Jul. 06, 2018

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

Maximizing Federal Tax Cuts
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a companion bill by Sen. Michelle Brooks (R-Crawford/Erie/Mercer/Warren) containing the identical language to my House Bill 2017. The legislative language reverses the provisions of Bulletin 2017-02 and allows Pennsylvania businesses the opportunity to take advantage of this important provision, Ryan said.

The reason I introduced 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.

Under the new law, bonus depreciation doubles from 50 to 100 percent for property purchased between September 27, 2017, and January 1, 2023 (or January 1, 2024, for a small category of property). After that date, at 20 percent phase-down takes effect. Also, bonus depreciation amount is now permitted for the purchase of used property, in addition to new property. This is a common tax plan strategy used by virtually all businesses at some point in time, both large and small. But this was not the case in Pennsylvania prior to this bill being signed.

That’s because businesses looking to expand in Pennsylvania were not be able to take advantage of this provision. On Dec. 22, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue issued Corporate Tax Bulletin 2017-02. Previously, in the best case scenario, a taxpayer would have received no deduction until the asset is sold or disposed of. If the taxpayer has equipment that may be used indefinitely, it could effectively get no depreciation write-off in Pennsylvania.

The new tax law has already begun to stimulate economic growth and development in many other states. This increased economic activity is the very reason we were able to pass a budget this year with no tax hikes and putting extra revenues into our Rainy Day Fund. By taking this action now, we can maximize its positive effects for employment and wage increases for Pennsylvania.

Proud Graduates

I want to give a shout out to two amazing Palmyra High School graduates, Gabby Corricelli and Stephen Wargo. Gabby is pictured in the kitchen with her family (her hand is on her mother’s should and her mother is holding the family dog. Stephen is pictured on the sundeck with his family in his graduation cap and gown. Congratulations, both of you! A job well done!

Budget Passes – My Concerns
I was a “no” vote on the 2018-19 state budget that passed and was signed into law last month, but for different reasons than most people would assume such a vote is cast. The bill passed overwhelmingly, so my vote was cast as a certified public accountant who specializes in keeping companies out of bankruptcy.

I want to compliment the House and Senate appropriations committees for pulling together such a phenomenal budget. It’s better than I have seen since I have been here, but what I am concerned about are some systemic issues that are really going to manifest themselves in the next three to five years that I would really like to start addressing sooner rather than later.

I would have like to have seen about a billion more dollars go to pension payments. In defense of the appropriations committees in both chambers, we had a bill last year that became part of the fiscal code which allowed for the auditor general’s findings to be responded to. That provision related to $800 million, and I wanted to see that $800 million go into the pension plan.

At the same time, I liked the way some of the additional funding was handled with regards to schools and early education. Let’s be clear, though, that we had the extra money to spend because of federal tax cuts and regulatory reforms. Other states have seen much more economic growth than Pennsylvania due to the federal actions. That is why I introduced legislative language to allow Pennsylvania to maximize the benefits of the federal changes and I expect the governor will sign my language into law in the next week or so.

So, my “no’ vote was of the perspective that we have a long way to go. I’ll be able to vote “yes” on a budget when I see, long term, that the Commonwealth is back on its feet in fiscal health. But, I believe they have made great strides and the tremendous progress that’s been made over the past two years.

Legislation Pending in the Senate

I have introduced several pieces of legislation this year and the House has favorably moved many of them. Three currently pending in the Senate are aimed at private property rights, orphan courts and the enforcement of humane treatment of animals:

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 bill passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate. 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 has voted to approve my legislation, House Bill 1886, and send it to the Senate. It would require Clerks of the Orphans’ Court to transmit to the Court of Common Pleas 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 the Senate soon approves this legislation and sends it to the governor.

Humane Society Police Officer Bill Pending Vote in Senate
House Bill 1917, legislation I have introduced to strengthen the training and oversight of Humane Society police officers, has passed the House and is currently before the full Senate. I am hopeful that we can see it soon pass the full Senate and be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

My bill would strengthen the current training and oversight requirements by, among other things:

• Increasing initial and annual training hours for humane society police officers.
• Mandating training the proper procedure to file citations and warrants, including when and how to contact other law enforcement.
• Including training in farm operations and biosecurity, including at least one on-site visit to a working commercial farm operation.
• Requiring that a humane society police officer remain a resident of the Commonwealth to retain his or her appointment as an officer.
• Subjecting an officer to automatic revocation of his or her appointment in all counties if any one county revokes the appointment.
• Treating associations that employ humane society police officers as local agencies under the Right-to-Know Law.

No one can countenance true cruelty to animals, but we must also be mindful to educate our humane society police officers about farms and rural communities so that they can focus their enforcement efforts against those who truly commit cruel acts.

                    Vietnam Photo Exhibit Opens July 25

Bloomsburg University presents an exhibition of photos, “Blaine Cooper: Images From a Local Soldier in Vietnam," that will run from July 25 to Oct. 11 at The Gallery at Greenly Center, 50 East Main Street, Bloomsburg. There will be a reception on July 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is free and is open to the public. It will begin at 6 p.m. with a complimentary food and beverage reception.
Cooper will then be part of a speakers’ panel from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Cooper will share 32 of his photos and some “behind the lens” experiences while serving in Vietnam. He will be accompanied by additional military veterans of Bloomsburg University.

David Fazzino, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at Bloomsburg University, will be the master of ceremony. Fazzino has been working with Cooper for three months, recording and documenting information.

Scott Roper, director of The Gallery at Greenly Center and Haas Campus Gallery, initiated efforts to showcase the photos.

“I thought showcasing the exhibit in the community would be beneficial for the university, the Town of Bloomsburg and several counties, including Columbia, Montour and Luzerne,” said Roper. “I am so excited to be part of this exhibit and to be able to honor our local military.”

BU's Department of Art and Art History, the Center for Visual and Performing Arts, the Institute for Culture and Society, Office of Military and Veterans Resources are sponsoring the event. BU is the educational destination for more than 400 military students and has earned the title of Military Friendly School, Silver Level Award from Victory Media, publisher of GI Jobs magazine.

For more information regarding the event, contact BU’s Supervisor of the Office of Military and Veterans Resources, Bob Heckrote, rheckrote@bloomu.edu, 570-389-4696 or the office’s graduate assistant Briann Halpin, gavets@vets@bloomu.edu, 570-389-3858.

Protecting Our Communities

New State Budget Invests in Community Protection
The new state budget, which took effect July 1, directs critical investments to support community protection efforts.

It includes funding to train three new state police cadet classes, which will add another 285 troopers to the statewide complement. In a win for rural areas, the budget also prevented a $25 per capita fee from being charged to local communities to pay for state police protection.

The budget also gives a boost to ambulance companies, which would see a needed increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for an additional $4 million in state funds and nearly $8 million in federal matching funds, beginning Jan. 1.

Specifically, reimbursements for Advanced Life Support (ALS) services will be increased from $200 to not less than $300, and Basic Life Support (BLS) services will be increased from $120 to $180. Current rates are more than 200 percent below reimbursements provided by Medicare and commercial insurance. Reimbursements will also be raised for air ambulance services.

New Law to Maximize Law Enforcement Resources
A new law taking effect early this fall will help enhance the safety of police officers and the public.

Act 57 of 2018 (formerly House Bill 1738) expands the types of officers who can act outside their jurisdictional boundaries in certain urgent situations. This will help facilitate more cooperation among different types of police departments and agencies, ultimately improving public safety for everyone.

Under previous law, municipal police officers have been authorized to act beyond their jurisdictional boundaries under the following conditions: where an officer is in hot pursuit of a traffic violator or criminal suspect, when requested to lend assistance to another department, when executing a court order or if an officer witnesses a crime being committed while in another jurisdiction on official business. However, the law only applies to those police officers employed by a municipality.

As part of the new law, the types of officers authorized to operate outside their jurisdiction would be expanded to include non-municipal officers who must receive training and be certified under Act 120, the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Act. This may include officers serving with airport authority, college and university or certain other police departments, as well as agents in the Office of Attorney General.

Raising Awareness of ChildLine Reporting System
All schools in the Commonwealth will be required to publicly display a poster containing the statewide toll-free number for reporting suspected child abuse, beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Known as ChildLine, Pennsylvania’s statewide toll-free hotline number to report suspected child abuse is 1-800-932-0313.

Posting this critical information in schools will let students know they have somewhere to turn if they need to report abuse or neglect that they’ve suffered or if they suspect another child is being abused or neglected.

The poster is required to be displayed in a high-traffic, public area widely used by students. The poster also would include the address of the Department of Human Services’ website that provides information and resources related to child protection

Sex Offenders Now Prohibited from ARD
Individuals charged with sex offenses against children will be prohibited from being placed into the state’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program (ARD) under a new law signed last week.

The ARD program is designed to give a first-time offender a second chance by avoiding the consequences of being convicted of a crime. Under the ARD program, if a defendant successfully completes a period of supervision and follows the requirements imposed by the court, the case is dismissed.

Though most Pennsylvania prosecutors judiciously reserve ARD for those who are truly deserving, the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure currently have allowed prosecutors complete discretion to recommend any defendant for placement into the program regardless of the crime.

Act 50 of 2018, formerly House Bill 594, will help ensure that predators who sexually assault children will never avoid prosecution.
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Email Address: FRyan@pahousegop.com