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Senator Bob Mensch


Week of January 22, 2018 

In this Edition:

  • School Property Taxes Leading Issue in Mensch Telephone Town Hall
  • 24th Senatorial District Company Placed in the National Register of Historic Places
  • Senate Approves Bill Allowing Disposal of Unused Opioids by Hospice Staff
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and sent to the House
  • Senate Calls for Study of PennDOT/Turnpike Consolidation
  • Measure Supporting Use of Slag Metal Byproduct Sent to Governor
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week

School Property Taxes Leading Issue in Mensch Telephone Town Hall

More than 8,600 residents participated in my Telephone Town Hall discussion last month, receiving a legislative update on recent action by the General Assembly. This type of meeting allows callers to listen in, offer opinions, and even ask questions from the comfort of their own home.

I had the opportunity to field a number of state-related questions from callers throughout the 24th District, and there were many questions asked about the elimination of school property taxes, as well as the recent property tax referendum contained on the November 7th election ballot.

Similarly, no issue generates more calls and letters to my office than that of school property tax reform.  Finding a way to significantly reduce or eliminate this burden on homeowners remains a top priority for me.  I have co-sponsored legislation that would shift away from the current school property tax system, in turn, moving to a higher Personal Income Tax and a higher and expanded Sales Tax.  There is no question that we need to find a solution that eases the burden for homeowners, while at the same time guaranteeing Harrisburg does not shortchange local school districts.

Voters made their voices heard on this issue by approving (54 percent to 46 percent) the ballot question allowing local taxing bodies the option to completely eliminate property taxes through the existing homestead exclusion.  Specifically, what the proposed amendment to Article VIII of the constitution would do is increase the exclusion level to up to 100 percent of the value of each “homestead,” or primary residence, in a municipality, county or school district. The current exclusion level, adopted in 1997, is capped at 50 percent of the median assessed value of all homesteads in a local taxing jurisdiction. More

24th Senatorial District Company Placed in the National Register of Historic Places

The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office has announced that the Boyertown Burial Casket Company of Berks County has been placed in the National Register of Historical Places.

In business from 1893 to 1988, the company was reportedly the largest casket manufacturing plant in the world, at one point employing 600 workers in Boyertown. This is a great honor for our region.

The National Register recognizes the historical, architectural, and cultural merits of properties.  Properties listed in the National Register receive consideration when state or federal projects are planned and may qualify for federal, and state, historic preservation tax credits or, when available, grant assistance. 

Senate Approves Bill Allowing Disposal of Unused Opioids by Hospice Staff

As part of continuing efforts to address Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis, the Senate approved a bill that provides for the proper disposal of unused hospice drugs.

Until recently, when a home hospice patient died, unused medications could be discarded by a hospice or homecare provider. A change to federal Drug Enforcement Agency rules now prohibits that practice. The result is home hospice providers cannot dispose of the drugs unless otherwise authorized by state law to dispose of the decedent’s personal property.

This places an unnecessary burden on grieving families as they must find a legal way to dispose of those medications, which has resulted in the intentional or unintentional misuse or abuse of those drugs.

Senate Bill 978, which gives hospice staff the authority to properly destroy unused drugs following a patient’s death, was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and sent to the House

Senate Bill 373 allows patients to authorize payment of insurance benefits directly to dental service providers, a practice known as assignment-of-benefits.

Senate Bill 817 extends a lease.

Senate Bill 827 allows individuals to plan for the management and disposition of their digital assets by providing instructions in a will, trust, or power of attorney.

Senate Bill 851 clarifies ownership of properties that are in the delinquent tax sale process.

Senate Bill 977 provides additional legislative oversight of the regulatory review process.

House Bill 1448 charges the Department of Education with providing information on its website to compare institutions of higher education. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

Senate Calls for Study of PennDOT/Turnpike Consolidation

The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution I co-sponsored calling for a study of a potential consolidation of PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission operations.

Senate Resolution 209 directs the Joint State Government Commission to study the challenges and opportunities of consolidating the interstate operations of PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission and to provide a final report with findings of fact, recommendations and any proposed legislative remedies.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 228, legislation to establish a Task Force on Global Education. The task force will analyze global education in our K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and make recommendations to ensure Pennsylvania students graduate ready to compete in the global economy. 

Measure Supporting Use of Slag Metal Byproduct Sent to Governor

Legislation I co-sponsored to encourage the use of sustainable and environmentally safe slag material received final legislative approval Wednesday and was sent to the governor for enactment into law.

Slag is generally used to remove waste in metal smelting, but can also serve other purposes, such as assisting in the temperature control of the smelting, and minimizing any re-oxidation during the production of solid metal.

However, steel slag is currently classified as “waste” under state law, which means manufacturers must pursue a special classification or obtain a state permit. Senate Bill 497 eliminates the waste designation for slag when it is sold as a commodity and is not a discarded material.

Two additional bills were sent to the governor this week.

Senate Bill 542 permits pharmacists to dispense emergency prescription refills for uncontrolled substances for up to 30 days, with restrictions.

House Bill 1608 renames a Huntingdon County bridge. 

Committee Roundup

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved two bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 373 allows patients to authorize payment of insurance benefits directly to dental service providers.

Senate Bill 851 clarifies ownership of properties that are in the delinquent tax sale process. 

Labor & Industry

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 963 addresses a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision related to workers’ compensation.

House Bill 1001 requires state licensure for home inspectors.

Following the action of bills, the committee approved the nomination of Gerald Oleksiak to serve as the next Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. 

Local Government

The Senate Local Government Committee approved several bills Tuesday.

Bills allowing for municipal purchase of used personal property from volunteer emergency service organizations without bid:

Bills increasing the dollar threshold for needing to advertise the sale of municipal personal property:

Senate Bill 950 authorizes county commissioners, by resolution, to implement a Voluntary Real Estate Sales Verification Form Pilot Program

House Bill 99 allows boroughs to issue contracts during an emergency without advertising, bidding or price quotations and requires council to disclose the reasons at its next public hearing. Also adds electricity to existing list of utility services for boroughs not subject to advertising, bidding or price quotations

House Bill 1034 provides additional procedures for the collection of monies by municipal authorities 

The committee held a joint public hearing Monday with the House Local Government Committee on the state of municipal pensions in Pennsylvania, and legislation to address underfunded local pensions. The committees heard from representatives of PA municipalities, as well as police and firefighters who would be affected by changes in municipal pensions.

Hearing Video & Agenda

Majority Policy

On Tuesday, the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing on the state of free speech on Pennsylvania college campuses. Hearing Video & Written Testimony 

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved four bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 880 allows 102-inch wide trailers on Pennsylvania highways.

Senate Bill 1002 renames a bridge.

Senate Bill 1015 adds “Special Emergency Response Team” to the definition of emergency service responders and emergency vehicles in state law.

Senate Bill 1024 increases the distracted driving fine from $50 to $100 in an active work zone or on a highway safety corridor. 

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness 

On Monday, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 1019, a rewrite of the state Emergency Management Code. Hearing Video & Written Testimony

On Wednesday, the committee held a joint public hearing with the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee on issues facing Pennsylvania veterans. Hearing Video & Written Testimony 

Next Week 

The Senate returns to voting session Monday at 1 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.


Twitter and Facebook I post regular updates on legislative action, committee developments, useful state-related information, happenings in the 24th Senatorial District and more on Twitter @SenatorMensch and on my Facebook page.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatormensch.com for more information about your state government.


Contact Me

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Harrisburg Office
Senate Box 203024
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3024
Phone (717) 787-3110
FAX (717) 787-8004

Red Hill Office
56 West 4th Street
Floor 2
Red Hill, PA 18076
Phone (215) 541-2388
Toll Free 1-855-247-9020
FAX (215) 541-2387
Monday - Friday
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Lansdale District Office
1 Vine Street Ste 202
Lansdale, PA 19446
Phone (215) 368-3117
FAX (215) 361-4222
Monday, Wednesday and Friday
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