Jun. 30, 2017

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The Weekly Roundup


 The latest news from the State Capitol

House Votes to Advance Budget
On Friday afternoon, House voted to send a $32 billion budget to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk. The 2017-18 budget, also passed by the Senate on Friday, represents a 0.2 increase over last year’s budget.

This budget addresses the critical needs of our Commonwealth in a responsible way, which is why I supported it. Included in House Bill 218 is additional funding to combat PTSD in veterans and increased resources to address the opioid crisis. We also provided $100 million in increases to education programs, including early childhood education and early intervention. This budget also restores the governor’s cut to school district transportation, which would have devastated many rural schools. I think this budget represents the priorities of Pennsylvanians while spending within our means.

Protecting Veteran Integrity
Unscrupulous individuals who seek to benefit financially by falsely identifying themselves as veterans will face criminal penalties under legislation signed into law this week.

Act 9 of 2017, formerly House Bill 168, seeks to protect the honor and valor of America’s veterans by making any misrepresentation of military service or honors for financial benefit a third-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

Examples of such criminal behavior range from lying to receive veteran or health care benefits to fraudulently obtaining preference in a government contract or a job reserved for a veteran.

This new law is designed to help preserve the reputation of legitimate veterans. It will take effect in 60 days.

Working to Address Property Taxes
As we progress through the state budget process, I want to share an update on the property tax issue. This is one of the most critical issues facing Carbon County and I hear from hundreds of homeowners expressing their frustration with rising property tax bills.

The state Senate version of the Property Tax Independence Act (Senate Bill 76) was reintroduced last week in the state Legislature. The plan, which was produced with the help of grassroots taxpayer groups from across the Commonwealth, would completely replace school district property taxes with other state revenue sources. An identical bill, House Bill 76, has been proposed in the House.

The revamped plan would increase the state Sales and Use Tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and increase the state Personal Income Tax rate from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent. The sales tax would be expanded to eliminate some existing special interest-driven exemptions.

The state Senate was one vote shy of approving the legislation in the 2015-16 Legislative Session. Because the bill was not approved last session, the process must begin all over again. Reintroduction of the bill is the first step. The bill likely will be sent to a Senate committee to be reviewed. The committee must vote to approve the bill before it can be considered by the full Senate. If the Senate approves the bill, it would head to the House for consideration by my colleagues and me.

I believe completely replacing school district property taxes is the only way to ensure Pennsylvanians truly own their homes. I look forward to seeing the Senate take action on this very important issue.

Driver’s Licenses to Have New Look


As part of ongoing security enhancements, PennDOT has updated the design and enhanced the security features of its driver license and identification card products. This new look is not related to ongoing efforts to comply with federal REAL ID requirements, which are still being developed.

All driver and photo centers will transition to the new products by the end of October. The new products will be phased in over the next four-year renewal cycle and will replace existing products. Both current and new card designs will be in circulation during the transition period.

The cards, which look very different, will have additional enhanced security features to improve fraud prevention and protect from counterfeiting and alteration. Some of the new features include a larger primary portrait and smaller ghost portrait; a 2D bar code; laser perforation; and lamination with the state motto. The magnetic strip has been eliminated on the back.

For more information and to see an image of the new card design, visit www.dmv.pa.gov.

Independence Day Reminders
Tuesday, July 4, is our nation’s 241st birthday, and celebrations are taking place around the nation to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which occurred right here in Pennsylvania. Please be sure to celebrate safely. Information about fireworks safety is available here.

If you are traveling, check out www.511pa.com, which is free and available 24 hours a day. The site, along with its Twitter handle @511pa, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 770 traffic cameras.

PennDOT will also close its driver license service centers on Tuesday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.   

Have a safe and happy July 4!

July 4 Marks PA’s Second Fish-for-Free Day


The second Fish for Free Day in Pennsylvania will be held Tuesday, July 4.

Fish-for-Free Days allow anyone – residents and non-residents – to legally fish in Pennsylvania without a fishing license. On Tuesday, no fishing license is needed to fish in Pennsylvania’s waterways. All other fishing regulations apply. http://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/FishingRegulations/Pages/FishForFreeDay.aspx

To make the fishing experience more convenient, people can borrow equipment from dozens of fishing tackle loaner sites across the state. Many of the sites are located at state parks, along with some county parks and public libraries. Click here for the list of loaner sites.

More information is available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, <www.FishandBoat.com> which includes interactive maps, regional fishing reports, and tips on fishing fundamentals. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.GoneFishingPa.com.

Mildred Roberts Celebrates 100th Birthday 


Over the weekend, I presented a House citation to Mildred Roberts in honor of her 100th birthday. Mildred was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 27, 1917. She lived in Harlem and retired from Manhattan Psychiatric Center Wards Island in 1979.

Mildred has 2 children, 3 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. She now resides with her daughter Janice in Towamensing Trails, Albrightsville. It was my pleasure to listen to her talk about her life and experiences. She credits her long life to hard work.

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