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Senator Argall

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Toll Free: 1-877-327-4255

Harrisburg Office
Senate Box 203029
171 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3029
717-787-2637
717-783-8657 FAX

Email: dargall@pasen.gov

District Offices
 

One West Centre Street
P.O. Box 150
Mahanoy City, PA 17948
570-773-0891
570-773-1675 FAX

61 North Third Street
Hamburg, PA 19526-1501
610-562-3411
610-562-6895 FAX
(Shared with Representative
Jerry Knowles)

100 North Centre Street
Pottsville, PA 17901
570-621-3400
570-622-6629 FAX
(Shared with Representative Mike Tobash)

Spring Township
2850 Windmill Road
Spring Township, PA 19608
1-877-327-4255

237 West Broad Street
Tamaqua, PA 18252
570-668-1240
570-952-3374 FAX
(Shared with Representative
Jerry Knowles)

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In this email update:

  • Public Assistance Integrity Act passes the Senate
  • Telephone Town Hall on school property tax elimination/property tax elimination on the fall ballot!
  • Fighting blight in our communities
  • Bills passed by the Senate
  • Pennsylvania’s weak business climate
  • Tour of local recycling facility in Central PA
  • Making our highways safer for construction workers and motorists

Public Assistance Integrity Act passes the Senate 

On Monday the Senate passed Senate Bill 6, the Public Assistance Integrity Act, by a vote of 40-9. 

Senate Bill 6, which was introduced by Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York), seeks to eliminate welfare fraud by strengthening benefit eligibility criteria, limiting the use of access devices and increasing penalties for instances of willful fraud.  Some of the major components of the bill include:

  • Denying public assistance benefits for convicted criminals and deviants.
  • Closing loopholes in Pennsylvania’s Public Welfare Code (Act 21 of 1967).
  • Making sure that welfare benefits funded by taxpayers are spent appropriately.
  • Increasing penalties for individuals performing welfare fraud and deterring individuals from committing fraudulent activities. 

This initiative is similar to a bill I proposed with Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Cameron/Clearfield/Clinton/Elk/Jefferson/McKean/Potter/Tioga) during the 2013-14 legislative session which sought to strengthen the integrity of our public welfare system and ensure those with genuine need would continue to receive the assistance and resources for which they are eligible. 

Senate Bill 1379 addressed the following concerns as it relates to welfare assistance and fraud: lottery winnings; limit vehicle exemption; lost EBT card charges; and increased and standardized penalties for welfare fraud.


Telephone Town Hall on school property tax elimination

This past Tuesday evening I hosted a telephone town hall event with Senator Mike Folmer (R-Dauphin/Lebanon/York) to discuss school property elimination.

The school property tax is the #1 issue I hear about most from residents not only in Berks and Schuylkill Counties, but across Pennsylvania.  This tax is not only burdensome, outdated and unjust, but it places a huge financial challenge on current homeowners in Pennsylvania.

During this event – which reached more than 80,000 households – Senator Folmer and I highlighted the major components of Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act, provided updates and answered residents’ comment and concerns about this measure.

This week, our fight took another step forward.

The Senate recently passed House Bill 1285 which amends the PA Constitution to allow a local taxing authority to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of the homestead property receiving the exclusion. The goal of this legislation is to eliminate the school property tax for all homeowners. 

The initiative will be placed on the ballot for voters to decide this fall.  Stay tuned for further details!


Fighting blight in our communities 

Blight negatively affects many communities in Pennsylvania – both large and small.  Unfortunately, blight isn’t a problem that has one simple fix.  Over the past 10 years, with the bipartisan efforts of the Pennsylvania Blight Task Force, which is comprised of members from both the House and Senate, significant progress in the war against blight has come to fruition. 

Some of the new laws aimed at fighting blight include:

  • Act 135 of 2008 – allows for the appointment of a third party conservator through court action in order to rehab or demolish a property when the owner refuses or is unavailable to take care of the property.
  • Act 90 of 2010 – allows municipalities to collect costs related to code violations by filing judgements against property owners, not just liens against the properties, also allows municipalities to deny applications for municipal permits and licenses if the applicant is delinquent on taxes or other municipal charges or any property owned by the applicant is in serious violation of code and no substantial actions has been taken to abate the problem.  It also clarifies that municipalities may extradite property owners who live outside of Pennsylvania who are subject to municipal ordinance prosecutions.
  • Act 153 of 2012 – authorizes local, stand-alone entities – land banks – whose sole function is to acquire, manage and dispose of tax delinquent or abandoned properties with the goal of getting them back in to productive use.
  • Act 34 of 2015 – reduces the number of housing code convictions needed to criminally prosecute a property owner from four to two.
  • Act 152 of 2016 – gives counties the authority to apply a fee through the Recorder of Deeds office of up to $15 for each deed and mortgage recorded to be used for a demolition program in that respective county.

Blight is not a “one size fits all” problem so it is critical to have numerous strategies to tackle the problem.  If your community is not utilizing the above laws in the battle against blight, now is the time to speak up and ask “why not?”


Bills passed by the Senate 

The Senate was in session this past Saturday and Sunday to work on both fine-tuning the details of this year’s state budget and considering important pieces of legislation.  The Senate passed the following bills over the past few days: 

  • House Bill 1285 which amends the PA Constitution to provide more significant residential property tax reductions statewide, up to 100 percent.
  • House Bill 1431 which renames a highway honoring the late Robert E. Belfanti, Jr.
  • House Bill 1426 which allows trucks to continue to haul certain heavier loads during holiday periods, while keeping the current restriction regarding inclement weather.
  • Senate Bill 697 which provides for the capital budget for the Fiscal Year 2017-18.
  • Senate Bill 590 which revises the service charge permitted for collecting on a bad check.
  • Senate Bill 449 which provides for enhanced domestic violence protection.
  • Senate Bill 431 which increases fines for littering.
  • House Bill 422 which updates the vacancy procedures for First and Second Class Townships.
  • House Bill 59 which allows parents who adopt a child or children to appeal to the Department of Human Services the amount of an adoption subsidy provided by local authorities.
  • House Bill 97 which reforms the Charter School Law by making necessary improvements.
  • House Bill 1494 which amends the Conservation and Natural Resources Act.
  • Senate Bill 403 which changes the makeup of the Municipal Police Officers Education & Training Commission.
  • House Bill 290 which amends the 1989 Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to address a vacancy within the makeup of the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board. 

The Senate also passed the following bills this week: 

  • House Bill 785 which amends the Capital Facilities Debt Enabling Act.
  • Senate Bill 677 which establishes the Pennsylvania ABLE Savings Program Tax Exemption Act.
  • House Bill 176 which exempts roadside produce stands from the UCC.
  • Senate Bill 144 which amends the PA Sewage Facilities Act.
  • Senate Bill 289 which designates multiple bridges throughout Pennsylvania.
  • Senate Bill 527 which provides for the statutory creation of an independent Office of the Inspector General.
  • Senate Bill 553 which amends the Vehicle Code to make a variety of changes to the state’s current DUI laws.
  • Senate Bill 624 which amends the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act.

Pennsylvania’s weak business climate 

In a recent study conducted by WalletHub, the financial website ranked Pennsylvania one of the worst states in the country to establish a businesses, ranking the state in at 45. 

To reach this finding, WalletHub compared each of the 50 states using three important elements: 1) business environment – for example, average growth of business revenues; 2) access to resources – for example, higher education assets; and 3) business costs – for example, office space affordability.  

North Dakota was ranked the best state for starting a business, while New Jersey was ranked the worst state. 

Although Pennsylvania ranked towards the bottom in metrics such as numbers of entrepreneurs per capita (Pennsylvania ranked 49th), we did receive strong rankings in the areas of adoption of technology, availability of workers and availability of higher education. 

It is clear that, based on these findings we need to create incentives for businesses and employers to locate to Pennsylvania – which means tackling our corporate taxes and business structure and finding innovative ways to attract entrepreneurs to the Keystone State.

To add more salt to our wounds, Pennsylvania’s staggering property taxes certainly does not help us in achieving our goal of boosting our economy and creating more jobs.

Read more about the study here.


Tour of local recycling facility in Central PA 

This past Sunday, Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington), Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and I toured Senator Scott Wagner’s (R-York) recycling facility, Penn Waste in York. 

Visiting this recycling facility provided us with the opportunity to learn more about recycling programs in Pennsylvania, which was key as Senate Bill 431, which increases fines for littering, was being brought for a vote by the full Senate later that day. 

Pictured from left to right: Senator Laughlin and Senator Reschenthaler. 

As you can see from the picture below, Penn Waste recycles thousands of crushed aluminum cans!  As a Scout Leader who established an aluminum recycling effort many years ago in my hometown to help our local scouts to attend camp, I found this portion of our tour with Senator Wagner very interesting. 


Making our highways safer for construction workers and motorists

The Senate approved a joint legislative proposal I introduced with Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) which seeks to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities that have occurred on our highways due to reckless driving and speeding.

Senate Bill 172 would establish a three-year pilot program for PennDOT to utilize speed cameras in active work zones on limited access highways in order to examine whether or not the additional $100 fine motorists would incur if they commit a violation within the automated speed enforcement zone would compel them to slow down when entering and passing through a construction work zone.

Remaining fines collected during the three-year trial period would be distributed to the State Police, PennDOT, Turnpike Commission and Motor License Fund.

The goal of this legislation is to safeguard the men and women who work on repairing our roads and infrastructure in order to make them safer and more efficient for motorists.  In return, it is our duty and obligation to ensure that they have the ability to do so in a secure manner.

According to data from PennDOT, there were 2,075 crashes and 16 fatalities that occurred within work zones last year.

Senate Bill 172 will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

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