Last night, I voted with a majority of my legislative colleagues to approve a final 2014-15 state budget that for the fourth consecutive year maintains the core functions of state government without raising taxes.
As a member of the House Education Committee, I am especially pleased to report that this year’s fiscally responsible $29.1 billion state budget invests a record high of $10.5 billion in K-12 education—representing a more than $500 million increase over last year’s budget.
All totaled, funding levels for public schools located in the 65th Legislative District (Forest Area School District, Kane Area School District and Warren County School District) have increased by approximately $1.7 million above the 2013-14 state budget. As a result, Warren County School District now ranks as Pennsylvania’s 23rd top-funded school district.
This year’s budget also adds $20 million for special education funding, the first increase since 2007!
It also includes many other notable increases that are important to citizens across the Commonwealth. Higher education is increased by nearly $10 million, with $5 million of that total going to the new Ready to Succeed Scholarship to help defray the cost of higher education for middle-income families across Pennsylvania.
Finally, there are also significant public safety investments including $15 million to train four new state police classes and put 350 new state troopers on patrol.
Visit RepRapp.com for the latest legislative updates.
Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program application deadline has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31.
The rebate program provides property tax relief for eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with permanent disabilities age 18 and older.
The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Fifty percent of Social Security income is excluded when determining eligibility. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975.
Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information by contacting or visiting my district offices and online at RepRapp.com.
After July 1, claimants who already applied for rebates may check the status of claims online at www.revenue.state.pa.us or by calling, toll-free 1-888-PATAXES.
On Tuesday, the House approved and sent to the governor legislation to update the state’s Volunteer Services Act with the goal of better serving military personnel and their families.
House Bill 43 would change current law to allow retired Pennsylvania psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors to volunteer to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families outside a clinic setting through approved programs such as “Give an Hour.” Under current state law, volunteer services may be provided only in an approved clinic setting.
Programs like Give an Hour provide free services, such as family counseling and substance abuse counseling, at a site that is likely outside a clinical setting (i.e. library, community center, church). This is to ensure the privacy of those seeking the services.
For more information about Give an Hour, click here.
From Representative Kathy Rapp:
Special thanks to my co-host Sen. Scott Hutchinson; our expert presenters Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene, Warren County Sheriff Ken Klakamp, Forest County Sheriff Bob Wolfgang and Forest County District Attorney Elizabeth Ziegler; our generous hosts at the Warren Holiday Inn; and, especially, the more than 250 local firearm owners who filled last Saturday’s Concealed Carry Seminar to full capacity.
Due to the tremendous turnout, I am in the process of planning another one of these no-cost seminars, for later this fall, to help even more law-abiding firearm owners to expand their knowledge about Pennsylvania’s concealed carry laws, the Castle Doctrine and other valuable information regarding your Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
HARRISBURG – The State Senate has unanimously approved legislation to offer more disabled Pennsylvania veterans reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses, according to Senators Joe Scarnati (R-25), Lisa Baker (R-20) and Scott Hutchinson (R-21).
Senate Bill 1090, authored by Senate Labor & Industry Committee Chairwoman Lisa Baker and Senate Communications & Technology Committee Chairman Scott Hutchinson would reduce the cost of hunting licenses for disabled veterans to $1 for an annual license.
“These bills are a small way to honor those who have helped to protect our freedoms and will ensure that more disabled veterans have access to enjoy our Commonwealth’s great outdoors,” Senator Scarnati said. “Pennsylvania’s disabled veterans have made a tremendous sacrifice for our country and face many challenges as a result of their service. Providing them the opportunity to participate in hunting and fishing activities at a reduced fee is a way that we can thank them for their service and sacrifice.”
“The County Veterans Affairs Directors Association told us that this benefit was not being applied uniformly across the state,” Senator Baker said. “Expansion to include any veteran who is rated as disabled eliminates confusion and simplifies the process. The nominal $1 fee allows Pennsylvania to draw down on federal funds.”
“I am pleased to see these measures are moving toward enactment into law. These bills are about honoring true American heroes who due to their service to our country have lost their mobility and their ability to work,” Senator Hutchinson said. “Extending this benefit is another way to honor those who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation.”
Senate Bills 1102 and 1090 reduce the cost of annual hunting and fishing licenses to $1 each, for military veterans in the Commonwealth who are 60 percent or greater disabled, as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, Pennsylvania law allows for free hunting and fishing licenses only for veterans who are either certified as 100 percent disabled, or who have lost the use of one of their arms or legs.
Veterans certified as having a total disability would continue to qualify for free licenses. Pennsylvania currently offers $1 hunting and fishing licenses to certain active duty military personnel as well.
Senate Bills 1102 and 1090 will now be sent to the Governor for his signature. Once signed into law the legislation will go into effect within 60 days.
Kate Eckhart (Senator Scarnati) firstname.lastname@example.org 717-787-7084
Jennifer Wilson (Senator Baker) email@example.com 570-675-3931
Justin Leventry (Senator Hutchinson) firstname.lastname@example.org 717-787-9684
The 25th Senatorial District will receive a total of $24,471,926.46 from 2013 Marcellus Shale Impact Fee revenues, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).
Scarnati explained that the county and municipal impact fee amounts are now available for review on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) website. Checks are expected to be mailed by the end of June, 2014. Statewide more than $225 million in impact fees was collected for calendar year 2013, an increase in revenue of over 11% from 2012.
“These funds continue to have tremendously positive effects within our region and across the entire state,” Scarnati said. “In addition to bringing new jobs and opportunities to our area, the industry is generating revenue through this fee that our communities can use for a wide variety of projects and improvements.”
Scarnati, who was instrumental in drafting and enacting the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee (Act 13 of 2012) noted that this is the third round of impact revenue disbursements to local governments. To date, the impact fee has generated a total of more than $630 million in new revenue.
Impact Fee Revenues Being Distributed to Counties and Municipalities in the 25th Senatorial District Include:
• Cameron County & All Municipalities in Cameron County – $7,049,512.13
• Clearfield County & the City of DuBois, Brandy Township, Huston Township, Sandy Township and Troutville Borough – $271,578.39
• Clinton County & All Municipalities in Clinton County – $1,462,896.92
• Elk County & All Municipalities in Elk County – $1,004,303.87
• Jefferson County & All Municipalities in Jefferson County – $584,045.58
• McKean County & All Municipalities in McKean County – $1,141,665.98
• Potter County & All Municipalities in Potter County – $1,071,223.66
• Tioga County & All Municipalities in Tioga County – $11,886,699.93
According to Scarnati, in addition to imposing an annual impact fee on the industry, provisions laid forth in Act 13 have placed an increased level of transparency on natural gas drilling and are ensuring that Pennsylvania’s environment is protected.
Under the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee, the Public Utility Commission is responsible for the collection and distribution of impact fees. The revenue being distributed to municipalities and counties can be utilized to fund a number of local services, from emergency preparedness to road, bridge and infrastructure projects.
“The passage of Act 13 was a major achievement for Pennsylvania residents,” Scarnati stated. “The shale industry has brought tens of thousands of family-sustaining jobs and economic growth to Pennsylvania. At the same time, it is generating significant funding to protect our environment, promote public safety and enhance our infrastructure. I’m pleased that this impact fee money will directly benefit local residents at a time when budgets are tight and state funding is limited.”
A full listing of impact fee distributions is available on the on the Public Utility Commission’s website at www.puc.state.pa.us or by clicking here.
CONTACT: Drew Crompton email@example.com 717-787-7084
On Wednesday, I joined with many of my fellow state lawmakers and hundreds of citizen activists from Americans for Prosperity – Pennsylvania for a state Capitol rally to demand passage of legislation that would end the union practice of direct payroll deductions to collect dues and political contributions at taxpayers’ expense (House Bill 1507).
Nationally syndicated conservative columnist and best-selling author Michelle Malkin (pictured with me here) was the keynote speaker. You can watch the entire rally by clicking here.
Currently, public employee unions can collect dues directly out of the paychecks of union members. A portion of that money is spent on political activity, and there is a clear issue with any portion of taxpayer money being used to collect money for political gains.
House Bill 1507 would not change the relationship or requirement between the individual union members and their union. Members would still be responsible for their dues or fair share fees; the Commonwealth would simply no longer collect and distribute them at taxpayers’ expense.
The bill has been referred to the House State Government Committee, which convened a public hearing on this legislation on Thursday.
(HARRISBURG) – The State Senate today approved legislation to further protect Pennsylvania children from sexual abuse and impose a mandatory minimum sentence for murder of a child, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25).
Scarnati explained that House Bill 112 was passed by the full Senate by a vote of 45 to 1.
The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Vereb and would establish specific guidelines to punish athletic coaches, trainers or other sports officials who have sex with a child-athlete who is under 18 years old. The bill also creates the offense of “sexual assault by a sports official,” which would be graded as a 3rd degree felony.
“Athletics are a wonderful way for students to learn important teamwork skills and to have fun,” Scarnati said. “Parents have a right to feel secure in knowing that their children are safe when participating in sports and that child predators are not able to use athletics as a way to harm children.”
In addition to protecting children from sexual assault, Scarnati explained that he offered an amendment to House Bill 112, which will also set a minimum of fifteen years in prison for murder of a child who is under the age of 13.
“It has become apparent that our Commonwealth must do more to make certain that child murderers are not given lenient sentences,” Scarnati stated. “Sentences like the recent and appalling decision of only 6 – 12 years in prison handed-down by Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner, to an individual who was convicted of murdering multiple newborn babies while employed at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic, cannot continue.”
Scarnati noted that mandatory minimum sentences are not always appropriate in Pennsylvania’s judicial system, however, it is needed in this instance as there is currently no mandatory minimum sentence for someone convicted of a 3rd degree murder of a child.
“Protecting our most vulnerable individuals in Pennsylvania is our duty and responsibility,” Scarnati said. “We must do all that we can to discourage and prevent these horrific crimes against children.”
House Bill 112 will now be sent back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
CONTACT: Casey Long firstname.lastname@example.org 717-787-7084
In its June 2014 issue, Pennsylvania Game & Fish magazine mistakenly printed a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) January 2013 press release which announced that the PFBC voted to close two state fish hatcheries, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson).
“The latest edition of the PA Game & Fish magazine incorrectly states that the Oswayo Fish Hatchery will be closed,” Scarnati said. “The PFBC will be sure that a retraction is printed in the next edition of the magazine, but it is important that residents know now that the Hatchery will remain open.”
Scarnati explained that the General Assembly worked with The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) to ensure that the hatchery remained open. On March 22, 2013, the Board voted unanimously to keep the Oswayo Hatchery in Potter County open for at least an additional two years. This decision reverses the PFBC’s previous vote in January 2013 to close the hatchery by the end of 2014.
“Fish hatcheries in Pennsylvania play an important role in helping provide the fish necessary to support recreational fishing for anglers,” Scarnati said. “Investing in local hatcheries is a significant way to encourage ongoing economic growth throughout our region.”
The Oswayo Hatchery is open to visitors daily from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
CONTACT: Kate Eckhart email@example.com 717-787-7084
Local organizations and municipalities can now apply for grants available through the State Clean Diesel Grant Program, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).
The grants are provided to support projects that re-power or retrofit fleet vehicles to curb emissions, purchase and install idle-reduction technology or purchase clean alternative-fuel fleet vehicles.
Scarnati explained that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now accepting applications for the grants, which are intended to improve air quality by reducing emissions from diesel-powered motor vehicles.
Eligible applicants include school districts, municipal authorities, political subdivisions, state agencies, nonprofit entities, corporations, and limited liability companies or partnerships incorporated or registered in Pennsylvania that operate diesel fleets.
“I encourage our local municipalities, school districts and organizations who are considering upgrading or purchasing clean-alternative vehicles to apply for these grants,” Scarnati said. “Reducing emissions through programs like this, helps to improve air quality within our communities and protect the environment.”
The grant program is funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State Clean Diesel Program. Since the program’s inception in 2008, the Pennsylvania DEP has awarded more than $1.9 million in grants.
Applications for this year’s grants will be accepted through June 10, 2014.
To apply for a grant or for more information, please visit www.dep.state.pa.us, keyword “Clean Diesel.”
CONTACT: Kate Eckhart firstname.lastname@example.org (717) 787-7084
Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25) has issued a statement following today’s announcement by Governor Corbett regarding medical cannabis:
“This afternoon Governor Corbett announced that he is supportive of allowing responsible medical cannabis use in PA to help children with severe seizure disorders. I applaud Governor Corbett’s decision to allow access to cannabidiol (CBD) in Pennsylvania for these sick children. It is important to recognize that CBD is an oil derivative of cannabis that is taken orally.
My colleague Senator Mike Folmer has been a tremendous advocate for suffering children & I’m pleased to work with him to help these families. As this issue advances in the legislature, I will continue to work to support these children in a responsible manner, while also ensuring that public safety and the health of all Pennsylvanian’s remains our top priority.”
CONTACT: Kate Eckhart email@example.com (717) 787-7084
The Smethport Borough Authority has been selected to receive an $805,000 low-interest loan to make major improvements to their water system, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).
Scarnati said the loan was awarded through the state’s PENNVEST Program which provides low-interest loans and grants for the design, engineering and construction of drinking water distribution facilities, storm water conveyance and wastewater treatment and collection systems.
The Smethport Borough Authority will utilize the funding to construct a new screening facility to remove debris upstream of the combined sewer overflow regulator. A washer compacter will also be installed. The improvements will be made to an existing system and system wide user fees are not expected to increase.
“This PENNVEST funding will provide for needed updates within the community to improve local water supplies and protect public health,” Scarnati said. “I congratulate everyone from Smethport Borough and McKean County who have worked to secure this financial support. The loans will help supply substantial funding to ensure that area residents have access to clean water, while advancing environmental improvement measures and economic development efforts.”
Implementation of this project will provide a cost effective solution to maintaining permit compliance that will in turn improve the quality of life for the system customers. Once completed, the project will also eliminate raw sewage health hazards in publicly accessible areas.
The project is anticipated to create 10 jobs. Construction will likely begin in October of 2014 with completion by April of 2015.
More information regarding the Commonwealth’s PENNVEST program can be found at: www.pennvest.state.pa.us.
CONTACT: Kate Eckhart