HARRISBURG – Those seeking to lead the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will be subject to the state Senate confirmation process if a bill sponsored by Luzerne County Sen. Lisa Baker is signed into law. Baker, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said the responsibilities and profile of the PEMA Director have increased in recent years, making the role even more critical to state security and public safety. She noted that hundreds of nominees for various cabinet posts and state boards require state Senate confirmation. Senate Bill 490 passed the Senate in June with a bipartisan vote and was sent to the House, which adopted it Monday. The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.
HARRISBURG – The PA House approved legislation to ban the practice of persons sentenced to community service to be able to purchase gift cards in lieu of performing the service. Sen. John Gordner of Columbia and Northumberland Counties sponsored the measure after learning about the practice. Between 2002 and 2008, the Northumberland County Probation Department implemented the program, which allowed defendants to purchase gift cards, which were then given to the Department and donated to local charities. However, in 2014, approximately $4,000 in unused gift cards were discovered in a safe in the Probation Department. The county’s President Judge was unaware it was occurring, then ordered a halt to the practice. Gordner said while researching the issue, it was determined that there was nothing in law to prevent the practice. He added that a defendant should not be able to “buy” their way out of performing community service. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. There’s no word if Gov. Tom Wolf will sign it.
HARRISBURG – Legislation protecting the privacy of jurors has passed the PA House with unanimous, bi-partisan support. House Bill 1626 would exempt the names and addresses of jurors from public access, unless otherwise ordered by the courts. Under the proposal, government agencies that maintain juror records would not be permitted to release any identifying information to the public. The legislation does not preclude individual jurors from releasing such information voluntarily. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
HARRISBURG – The PA Senate narrowly rejected a measure to eliminate school property taxes statewide by replacing the money with increases in the state sales and income tax. Six Democrats and 18 Republicans voted for the amendment to House Bill 683 and 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted against the measure. The preliminary vote Monday night tied 24-24, and was broken by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, who voted against it. You can see how your state senator voted on the measure by CLICKING HERE. Under the proposal, the state personal income tax would have increased from 3.07% to 4.95% and the state sales tax would have increased from 6% to 7% and eliminate numerous products and services that are now exempt from the sales tax. The Legislature’s Independent Fiscal Office projects total school property tax collections, including existing state rebates, will exceed $14 billion next year.
HARRISBURG (AP) – PA Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says efforts to secure $1.4 billion in school property tax rebates for homeowners as part of a broader budget deal has hit a wall over which districts will get the biggest benefit. Corman said Monday that Republican lawmakers and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf won’t support each other’s proposal to distribute the rebates. A state sales tax increase was supposed to underwrite the school property tax rebate. So Corman says Republicans urged Wolf to move on from the fight and concentrate on passing a five-months-late budget. Corman says Republicans want student population to influence the flow of the rebates, and they objected to the amount that Wolf’s formula would send to Philadelphia. Wolf wanted a formula that favored poorer school districts. Corman also says the sides disagreed over measures Republicans sought to make it harder for school boards to raise taxes.
HARRISBURG (AP) – The PA House is giving its approval to a plan to delay for two years a set of mandatory tests for Pennsylvania students before they can graduate high school. State representatives voted unanimously on Monday to implement the Keystone Exams in 2018-19, instead of in the coming academic year. The bill covers tests for first-year algebra, literature, and biology. The bill was amended in the House to require the state Education Department report back on alternatives to the tests. It’ll need at least one more favorable vote in the state Senate to head to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.
GETTYSBURG (AP) – Gettysburg Police say a bust of Abraham Lincoln has been stolen from outside a museum near where he made his famous Civil War-era speech. The bust’s pedestal was found the parking lot of the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies Monday morning. The president of Gettysburg Tours, Max Felty, says the bust was stolen sometime between 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Monday, and just days after the city celebrated the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19. Investigators are looking at surveillance footage from around the 1863 battlefield and encourage anyone with information to call police.
HARRISBURG – As Thanksgiving approaches, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards urged drivers to take steps now for a safe holiday travel period and winter season. Richards announced the new tool on www.511PA.com that allows users to see how traffic speeds on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2013 and 2014 compare to average traffic conditions.
HARRISBURG – The PA Senate is slated to vote this afternoon on a property tax elimination bill. According to Sen. David Argall of Berks & Schuylkill Counties, the vote is historic and will be the first time the entire Senate of Pennsylvania votes upon a measure to eliminate school property taxes. He says, however, it is important to note that this is not his bill, nor is it the bill of the other 21 cosponsors who signed their names to the legislation. The Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations wrote the bill and asked lawmakers to introduce it on their behalf. The association has over 80 member groups across the state dedicated to eliminating school property tax through Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76.
HARRISBURG – The PA House is slated to vote on medical marijuana legislation today. As lawmakers prepare to vote on amendments to Senate Bill 3, patients and families will gather at the state Capitol in Harrisburg today to plead with lawmakers to pass the measure before the end of the session. Many families say medical marijuana helps patients dealing with a number of disorders such as epilepsy. The PA Senate approved Senate Bill 3 in May and Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law.