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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 July 11, 2016

Reminder: Steelton Borough and Springettsbury Township Town Hall Meetings
6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13: Steelton Borough, Dauphin County

Borough Council Chambers, 123 North Front Street, Steelton, PA 17113
6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 14: Springettsbury Township, York County
Township Administration Building Board Room, 1501 Mt. Zion Road, York, PA 17402
Hope to see you there!

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House for Further Consideration
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 289 – allows municipalities to use public funds for improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewage lines connected to public systems;
Senate Bill 666 – my legislation to amend the Uniform Planned Community Act to create more transparency for Homeowner’s Associations;
Senate Bill 691 – adjusts the retailer cigarettes formula;
Senate Bill 1018 – updates to the CPA Law;
Senate Bill 1282 – (48-2) clarifies indexing fees for condominiums, cooperatives and planned communities;
Senate Bill 1312 – (48-2) allows college students enrolled in a teaching program at a PA four-year college with 60 credit hours to substitute teach on a limited basis;
Senate Bill 1320 – Fiscal Year 2016-17 Fiscal Code;
House Bill 871 – (48-1) provides for de-titling of vehicles when recycled by a scrap metal processor;
House Bill 967 – legalizes, for research purposes, the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp (I’m very pleased this bill passed the Senate – Listen to my comments here);
House Bill 1947 – changes the statute of limitation for the sexual abuse of children;
House Bill 2137 – appropriates $250,510,000 to the Pennsylvania State University;
House Bill 2138 – appropriates $146,773,000 to the University of Pittsburgh;
House Bill 2139 – appropriates $150,586,000 to Temple University;
House Bill 2140 – (49-1) appropriates $14,436,000 to Lincoln University;
House Bill 2141 – appropriates $30,416,000 to the University of Pennsylvania veterinary center.

Bills Pass Senate, Go to Governor for Further Action
All bills passed unanimously unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 917 – streamlines the sharing of information among county and court agencies involved in child welfare and delinquency cases;
Senate Bill 1104 – amends Title 20 (Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries);
Senate Bill 1123 – exception for summer gas blends;
House Bill 59 – requires hospitals, health care facilities and physician’s offices to offer Hepatitis C testing to those born between 1945-65;
House Bill 60 – coverage for oral chemotherapy;
House Bill 898 – designates Philadelphia Prison System prisoner transports as emergency vehicles;
House Bill 1167 – requires the PA Department of Revenue to apply state tax refunds against outstanding restitution;
House Bill 1871 – (47-2) amends the PA Constitution to permit the City of Philadelphia to impose variable tax rates on real estate.

Bills Signed into Law by Governor
Senate Bill 936 – Act 64 – one time employer fee for child support garnishment;
House Bill 602 – Act 61 – increases “minimum” active duty pay for PA National Guard personnel;
House Bill 1325 – Act 62 – amends the Second Class Township Code to authorize storm water fees without establishing a municipal authority;
House Bill 1766 – Act 59 – changes the options of how life insurance policy reserves may be calculated;
House Bill 1877 – Act 60 – extends the Fire Companies and Volunteer Services Grant Program.

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 of the home. Questions about the Medical Marijuana Program can be e-mailed to

PA DEP Investments in Stormwater Projects to Improve Local Water Quality
The PA Department of Environmental Protection awarded over $2.2 million in grants to improve urban stormwater management for projects in the Susquehanna River watershed as part of the Local Stormwater Best Management Practice Implementation Program to help cut down on sediment and nutrient runoff into waterways. These grants will fund best management practices such as stream restoration, rain gardens, and other green infrastructure. The grants are limited to Chesapeake Bay watershed communities. Many projects have financial matching or in-kind contributions in addition to the DEP grant. More information on the program can be found here. I’m pleased four projects within the 48th Senatorial District were awarded grants:
City of Lebanon: Riparian buffers and landscaping ($93,797)
Londonderry Township: Hillside farm bioswales ($36,129)
Paxtang Borough: Paxtang Parkway rain garden ($80,000)
York County Prison (Springettsbury Township): Conversion of stormwater retention basins to bioretention basins ($200,000)

The Difficulties of Eliminating School Property Taxes
Joint Column with Senator Dave Argall (R-29)
Several advocates for the elimination of school property taxes have asked us where efforts to rid taxpayers of this hated tax currently stand. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers succeeded in bringing the provisions of Senate Bill 76 to eliminate these onerous taxes to a vote in November after working to ensure the plan, also known as the Property Tax Independence Act, did not suffer the same fate as its counterpart, House Bill 76, last session.

While supporters were understandably disappointed by the 24-24 vote to insert the provisions of SB 76 into another bill, the Senate debate shows the progress we’ve made as a cohesive coalition over the last several years.

Making SB 76 work came after months of painstaking efforts. Changes were drafted through an arduous process of meeting with opponents, carefully going through their concerns, studying two analyses from the Independent Fiscal Office issued in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and dissecting 13 pages of comments from the PA Department of Revenue.

The recent Senate debate focused on the public policy of such a shift. More importantly, the Senate deliberations have opened a dialogue with the governor on working together to reach this much needed and long overdue goal.

We removed all of the excuses for not supporting total elimination of school property taxes. The numbers and the plan both work. It’s possible to eliminate school property taxes.

Total elimination of school property taxes requires about $13 billion in replacement revenues and there are four other taxes that can be used to eliminate school property taxes: Personal Income Tax (PIT), Earned Income Tax (EIT), Sales & Use Tax, and/or another tax. SB 76 relies upon three of these four to eliminate school property taxes.

As amended, SB 76 proposes a combination of changes in sales and personal income taxes. The Sales Tax would be broadened and expanded to 7% and the PIT would be increased from 3.07% to 4.95%. SB 76 would also allow local school districts to impose an EIT or PIT upon voter approval.

Shifting from one tax to another results in different impacts on taxpayers. To calculate how the proposed SB 76 changes would impact you, compare what you now pay in school property taxes to what you would need to spend under an expanded Sales Tax and a higher PIT. Increasing the Sales Tax to 7% and expanding its base would mean you would need to spend $14,285.71 in newly taxable items for each $1,000 you now pay in school property taxes before you would be a net “loser”.

Many attempts have been made to reduce property taxes. In 1965, Act 511 was passed to ease the burdens of property taxes through a myriad of other taxes, which included taxes on: amusements, mercantile and gross receipts, taxes on businesses, Realty Transfer Tax, per capita taxes, personal property taxes, occupation and occupation privilege taxes, and local Earned Income Taxes. These taxes proved to be equally unpopular and were changed or repealed over the years.

In 1987, then Governor Casey and the General Assembly developed and sent voters a bipartisan plan that included expanded wage taxes, optional personal property and sales taxes for counties, use of the Realty Transfer Tax by municipalities, municipal service fees, property tax millage restrictions, and payments for tax exempt properties. That plan was overwhelmingly rejected by voters statewide four to one.

During the Rendell Administration, enactment of gaming and a subsequent expansion of gambling was promised to reduce property taxes by a minimum of 20%. It didn’t and it hasn’t.

The PA Institute of Certified Public Accountants has a brochure on “Guiding Principles of Good Tax Policy” and we believe SB 76 meets each of these ten principles: equity and fairness, certainty, convenience of payment, economy of collection, simplicity, neutrality, economic growth and efficiency, transparency and visibility, minimum tax gap, and appropriate government revenues.

We remain committed to eliminating school property taxes because as one advocate said and we wholeheartedly agree, “No tax should have the power to leave you homeless.”

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.
Wednesday, July 13: Steelton Borough, Dauphin County
– Borough Council Chambers, 123 North Front Street, Steelton, PA 17113
Thursday, July 14: Springettsbury Township, York County – Township Administration Building Board Room, 1501 Mt. Zion Road, York, PA 17402
Thursday, July 21: Londonderry Township, Dauphin County – Township Building Board Room, 783 South Geyers Church Road, Middletown, PA 17057
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
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 Please note, I use no taxpayer dollars to hold these meetings.

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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