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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 January 9, 2017

Condolences
I note with sadness the passing of John Hoerner, Mayor of Highspire. John was a dedicated public servant who served his community well. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his friends and colleagues, and the citizens of Highspire.

Pennsylvania Senate 2017-2018 Standing Committee Chairmanship Assignments
Aging & Youth: Senator Michele Brooks
Agricultural & Rural Affairs: Senator Elder Vogel
Appropriations: Senator Pat Browne
Banking & Insurance: Senator Don White
Communications & Technology: Senator Ryan Aument
Community, Economic & Recreational Development: Senator Mario Scavello
Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure: Senator Robert Tomlinson
Education: Senator John Eichelberger
Environmental Resources & Energy: Senator Gene Yaw
Finance: Senator Scott Hutchinson
Game & Fisheries: Senator Pat Stefano
Intergovernmental Operations: Senator Camera Bartolotta
Judiciary: Senator Stewart Greenleaf
Labor & Industry: Senator Kim Ward
Law & Justice: Senator Charles McIlhinney
Local Government: Senator Scott Wagner
Health & Human Services: Senator Lisa Baker
Rules & Executive Nominations: Senator Jake Corman
State Government: Senator Mike Folmer
Transportation: Senator John Rafferty
Urban Affairs & Housing: Senator Tom McGarrigle
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness: Senator Randy Vulakovich

Column: Eliminating School Property Taxes
As Senator Argall and I continue to push for elimination of school property taxes with passage of Senate Bill 76, I often think about the impact property has had throughout history.

A shortage of land, dismal living conditions, and lack of both religious freedom and economic opportunity led some Europeans to seek better opportunities. In 1585, a group of English investors sponsored settlers to colonize America. However, the British were unable to keep the Roanoke Colony supplied and those colonists disappeared waiting for provisions.

In 1607, the English made another attempt to establish an American colony, this time in the Chesapeake Bay. Jamestown nearly failed like Roanoke. However, the Virginia Company made an important change to help that colony survive and prosper: it permitted the colonists to own and work the land as their private property.

Property ownership became a strong allure for both those able to afford their way and those without the means. The latter became “indentured servants,” agreeing to work off the costs of their passage over a period of years to ultimately secure the goal of: fifty acres of land apiece and another fifty acres for every servant or relative brought at their own expense.

In 1620, another group of English, “Puritans” – English separatists seeking religious freedoms – first traveled to the Netherlands and then to Plymouth Bay to establish a model society or “Commonwealth.”

As devout Calvinists, these colonists did not believe good works would lead people to heaven. Rather, the Puritans hoped a moral society would demonstrate to themselves that they were part of God’s election. They built houses, farms, and villages with “commons” to live by their principles.

However, like Jamestown, the common sharing of land and wealth kept the Pilgrims from supporting themselves and by 1628 they divided the land and the livestock for private ownership. By the middle of the 17th Century almost all the common areas of New England were gone – transferred to private citizens.

Late in that Century, Englishman John Locke argued in his “Two Treatises of Government” that political society existed for the sake of protecting “property,” which he defined as a person’s “life, liberty, and estate.” Thomas Jefferson would use similar words in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” [i.e., property].

George Mason would use similar language in drafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights: “THAT all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

Mason’s words are similar to Article I, Section 1 of our Pennsylvania Constitution, “Inherent Rights of Mankind”: “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.”

While opponents of Senate Bill 76 argue it’s a huge shift from school property taxes to Sales and Personal Income Taxes, I submit the total elimination of school property taxes is much more in line with our history.

Elimination of Vehicle Registration Sticker, Addition of Two-Year Renewal Option
Act 89 of 2013 provided for the elimination of vehicle registration stickers effective December 21, 2016. PennDOT will no longer issue registration expiry stickers to be placed on plates. Customers are still required to maintain a valid and current registration, must present the registration card to law enforcement when asked, and the card is still required for safety inspections. PennDOT also modernized the online renewal process where a customer can now print their permanent registration card (will no longer have to print temporary card and await mail delivery of permanent card). All currently available service channels to renew will still be available as well. In addition, customers may now elect to pay a double registration fee for a two-year registration period on certain types of motor vehicles (rather than a one-year). Motor vehicles registered under the International Registration Plan and with a seasonal registration or circus carnival plate are not eligible.

PennDOT Deputy Secretary Toby Fauver Named to USDOT Air Service Workgroup
Congratulations to PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Toby Fauver for being named to a new U.S. Department of Transportation Working Group on Improving Air Service to Small Communities. USDOT announced 25 members from federal, state, regional agency airports, universities and air service providers, which will advise Congress on priorities and funding needs for air operations in small towns.


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.

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