the anthracite industry. You can read complete testimony from Thursday’s hearing here.
On Wednesday, the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce recognized outstanding men, women and organizations for their contributions to the business community.
Congratulations to Business Woman of the Year – Eileen Kuperavage; Business Man of the Year – Brian Rich; For-Profit Organization of the Year – Alfred Benesch & Company; Non-Profit Organization of the Year – Schuylkill County Municipal Authority; and Entrepreneur of the Year – Greg Header of Solar Innovations. Congratulations to all and thank you for making our communities better and Schuylkill County stronger!
I recently joined Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards to announce the start of the state’s Rapid Bridge Replacement Program. Northeast Prestressed Products in Cressona will help the state replace over 4,200 bridges deemed structurally deficient. On my drive in for the announcement, I had to wait for a truck hauling a bridge beam in order to access the parking lot. It’s a great sign – it means that Pennsylvanians will have safer roads, safer bridges and new jobs.
Read more about the program here.
The Senate approved and sent to the governor this past Tuesday legislation that would provide essential protection of consumers’ rights and personal information with regard to navigators and certified application counselors created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”.
Senate Bill 293, also known as the Navigator Accessibility and Regulation Act, would require Healthcare Exchange Navigators be certified by the Department of Insurance and pass a criminal background check. The Senate concurred on House amendments to the measure and sent it on to Governor Wolf.
The federal Affordable Care Act relies on individuals, generally called “navigators,” to educate and enroll millions of uninsured Americans in Medicaid or a private insurance plan. Although in many respects these navigators act like insurance agents, they have almost no qualifications or restrictions placed upon them by the federal statute.
Also sent to the governor for enactment was House Bill 341, legislation that requires that property disclosure statements provide notification of any sinkholes, the location and condition of defined stormwater facilities, and whether the purchaser is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the stormwater facilities.
Other bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House last week include:
House Bill 188, which amends the Agricultural Area Security Law to provide for wind power generation systems on preserved farmland. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Senate Bill 329, which codifies the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, a new scholarship program administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
Senate Bill 396, which reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council for a term of four years. The council, otherwise known as PHC4, expired on June 30, 2014 and is currently performing operations under an executive order from the Governor. PHC4 is an independent state agency that strives to give consumers, purchasers and providers quality comparative data for the purpose of making informed health care decisions. It has been in existence since 1986.
Senate Bill 513, which allows the vehicular transportation of leachate discharged from a municipal or private landfill's collection and handling system.
Senate Bill 5388, which strengthens licensee suspension reporting requirements for the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ 29 licensing boards.
On Thursday, more than one hundred people came to Hawk Mountain Scout Reservation in Schuylkill Haven for the Boy Scouts’ Service to Youth Breakfast. During the breakfast, I was reunited with two of my own Cub Scout Leaders from the 1960’s: Jean and Carl Hafer, who were recognized for their many years of service to Scouting and our local community. It was great to catch up with them at the event! My message to the Hafers and all who attended: signing me up for the Scouting program was one of the best decisions my parents ever made!
The Senate considered several cabinet nominations last week.
Last Monday, the Senate confirmed the nomination of John Wetzel as Secretary of Corrections and voted 26-22 to not confirm the nomination of Marcus Brown to serve as State Police Commissioner.
Many current and retired State Troopers in Berks and Schuylkill Counties reached out to me voicing their concerns with the governor’s choice to serve as the next Commissioner. In light of the overwhelming number of objections to his nomination, Marcus Brown removed his name from consideration for State Police Commissioner.
On Saturday, June 6, Shoemakersville celebrated their 250th anniversary. I joined Congressman Charlie Dent and Rep. Jerry Knowles to present a congratulatory citation to Councilman Chris Kline to commemorate the milestone. Read more about the celebrations here.
View my photo gallery here.
Senate Finance Committee studies plans to increase income and sales taxes, including Property Tax Independence Act
The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on various proposals to increase income and sales taxes. One of the testifiers during the hearing included Jim Rodkey, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations. Jim made several great points as to why Pennsylvania needs to eliminate school property taxes.
Jim eloquently summed up the issue in three sentences regarding why legislators and taxpayers should support the Property Tax Independence Act by stating, “We aren’t asking to be excused from paying taxes to provide for education. We aren’t even asking for exemptions. We are asking for a system of education funding that becomes everyone’s responsibility in this state and there is only one bill that does this in a uniform manner across the board.”
You can watch the hearing in its entirety and review testimony here.
Increasing school property taxes continues to be the number one issue I hear about. If Senate Bill 76, the school property tax elimination legislation I am introducing on behalf of more than 80 local taxpayer groups becomes law, it would be a major change in how we fund our school districts. For example: If SB 76 were now law, the recently-approved Lehighton Area School District $6.3 million new artificial turf football stadium could still be built – but only with the approval of the local voters in a referendum.
On June 9, I had the honor of introducing Berks County residents Lindsay Schroeder and Isaac Mengel on the floor of the Senate of Pennsylvania. Lindsay is the Pennsylvania Grange Female Youth Ambassador and Isaac is the Pennsylvania Junior Grange Prince. Watch my introduction of Lindsay and Isaac here.