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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of July 25, 2016

Reminder: Newberry Township, York County, Town Hall Meeting
6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25: Newberry Township, York County

Newberry Township Fire Department: 2145 York Haven Road, Etters, PA 17319
Hope to see you there! And, thanks to everyone who attended my previous Town Hall Meetings! I enjoyed our discussions and the opportunity to meet with constituents.

Bills Signed into Law by Governor
House Bill 1198 – Act 84 – Fiscal Year 2016-17 Tax Code;
House Bill 1605 – Act 85 – Fiscal Year 2016-17 Fiscal Code;
House Bill 1606 – Act 86 – Fiscal Year 2016-17 School Code.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Wall of Faces Program
The PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is working with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund on the Wall of Faces program. The goal of the program is to put a picture with every name on the Vietnam War Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. for a virtual wall. PA still needs nearly 400 pictures of Pennsylvanians who served and died in Vietnam. For more information on the program, click here.

PennDOT to Replace Two Route 443 Bridges at Fort Indiantown Gap
The PA Department of Transportation announced work will begin to install erosion and sedimentation controls on two bridge replacement projects. The bridges carry Route 443 over Indiantown Run between Boundary Road and Ammo Road within the Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Center in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County.

Beginning July 25, temporary traffic signals will be installed on the Route 443, Asher Miner Road bridge to assist motorists through the one lane of traffic work zone as one half of the bridge is constructed at a time. Similar work will begin on the Route 443, Mountain Road bridge on August 8. Work includes the replacement of two concrete T-beam bridges with single-span pre-stressed concrete spread box beam bridges, and should be completed this winter with crews returning in the spring to pave bridge approaches.

Column: A Productive Session
While there are still a few remaining days in the 2015–2016 Legislative Session, I’m pleased with the progress on a number of my legislative initiatives.

Medical cannabis (Senate Bill 3) was enacted into law after nearly three years of effort. Regulations are currently being drafted to implement Act 16 of 2016.

I was also pleased to work with Senator Schwank and Representative Diamond to bring industrial hemp to Pennsylvania. Diamond’s bill reached the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Act 15 of 2016 (my SB 644) gives the Independent Fiscal Office 20 days to calculate the impact of proposed state collective bargaining agreements before they’re signed: salaries, health care, pension, and other benefit costs. While the Governor has the authority to negotiate contracts covering thousands of state employees, both the General Assembly and the public at large will now have more information on the impact of these agreements.

Act 90 of 2015 (my SB 442) requires “Paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars” for Commonwealth advertising, including television, radio and print ads (other than classified ads).

Senator Argall and I were successful in getting a vote on the provisions of SB 76 to eliminate school property taxes. Like other advocates, we were disappointed falling one vote short but will continue to fight for these much needed and long overdue reforms – hopefully partnering with the Governor.

I was also pleased to team with Senator Vulakovich to modernize the Civil Service Commission. Act 69 of 2016 will allow both the Commission and counties to make better use of technology, expand the pool of candidates to fill positions, and permit the posting of actual job openings (rather than generic job classifications).

I’m hopeful a number of my bills passed by the Senate will be considered by the House before the end of Session, including: SB 316 (openness and transparency for sole-source/no-bid and emergency state contracts) and SB 356 (local tax filing requirements).

Some of the provisions of my “Voters’ Choice Act” (SB 495) were incorporated into a court order leveling the playing field for independent and minor party candidates. While I would have preferred a legislative solution, I’m glad the issue of ballot access has been addressed.

My efforts to restrict interest rate management agreements –“swaps” (SB 342) – and reform asset forfeitures by law enforcement (SB 869) have spurred discussions among interested parties and I hope these efforts will shortly produce consensus.

In working to forge agreement on issues, I’ve been pleased to work with both Senate and House colleagues. The biggest challenge facing the General Assembly has been – and continues to be – the financial woes of Pennsylvania’s public pensions. I have supported a number of measures to stem the sea of red ink drowning these systems, which are losing $10 Million a day and nearly $3 Billion a year.

In the interim, Senator Stefano and I introduced SB 408 and Representative Kristen Phillips Hill introduced HB 1084 as small steps to control costs by removing future non-public employees of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association from eligibility for public pensions. Hopefully, one of these measures will become law as both are supported by PSBA.

Squeezing every penny out of each tax dollar has been an ongoing goal for me and I’m pleased the Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, has moved a number of measures to help taxpayers, including:
HB 153: reduce the size of the House by Constitutional amendment
HB 826: require fiscal notes for gubernatorial Executive Orders
HB 1205: provide additional data to the Independent Fiscal Office
HB 1618: make the Inspector General independent from the Governor
SB 9: require proof of residence for public benefits
SB 413: consolidate administrative law judges
SB 488: reduce size of the House and Senate by Constitutional amendment
SB 500/501: enact “paycheck protection” by both Constitutional amendment and law
SR 138: study state board and commission members’ salaries and benefits
SR 215: study best private/public practices in leasing properties

The State Government Committee has also held a number of hearings looking at Commonwealth spending, including:
Analyzing the Pennsylvania Department of State budget
Assessing gubernatorial Executive Orders
Consolidating administrative law judges
Evaluating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

I look forward to continuing and expanding these efforts in the months and years ahead.

Pennsylvania State Archives
The Pennsylvania State Archives collects, preserves and makes available for study the permanently-valuable public records of the Commonwealth, with particular attention given to records of state government. The State Archives also collects papers of private citizens and organizations relevant to Pennsylvania history. These documents belong to the people of Pennsylvania and are available for all to view in-person or online.

Dauphin and York County Town Hall Meetings
I’m excited to have town hall meetings scheduled throughout Dauphin and York Counties in July and August. Below is the schedule of confirmed meetings and locations. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
Monday, July 25: Newberry Township, York County
– Newberry Township Fire Department, 2145 York Haven Road, Etters, PA 17319
Thursday, August 4: Middletown Borough, Dauphin County – MSCO Building, 60 West Emaus Street, Middletown, PA 17057
Tuesday, August 9: Swatara Township, Dauphin County – Township Building, 599 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA 17111
Thursday, August 11: Mount Wolf, York County – Northeastern Middle School Auditorium, 4855 Board Road, Mount Wolf, PA 17347
TO BE RESCHEDULED – Monday, August 15: Highspire Borough, Dauphin County – Borough Building, 640 Eshelman Street, Highspire, PA 17034
Monday, August 29: Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County – Lower Swatara Fire Hall, 1350 Fulling Mill Road, Middletown, PA 17057
Suggestions for locations in the 48th Senatorial District to host a town hall meeting can be sent to fbinner@pasen.gov. Please note, I use no taxpayer dollars to hold these meetings!

PA PUC “Smart Hearings” for 717 Area Code Relief Plan Scheduled
The PA Public Utility Commission will hold two “Smart Hearings” on August 9 (1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) to gather public comment on plans to address the predicted exhaustion of telephone numbers in the 717 area code service area. The hearings will be live on the PUC website and will enable residents throughout the 717 area code region (16 counties in Central PA) to see and hear testimony. Testimony can be submitted by telephone by contacting the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge at (717) 787-1399 no later than August 2. In-person testimony requires no prior action, simply show up and sign in.

In March 2016, the Commission voted to seek comments on a petition filed by Neustar Inc., the North American Numbering Plan Administrator. Neustar, acting on behalf of the Pennsylvania telecommunications industry, is requesting approval of its plan to alleviate numbering exhausted for the 717 Numbering Plan Area. The area is currently predicted to exhaust its supply of telephone numbers in 2018.

The industry’s recommended solution is to “overlay” a new area code throughout the existing 717 area code, which would require all customers to dial 10 digits for every call. An alternative would be to geographically “split” the current 717 area code, which would require approximately half of the region’s residents and businesses to receive a new area code.

The Commission is seeking comments on the alternatives that have been submitted, and also is open to suggestions regarding any other potential alternatives for providing relief to the 717 area code. Additionally, the Commission also is seeking comments on the implementation schedule for any proposed area code relief plan.

Medical Marijuana Program’s Safe Harbor Letter Application Available Online
The PA Department of Health’s applications for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program’s Safe Harbor Letter are now available online for parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses to administer medical marijuana in PA to minors in their care with physician-documented medical conditions. Applicants must have the following secured before beginning the submission process: picture ID; completed background check, and; completed Safe Harbor Letter Physician Form from the minor’s PA-licensed doctor. Legal guardians will need to provide guardianship papers, spouses will need to submit a marriage certificate, and caregivers must include proof of caregiver status. The application process will be done completely online. Individuals without computer access should call 1-877-PA-HEALTH for assistance. Approved Safe Harbor Letters should always be carried whenever medical marijuana is being transported and administered outside the home. Questions about the Medical Marijuana Program can be e-mailed to RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov.


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

When contacting my office by e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.

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