Nov. 22, 2017

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

Pennsylvania is the Home of First National Thanksgiving
Did you know that Pennsylvania was home to the very first nationally celebrated Thanksgiving? On November 1, 1777, the Second Continental Congress, which was convening in York following the British capture of Philadelphia, proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga.

Saratoga was a decisive victory for our fledging country. The Continental Army had been in retreat since the British capture of Fort Ticonderoga in July 1777. In August 1777, Washington appointed General Horatio Gates to lead the Northern Department, and over the course of two battles in late September and early October, the Continental Army stymied the British plan to drive a wedge between the New England colonies and the middle-and southern-colonies.

American losses were light compared to British losses, and the British learned that, contrary to earlier dismissals of the untrained, volunteer recruits, the American army was a force to be reckoned with and would not easily be defeated. When word of the Americans’ success at Saratoga reached King Louis XVI of France, he began negotiations with the Americans, resulting in a formal Franco-American alliance, and shifting the war to a global dispute.

The American Revolution, therefore, became one of many smaller wars in a long, ongoing battle between the rising European powers that began with the Seven Years’ War (and arguably much earlier) and would continue well into the 20th century with the great World Wars.

Vietnam Veterans Event

Click here to Watch

On Nov. 10, I hosted a “Welcome Home Celebration” honoring Vietnam veterans on Nov. 10, at the Palmyra Area Middle School.

All across the nation, these celebrations are being held to let those who came home, and those that did not, that a grateful nation appreciates their sacrifice so that others may be free.

Of course, we welcomed all veterans to the celebration to be recognized and over about 180 people attended, including more than 70 veterans.

Vietnam vets were presented with a special 50th Anniversary of Vietnam lapel pin created by Congress for the occasion. It was a great community event!

Much Needed Local Funds Included in Budget
On Oct. 26, the House passed the Fiscal Code portion of the 2017-18 budget. This bill passed without much Republican support and I did not support this legislation because it kept in place many bad practices that are contributing to Pennsylvania’s fiscal mess.

However, I am pleased to announce that despite my inability to vote for the bill on principle, leadership did include my request on the much needed funds in $220,000 for Lebanon County, and $30,000 for North Londonderry.

Veterans Service Organization Transfer Tax Exemption Now Law
When the governor signed the tax code portion of the 2017-18 budget, the language for my legislation, House Bill 1105, to provide a tax real estate exemption for veterans service organizations (VSO) became law as it was incorporated into the language for the tax code.

Although I did not support the revised tax code with everything else in it, leadership was decent enough to allow my language to stay in the bill, and I am many other veterans are grateful for that.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania currently collects a realty transfer tax, which is imposed at the rate of 1 percent on the value of the real estate being transferred by deed, instrument, long-term lease or other writing. Both the grantor and grantee are held jointly liable for payment of this tax. Counties can also impose an additional local realty transfer tax.

This new law exempts veterans’ service organizations, such as the American Legion and VFW from the realty transfer tax when the home association property is transferred to the VSO.

For groups like the American Legion, veterans of foreign wars, and other groups this exemption will be very helpful.

Strengthening Training of Humane Society Police Officers
I have introduced legislation, House Bill 1917, that will strengthen the training and oversight of Humane Society police officers. Although these specialized officers play an important role in enforcing our state’s animal cruelty laws, and while doing so relieve our local governments of the cost of asking our municipal police to perform that role, it is absolutely necessary that humane society police officers be rigorously trained so that they can succeed at their duties.

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.

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.

That is why I have introduced House Bill 1886, legislation that will 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.
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