A Leaner State Government
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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol

A Leaner State Government

State agencies which efficiently and effectively carry out the missions with which they are tasked form the core of a functional state government. In order to achieve this objective, state agencies need a clear and unbiased view of their current operations so they can improve and focus attention and resources on processes which help achieve an agency’s mission, while removing resources from processes which do not.

That is why I have introduced House Bill 2209, legislation to require that all state agencies be subject to an initial performance audit conducted by an experienced auditor. Additionally, this legislation will require that agencies which may benefit from further scrutiny be subject to additional audits every three years. All state agencies must respond to their audit and implement the Lean process principles in order to analyze and improve their operations.

I am pleased to announce that House Bill 2209 was approved this week by the House State Government Committee. I am currently working with the governor’s office on the amendment process with the goal of getting the bill to the governor in a form that he will sign into law.

Protecting Families’ Private Property
Registers of Wills are often required to mandate that personal representatives of estates post a bond as a condition of their appointments. The amount of the bond is related to the size of the estate. More often than not, personal representatives underestimate the amount of assets in an estate.

The Register of Wills receives a true indication of the size of an estate when an inventory is filed, or when the personal representative files an inheritance tax return. Often, there are many months, and sometime years, left in the administration an estate after an initial inheritance tax return is filed. Current law grants “the Court,” not the Register the power to increase the amount of a probate bond posted for the faithful administration of an estate.

This is why I have introduced House Bill 1885, legislation that would grant the Register of Wills the power, but not the duty, to increase the amount of a probate bond when the Register determines that a bond insufficiently protects the estate, and where estate administration is likely to proceed for some time. This week, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously reported this legislation to the full House. I believe that this measure will help protect the heirs of certain decedents’ estates. There is no intention to take any power away from the judiciary under this legislation, this legislation is meant for the Register to share the power with Court.

Updating Orphans’ Court Report Procedures
Under current law, guardians of incapacitated persons are required to file annual reports on the finances and the well-being of the wards for which they are responsible. And, under current law, the courts are tasked with the enforcement and monitoring of the guardians filing these reports. Unfortunately, current law does not provide a mechanism for this enforcement. While annual re-ports are filed with the clerk of the Orphans’ Court, the court is often not aware of guardians who are delinquent in their filings. Also, many counties do not have an established procedure for reviewing the annual reports.

I am pleased to report the House Judiciary Committee has reported out unanimously my legislation, House Bill 1886, which would require Clerks of the Orphans’ Court to transmit to the Court of Common Please at least once per quarter a list of guardians who are delinquent in filing required annual reports. The legislation also places the burden on developing a process to review the filed reports on to the courts. The courts will have flexibility to determine how such procedures are followed, allowing counties of different sizes, with different caseloads and resources to determine the best manner to review the reports. The legislation also allows the court to retain its flexibility in determining the severity of the sanction it imposes based on its finding in the case.

This legislation will increase protections available to some of our most vulnerable citizens by ensuring that their guardians comply with current law. The legislation is supported by the Registers of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans’ Court Association.
I am hopeful this legislation passes and is signed into law.

Unemployment Compensation Reform
Legislation I have introduced to extend the period of time Pennsylvania employers have to apply for relief from charges in the Unemployment Compensation (UC) system, House Bill 2458, was approved by the House Labor and Industry Committee this week and now heads to the full House for consideration. I am presently negotiating with the Democrat minority to remove any objections they may have with the bill.

When a worker is eligible for UC benefits, their base-year employers are “charged” for those benefits. These charges are then factored into an employer’s experience-based tax rate. A larger amount of benefit charges will tend to increase the tax rate. The law already contemplates a number of situations where it may not be fair to charge an employer for benefits paid to a specific worker. For example, it is not an employer’s fault when an employee voluntarily quits to work for a new employer, and then the employee is laid off by the new employer.

In these situations, an employer can request relief from charges. Unfortunately, there is a very narrow 15 day window to request this relief after the employer is notified that the claimant is eligible. If the request is filed after that window closes, the employer can only receive delayed, prospective relief from charges with regard to benefits paid to the worker.

My bill will simply increase the window for an employer to request relief from charges from 15 to 30 days. Since relief from charges can be a complex request to make, this will provide some additional time for employers to contest these charges - which can impact the amount of UC taxes the employer has to pay.

This bill does not affect eligibility for benefits or the amount of benefits paid to the worker in any way. When an employer receives relief from charges, the eligible worker continues to receive benefits – a challenge to a claimant’s eligibility is a separate matter.

$1.3 million Adult Basic Education Grant
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has awarded an Adult Basic Education Direct Service grant Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 in the amount of $1,304,486.
The purpose of Adult Basic Education grants are to create a partnership among the federal government, states and localities to provide, on a voluntary basis, adult education and literacy activities in order to:

• Assist adults to become literate and obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for employment and economic self-sufficiency.
• Assist adults who are parents or family members to obtain the education and skills that are necessary to becoming full partners in the educational development of their children and lead to sustainable improvements in the economic opportunities for their family.
• Assist adults in attaining a secondary school diploma and in the transition to postsecondary education and training, including through career pathways.
• Assist immigrants and other individuals who are English language learners in improving their reading, writing, speaking and comprehension skills in English, improving their mathematics skills and acquiring an understanding of the American system of government, individual freedom and the responsibilities of citizenship.

This grant will benefit residents of both Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

Update on Maximizing Employment Opportunities Under the New Federal Tax Law
As I have previously reported, House Bill 2017, legislation I have authored to reverse the provisions of Bulletin 2017-02 and allow Pennsylvania businesses the opportunity to take advantage of an important new federal tax provision, has been making its way through the legislative process. Instead of sending my bill back to the House, the Senate chose to send identical Senate-drafted legislation back to the House.

The reason for this legislation is that the U.S. tax landscape has undergone significant changes with the recent enactment by Congress and the president of sweeping legislation overhauling our federal tax system. The new law has already begun to stimulate economic growth and development in many other states. If we act now we can maximize its positive effects for employment and wage increases for Pennsylvania.

I am hopeful that the General Assembly will pass this legislation soon so the governor can sign it and help move Pennsylvania’s economy forward.

Strong Moms Lead to Strong Babies
Bipartisan legislation seeking to help mothers who may suffer from postpartum depression unanimously passed the state House this week and is going to the Senate for review.

Under House Bill 200, infants whose mothers screen at risk for depression would automatically qualify for early intervention assessment, tracking and – if necessary – ongoing in-home services. The legislation also has the added, proven benefit of connecting mothers with depression to mental health care.

This would allow infants and their mothers who suffer from this condition to have access to the services that are already in place in our Pennsylvania communities to support healthy child development.

Studies show that one in seven women can experience depression in the year following giving birth and the results can be debilitating and devastating. Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months, and can cause emotional and behavioral problems, such as sleeping and eating difficulties, excessive crying, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the children and their parents.

Keeping Vaping Products Out of Minors’ Hands
Two bills that would prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes, e-cigars, JUULs and other related vaping products to minors (House Bill 2226) and make it illegal to possess the devices in Pennsylvania schools and on school buses (House Bill 2268) unanimously passed the state House this week.

E-cigarettes, sometimes known as vape pens, are used to deliver nicotine and other substances into the body in the form of a vapor. The products come in a variety of flavors and generally resemble the size and shape of traditional cigarettes, which may increase their appeal to minors.

Every day in the United States, about 2,300 children try their first cigarette and another 350 become regular daily smokers, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. And, in recent years, the use of other nicotine-based products, such as electronic cigarettes, has increased such that today nearly three in five high school students use e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

“Juuling” is the latest craze among teens that is also raising serious health concerns. Named after the vaping device, the JUUL also delivers nicotine and looks like a flash drive. In fact, the product can actually be placed into the USB port of a computer to be charged, making it even easier for young people to conceal their underage use.

Both bills now advance to the state Senate for consideration.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended Until Dec. 31
Older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities now have until Dec. 31, 2018, to apply for the state’s 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 472,564 rebate applications. As specified by law, rebate distributions cannot begin until July 2. After June 30, rebates will be distributed as claims are received and processed. Applications typically take four to six weeks to process.

For the 2016 program year, more than $262 million was paid to nearly 600,000 income-eligible seniors and people with disabilities who applied for rebates on rent and property taxes.

Eligibility information and forms are available by clicking here. Residents are reminded that assistance in filling out the applications is available free of charge at my district office. There is no need to pay a private firm for help.

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.

Be Aware of Elder Abuse
This Friday, June 15, is Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Pennsylvania and House Resolution 970, which passed the House this week, encourages the public to be more aware of the well-being of our state’s elderly population.

Approximately 28,600 reports were made to the Department of Aging in FY 2016-17. It is assumed the number is drastically underestimated, given the fact many cases of elder abuse go unreported in the Commonwealth.

Elder abuse comes in many forms including physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, neglect of care, abandonment and financial exploitation.

If you suspect a senior citizen in your family or community is a victim, the Statewide Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505 is open 24 hours a day.

Attention Hunters: Internet Update Could Block Online License Purchases
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is cautioning hunters who purchase their licenses online that an upcoming internet security update may prevent internet-based sales.

The update affects all purchasing websites – not just the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System – and users of older-model computers are impacted most because many of these systems will be unable to make online purchases of any kind once the update is complete. Newer computers largely won’t be affected, though users might need to install updated versions of operating systems and web browsers.

According to the Game Commission, the easiest way to determine whether your computer will be capable of making internet purchases once the update is complete is by clicking here to test your system. If your machine passes the test, it should be good to go in making future online purchases, including buying a hunting license.

Licenses for the 2018-19 license year go on sale Monday, June 18. The licenses become valid July 1 and, after that date, all who hunt, trap or who want to apply for an antlerless deer license must have an up-to-date 2018-19 license to do so.

A complete list of licensing requirements can be found at pgc.pa.gov.
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1044 East Main Street, Palmyra, PA 17078 | Phone: (717)838-3823
149A East Wing, PO Box 202101 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2101 | (717) 783-1815
Email Address: FRyan@pahousegop.com