In this Update:
Disapproving Pennsylvania Joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Seeking to assert the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s role regarding the Commonwealth entering into multi-state compacts and levying taxes, the state Senate voted to disapprove a regulation by the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Gov. Tom Wolf three years ago said Pennsylvania was doing a great job reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and that it wasn’t necessary to sign on “to something we’re already doing a better job on.”
However, two years ago the governor flip-flopped and then circumvented the legislative process, unilaterally forcing Pennsylvania to join the current 11-member coalition of RGGI states. No other RGGI state has joined the coalition without the approval of that state’s legislature, and none of the other states comes close to having Pennsylvania’s number of electricity production facilities.
The RGGI coalition operates what is called a CO2 “cap-and-trade” program, though the cost of the “emission allowances” traded within the program is, effectively, a tax on CO2 emissions by electricity producers.
The concurrent resolution now goes to the state House of Representatives, which has a window of 10 legislative days or 30 calendar days to pass the resolution and present it to the governor.
If Gov. Wolf vetoes the resolution, it will return to the Senate, which may consider overriding the veto. Two-thirds of the Senate must support the resolution to override the veto. Should the Senate override the veto, the measure would then go to the House where the same two-thirds vote is required.
Even if a veto is not overridden, the process is probably far from complete, with an expectation this will end up in the courts, which will likely be asked to determine if imposing a CO2 tax is beyond the scope of the executive branch’s unilateral authority. Additionally, as this was initiated by executive order and not by state law approved by the General Assembly, Pennsylvania could very well be withdrawn from the RGGI by a future governor.
Overcoming Barriers to Quality Health Care
The Senate approved legislation to promote telemedicine to overcome barriers to quality patient care created by distance and reduce the costs of those services.
Telemedicine is a rapidly growing component of health care, and many health care professionals and hospitals in Pennsylvania are already providing services via telemedicine. However, currently none of the health care professionals’ licensure acts explicitly authorize or regulate practice via telemedicine.
Senate Bill 705 defines “telemedicine” as “the delivery of health care services provided through telecommunications technology to a patient by a health care practitioner who is at a different location,” and allows anyone with a medical license or otherwise regulated by Pennsylvania law to provide telemedicine services.
Through the use of telemedicine, specialists and other health care providers are able to expand their reach, helping COVID-19 patients, high-risk patients, stay-in-home patients, and rural patients who would have the ability to stay in their communities, avoiding long-distance travel for specialized care.
The legislation now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Approves Bill to Boost Gifts to Charities
The Senate approved legislation that will make it easier for charities and nonprofit organizations to receive large financial gifts via Charitable Gift Annuities to fulfill their missions. The bill will be sent to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Charitable Gift Annuities provide donors the opportunity to support a charitable organization, while receiving fixed annuity payments. The payments can begin immediately, or the donor can choose to defer the payments to a future date. The terms of the arrangement are set forth in a contract signed by the nonprofit and the donor. The arrangement terminates on the death of the annuitant, at which point the nonprofit uses the remaining funds on its mission.
Under current law, it is very difficult for smaller charitable organizations to utilize Charitable Gift Annuities, because the amount of unrestricted cash or publicly traded securities needed to cover the minimum is impractical and unworkable. A smaller foundation or charity must commit a significant amount of foundation resources to the annuity and not to its mission.
Senate Bill 731 would allow charities to transfer their risk to a commercial insurance company, which will match substantially all future payments of the charity arising from a charitable gift annuity contract obligation. The change will allow a small nonprofit organization to receive a large charitable gift annuity that it previously may have been prevented from receiving.
Concealed Carry Seminar November 18th in Pen Argyl
On Thursday, November 18th at the Lookout Fire Company No. 1 banquet hall I will be hosting a Concealed Carry Seminar. The event will begin at 6pm. This informative seminar is being held to educate area residents interested in a concealed carry permit. Representatives from the Northampton County DA’s office will provide an overview of concealed carry laws in PA and answer questions. Registration is required for the event and space is limited so register ASAP!
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER or call 610-863-1200
Heating Assistance Program Open Now
Residents who struggle with their home heating bills can now apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.
The income limit for LIHEAP for an individual is $19,320; for a couple, the limit is $26,130; and for a family of four, it is $39,750.
Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the county assistance office in their county of residence. Click here for additional information.
Working to Ban Deceptive “Spoofing” Phone Calls
In an effort to crack down on deceptive and nuisance telephone calls, the Senate approved a bill banning the practice of caller ID “spoofing.” Senate Bill 236 now heads to the state House of Representatives for its consideration.
Senate Bill 236 is designed to protect citizens from misleading telemarketing “robocalls,” particularly those that disguise their real phone number by making it look like a local number, increasing the likelihood that the call will be answered.
The computerized telemarketing messages can be intrusive and can also prey on trusting Pennsylvanians, including vulnerable senior citizens because the calls come across the caller ID as being a local number and are intended to confuse and defraud the recipients. The legislation also prevents telemarketing calls before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
Pocono Mountain School District Receives Farm to School Grants
I happy to report that the Department of Agriculture has announced grant funding that has been awarded through the Farm to School Program. The Pennsylvania Farm Bill Farm to School Grant Program aims to enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early childhood education sites. Any school district, charter school, or private school with pre-kindergarten classes, kindergarten or elementary through fifth grade was eligible to apply for the program.
Two awards were made to the Pocono Mountain School District by the Dept. of Agriculture. One was made to Swiftwater Elementary for $14,820 and one was made to Tobyhanna Elementary for $14,300. Grant proceeds will be used to procure of local produce, dairy, and beef for school meals. They will also create “Discovery Kitchen” videos with students to promote Farm to table to families, caregivers, and the community.
Fish and Boat Commission is Accepting Boating Facility Grant Applications
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is accepting applications from across the state for its Boating Facility Grant Program through Dec. 30 to help communities capitalize on the surge in new boating activity.
The grant program provides funding to benefit public boating facilities located on the waters of the Commonwealth. It may be used for site acquisitions, development, expansion, preventions of the spread of aquatic invasive species and rehabilitation of recreational boat access facilities. Eligible construction projects include boat ramps, courtesy floats, restrooms, access roads, parking areas and signs. Funds may also be used to make facilities ADA compliant. Funding requests require a 50% match.
PFBC encourages townships, boroughs and municipal and county governments to apply. Nonprofit groups (501c3) including land trusts, conservancies and watershed associations may also apply. Private businesses and service clubs are not eligible for direct funding but are encouraged to partner with their local county or municipality.
Around the 40th District
On Tuesday, Adam Stratz of Stroudsburg served as a guest page in the senate. Adam is an “A” student in 7th grade at Pocono Mountain East Jr High school. He is an All Star Baseball player and is also a student of Brazilian Jiu Jitzu and Muay Thai. Currently, he is in his 4th year in the United States Navy Sea Cadet program where he recently earned his 3rd class Petty Officer rank. He has ambitions to attend the United States Naval Academy and one day become a Pilot. He has wanted this since the age of 7 and after meeting him I know that he is working extraordinarily hard to achieve his life goals. Superb young man and I wish him all the luck in the world! Here is a video of me introducing Adam on the Senate Floor:
I recently attended a grand opening event put on by the Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce for Ott Consulting’s new location in Bangor. Ott Consulting’s President Jeff Ott had wanted to open a permanent location in the Slate Belt area for a long time and it has finally become a reality. Ott Consulting opened in 2003 and is nearing their 18 year anniversary. Congratulations to Jeff Ott and his entire team. Thank you for investing in the Slate Belt!
Please join me in wishing Virgil Christman of Gilbert a very Happy 100th Birthday! Virgil is a lifelong member of the Effort United Methodist Church and served as a Sunday School teacher there for some time. I visited her Sunday to present her with a senate citation to mark the milestone at her party. Hope you have a wonderful day today Virgil and HAPPY BIRTHADAY!
Spent a few hours in Barrett Township on Sunday afternoon helping BRCTV 13 announce the 56th Annual Barrett Township Halloween Parade with Eric Noone, an owner of The Frogtown Chophouse and Nicole Walters of News 13. Always great fun!
Also on Sunday, we joined the owners of Nazareth Strength and Fitness as they cut the ribbon at their new location in Lower Nazareth Township. Partners Kris Hicks, Kerianne Hicks, Joe Fortunato and Dani Fortunato opened their business at a different location in May of 2020 but with the pandemic, it could not open officially until June 26th. After some other challenges at that location, they were forced to more to the current space. Overcoming just about every roadblock they could ever face, they have moved into this new location and opened their doors at the end of September 2021. If you are interested in finding out more about the gym and what they can offer, visit their website at www.nazareth-strength.com. The gym is located at 410 Nazareth Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18020 (At the Newburg Rd/191 intersection). These partners are also owners of Iron Core Athlete in Roseto. They opened their doors in this community in 2012.
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