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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of March 20 and 27, 2017

Due to a glitch with the e-newsletter system, I was unable to send Mike’s Memo last week. I apologize for any inconvenience, and hope you enjoy this combined edition!
Thanks for following the happenings of the 48th Senatorial District and the State Capitol!
 

Senate State Government Committee Activity
The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, held a meeting to consider the following legislation. All votes were unanimous. My Senate Resolution 36, as amended, urges US Congress to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to restrict the US Department of Justice from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws; Senator Scavello and Scarnati’s Senate Bill 178, as amended, updates and modernizes the History Code, and; Senator Schwank’s Senate Bill 303, as committed, releases Project 70 restrictions in Berks County. All will now go to the full Senate for further consideration. Video of the meeting can be found here

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House for Further Consideration
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 123 – allows falconry on Sundays;
Senate Bill 137 – codifies the Civil Air Patrol’s state operations under the Adjutant General;
Senate Bill 169 – requires lobbyists to register and file electronic reports with the PA Department of State;
Senate Bill 274 (46-1) – recognizes Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists under PA statute.

Column: Local Tax Reform
During my travels throughout the 48th Senatorial District, I hear a persistent drumbeat: “eliminate school property taxes” – not partial elimination or reduced school property taxes – total elimination. 

That’s why I’ve joined with Senator Argall to fight for Senate Bill 76 to eliminate school property taxes. In 2015, the Senate fell one vote short: 24-25.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been down this road. Other plans have been offered to reduce property taxes and some have become law. However, none have totally eliminated school property taxes as proposed by SB 76

Act 511 was passed in 1965 to reduce both school and municipal property taxes through a myriad of other taxes, which proved to be equally unpopular and were changed or repealed over the years while school property taxes continued to rise. 

In 1987, Governor Casey and the General Assembly sent a bipartisan tax mixture to the voters that was overwhelmingly rejected by the voters statewide by a margin of over four-to-one. 

During the Rendell Administration, gaming was promised to reduce property taxes by a minimum of 20 percent. Today, we have both gambling and school property taxes. 

Every plan to eliminate school property taxes faces the same challenge: finding nearly $14 Billion in replacement revenues. It’s a big number – nearly half the total state budget. But it’s the amount needed to eliminate school property taxes. And, there are just four basic options to raise $14 Billion in replacement revenues: Personal Income Tax (PIT), Earned Income Tax (EIT), Sales & Use Tax, and/or some other, new tax. 

Under SB 76, the Sales Tax would be broadened and expanded to 7% and the Personal Income Tax would be increased from 3.07% to 4.95%. Not only does this totally eliminate school property taxes, it’s fair because people have some control over paying the Sales Tax – a consumption tax. For each $1,000 you now pay in school property taxes, you would need to spend $14,285.71 in newly taxable items before it would cost you more. 

SB 76 also gives schools the ability to raise revenues through either a locally imposed Personal Income Tax or an Earned Income Tax – after voter approval. 

SB 76 also succeeds where other plans have fallen short because more people pay Sales and Personal Income taxes than those paying property taxes. Plus, the Sales and PIT are paid over time while property taxes are often a big sum paid at one time. 

Home ownership is a fundamental principle within the Declaration of Independence and the US and Pennsylvania Constitutions. 

Article I, Section 1 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution, “Inherent Rights of Mankind,” states: “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and Defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.” 

I don’t think any tax should have the power to leave you homeless. 

Senate Bill 76 changes the status quo by replacing existing school property taxes – dollar-for-dollar – with revenues from the expanded Sales and Personal Income taxes. 

Opponents of SB 76 have raised two main objections: the numbers don’t work and it’s technically flawed. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Argall to address both of these issues – and correct them. SB 76 works. The numbers add up. It’s technically correct. 

Do you support the proposed changes of Senate Bill 76 or do you prefer the status quo? For those who oppose SB 76, I say: show us your plan. Until then, you’re supporting the status quo, which isn’t working for either taxpayers or schools. 

(I also spoke on the Senate Floor this week regarding the importance of SB 76. You can watch my remarks here. This is a fight I will not give up!) 

PA Department of Agriculture Approves Industrial Hemp Research Proposals
The PA Department of Agriculture approved 16 research proposals under the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program to demonstrate the value and viability of industrial hemp cultivation in PA. Industrial hemp was grown commercially in the US, including PA, through the World War II era, but later became regulated along with marijuana, prohibiting cultivation. Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant, but unlike marijuana, industrial hemp is grown for fiber and seed, and must maintain a THC concentration below 0.3 percent. The 2014 Farm Bill opened the door to limited legal growth of industrial hemp as part of agriculture research pilot programs, and in July 2016, Act 92 was signed into law to research the economic potential hemp could offer PA. China and Canada dominate hemp production, and the US is the largest importer of the cash crop, where it is estimated to be a nearly $600 million industry. The department is awaiting approval from the US Drug Enforcement Agency to take possession of hemp seed needed for the research. For a full list of projects, click here

PA DCNR Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Application Period Now Open
Rural volunteer fire companies in communities under 10,000 people can apply for the Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant through PA DCNR now through May 18. The grant is to prevent, control, and suppress fires that threaten human life, livestock, wildlife, crops, pastures, orchards, woodlands, farmsteads or other improvements in rural areas. This is a cost-share program, and the maximum grant is $7,500 per fire company. Click here for more information, call (717) 787-2925 or e-mail ra-ffp@pa.gov

Kaia Scott, Highspire Borough Junior Council Person, Dauphin County
According to the PA State Association of Boroughs March 2017 edition of Borough News, Kaia Scott is serving as a Junior Council Person in Highspire Borough, Dauphin County. She is a junior at Steelton-Highspire High School where she is a member of the Student Council and Yearbook Committee, and has been on the Honor or Distinguished Honor Roll since eighth grade. Kaia became a Junior Council Person because she is interested in the borough’s future, and wants to serve as a liaison between the school and borough council. 

Rt. 422 and Ramona Rd. Construction Project, Jackson Twp., Lebanon Co.
Construction is underway to improve the intersection between Rt. 422 and Ramona Rd. in Jackson Twp., Lebanon County. The project extends on Rt. 422 from Scenic Dr. to W. Washington Ave. About 15,000 vehicles travel this intersection daily, and the intent is to maintain traffic on Rt. 422 in a single lane in both directions throughout the project. Pennsy Supply, Inc. of Annville will conduct the $1,574,364 project, which includes widening westbound Rt. 422 so the eastbound roadway west of Ramona Rd. can be shifted north and aligned with the westbound roadway. The existing crisscrossing of eastbound Rt. 422 and W. Main Ave. west of Ramona Rd. will be removed, the traffic signal at Rt. 422 and Ramona Rd. will be upgraded, and the traffic lanes will be reconfigured to have one through lane in each direction with left and right turn lanes. The road will also be resurfaced and W. Main Ave. will be realigned with Ramona Rd. to the south to provide more room for vehicles on northbound Ramona Rd. “to stack” in preparation for making a left turn onto westbound Rt. 422. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of October. 

Bethel Township, Lebanon County Bridge Replacements
Work began to replace the bridge that carries U.S. 22 (William Penn Highway) over Elizabeth Run east of the Rt. 343 intersection in Fredericksburg, Bethel Twp., Lebanon County. Initially motorists may encounter a single lane restriction between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., but eventually will be restricted around-the-clock, and shifted to one side of the bridge while the other half is demolished and reconstructed. On April 10, the Mt. Zion Rd. bridge over Deep Run will be closed to traffic and detoured by way of Union Rd. and Greble Rd. Kinsley Construction, Inc. of York County will conduct the $2,586,310 bridge replacements. PennDOT expects both bridges be replaced and reopened by mid-September.


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

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