In this Edition:
July 14: Free Vision Screening for Kids Age Six Months-Six Years
On Thursday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., I will be hosting the fourth event in my Healthy Living Series in my Pen Argyl District Office. We will be partnering with the Lions KidSight USA to provide free vision screenings to children age six months to six years. According to educational experts, 80 percent of learning is visual. Early detection of vision problems in children is critical to ensuring their learning is not inhibited and that issues can be promptly corrected.
To schedule your free appointment, please call my office at 610-863-1200.
July 18: Scavello Senior Expo
I hope you can make it Monday, July 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for my Senior Expo at Pocono Mountain Swiftwater Elementary Center.
This free event features door prizes, health screenings, educational seminars and refreshments. Exhibitors from government agencies and senior citizen organizations will be on hand.
Constitutional Amendment Targets Residential School Property Taxes via Homestead Exclusion
Senate passage on Monday of a proposed Constitutional amendment marks a key step in eliminating residential school property taxes through homestead exclusion authority.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Constitution allows local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 50 percent of the median assessed value of homestead property within the taxing district. House Bill 147 would increase the allowable exclusion to 100 percent. If adopted, it would allow for the elimination of residential school property taxes via the homestead exclusion.
Passage of House Bill 147 takes the state constitution’s existing property tax relief provision and builds on it to allow for the complete elimination of residential school property taxes through the homestead exclusion. This legislation is an added tool to allow school property tax elimination to be directed at residential properties and protect individuals in danger of losing their homes.
I will continue to fight and remain committed to the overall goal of full property tax elimination with passage of Senate Bill 76. However, after two unsuccessful votes, in the case that Senate Bill 76 does not continue to gain increased support we need to have other alternatives that provide relief to owner occupied residential properties.
We can all agree that any tax that would take a person’s home after working their entire life to pay for it is wrong and immoral. No individual should have to choose between paying for prescription medications, taking care of their health and paying for property taxes. People should be able to own their property and enactment of this constitutional amendment will protect and safeguard that constitutional right.
House Bill 147 was approved by the House of Representatives last year. As a Constitutional amendment, it must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by voters to be enacted.
In a related matter, the Senate also approved Senate Bill 1109 on Monday. The bill provides for a constitutional amendment to extend the property tax exemption program for disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of soldiers killed in action. That bill was sent to the House for consideration.
Bills to Protect Energy-Related Jobs Sent to the Governor
Two bills to protect family-sustaining Pennsylvania jobs placed at risk by state and federal energy regulations received final legislative approval Wednesday and were sent to the Governor, who is expected to sign them into law.
The Senate concurred Wednesday on amendments by the House of Representatives to Senate Bill 1195, which addresses Pennsylvania’s compliance with the federal coal regulations, and on amendments to Senate Bill 279, which removes conventional oil and gas drillers from the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed changes to state (Chapter 78) regulations on drilling operations in the Commonwealth.
Senate Bill 1195, which I co-sponsored, provides procedures for the General Assembly’s consideration of the implementation strategy developed by DEP for the federal Clean Power Plan before its submission to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Senate Bill 279 requires DEP to recognize that conventional oil and gas well operations should not be treated in the same manner as the Marcellus Shale industries. The General Assembly made it perfectly clear in Act 126 of 2014 that any new rules for Marcellus Shale gas extraction operations imposed by DEP must be developed separate from the conventional drilling industry.
Senate Bill 279 reinforces that provision by stating that DEP must declare its newly enacted regulations for conventional operations void. DEP may now decide to embark upon another regulatory process, one solely intended for conventional drilling operations.
Cost-saving Legislation for Schools Sent to Governor
Legislation that will allow school districts to save thousands of dollars in annual mailing costs received final legislative approval Tuesday and is headed to the Governor for his signature.
Senate Bill 1077 eliminates the mandate that school districts annually inform parents by physical mailing when the district uses audio and video recording to identify and address discipline issues on school buses.
The mailer mandate was included as part of Act 9 of 2014, which gave school districts the ability to use audio recordings on school buses. Instead of the physical mailing, which can easily cost thousands of dollars each year, schools must post notice of the policy in the student handbook as well as on the school’s website.
Bills Sent to the Governor for Enactment
Senate Bill 772 updates the state Professional Psychologists Practice Act for the first time since 1986.
Senate Bill 837 expands title protection to marriage and family therapists, ensuring that only licensed and properly trained professionals can market their services to clients.
Senate Bill 983 allows parents and/or guardians of disabled adult children, who are in their care, to receive disability license plates.
Senate Approves Measure to Increase Education for Opioid Prescribing
The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would require continuing medical education training as a way to stem the tide of opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state.
Senate Bill 1202 requires state licensing boards to call for two hours of continuing education in “pain management” and two hours in “opioid prescribing practices” for individuals applying for an initial license or renewal of an existing license or certification to prescribe medications in the Commonwealth.
The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in recent federal statistics. According to a National Survey of Primary Care Physicians, nine out of 10 doctors reported prescription drug abuse as a moderate to large problem in their communities, and 85 percent believed that prescription drugs are overused in clinical practice.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Bills Sent to the House of Representatives
Senate Bill 163, which addresses the needs of children of incarcerated parents and services available to them.
Senate Bill 1113, which provides broader representation of crime victims on the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
House Bill 1325 gives second class townships the authority to implement storm water management ordinances and to assess a fee to fund the planning, management, implementation, construction and maintenance of storm water facilities. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
House Bill 1766, which allows future life insurance policy reserves to be based on Principle-Based Reserving, a methodology that is more advanced and better reflects the risks of new innovative insurance policies. The bill returns to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.
Majority Policy Committee Reviews Food Stamps/SNAP Benefits Distribution
The Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on how Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are distributed by county and possible changes.
The panel heard from representatives of food outlets, a food bank and the state Department of Human Services. You can view the hearing and written testimony here.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, June 22 at 3 p.m. You can watch session live at PASenateGOP.com.
On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Labor and Industry Committee will hold a joint public hearing to examine the impact of recent changes in federal wage, hour and over-time regulations on businesses, non-profits and the state budget.
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