Below is a recap of this weekís legislative activity in the Senate. There were limited floor votes but several pieces of legislation moved through committees.
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In This Issue
Pocono Medical Centerís West End Healthcare
On February 5, I had the privilege of attending the grand opening of Pocono Medical Centerís West End Healthcare Center. This new medical facility is critical to providing increased access to medical care in our community and will provide important services for citizens of Monroe Countyís West End. You can learn more about the medical center location and the services provided at their website.
The Fire Company, Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program provides grants for volunteer and career fire, volunteer ambulance and rescue companies. Eligible organizations may apply for grant funding for a combination of up to two projects in the following categories:
For a complete listing of grant allocations, or to see how much your fire or ambulance company received, please click here.
The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing Wednesday to gather testimony on a measure that would clarify the process for determining the tax-exempt status of public charities. Senate Bill 4 is now before the full Senate for consideration.
Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale reviewed the status of the tax exemption program in Pennsylvania. Nicholas Cafardi of the Duquesne University School of Law and Katherine Pearson of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law discussed legal issues related to the bill and David Thompson from the National Council of Nonprofits discussed charitable tax exemptions in other states.
Senate Bill 4 specifies that the General Assembly has the exclusive right to set the parameters for an organization to qualify as a purely public charity. Under current law, organizations that meet the criteria of a purely public charity are exempt from paying property taxes.
This proposal is necessary due to a 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling which returned to a vague standard, previously used from 1985-1997, that charitable organizations must meet in order to qualify as a purely public charity. The controversial ruling created a great deal of confusion among charities and led many municipalities to examine whether they could begin levying real estate taxes on charitable organizations who had previously been deemed exempt.
Since the bill would amend the state Constitution, it must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly during the 2013-14 session. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimony.
The Senate State Government Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would ensure that illegal immigrants residing in Pennsylvania do not receive public benefits like Medicaid, welfare and unemployment compensation.
Senate Bill 9 would require anyone requesting public benefits in the Commonwealth to provide identification proving they are a legal resident. They would also be required to sign an affidavit stating they are a U.S. citizen or an immigrant lawfully present in the United States.
The Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates the current local annual costs of illegal immigration amount to about $36 billion nationwide. In Pennsylvania, which has more than 100,000 illegal immigrants, the current estimated cost is $285 million. That cost is expected to grow to $812 million by the year 2020. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania agreed to pay the federal government $48.8 million to settle claims that it paid non-emergency Medicaid, family assistance and food stamp benefits to immigrants who did not qualify for them.
The Committee also approved Senate Bill 82,which would require county boards of elections to post election returns on election night on an Internet site, and Senate Bill 316, which would provide more accountability in the awarding of state (sole-source/no-bid and emergency) contracts. The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would provide an age exemption from jury duty.
Senate Bill 210 would exempt those persons 75 years of age or older who wish to be excused from jury duty. At least 26 states exempt elderly persons from serving on juries. Generally, states have set the age qualifying for the exemption at 65, 70 or 75. For example, in West Virginia the age is 65, in Maryland the age is 70, and in New Jersey the age is 75.
On Tuesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 301, a measure that consolidates various statutes into the Administrative Procedure Code. Both bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Constituents can file their state tax forms on PA Free File, a free, safe, electronic filing option which allows qualifying taxpayers to file state and federal personal income tax returns simultaneously. PA Free File consists of software and fillable forms, both of which are available for free at www.pafreefile.com.
To qualify for the free software, filers must have federal adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less. The software is available through reputable vendors approved to prepare state and federal filings. For those who donít qualify for software, PA Free File offers fillable forms, which are online versions of tax forms designed for people who prefer to prepare their own returns. Fillable forms can be submitted electronically or printed and mailed to the department.
The 2014 PA-1000 Property Tax Rebate Form will be available for download on February 11. We have the information available and would be happy to help individuals complete the required forms in our district office. The PA-1000 form is available here for download.
Senate Box 203040
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3040
Phone: (717) 787-6123
Fax: (717) 772-3695
Monroe County Office
2989 Route 611, Suite 103
Tannersville, PA 18372
Phone (570) 620-4326
FAX (570) 620-4379
Monday - Friday
9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Northampton County Office
2 North Robinson Avenue
Pen Argyl, PA 18072
Phone (610) 863-1200
FAX (610) 863-1214