Rep.Rob Kaufman reports on happenings in the PA legislature.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended Until Dec. 31
Older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities now have until Dec. 31 to apply for the state’s 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The original deadline was June 30.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975.
As of June 1, the department had received 432,411 rebate applications. As specified by law, rebate distributions cannot begin until July 1. After June 30, rebates will be distributed as claims are received and processed. Applications typically take six to eight weeks to process.
Eligibility information and forms are available on my website at RepKauffman.com or by contacting my offices at 717-264-3943 in Chambersburg or 717-532-1707 in Shippensburg.
Claimants who already applied for rebates may check the status of claims online at revenue.pa.gov by clicking on the “Where’s My Property Tax/Rent Rebate?” link. Claimants may also call, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES to check the status of their rebates.
Welcome, Sen. Mastriano
State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) was sworn into office this month following a special election to fill the seat once held by Rich Alloway. I wish him well serving the people of Franklin County and beyond.
To learn more about Sen. Mastriano and see his office locations, click here.
Lowering Health Insurance Costs
Pennsylvanians who buy their health insurance on the federal exchange could see lower prices under legislation adopted by the House.
House Bill 3 would establish a state-based health insurance exchange and reinsurance program, an option offered by the Trump administration and supported by the Wolf administration as a means for helping make health care more affordable for Commonwealth citizens.
The proposal is also expected to save taxpayer money, as the cost of the state running its own exchange is expected to be about half the cost of fees currently being paid to the federal government to run it for us.
The bill is currently before the Senate for its consideration.
Taxpayers Deserve Better Budgeting Practices
Respecting the taxpayers who foot the bill for the annual state budget, House Republicans took the lead this week in adopting several measures to bring more transparency to the budget process.
To help limit “supplemental” spending beyond what is approved in each year’s budget, House Bill 855 would require the secretary of the budget to project revenue shortfalls for the fiscal year starting in December and put that amount of money in budgetary reserve to ensure the budget is balanced at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, House Bill 923 would require the governor to explain the reasons for any supplemental spending requests and offer recommendations for cost-savings or other reforms to address the cause.
Other reform measures would require the administration to provide additional details as part of the governor’s proposed budget (House Bill 922); require quarterly reports on funding committed and awarded through special funds that provide grants and subsidies (House Bill 921); and update budget procedures related to unspent appropriations and how those amounts are dealt with at the close of a fiscal year (House Bill 920).
The bills are part of the House Republican Caucus’ #GovtDoneRight initiative and now go to the Senate for consideration. To learn more, click here.
Boosting PA Agriculture, Dairy Farmers
The focus on supporting our state’s top industry continued this week with House approval of several bills to help carry on our agriculture traditions for future generations and a Capitol rally in support of two federal bills aimed to boost the dairy industry.
The House gave overwhelming approval to measures that would ensure a quick state-level response to threats such as invasive species or disease; establish the Dairy Investment Program to provide grants to support dairy farmers; create a Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help farmers develop a business plan, transition plan or succession plan; enhance youth exposure to opportunities in the agriculture industry; and empower the State Conservation Commission to provide technical assistance and financing options for implementing best management practices.
We also approved bills that would boost enrollment in the veteran farmer Homegrown by Heroes program, provide specialty crop block grants and aid with meat inspection costs for small or new processors.
Also on Tuesday, dairy farmers and advocates from across the Commonwealth gathered in the Capitol rotunda to rally support for two bills pending action in Congress that would help the dairy industry as well as our children.
The “Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019” would allow flavored and unflavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias to give students more choice, while the Dairy PRIDE Act would protect the integrity of dairy products by calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce existing labeling requirements for milk. Essentially, non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds and plants could no longer be marketed as milk, yogurt or cheese.
The rally followed a meeting of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee in which committee members heard from two members of the state’s congressional delegation about the bills and also unanimously approved resolutions endorsing the measures.
Ensuring Sexual Harassment is not Hidden
Recognizing the rampant problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, the House approved legislation this week to help prevent these offenses – and the offenders – from being hidden and dealt with.
House Bill 849 would prohibit employers from requiring employees and prospective employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement related to sexual harassment as a condition of employment.
This would ensure workers who face sexual harassment in the workplace can exercise their voice to report such egregious offenses they may suffer at the hands of a co-worker or superior.
Employees and employers would still be able to voluntarily enter into such agreements.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Fun for All Ages Awaits at PA Fairs
Summer has officially arrived, and that means it’s also Pennsylvania fair season.
From June through September, communities across the Commonwealth will host more than 100 fairs featuring food, fun and entertainment as well as competitive exhibits highlighting animals, produce, crops, crafts, baking and more.
To make your fair planning easier, the Department of Agriculture is offering an interactive Fair Guide this year that will allow you to search for your favorite events through the “Find Fairs Near Me” tool or filters that narrow down fairs by county, month or date.
I am already planning to be at the Shippensburg Fair and Fayetteville Carnival this summer. I hope to see you there!
Good Job, Ian!
Ian O’Shea, who just completed sixth grade at Shippensburg Area Middle School, spent some time on the House floor recently as part of the guest page program for young people who are interested in government.