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In this email update:
Governor fails to recognize Pennsylvania residents’ need for school property tax elimination
Last Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters approved a constitutional amendment on property taxes which appeared on the November 7 ballot by a vote of 958,607 to 817,144 (54 percent to 46 percent).
The governor, who is elected to serve and represent the best interests of Pennsylvania’s citizens, voted against this measure which permits the General Assembly, for the first time ever, to enact legislation to expand the homestead exclusion up to 100 percent.
I am disappointed that the governor fails to see the importance and urgency of eliminating the #1 issue I hear about most from residents across Pennsylvania: the school property tax. Perhaps if enough people contact his office, he will change his position on this vital issue yet again.
You can contact the governor to voice your support for school property tax elimination here.
As the map indicates, Berks County (77 percent approval) and Schuylkill County (69 percent approval) were two of the strongest supporters of the referendum in the entire state.
With the approval of this referendum, we now have several more options in the Senate to move school property tax elimination forward that we did not possess before the election. I will soon meet with the grassroots advocacy groups that are pushing for school property tax elimination to select our best options.
Then my strongest Senate allies and I will meet with every single senator and ask each of them, “Which one do you support?” The proposals that obtain the most votes will be the ones that we will vote on the floor of the Senate.
According to PoliticsPA, the recent election results on this referendum was a win for Senate Bill 76 supporters:
Based on the results from Tuesday’s election, we have a strong mandate to move forward, winning 56 of 67 counties.
Read more about the referendum results from The Reading Eagle here.
Public hearing on reforming the lieutenant governor election process
On Tuesday, the Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing at the State Capitol on Senate Bill 761 which would amend the state’s constitution to allow gubernatorial candidates to select their running mate after the primary election – a similar process to how presidential candidates already select their vice presidential running mates.
Given the tumultuous relationship between our current governor and lieutenant governor, where they have both admitted going weeks at a time without communicating with one another, Pennsylvania’s citizens simply deserve better. The top two leaders of our executive branch need to work on a shared vision in order to best serve the needs of Pennsylvania’s residents.
Headline: The Reading Eagle
During the hearing, former Lieutenant Governors Jim Cawley, Robert Jubelirer and Mark Singel provided testimony to discuss their experiences working alongside Pennsylvania’s former governors, as well as the benefits to reforming our current lieutenant governor election process.
Should the measure pass, Pennsylvania would join thirteen other states that allow the candidate for governor to select the candidate for lieutenant governor.
The measure would not take effect until 2022 since Pennsylvania’s constitutional amendment process requires that the proposal be approved by the House and the Senate during the same legislative session in which it was introduced, followed by a re-approval of the House and Senate in the next legislative session in 2019 before it is placed on the ballot for the approval of Pennsylvania’s voters.
You can watch the full hearing here.
Read more about the hearing from The Reading Eagle here.
Watch my comments about this legislation on CBS 21 News here.
Recognize your friends and family
I am encouraging residents in the 29th Senate district in Berks and Schuylkill Counties to nominate their friends and neighbors who serve their communities and help their fellow citizens each and every day.
When submitting your nominations, please provide the following information:
Periodically in my e-newsletter, I will feature an individual who has been nominated for their public service.
I look forward to reading about these good Samaritans!
Bills passed by the Senate
The Senate passed the following bills this week:
Senate Bill 540, which would provide excused absences for students participating in events and funerals honoring our veterans.
Senate Bill 877 and Senate Bill 878, which would amend the Insurance Department Act and Insurance Company Law to permit producers and insurers to spend as much as $100 on an insured or prospective insured in marketing insurance to that client or prospective client.
Senate Bill 894, which designates highways in the counties of Butler and Franklin, and bridges in the counties of Cambria, Franklin and Potter.
Senate Bill 837, which designates a portion of State Route 981 in Westmoreland County as the Specialist 4 William J. Kolenc Memorial Highway.
Senate Bill 826, which authorizes the Department of General Services to grant and convey certain lands, buildings and improvements situate in Stroud Township, Monroe County.
Senate Bill 629, which amends Pennsylvania law on fraudulent transfers.
Senate Bill 251, which permits all municipal police to utilize radar for speed enforcement.
Senate Bill 785, which expands golf carts and low-speed utility vehicles on public highways.
Senate Bill 113, which allows family members to have access and visitation rights with regard to a family member who is incapacitated and under court-appointed guardianship.
Senate Bill 658, which designates the Eastern Hellbender as the official amphibian of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
House Bill 165, which relates to the creation of two new military decorations.
House Bill 425, which would extend the current Social Security COLA Moratorium until December 31, 2019.
House Bill 1009, which would release Project 70 restrictions on the parcel of property and structure known as the John C. Plumer House located in West Newton Borough in Westmoreland County.
House Bill 1019, which would allow reasonable access to cemeteries for anyone for the purpose of visitation, as well as establish procedures for the sale and purchase of a cemetery and a continuation of honoring purchased burial plots.
PCN Statewide LIVE Call-In Program on state issues, property tax elimination
On Tuesday night, I joined Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) on PCN’s statewide LIVE Call-In Program where we answered residents’ questions and provided updates on state issues and priorities, with my focus particularly on school property tax elimination.
Some of the items that were addressed during the program included: reforming the process for electing the lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, the next steps moving forward since Pennsylvania voters’ approval of the constitutional amendment to expand the homestead exclusion, gambling expansion and a severance tax on the Marcellus Shale industry.
Thanks to all who tuned-in!
Video contest to combat the heroin/opioid epidemic 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.
Berks and Schuylkill County Intermediate Units visit the State Capitol
Earlier this week, I met with the Berks and Schuylkill County Intermediate Units during their visit to the State Capitol for the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) PAIU Day in Harrisburg.
During the meeting, the unit leaders and members of both IUs shared with me some of the important initiatives they are working on to improve and enhance the tools, programs and resources they provide to educate students across the district, including more STEM-related projects.
A special thanks for all of their hard work!
Applying for LIHEAP
With cold, winter temperatures fast approaching, families who are in the midst of a heating crisis or are having a difficult time paying for their heating bills are encouraged to apply for assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP offers assistance to help low-income families pay for their heating bills and handle heating issues such as a broken furnace.
For more information about the program and how to apply, please click here.
Pennsylvania Substance Abuse Hotline
Tackling the growing substance abuse problem that is hurting our loved ones and communities at a rapid pace requires the commitment and effort from all Pennsylvanians.
If you, or someone you know, is battling a substance abuse problem and are in need of help and assistance, Pennsylvania has a Substance Abuse Hotline which individuals can call for support and guidance.
The hotline number is: 1-800-662-HELP (4357). For more information about treating and preventing opioid addiction and abuse, please click here.