Final Pieces of Budget Package Headed to Governor
This week, the House and Senate sent to the governor’s desk the remaining pieces of the 2017-18 budget package. That includes legislation to protect taxpayers from a broad-based income, sales or utility tax increase this fiscal year, while also generating enough revenue to close out the 2016-17 fiscal year and fully fund the 2017-18 budget year. The package also includes funding for state-related higher education institutions, which include Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln, Temple and the state’s only veterinary school, Penn Vet.
Part of the funding package is based on securitizing the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund and reforms to the state’s gaming industry, which would include enhancing the state’s Lottery Fund and legalizing many unregulated games in an effort to capture lost revenue. The funding plan also includes transferring $300 million in unspent dollars from special funds.
Lawmakers reaffirmed our commitment to quality education by increasing Basic Education Funding for our schools, as well as for early childhood education and special education programs. The Public School Code measure also would protect excellent teachers by ending the practice of seniority-based layoffs and requiring teacher performance to guide furlough and reinstatement decisions.
Ultimately, my Republican colleagues and I fought successfully to pass a spending plan that was much less than what the governor proposed while still investing in the core functions of government without further burdening taxpayers.
Heating Assistance Program Opens Soon
Residents who are struggling with their home heating bills can apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) beginning Wednesday, Nov. 1.
LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.
The income eligibility guidelines for LIHEAP are set at 150 percent of the federal poverty income level. For example, the income limit for an individual is $18,090; for a couple, the limit is $24,360; and for a family of four, it is $36,900.
Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the County Assistance Office in their county of residence.
Another Extension Granted to Comply with REAL ID
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the compliance deadline for when Pennsylvania residents must use a REAL ID or other acceptable forms of enhanced identification.
Under this extension, Pennsylvania residents can use their existing driver licenses through Oct. 10, 2018. This will apply to both federal facilities and domestic airline travel.
PennDOT has begun work on the implementation of REAL ID and estimates that REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards will be available, as an option for residents, in March 2019. It is expected that Pennsylvania will continue to apply for extensions until the state has met complete compliance.
DHS has established Oct. 1, 2020, as the final REAL ID compliance deadline for all states.
Information on Pennsylvania’s REAL ID, including frequently asked questions, is available at www.dmv.pa.gov.
Fall Art Reception Set for Nov. 6
Join me for our fall artist reception on Monday, Nov. 6, from 6-8 p.m. at my Bloomsburg district office located in the Market Street Plaza at 1000 Market St. (Suite 39) in Bloomsburg.
The reception will feature the work of three local artists:
• Mark Golomb, a Bloomsburg resident and painter, sculptor and illustrator whose work has reached 14 countries.
• Juliet Doucette-Renner, a Unityville resident whose fiber art and mixed media work is inspired by the beauty of nature and world travels.
• William Whitmoyer, a Bloomsburg resident who views art as a means of exploration.
All artists are anticipated to attend the event. Their artwork will be on display in my offices during the next several weeks.
While at the reception, constituents will also have the opportunity to interact with me and my staff on state-related issues and learn more about services available through our offices.
There is no charge to attend the reception and light refreshments will be served. For more information, call 570-387-0246.
Improving Educational Options
The House approved two proposals this week to improve educational options for students.
House Bill 429 would allow public school students who earn credit for a course in personal financial literacy to use that credit to satisfy a graduation credit requirement in social studies, math or consumer science. This would help encourage students to acquire the knowledge necessary to make wise financial choices as adults.
The second measure, House Bill 1653, would allow students pursuing postsecondary education online to receive financial aid. Currently, this is operated as a pilot program, which was created by Act 59 of 2013, for students who take more than 50 percent of their credits online from a college or university headquartered and located in the Commonwealth.
Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
Thanks for Attending Our Concealed Carry Seminar!
Thanks to all those who attended our Concealed Carry Seminar on Oct. 18 at the Northern Columbia Community Center. Columbia County District Attorney Thomas Leipold and Columbia County Sheriff Timothy Chamberlain did a great job educating the group about Pennsylvania’s concealed carry laws. Thank you to the Northern Columbia Community Center for hosting us.
• The Catawissa Halloween Parade will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
• A craft show will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, at S.S. Cyril and Methodius Church in Berwick from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• The Bloomsburg Veterans Parade will be held on Saturday, Nov. 4, beginning at 9 a.m.
• Our Fall Art Show is set for Monday, Nov. 6, at our Bloomsburg district office, from 6-8 p.m.
• Offices will be closed on Tuesday, Nov. 7, for Election Day and Friday, Nov. 10, for Veterans Day.
• An event designating Route 93 as Stuart Tank Memorial Highway will be held on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 1901 Orange St., Berwick, at 1 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
• Our Third Annual Veterans Expo will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Central Columbia High School from 9 a.m. to noon.