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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 to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of November 2, 2015

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House
Senate Bill 526 – amends the Second Class Township Code relating to reports and financial statements;
Senate Bill 857 – strengthens penalties for illegal household goods movers;
Senate Bill 942 – expedites the time property purchasers have to comply with municipal codes and blight ordinances.

Bill Passes Senate, Goes to Governor for Further Action
Senate Bill 765 – includes electric personnel as “emergency responders” during declared disasters.

Senate Votes on Veto Override of Stop-Gap Budget
The Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto of the stop-gap budget (Senate Bill 1000) however, the attempt fell short of the 2/3 majority vote needed, with a straight party line vote of 30-19. The override would have provided school districts and social services emergency funding until a final budget agreement is reached.

Elliott W. Weinstein Appointed to PSU Board of Trustees
Elliott Weinstein, of York and the 48th Senatorial District, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University.

Senate Bill 50, Industrial Hemp, Reported Out of Committee
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Elder Vogel Jr., unanimously reported Senator Judy Schwank and my Senate Bill 50 (Industrial Hemp) out of committee. It now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

Municipal Reform Legislation Reported from Committee
The Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Senator Scott Hutchinson, unanimously reported five bills as part of a bipartisan municipal reform package introduced by Senators John Eichelberger, Jr., John Blake, Rob Teplitz and myself. Senate Bills 340 (reforms the Local Government Unit Debt Act), 341 (incorporates the Municipal Authorities Act with the Ethics Act), 342 (restricts swaps), 343 (restricts First Class City swaps) and 344 (amends the Bond Law to better protect taxpayers) now go to the full Senate for further consideration.

Roadwork to Begin on Route 230 through Middletown
The PA Department of Transportation announced Pennsy Supply of Annville will begin repair and resurface work November 2 on Route 230 in southern Dauphin County, from west of the Airport Connector at Harrisburg Pike and Tiago Avenue, Lower Swatara Township, continuing on Main Street through Middletown, to the intersection of Harrisburg Pike and Route 341, Colebrook Road, Londonderry Township.

Travelers may encounter shifting traffic patterns or single-lane restrictions with flaggers assisting through the work zone weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Work includes ADA required curb cuts, drainage improvements, roadway base repairs, bituminous paving, guiderail replacements, and more. Work is scheduled to be completed June 2016.

Hunters Reminded to ID Tree Stands and Ground Blinds on State Lands
A regulation effective earlier this year requires all tree stands and portable ground blinds left on lands under the PA Game Commission’s control be marked to identify their owners. The regulation applies on game lands and private lands enrolled in the Hunter Access Program. More information can be found here.

Column: Numbers Tell A Story
There have been some interesting arguments against my Senate Bill 869 and its goal of protecting people from losing their properties when they haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime. SB 869 would do this by carefully regulating the practice of asset forfeiture law.

Some opponents have called SB 869 “the Pennsylvania Drug Dealer Bill of Rights” and an “appalling piece of legislation” that has the goal of forcing law enforcement “to close up shop . . . the result would be that the drug effort would fall back upon municipal police departments.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The goal of SB 869 is to protect 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights: protection from unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants, compensation for the taking of private property, and the right to be informed of accusations and to confront witnesses.

However, I am also mindful of the ongoing need to provide law enforcement with proper resources to battle crime. For this reason, I asked several District Attorneys some questions to better understand some of their concerns and to know there is proper openness, transparency, and accountability in the use of these moneys. These are my questions:

  • The number of civil asset seizures the DA’s office has made the past year;
  • The number of convictions that have followed these seizures;
  • The total dollar value of assets seized and/or forfeited, and;
  • The uses of these assets and the dollar value of each use.

While waiting for replies to my inquiries, I got some answers from a recent Asset Forfeiture Report of the Attorney General. Under the Controlled Substances Forfeitures Act statewide, $25,919,270.12 was available in Fiscal Year 2012 – 2013 from cash proceeds, with $14,355,262.04 being the year’s ending balance.

These are the numbers for the three counties I represent:

  • Dauphin: $115,853.93 starting balance, $607,174.01 total available, and $134,623.91 ending balance;
  • Lebanon: $140,093.74 starting balance, $911,725.69 total available, and $486,697.70 ending balance, and;
  • York: $841,338.89 starting balance, $1,453,770.08 total available, and $790,567.12 ending balance.

Particularly interesting to me were some of the uses of unsold forfeited property, including: 3 LCD/LED televisions, 1 Sony stereo system, 2 Sony PlayStation 3, 1 Xbox 360, and 4 rings (2 silver and 2 gold) – all “for the furtherance of investigation.”

Forfeiture is a valuable tool for law enforcement to cripple drug cartels by taking legal ownership of ill-gotten gains supporting illicit activities. My concern is when asset forfeiture proceedings take property and retain or sell it – keeping the profits regardless of whether the owners are convicted of a crime.

The goal of my Senate Bill 869 is simple: to require a conviction before cash and other assets are forfeited. There’s nothing “appalling” about it and it’s certainly not “a give-away to drug dealers.”

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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