December 20, 2019
Thank you for taking the time to read this special edition of my e-newsletter. 2019 was an extremely productive year for the state legislature on a number of issues that impact our local communities. This update includes information on some of the bills I introduced this year to help keep Lancaster County an amazing place to live, work and raise a family.
I am optimistic that the groundwork laid in 2019 will set the stage for even greater progress next year. As always, I appreciate your feedback on all of these issues and other priorities for local communities. Feel free to contact me to weigh in on these topics or if you have any questions or concerns pertaining to state government.
I wish all of our local families a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday season and I offer my warmest wishes for a great new year ahead.
Bill to Raise Money for Pediatric Cancer Research Moves Forward
Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for all children in the U.S. While we have made important progress in the fight against childhood cancers, much work remains to help the children and families who are fighting against this terrible affliction.
In November, the Senate passed a bill I sponsored that would help raise up to $100 million for pediatric cancer over the next decade. My legislation would create a tax credit for qualifying donations to a Pennsylvania pediatric cancer research hospital. I am hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law next year.
In 2018, lawmakers also approved a law that creates a check-off box on driver’s license and registration renewal forms that allows motorists to donate money to pediatric cancer research. I am hopeful that both of these measures can help identify new treatments and cures so more of our state’s young cancer warriors can live long, healthy lives.
More details about the pediatric cancer tax credit bill is available here.
Legislation Gives Municipalities a Voice in Gambling Debate
When lawmakers approved a massive gambling expansion bill in 2018 – which I opposed – municipalities were given the option to prevent a new casino from being constructed within its borders. However, no such option was given for the location of video gaming terminals (VGTs). As a result, even municipalities that opposed expanded gaming could not stop the placement of gambling devices in local establishments.
I was proud to join with my colleague Senator Ryan Aument to pass a law this year that allowed Lancaster County communities to opt-out of the placement of VGTs. The new law gave municipalities the final say in the gambling debate, restoring the principle of local control and allowing local leaders to protect the character of our communities.
More details on the law are available here.
First Round of Telepresence Grants Awarded to Support Sick, Injured Students
Students who face extended absences from school due to injuries or illnesses can suffer both academically and socially due to time away from their teachers and classmates. A bill I sponsored this year was signed into law to ensure these students have new resources to keep up with schoolwork and activities.
The new law created a grant program that allows Intermediate Units to purchase video and audio technology so homebound students can participate in the classroom in real time. The first round of Keystone Telepresence Grant Program awards were announced this month and included a $14,000 grant to support students here in Lancaster County.
More information about the grants is available here.
Bill Introduced to Protect Student Victims of Sexual Assault
Young victims of sexual assault face intense and long-lasting psychological effects stemming from their abuse, and they need our support in order to achieve any sense of healing and normalcy in the weeks, months and years following their attack. I sponsored a bill that would prevent these students from having to attend school with a classmate who is found guilty or adjudicated delinquent of committing sexual assault against another student in the same school building.
I spoke about the need for this bill in the video below.
General Assembly Approves Bill to Examine Healthcare Costs
Rising health care costs are one of the biggest concerns not only in Lancaster County, but also throughout Pennsylvania. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have approved versions of a bill I authored to reauthorize a key panel.
The bill would reauthorize the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), which is responsible for collecting and analyzing data about the cost and quality of health care in the state, as well as studying issues that affect access to care.
More information is available here.
Critical Election Reforms Signed Into Law
One of the most important steps lawmakers took this year was comprehensive, bipartisan reform of our election systems. The modernization proposals represented the biggest changes to election laws in decades.
The reforms make it easier for all Pennsylvanians to vote, including extending deadlines to submit absentee ballots, creating a permanent mail-in voter list, extending the amount of time for new voters to register before an election, and ensuring individual candidates are considered based on merit – not solely by political affiliation.
In addition, the new law includes a proposal I authored that allows counties to print only an additional 10 percent more ballots than the highest number of voters in previous similar elections. This would save counties money by not having to print as many ballots that would likely go to waste.
The election reforms also include a provision I sought to ensure write-in candidates receive at least as many votes as the required number of signatures for the candidate to appear on the ballot. This will prevent candidates from taking office with a single vote or fewer than a handful of votes – a situation that has led to disastrous consequences for many taxpayers in several Lancaster County municipalities.
The end result of these reforms will be a more accessible, affordable and accurate election system for all Pennsylvanians. More details about the election modernization law are available here.
Property Tax Reform Options Under the Microscope
No issue generates more calls and letters to my offices than property taxes. I remain deeply committed to finding a solution to this problem so homeowners do not face the prospect of losing their homes simply because they are unable to afford their property tax bill. The current system is broken and unfair. We must find an alternative that funds our schools without overburdening homeowners.
Recently, a bipartisan work group was tasked with identifying the most promising plans to reform and/or eliminate the property tax. The group highlighted five plans that address the problem to varying degrees – from eliminating all property taxes, to eliminating taxes only on homesteads, to cutting tax bills for seniors.
While each of these ideas deserves consideration, I am strongly in favor of a solution that eliminates this tax for all homeowners once and for all. I appreciate all of the feedback I have received on this issue and I will continue fighting on behalf of local homeowners to create a better and fairer system for all Pennsylvanians.
New Law Supports Volunteer Fire Company Fundraisers
Volunteer fire companies face constant financial pressures to ensure they have the equipment and training they need to protect our communities. On January 1, a new law I authored will go into effect that allows them to keep more of the money they raise during fundraising events.
The new law exempts volunteer fire companies from paying the sales tax on food and beverages they sell during fundraising events. Under the previous law, many companies sent thousands of dollars in taxes to the state for these fundraisers; now, this money can be put to better use in protecting our lives and property.
More details about the new law are available here.