Week of July 9, 2018
Column: A Busy Session
With the passage of the 2018-2019 state budget, the Commonwealth will spend $32,714,991,000 in taxpayer moneys for the General Fund. This translates to $89,630,112 a day, $3,734,588 an hour, $62,243 per minute, and $1,037 per second. Minus one-time allocations to balance, this year’s budget was within the limits of my Taxpayer Protection Act as it grew less than the combined rates of inflation and population: 1.7%.
During budget deliberations, a number of other issues were also advanced – most notably, how election lines are drawn. Over the past year, legal and legislative actions collided with one another and I was pleased to help break the logjam by advancing a bill to establish an independent commission of citizens. Although the mapping of judicial districts was added to this proposal over my objections, passage by the Senate gave advocates another option to pursue in the House. And, while it fell short in the House, I look forward to continued discussions in the future.
An initiative that was unanimously passed by both chambers and is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature is my bill to further the modernization of the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission. This legislation built upon work we started two years ago when modest changes were enacted. The new law will continue efforts to better meet those seeking employment with the Commonwealth – especially veterans – needs.
Hiring responsibilities will be moved from the Civil Service Commission to the Governor’s Office of Administration. Merit-based hiring will not be affected as agencies will continue to hire people based upon their qualifications. The new structure will also retain the Civil Service Commission’s jurisdiction over appeals from employment decisions. Most importantly, there will be NO changes to veterans’ preference requirements.
I was also pleased to address a court decision that had delayed an important component of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program: research. When medical cannabis came to Pennsylvania two years ago, one of the key provisions that made our Commonwealth unique was the so-called “Chapter 20” provision providing for cannabis research. Of course, the devil is always in the details and there were (and continue to be) many issues related to Chapter 20.
Thanks to the work of all four legislative caucuses, the Governor’s Office, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, temporary regulations were drafted over many months. Unfortunately, the ink on these regulations was barely dry when they were challenged in court, which granted a temporary injunction to delay implementation of the research provisions. As patients have been – and will continue to be – my focus, the new law will address the Court’s misunderstanding of medical cannabis in general and Chapter 20 in particular.
My legislation to provide Pennsylvania notaries with the additional option of remote or online notarization also passed the Senate unanimously. My goal is to give notaries safe and secure online notarial tools. Hopefully, the House will take action on this bill in the Fall.
A number of efforts were also initiated to advance bills providing for the total elimination of school property taxes. The plan was to build upon the constitutional amendment approved by the voters to allow for a “homestead exemption” – people’s primary residences. While there was much discussion on how to best reach this much needed and long overdue goal, we were not able to get it to the full Senate for a vote. Rest assured, our efforts will continue.
In the interim, I’d like to thank everyone who provided input and support for the measures we advanced and I look forward to securing additional accomplishments in the weeks and months ahead.
Dauphin Co. Students Represent PA at YMCA CONA
Annually since 1968, teens from around the country are chosen to represent their communities and offer solutions to issues facing our nation and world at the YMCA Conference on National Affairs (CONA). Out of 25 students selected to recently represent Pennsylvania at this conference, four were from Dauphin County and the 48th Senatorial District! Congratulations Angelina Torres, Terrence Jefferson and Zeryab Ibrahim, all from Middletown High School, and Maureen Hartwell, from Bishop McDevitt!
York County Tourism Grant Program
The York County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the York County Commissioners have established the York County Tourism Grant Program, which is funded through a room tax enacted by the Commissioners and aimed at boosting tourism in York County. The York County Tourism Grant Committee will be accepting proposals for projects aimed at expanding and/or improving tourism promotion and development in York County through August 1 at 5 p.m. The maximum grant is $10,000. Recipients will be announced October 11, and must provide at least 25% match of the grant amount. Grant applications must be submitted online. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June/July Cable Show: Lebanon County Breweries
My latest Community Report cable show features several Lebanon County breweries, including Mount Gretna Craft Brewery, Rotunda Brewing Company & Batdorf Restaurant, and Snitz Creek Brewery. This show features talented entrepreneurs who have built their small businesses into amazing success stories! You can watch below, and Comcast on Demand and WHBG TV20 should also be airing through June and July!
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