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In this email update:
Fighting welfare fraud
The Senate recently passed Senate Bill 527, which would create an independent Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The bill, which was introduced by Senator Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), seeks to create an independent Office of the Inspector General so that they can independently detect fraud, waste and abuse in state government.
Last session, the legislature passed a similar proposal that was vetoed by Governor Wolf.
Similar to this initiative of reforming the OIG, I introduced Senate Bill 425, which would increase the number of welfare fraud investigators within the office. By increasing the number of welfare fraud investigators, the office can increase its efforts to combat welfare fraud and abuse and assist caseworkers with questionable applications and address tips from the public.
The bill is currently under review in the Senate State Government Committee.
Congressman Lloyd Smucker visits Harrisburg
On Tuesday morning, Congressman Lloyd Smucker visited the State Capitol. Congressman Smucker represents the 16th Congressional District, which covers portions of Berks, Lancaster and Chester counties.
Congressman Smucker provided us with the latest updates on what is happening in Washington, DC, including the Trump Administration’s new initiatives, efforts to repeal Obamacare and the latest news on tax reforms at the federal level.
The Property Tax Independence Act reintroduced
On Monday, I joined several of my colleagues in the Senate to reintroduce Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act, to eliminate the school district property tax.
Senate Bill 76, which was drafted by more than 80 grassroots taxpayer groups from across the state, would replace the revenue generated by the property tax for public schools with an increase to the Personal Income Tax rate from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent and an increase in the Sales and Use Tax from 6 to 7 percent. The tax would also be expanded to cover more goods and services that are currently exempt.
The bill has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate, with 8 prime sponsors (4 Republican Senators and 4 Democratic Senators) and 12 additional cosponsors.
Senate Bill 76 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
This initiative was last voted on November 23, 2015, when the lieutenant governor broke the 24-24 tie to vote against the measure.
Read more about the initiative from the Reading Eagle here.
Town Hall event on school property tax reform
On Thursday evening, Senators Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton) and Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton) and I will hold a bipartisan town hall meeting on school property tax elimination at Pocono Mountain East High School in Swiftwater.
During this town hall, attendees will listen to testimony from several stakeholders on proposals to eliminate the school property tax and provide much-needed relief for Pennsylvania’s homeowners. Local residents will also have the opportunity to ask questions at the meeting.
The event will feature a presentation from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, the statewide grassroots organization responsible for spearheading the creation of Senate Bill 76, as well as a discussion on other potential property tax reforms such as a school property tax freeze for senior citizens.
Public Assistance Integrity Act passes Senate Health & Human Services Committee
The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved Senate Bill 6, which I co-sponsored, on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 6, which was introduced by Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York), seeks to eradicate waste, fraud, and abuse within Pennsylvania’s human services systems.
Combating welfare fraud in Pennsylvania is critical not only to ensure the integrity of our public assistance programs, but also to ensure that individuals who need benefits receive them, while those who are cheating the system are penalized.
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate passed the following bills this week:
Senate Bill 553 which provides for chemical testing and other measures related to driving after imbibing alcohol or using drugs.
Senate Bill 592 which gives taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees.
Senate Bill 180 which updates and revises state law relating to organ and tissue donations.
Senate Bill 741 which addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.
Senate Bill 144 which amends Act 537 (Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act) to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes.
Senate Bill 178 which updates and modernizes the state History Code.
Senate Bill 242 which transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Senate Bill 446 which provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.
Senate Bill 639 which amends the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Act to allow municipalities or municipal authorities to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PENNVEST funding applications under certain conditions.
Senate Bill 656 which allows municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety.
Comprehensive animal welfare package heads to the governor’s desk
The Senate unanimously passed House Bill 1238 on Tuesday which strengthens existing animal abuse laws and makes it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal.
The re-write of Pennsylvania’s animal abuse laws is based in part on a bill introduced by Senator Richard Alloway (R-Adams/Cumberland/Franklin/York) last year in response to the story of Libre, a Boston terrier puppy who was rescued last year from a Lancaster County farm after suffering from weeks of severe neglect.
The bill is headed to the governor’s desk for his signature and enactment into law.
Here I am pictured with Libre, who has been a true advocate and leader for his animal friends!
Bills sent to the governor
The following bills were sent to the governor this week:
Senate Bill 8 reforms state law regarding the seizure and forfeiture of property.
House Bill 168 makes it a crime for anyone to fraudulently present themselves as a soldier or a veteran of any branch of the armed forces, or to be the recipient of a service medal or other military decoration.
House Bill 217 amends the Crimes Code concerning endangering the welfare of children.
Pottsville meetings with DCED Secretary
Last week, Representatives Tobash and Goodman and I joined the Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, Dennis Davin, for several meetings in Pottsville.
In our ongoing efforts to revitalize our communities and attract more businesses to the area, this was a good opportunity for Secretary Davin to witness firsthand the many important businesses the Pottsville community currently has – and could have – in the future.
During these meetings, we reviewed the efforts of the Pottsville Area Development Corporation, Pottsville Business Association, and the City of Pottsville related to revitalization efforts planned for the downtown. This was a good opportunity for us to hear residents’ thoughts about local attractions, restaurants, hotel and businesses to create additional jobs, generate revenue and improve property values in the community.
Meet Matthew Thomas, college intern
Matthew Thomas is currently interning in my Harrisburg office this summer. A native of Orwigsburg, Matthew is currently a student at Penn State Berks where he is studying international politics.
Matthew attended Blue Mountain High School where he participated in my Senator for a Day Program and was a member of the National Honor Society, Foreign Language Honor Society, English Honor Society and Social Studies Honor Society.
During his free time, Matthew likes to play basketball and golf and spend time with his family and friends.
One of the highlights so far during his internship in Harrisburg was when he met former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge in the halls of the State Capitol:
REAL ID extension
The Department of Homeland Security recently notified PennDOT that the state has been granted a REAL ID enforcement extension through October 10, 2017.
This extension allows Pennsylvanians to enter federal facilities without experiencing any access issues through October 10.
PennDOT estimates that the REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards will be available at the choice of residents in 2019.
For more information about the REAL ID program, click here.
The Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, June 26 at 11 a.m. You can watch session live and view the voting calendar on my website.