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||The latest news from the State Capitol
Scam Prevention Seminar for Seniors
Learn how to spot scams and fraud and take steps to protect yourself and your financial accounts from the same. This event is open to all residents of the 101st District, which includes Lebanon City, Palmyra Borough, Cornwall Borough, West Cornwall, North Cornwall, South Annville, South Londonderry and North Londonderry townships.
Thursday, April 25, 2-4 p.m.
Lebanon Senior Center
710 Maple Street
First Floor Auditorium
RSVPs are required by signing up here or by calling 717-838-3823.
Property Tax Elimination
As you may know, I am very close to introducing legislation to eliminate property taxes. Past efforts have not borne fruit, so I am approaching this differently than previous sponsors of such legislation. Currently, we’re meeting with different advocacy groups to get their input so that we do not have surprises at the most inopportune times.
We also need to clearly educate the public, special interest groups and lawmakers on this issue to get the buy-in needed to push this over the finish line. If you click here, you will find a document and a list of educational pieces I have authored to accomplish this goal. In the final tally, there will be eight such articles. Currently, I have issued three, including one this week, here.
MS-4 Rain Tax is Not Good Use of Resources
Very thankful to Congressman Dan Meuser and his staff for contacting us about the impact of the MS-4 regulations.
The program is a such an ineffective use of resources. Virtually everyone knows it. There’s a much better way to protect the streams and I’m thankful that Congressman Meuser was willing to listen.
Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness
The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, of which I am a member, held a hearing on Feb. 13 regarding Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and how it affects our emergency responders.
The testimony concerns protecting first responders due to work related trauma and is related to extremely important legislation coming that I have cosponsored.
Financial Crises Looms Ahead
You have heard me say many times that we have a potential financial crisis in Pennsylvania. The financial rescue plan that I have (on our website at repfrankryan.com) describes the plan.
The crisis will begin in earnest at the time of the next recession which the IFO has indicated may come in the next two years.
First to "crater" will be the Third-Class Cities, followed very closely by our larger cities. Pittsburgh began to address its problems decades ago, but Philadelphia has not and will have problems.
The most recent article in Fiscal Times discussed the rankings of the most fiscally sound cities to the least. Of 116 cities in the study, Philadelphia ranked 111th as least fiscally stable:
Our only hope is to deal with reality now and cut spending while we can.
Radar for Local Police?
There have been complaints about speeding in certain areas of the 101st District – such as Butler Road – and calls for local police to have access to radar.
There is a bill I am supporting that would allow this but subject local departments to some controls to prevent abuse.
Good Jobs for PA: Focusing on Careers, Not Minimum Wage
A key to economic success for all Pennsylvanians and the Commonwealth as a whole is to ensure our students and workers are prepared to fill the good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow.
House Republicans launched our #GoodJobs4PA initiative this week, focusing on efforts to enhance our workforce development system to help students, under-employed and unemployed adults, as well as returning military veterans and others enter fulfilling, family-sustaining careers.
The bills aim to address the skills gap and worker shortages faced by industries across the state, as well as enhance educational programs and access to those opportunities for workers of all ages.
The launch coincided with the governor signing an executive order to create the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. The center is charged with addressing barriers to employment and enhancing cooperation among education and workforce development entities.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to Seeking Waterways Conservation Officer Trainees
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is recruiting the 22nd class of Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) Trainees at its H.R. Stackhouse School of Fishery Conservation and Watercraft Safety.
The class of up to 20 trainees will undergo an extensive 52-week training program encompassing all aspects of conservation law enforcement. Following civil service testing and selection, trainees will first complete a 22-week Municipal Police Officers Basic Training conducted by Pennsylvania State Police at its Northwest Training Center in Meadville, Crawford County.
Applicants must meet the following basic criteria:
• Pennsylvania residency
• Possess a valid driver’s license
• Be at least 21 years of age
• High School Graduate or GED
• Pass a criminal history background check
For more information on the position, view the recruitment poster.
Applications will only be accepted online. To view the announcement and apply, please visit the SCSC website on or after January 30, 2019 at: employment.pa.gov.
Preparing PA Students for Family-Sustaining Careers
As a foundational part of the #GoodJobs4PA initiative, the House Education Committee unveiled a package of bills aimed at improving career and technical education (CTE) in Pennsylvania.
The package of bills includes:
• House Bill 265, which would expand the online database that allows students and potential students to plan where courses, programs, certificates and diplomas transfer among public schools and institutions of higher education.
• House Bill 297, which would direct the State Department of Education to develop materials outlining workforce needs, including training opportunities and future earning potential.
• House Bill 334, which would expedite the approval of important educational programs to respond better to industry and workforce demands.
• House Bill 393 (to be introduced soon), which would create an online career resource center.
• House Bill 394 (to be introduced soon), which would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to inventory workforce development programs offered at secondary and postsecondary institutions.
• House Bill 395 (to be introduced soon), which would require CTE programs to establish occupational advisory committees.
• House Bill 396 (to be introduced soon), which would add at least one member from a Career and Technical Center to each Workforce Development Board.
• House Bill 522, which would create a CTE investment incentive program, including tax credits for contributions to support CTE programs and enrollment expansion programs.
These bills are designed to increase awareness of job-training opportunities and high-demand careers for students.
Supreme Court Responds to House Pressure, Delays Venue Rule Change
Seeking to prevent a health care crisis in Pennsylvania, physicians, administrators, attorneys and industry professionals told members of the House Majority Policy Committee last week that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should not change a rule dealing with medical malpractice lawsuits. Shortly after the hearing concluded, the Supreme Court decided to postpone its consideration until a study on the impact of the rule change is conducted later this year.
The pending proposal would reverse a rule that requires malpractice cases be brought in the county where the malpractice occurred, thereby prohibiting “shopping” for venues, such as Philadelphia, where jury awards tend to be higher.
Reversing the rule would also reverse progress that has been made to ensure access for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of ZIP code, to quality health care. Prior to the rule’s implementation, skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates were forcing many doctors and specialists to retire early or move their practices out of state. Rural areas were hit especially hard, and a reversal of this rule could again put health care into a crisis situation.
Residents can continue to do their part to ensure their voices are heard by visiting PAGOPPolicy.com and sharing with the court how such a rule change could impact their health care.
Improving the Do-Not-Call List
Helping Pennsylvanians cut down on the number of telemarketing calls they receive is the goal of House Bill 318, which was passed this week.
The bill gives Pennsylvanians the ability to sign up for the state’s telemarketing "do-not-call" list without requiring them to re-register every five years.
The bill also aims to cut down on the annoyance of telemarketing calls during holidays by banning telemarketing calls on legal holidays. It would also ban the use of calls from computerized auto-dialers (robocalls).
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation I Have Introduced:
Local Choice in Paying for School Construction
I have introduced House Bill 319, legislation to empower county electorates to decide for themselves whether school construction projects should be subject to the state Prevailing Wage Act.
The bill would first amend the law’s definition of "public body", effectively exempting school districts from the requirements of the Prevailing Wage Act. County election officials would then be charged with placing a referendum question on the ballot in the 2020 general election, asking county voters the following:
Do you favor any and all public works projects undertaken in (insert county name) County by any school district and any authority, agency or instrumentality established by one or more school districts be constructed in accordance with the prevailing minimum wage rates for workmen employed on those projects as set forth in Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage Act?
If the referendum question were approved by a majority of the county electorate, school district projects would be subject to the Prevailing Wage Act in that county. In essence, this legislation creates an “opt in” process that allows the voters of every county to decide whether they want their schools built in accordance with the Prevailing Wage Act. The legislation permits a re-vote once every ten years, although no sooner than the November 2030 general election.
Because school construction and renovation projects are so costly, property tax payers are hit particularly hard by the State Prevailing Wage mandate. I believe that this referendum process offers a fair means of determining whether taxpayers want their schools to be subject to the Prevailing Wage Act.
Clarifying Acceptable Per Diem Expenses
I believe we should require the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to promulgate regulations that permit Commonwealth small business and their employees to use per diems, as authorized by the Federal IRS, for the deduction of necessary, ordinary and reasonable business expenses.
My bill, House Bill 69, would help simplify the expense reporting process for both the taxpayer and the Department of Revenue. Pennsylvania should accept what the federal government as already determined as necessary ordinary and reasonable. This actually benefits taxpayers as it would eliminate the need to review and maintain voluminous paper expense receipts and likewise speeds up the processing of state tax returns.
Taxpayer Money Should Not be Used for Risky Financial Products
My legislation, House Bill 320, would restrict government entities from entering into interest rate management agreements, commonly known as “swaps” or “derivatives”.
The most generic swap structure involves the local government issuing variable rate debt and then entering into a swap under which the counterparty makes a variable rate payment to the local government and the local government makes a fixed rate payment to the counterparty. The goal is to create a “synthetic” fixed rate issue at a lower rate than if the local government issued regular fixed rate debt.
All of these swap structures involve the local government assuming risks it does not assume when it does a normal fixed or variable rate bond issue. Also, if the local government wants to get out of a swap early, it can end up having to pay a large termination fee to the counterparty.
When the Great Recession hit in 2008 and interest rates went low (and stayed low), many of the risks inherent in swap structures became reality and caused multi-million dollar losses for local governments, authorities, and school districts. From October 2003 to June 2009, Pennsylvania local governments, authorities, and schools entered into 626 swaps transactions on $14.9 Billion in debt and a number of them lost millions in taxpayer dollars due to swaps. Taxpayers cannot afford to pay losses incurred by their local governments on risky financial products.
Modernizing Pennsylvania’s Separations Act
My legislation, House Bill 163, would modernize Pennsylvania’s Separations Act. The current law forces construction projects on public buildings to have separate contracts for each portion of the project, including plumbing, heating, ventilating, and electrical work, as you can imagine this can lead to finger pointing, claims, delays, and overpaying for construction.
My legislation would spell out the delivery systems that a public owner can choose from. Each system provides different advantages and disadvantages that the public owner should take into consideration on a case-by-case basis for each construction project.
We can no longer afford to spend inefficiently for construction and the time has come to take advantage of the advancements of the construction industry to benefit Pennsylvania. It’s time to modernize a law that handcuffs the construction industry from streamlining projects for public buildings
School Property Tax Transparency
I recently introduced House Bill 322. The measure would require the governing body of each school district to calculate the amount of unfunded pension and other postemployment benefit obligations per $100,000 of assessed residential property within the school district. The results of the calculation must be published as follows:
1. On the publicly accessible Internet website of the school district as a separate item from other information on the website;
2. As a footnote in the financial disclosures of the annual audited report of the school district; and
3. In the notice of taxes required by the Local Tax Collection Law.
This legislation will also require a seller who intends to transfer an interest in real property to disclose the results of the calculation as an item on the property disclosure form. This will help provide prospective homeowners information on the financial solvency of their school district and allow them to make more informed decisions.
Repeal the Prevailing Wage Law
I have introduced legislation, House Bill 104, to amend the archaic Prevailing Wage Act (passed in 1961) to require that at least 51 percent of a construction/renovation/repair project be paid for by public monies before it is covered by the act. Currently, the Prevailing Wage Act states that a project in excess of $25,000 that is paid for "in whole or in part" out of public funds is subject to the act. Thus, unfortunately, projects that receive any public money become subject to the act and its requirements.
Many of us have heard of instances where an organization receives assistance for a project from a state agency or a local government agency, only to find out that receiving the money made the project subject to Prevailing Wage Act requirements. The way the act is currently written, a project (over $25,000) could receive $1 of public funding, and subject itself to the act’s requirements.
In some instances, the prevailing wage requirements have undermined state economic development programs, because the increased costs of prevailing wage outweigh the economic development incentives offered. In other words, when taxpayer-funded economic development programs are used, state-mandated prevailing wage rules increase the cost of the economic development project.
I believe that this legislation is reasonable in that it simply requires that a majority of a construction project’s costs be paid by a public body, and is similar to the requirement in Maryland’s prevailing wage law in which the state’s financial participation must be “50 percent or more” before a project can be covered.
Exempting Local Government from Exorbitant “Prevailing Wage” Costs
My legislation, House Bill 323, would amend the state Prevailing Wage Act to exempt political subdivisions and their authorities, agencies, or instrumentalities from the Act’s coverage.
The Prevailing Wage Act currently requires that all public bodies (defined as the Commonwealth, any of its political subdivisions, any authority created by the General Assembly, and any instrumentality or agency of the Commonwealth) require in any contact for "public work" that the prevailing minimum wage, as determined by the Secretary of Labor and Industry, be paid to workmen on the project.
Numerous credible studies have shown that the use of prevailing wage rates generally raises the cost of public construction projects anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent. The result is unnecessary hikes in property taxes and ever-rising municipal expenses.
This commonsense legislation was supported last session by numerous statewide interest groups, including the PA School Boards Association, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the PA State Association of Township Supervisors, the Boroughs’ Association, the County Commissioners’ Association, and the Municipal Authorities’ Association.
Removing Unfair Tax Obstacles for Small Businesses
A key to improving our economy is the success of the small businesses that create 65 percent of Pennsylvania’s jobs. Removing unfair tax obstacles for small businesses allows them to compete effectively, so they can grow more jobs for current and future generations.
This is why I have introduced House Bill 105, legislation focused on removing an unnecessary impediment to small business.
Under Federal tax law, a “like-kind” exchange pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 allows for tax-deferral when property is exchanged for similar property.
Currently, Pennsylvania tax law contains no such provision. This legislation would allow for like-kind exchanges in Pennsylvania mirroring Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 provisions, thereby removing an unfair disadvantage Pennsylvania small businesses face in competing with businesses in other states.
Preserving Reciprocity Agreements with Other States
The Tax Code signed into law as Act 43 contains a provision to require entities to withhold Pennsylvania Personal Income Taxes and other taxes where applicable, on out-of-state payments made to taxpayers of other states where a 1099-MISC tax reporting form is used. Additionally, Act 43 makes the tax a liability of the payor which is an extremely dangerous precedent. Such a provision encourages the payee to fail to file, thereby putting the payor on notice as being liable for the tax thereby shifting the tax burden effectively to an in-state business.
House Bill 34, which I have introduced, would repeal this burdensome provision that produces no tangible benefit to the Commonwealth. In fact, current law actually encourages other states to cancel their reciprocity agreements with the Commonwealth. In the past year, we have already seen what happens when that occurs when the State of New Jersey threatened to terminate the reciprocity agreement with the Commonwealth.
Helping the IFO to Provide More Accurate Revenue Estimates
House Bill 101 is a measure I have introduced to amend Article VI-B of the Administrative Code pertaining to the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). The legislation calls for dynamic scoring of the fiscal impact of any proposed legislation that could have an impact in excess of $10,000,000 upon request by a member of the General Assembly.
Currently, revenue estimates prepared by IFO on proposed legislation are prepared based on the loss of revenue. The exception to that is legislation which is proposed as part of the annual State budget. For this type of legislation, IFO is required to do a dynamic scoring on all changes in the law which would have a fiscal impact in excess of $10,000,000.
This use of dynamic scoring will allow us to get a more accurate depiction of how legislation will impact the economy of the Commonwealth.
Unfunded Liability Solvency Reserve Fund
My legislation, House Bill 67, would create the Unfunded Liability Solvency Reserve Fund. This would help Pennsylvania address our unfunded pension liability which has now crept passed the $70 billion mark.
Nationally, the unfunded liabilities of state public pension plans are measured in the trillions and continue to increase despite the attention those liabilities are receiving. A recent study by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators found that Pennsylvania has the second most underfunded pension plan in the United States. This liability represents a significant threat to the solvency of state retirement system and to the financial condition of our Commonwealth.
Creating an automatic reserve fund dedication to paying down our unfunded liabilities will help to direct money to these funds which otherwise might never get there and begin to fix a pervasive fiscal problem in our state.
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|Email Address: FRyan@pahousegop.com