Oct. 06, 2017

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

Taxpayers’ Caucus Opposes Wolf Tax Hikes
On Wednesday, I was once again extremely proud to stand with my fellow members of the Taxpayers’ Caucus in voting to defeat a discharge resolution to bring up the governor’s highly-coveted natural gas extraction tax for consideration by a resounding margin of 115-83.

If enacted, this job-killing energy tax would inevitably drive up property taxes, as schools, county jails and courthouses, and other county, city, borough and townships would face skyrocketing utility rates. That doesn’t include the additional cost to consumers for these same services.

We have also been standing up for taxpayers by delivering alternatives to a Senate-approved $571 million revenue proposal that included broad-based tax increases on a variety of consumer utility bills and sales taxes on online purchases, along with $1.3 billion in new borrowing.

The system may be broken, but the Commonwealth isn’t. The Taxpayers’ Caucus has already identified the necessary revenue to balance this year’s budget and pay for the governor’s deficit-creating overspending without depending on increased taxes or borrowing.

It was very fortunate that our group discovered this money through a comprehensive examination of more than 200 hidden accounts where we discovered millions of taxpayer dollars stowed away and sitting idle with high, unused balances.

Rather than slowing spending or putting some programs on hold, as he has the constitutional responsibility to do, the governor has overspent to the tune of about $1.5 billion. As usual, he has stuck the Legislature and the people of Pennsylvania with the bill.

Rest assured, while negotiations on a final revenue plan continue, the team and I are continuing our work to ensure that this situation is not used to create new taxes to pay for what is an unprecedented, one-time overspend by the executive branch.

Contrary to what we are hearing from the governor and Senate leadership, governing does not involve increasing taxes on hard-working Pennsylvania families and job creators or borrowing against future generations.

Again, I am thankful to have found the individual lawmakers who make up the Taxpayers’ Caucus, proud to serve with them, and happy to see our numbers and the number of defeated tax increases growing.

Better Protecting Consumers from Data Breaches

Legislation is expected to advance in the state House in the coming weeks to respond to recent breaches of personal and financial data. Two new House bills are designed to further protect consumers who are victims of data breaches that open them to possible identity theft.

The first proposal would require notification of a breach from the entity where the breach occurred to the affected consumer within 30 days and to the state attorney general. The notification would include the date the breach occurred, the type of information subject to the breach, a toll-free number and the address of credit reporting agencies. The entities must also develop policies to safeguard and discard personal consumer information.

The second bill would waive the current credit freeze fee, which charges up to $10 per account. In the instance of a data breach, consumers would be provided with three months of free credit monitoring and up to three free credit reports for one calendar year after the date the breach is reported. None of these would apply to a credit reporting agency that has not experienced a breach.

These two bills were introduced following the Equifax data breach, which was the largest data breach in history – exposing the personal information of at least 143 million Americans, including 5.4 million Pennsylvanians.

‘Right to Try’ Bill Heads to Governor
In giving hope to individuals facing terminal illnesses, legislation is now on the governor’s desk that would allow eligible patients to use investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Under House Bill 45, if these patients want to try medications that have not completed the rigorous FDA testing and approval process, they should be permitted to make that choice. As part of the bill, a manufacturer would be permitted to make these products available to eligible patients once the products successfully complete the first phase of clinical trials.

Physicians would not be held liable for recommending experimental products to their terminally ill patients, nor would the bill create a private cause of action against the manufacturers that make the drugs. While the bill does not require insurers to cover these products, they may do so at their own discretion.

“Right to Try” laws are in effect in 37 other states.

Preventing Undocumented Immigrants from Using Welfare Benefits
To help prevent the fraudulent use of public assistance benefits, the House passed legislation this week to further crack down on welfare fraud by requiring proper documentation of citizenship and residency when applying for local and state benefits.

Under House Bill 1095, individuals who apply for benefits directly must provide an acceptable form of identification, or an affidavit certifying their citizenship. The bill would not change any eligibility criteria for the receipt of public benefits. It merely would update Pennsylvania law to ensure compliance with federal law.

The bill would also prohibit individuals from possessing multiple ACCESS cards. Any person who violates this prohibition would be charged with a third-degree felony.

House Bill 1095 now goes to the state Senate.

Contest – Art is a Universal Language

I presented Kathy Michels Frank with a citation for her winning entry in the Universal Language Art Contest. She won First Place for her painting, Are We Done Yet, in the 18 & Older Group of Handicapped Artists. In the other photo, is Devon D. Grant, Executive Director for the governor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities, he was helping to hand out awards for all the winners.

Protect Yourself from the Flu
The state Department of Health is encouraging all Pennsylvanians over 6 months of age to get a flu vaccine.

Infants and children, seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions are especially susceptible to developing flu-related complications.

Other steps people can take to protect against the flu include:
• Washing your hands often with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throwing any used tissues in the trash.
• Keeping your hands away from your face, and not touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Disinfecting frequently used surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes or countertops.
• Avoiding contact with individuals who may have the flu. When sick, stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever goes away on its own without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Talk to your doctor about obtaining a flu vaccine or click here for information about the flu.

Fighting Cancer

To honor those who have fought breast cancer or are fighting it now, the fountain at the Pennsylvania State Capitol’s East Wing was dyed pink on Monday for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink fountain is also a reminder to all women of the importance of mammograms and early detection. Every day, 37 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Pennsylvania, and more than 2,000 Pennsylvania women die each year from the disease. However, more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive today in the United States.

PennDOT Closures for Columbus Day Weekend
All PennDOT driver license and photo centers, including its full-service center in Harrisburg, will be closed Saturday, Oct. 7, through Monday, Oct. 9, in observance of Columbus Day. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver-training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, dmv.pa.gov.
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