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In this email update:
PA Supreme Court opens education funding lawsuit
The battle over whether or not fair and equal funding is provided to each and every one of Pennsylvania’s school districts is a critical debate that has recently resurfaced in the legal realm.
The PA Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of reinstating a lawsuit filed by a number of school districts against state officials regarding education funding disparities in our schools.
The William Penn School District et al. v. the Pennsylvania Department of Education et al. case focuses on equal protection and the education clause in the Constitution. The court will be responsible for determining whether the state’s education funding formula is unjust and in violation of the education clause laid out in the Constitution.
Finding a more equitable way to fund our public schools is not a new concept, which is why I have constantly stated that completely eliminating the school property tax is a win-win situation not only for taxpayers, but also for our schools.
Eliminating property taxes
In recent weeks, I have been discussing the homestead exclusion expansion question that will be appearing on the ballot at the upcoming November election. Specifically, Pennsylvania voters will be asked to consider a proposed constitutional amendment to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation to expand the homestead exclusion to exclude up to 100 percent of the assessed value of a homestead property.
The sources of replacement revenue for the future changes will ultimately depend on the legislation adopted by the General Assembly. Completely eliminating the outdated, burdensome school property tax is my #1 goal, and I am certain that when this referendum passes, it will help us garner the votes that we need in the House and Senate to finally amend and pass Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act.
Pennsylvania residents pay nearly $14 billion in school property taxes a year! This startling figure is a clear indication that something needs to be done immediately.
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published an article which outlines what would potentially happen if Pennsylvania voters approved this referendum, as well as why certain lawmakers, including myself, are pushing for changes to our current property tax system. You can read the full article here.
In a recent interview I did with PennLive, I also discussed the potential impact that President Trump’s tax reform plan could have on our efforts to reform our current property tax system.
You can read the full article from PennLive here.
Stay tuned for more information about this constitutional amendment over the next coming weeks!
37th Annual Pennsylvania Aviation Conference in Greensburg
Last Thursday, I attended the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania’s 37th Annual Pennsylvania Aviation Conference which was hosted by the Arnold Palmer Airport in Greensburg.
During this conference, I provided everyone with an update on the state budget, as well as other state-related issues impacting the aviation industry.
During my remarks, I noted the successful efforts of the Senate Aviation Caucus, which I chair, in reforming the state’s tax policy through the implementation of Act 52 which helped bring us up to par with other states in the northeast.
As you can remember, Governor Wolf’s budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2017-18 sought to repeal Act 52 which would hurt the aviation industry and our communities by crippling our economy and weakening our ability to create family-sustaining jobs.
It is critical that we continue to highlight the significant impact that the aviation industry has made on our state and advance this industry in order to remain competitive, create more jobs and enhance our economic development in Pennsylvania for years to come.
A few years ago, local airport officials in Berks and Schuylkill counties presented me with this interesting fact: the average individual working in the aviation industry earns $50,000 annually!
Bills passed by the Senate
In addition to the ongoing discussions on the state budget, the Senate passed the following bills this week:
Senate Bill 530 which would update the licensure requirements and scope of practice for clinical social work.
Senate Bill 564 which would require PennDOT to include protective fencing during the renovation and construction of bridges over Interstate highways.
House Bill 45 which would allow eligible patients with a terminal illness to use investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved by the FDA.
House Bill 103 which designates a bridge on State Route 980 over the Chartiers Creek in Canonsburg Borough, Washington County, as the Officer Scott L. Bashioum Memorial Bridge.
House Bill 409 which reforms the Uniform Construction Code adoption process.
Celebrating Manufacturing Week in Pennsylvania
This week in Pennsylvania, we celebrated Manufacturing Week to recognize the critical role that the manufacturing industry plays in the development and growth of our economy.
Berks and Schuylkill Counties are home to many manufacturing companies that have revitalized our communities and created thousands of family-sustaining jobs.
Looking at figures gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly 110,000 manufacturing jobs were lost from 2007 to 2017 nationwide. This staggering number is certainly cause for alarm, given the country’s current economic climate with regards to job creation.
By supporting our manufacturing industry, we can help our communities remain business competitive and economically sound for generations to come.
During a recent episode of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association’s PMA Perspective, the association’s president, David Taylor, interviewed Andi Funk, the CEO of Cambridge-Lee Industries regarding the new copper tube manufacturing plant that is located in Reading.
You can watch the interview here.
Bethany Children’s Home Tribute Breakfast
This past Friday, I attended the Bethany Children’s Home Tribute Breakfast in Reading.
Since its establishment in Womelsdorf in 1863, Bethany Children’s Home has been committed to helping families and children who have experienced trauma in their lives.
The tribute breakfast recognizes local residents who have dedicated their time and effort towards serving their fellow citizens and making their community a better place.
The event’s honorees were Mr. Peter Connors and Judge Peter and Mrs. Susie Schmehl.
You can read more about Bethany Children’s Home here.
“Talk to Your Senator” statewide video contest launched to fight growing drug epidemic
I am encouraging middle and high school students in Berks and Schuylkill Counties to help us tackle the growing heroin and opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania by producing a video that seeks to raise 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.
The legislature has been actively seeking input on how we can combat this health crisis that is quickly growing in our communities at an alarming rate. We want to enlist the help of young people in our schools who have witnessed first-hand, the negative impact that drugs can have on individuals.
This video contest provides students with the opportunity to hone their creativity in raising awareness, as well as assisting us with crafting policy and legislation to combat drug abuse.
“Talk to Your Senator” is open to Pennsylvania students in grades 6 through 12 and will provide a total of $10,000 in cash prizes to winning entries that focus on ways to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young people. Prize money will be awarded through the TAP 529 Account program in the PA Department of Treasury and will be deposited into a college savings account in the winner(s) name. Videos will be judged based on creativity, content and effectiveness of message delivery.
Schools and students can find more information on the contest, including guidelines on submitting videos, content, judging, and prizes at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com, a website established by the Pennsylvania Senate as a tool to provide information and resources on the heroin and opioid crisis.
Entries must be submitted using the registration form available online at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com/talk-to-your-state-senator/. The deadline for video entries is December 10, 2017.
Listen to my audio clip about the initiative here.
Reminder: recognize your friends and neighbors
I look forward to reading your submissions!