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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 November 27, 2017

Watch: Navigating the Aging Process Informational Sessions
If you weren’t able to attend my Navigating the Aging Process informational sessions at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, you can watch at the links below.

The first session focused on Medical Directive Forms, such as Power of Attorneys (POAs), Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments (POLST) and Living Wills, with Attorney Edward J. Coyle and WellSpan Health Medical Director Dr. Vipul Bhatia.

Navigating the Aging Process

The second session focused on Lebanon County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) services and Horizon/Advance Care Planning, with Cynthia Klingler and Jeffrey Boehler, Jr. from AAA and WellSpan Horizon/Advance Care Planning Coordinator Roberta Geidner.

Navigating the Aging Process

Aging Offers Free Insurance Counseling during Medicare Open Enrollment
The PA Department of Aging is reminding Medicare beneficiaries the annual open enrollment is taking place now through December 7. Any new coverage will take effect January 1. During open enrollment, new Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug coverage and health plans to compliment Medicare for the first time; and current Medicare beneficiaries can review and make changes to their current coverage so it better meets their needs. The APPRISE Program is designed to help Medicare -eligible individuals, their families and caregivers make informed decisions about their healthcare benefits, and provides free, objective, easy-to-understand information about Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicare Advantage Plans and prescription drug plans. To learn more about the APPRISE Program, call 1-800-783-7067 or visit Aging’s website here.

Safe Schools Grants Awarded in 48th Senatorial District
My office was recently notified by the PA Department of Education of the following Safe Schools Grants awarded in the 48th Senatorial District:

  • Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 – Safe Schools School Police/Resource Officer Grant in the amount of $39,702, a two year grant intended for the training and compensation of school resource and police officers
  • Palmyra Area School District – Safe Schools Equipment Grant in the amount of $19,735 to assist in reducing unnecessary student disciplinary actions and promote a climate of greater productivity, safety and learning, as well as assist in procuring the resources and training necessary to create a physical environment that fosters the safety and well-being of students and staff
  • Swatara Township Police Department on behalf of the Central Dauphin School District – Safe Schools School Police/Resource Officer Grant in the amount of $30,000, a two year grant intended for the training and compensation of school resource and police officers

Column: Local Tax Reform Update
So, what’s next in the ongoing efforts to eliminate school property taxes as I continue to believe no tax should have the power to leave you homeless?

Article VIII, Section 1 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution calls for uniformity of taxation: “All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws.” This provision is why Pennsylvania’s Personal Income Tax is a flat tax rather than a graduated tax like federal income taxes. Pennsylvania’s Constitution doesn’t allow for graduated income taxes.

However, Pennsylvania’s Constitution also provides some exclusions from the requirement for uniform taxation, including: churches, cemeteries, government entities, charitable organizations, and “homesteads.”

A “homestead” is a person’s or family’s primary residence (i.e., no vacation properties) they own (i.e., no rental properties) – including farmhouses and outbuildings (i.e., no commercial, industrial, or retail properties).

On Election Day, voters approved (54% to 46%) an admittedly confusing amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution: “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?”

The previous exemption for homestead properties allowed local taxing authorities to exclude up to one-half the median assessed values of properties located within their boundaries. While some equate “median value” with “average value,” the former is calculated by putting all the numbers in numerical order and finding the one that’s in the middle – the 50th percentile. It’s more difficult to calculate than an average where you simply add the numbers together and divide by how many numbers there are.

The approved constitutional change further simplifies the calculation by using 100% of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction. Previously, taxing jurisdictions had to first figure the median assessed value and then calculate what one-half of that value would be in order to enact a homestead exemption. It’s one of the many reasons why this exemption to Pennsylvania’s uniformity clause was almost never used.

With the change in the Constitution, the calculation for homestead exemptions becomes much easier. More importantly, it provides more options for the total elimination of school property taxes.

While I continue to believe across-the-board elimination of school property taxes as proposed by Senator Argall’s Senate Bill 76 is the best option, we now have other options to consider and I look forward to exploring them in the weeks and months ahead.

In the interim, I remain committed to the goal of ensuing no tax should have the power to leave you homeless.

PA Game Commission Releases Elk Harvest Results
The PA Game Commission announced 104 elk were harvested during the one-week elk season that ended November 4. For those licensed to hunt antlered elk, also known as bulls, the success rate was 100 percent. The 2017 harvest included ten bulls that were estimated to weigh 700 pounds or more, with three of them weighing more than 800 pounds. The heaviest bull taken this year was in Franklin County and estimated at 833 pounds and sported an 8-by-7 rack. To participate in the elk hunt, hunters must submit an application and be selected through a random drawing and purchase a license. The drawing annually attracts more than 30,000 applicants.

“Talk to Your State Senator” Middle and High School Statewide Video Competition
The PA Senate is holding a statewide video competition with support from the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of PA. The competition is open to all PA students grades 6-12. The video entry must address preventing teens from starting drugs – legal and illegal – including alcohol. Help the legislature create policies that work. Deadline for entry is December 10. Find more information, official rules and the registration form here. Videos will be judged in two categories: Middle School and High School. First place in each category will receive $2500, second place will receive $1500 and third place $1000. Prize money will be awarded through the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan.


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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