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In this email update:
Why I voted yes to place the question on property taxes on the November 7 ballot
A reminder that this coming Tuesday, November 7, Pennsylvania voters will have the opportunity to consider a proposed constitutional amendment to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation to eliminate homeowners’ property taxes.
Currently, the state Constitution only allows up to “one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property within the taxing district” to be exempt from taxation.
As the #1 issue I hear about most from residents in not only Berks and Schuylkill Counties, but across Pennsylvania, this constitutional amendment provides an additional opportunity for the legislature to move away from an outdated 1830’s school property tax system that has created funding disparities in our public schools, increased blight, and threatened the American dream of homeownership, all across Pennsylvania, in our communities small and large.
The question which will appear on Tuesday’s ballot states:
I voted to approve this referendum question in the Senate which passed by an overwhelming majority of all Senators, Republican and Democrat.
Welfare reforms vetoed by the governor
As a follow-up to last week’s story regarding the governor’s recent veto of welfare reform measures in House Bill 59, some of you have asked for more information which I have highlighted below.
House Bill 59 established a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Under this measure, able-bodied recipients would be required to either work 20 hours per week, search for employment, or train for work in order to be eligible to receive Medicaid.
Children, pregnant women, seniors and individuals with disabilities would have been exempted from this requirement. Work requirements are already required for individuals receiving food stamps and cash assistance programs.
The goal of this requirement was to reduce costs in the long-term by encouraging recipients to find employment and become self-sufficient, rather than continue to rely upon the taxpayer. This has been the case in other states which have enacted this requirement.
It is extremely disappointing that the governor chose to veto this legislation which would reduce fraud and save taxpayers money.
Many local employers tell me that they often have difficulty finding workers. I am hopeful that this measure can be adopted in the future so that we can enhance our job climate and help more individuals become productive, self-sufficient members of society.
Several years ago, when I stood with Governor Schweiker to announce the creation of the LCCC Morgan Center in Tamaqua, our community dared to dream that students would take advantage of this local resource. Through a good deal of hard work and personal sacrifice, many local students are now helping to turn that dream into a reality.
More jobs, more people working, better education and training – that should be our model for the future, not more welfare costs!
It is important to note that the governor’s veto of the Human Services Code was not the first time he struck down an important welfare reform initiative.
Last October, the governor vetoed House Bill 1618. The goal of this legislation was to assist the Inspector General to do more in detecting, preventing and eliminating fraud, waste and abuse in state government – including our welfare systems.
Public hearing on changes to the way the lieutenant governor is elected
Given the troublesome relationship between our current governor and lieutenant governor, I introduced Senate Bill 761 this past June which would amend the state’s constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate after the primary election – subject to the approval of their state committees – which is a similar process to how presidential candidates select their vice presidential running mates.
On Tuesday, November 14, a public hearing will be held to discuss this legislation in greater detail. The hearing will be held at the State Capitol in Harrisburg in Hearing Room #1 of the North Office Building from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.
During this hearing, attendees will also get to hear from several of Pennsylvania’s former lieutenant governors and receive their input on the role of lieutenant governor and potential changes that should be made to best serve Pennsylvania’s citizens.
Both the governor and lieutenant governor have stated to various media sources that they, in fact, go weeks without speaking to one another. This is not only embarrassing, but unacceptable behavior. Pennsylvania’s citizens deserve to have their #1 and #2 members of the executive branch communicate and function together.
Telephone Town Hall meeting on school property tax elimination
On Monday evening, I joined Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton) for a telephone town hall event to discuss school property tax elimination and the constitutional amendment regarding property taxes that will appear on Tuesday’s ballot.
During this hour-long event, residents called in and asked us questions about school property tax elimination, as well as the direct impact the constitutional amendment could have on our efforts to finally get rid of this burdensome tax once and for all.
Thanks to all those who tuned-in!.
Speaking with the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society
This past Thursday, I attended the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society’s (POS) advocacy session to discuss an issue that directly affects not only the orthopaedic community, but the entire medical community – Act 146 of 2016, which bans, under various circumstances, retroactive denial of reimbursement by insurers to healthcare providers.
I have worked with the POS (who led the charge on this important issue) and many other medical organizations, as well as my colleagues in the legislature to advocate for this type of initiative.
Under this law, an insurer is prohibited from retroactively denying reimbursement more than 24 months after the date the insurer initially paid the healthcare provider. The law also requires an insurer who retroactively denies reimbursement to a healthcare provider to give the healthcare provider a written statement which specifies the basis for the denial
Tyson Foods expansion groundbreaking ceremony at Highridge
The expansion of this distribution center will not only create more local jobs for residents, but enhance the operations and mission of the company in providing quality goods to citizens here in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
Read more about the expansion here.
Touring the Ontelaunee Energy Center
On Friday, I toured the Ontelaunee Energy Center in Ontelaunee Township.
During the tour, I got to see firsthand the operations and workings of this power plant which provides electricity to thousands of homes, businesses and industries
Video competition to combat growing heroin/opioid problem in Pennsylvania
I am encouraging middle and high school students in Berks and Schuylkill Counties to help find solutions to the growing heroin and opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities across the state by producing a video aimed at raising greater awareness about the crisis.
“Talk to Your State Senator,” a statewide video competition sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania, with support from members of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Association of PA, is intended to get students involved in legislative efforts to fight heroin and opioid abuse. Students are encouraged to submit video entries no longer than five minutes which highlight ways to combat abuse, help those who suffer from addiction and develop laws to address this current problem.
By enlisting the help of young people in our schools who have witnessed first-hand, the negative impact that drugs can have on individuals, we can tackle this problem head-on!
For more information about the video contest, click here.
Recognizing our friends and neighbors
As a reminder, I am asking that residents in the 29th Senate district in Berks and Schuylkill Counties nominate their friends and neighbors who have made a positive impact on their communities.
When submitting your nominations, please provide the following information:
In my e-newsletter, I will periodically feature individuals and groups who have been nominated for their public service.
I look forward to reading about your friends and neighbors who are improving our local communities every day!
Simplify emergency planning with checklists
Given the series of natural disasters we have witnessed over the past couple of months, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to prepare for possible emergencies according to the PA Emergency Management Agency.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide provides numerous checklists for simple preparations:
Before the next emergency, let ReadyPA help you prepare to weather the storm during and after an emergency with a minimum of three days of supplies. Extra precaution is encouraged with regard to medicine with recommendations for at least a one week supply. Each family member should have a completed “ Emergency Plan - Important Medical Information” card (see p. 23) to include contact numbers, special needs, medications, and allergies.