Local Residents Win Big at PA Farm Show
The 102nd Farm Show will wrap up Saturday, with hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to walk through the doors at the Farm Show Complex near Harrisburg. There’s still time to stop by if you haven’t yet visited the largest indoor exposition of its kind along the East Coast.
This week, I visited the Farm Show and had the chance to meet up with several residents who either entered their animals or products in competitive exhibits, participated in the many interactive contests, took in the entertaining and educational displays, or tasted the hundreds of different food items made right here in Pennsylvania.
Locally, the 109th District is boasting a lot of blue-ribbon entries in this year’s Farm Show. Be sure to check out the list of winners on the Farm Show website. The site also includes hundreds of photos from the week, categorized by competition, and recipes from the award-winning baking contests.
On Tuesday, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee held an informational meeting at the Farm Show with Ag Secretary Russell Redding to talk about an array of issues impacting the industry.
We discussed the state-of-the-art labs that help protect public health and safety, additional opportunities presented by the development of industrial hemp, a newly formed Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence to boost ag education in schools, and the many job opportunities available to students who study agricultural sciences and related fields.
We also talked about some of the challenges faced by the industry, including regulations and permitting delays and the need for rural broadband expansion. The secretary was also asked about the Wolf Administration’s plan to lease the Farm Show Complex to generate revenue to fill holes in his budget. We in the Legislature do not believe the governor has the authority to pursue this lease.
Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry is an outstanding asset to our Commonwealth, and I look forward to working with Secretary Redding, fellow members of the committee and others to address these issues.
Does Your Home Contain Radon?
An estimated 40 percent of Pennsylvania homes have higher levels of radon than national safety standards, due to the state’s geology. However, residents can perform a simple test to detect this gas, which is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks and enters homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings. High levels of radon tend to be found in basements, but the gas can be found anywhere in the home.
Winter is a good time to test for radon, because doors and windows are generally closed, providing more accurate results. Simple radon test kits are inexpensive and available at home improvement and hardware stores.
January is national Radon Action Month. For more information on radon, testing and daily tips, click here.
Protecting Families’ Access to Gravesites
In allowing Pennsylvania families to grieve their loved ones, a new law taking effect in late February will ensure reasonable access to all cemetery visitors in Pennsylvania, regardless of property ownership. It also requires cemetery owners to honor burial plots sold by previous owners.
The legislation was the result of situations in which cemetery properties changed ownership over time.
Under Act 64 of 2017, cemetery owners are able to establish reasonable access procedures, as well as designate the frequency, hours and duration of cemetery visits. If the cemetery owners fail to comply with the new law, persons denied access to a burial plot can file a lawsuit in the county’s Court of Common Pleas where the property is located.
The Office of Attorney General also may bring an enforcement action against the owner for violating Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
Report Reveals Success with 2017 Tax Amnesty Program
Nearly $143 million in state back taxes were recovered during a tax amnesty period occurring last spring, which was enacted as part of Act 84 of 2016.
After accounting for costs, more than $130 million in net revenue was generated, more than the original estimate of $100 million. The types of taxes collected (in descending order amounts) were corporation, sales and use, personal, employer withholding, inheritance, motor fuel, realty transfer, cigarette and other types.
Prior to the program’s start in April, notices were mailed to nearly 860,000 business and individuals with Pennsylvania tax delinquencies. In total, 35,430 taxpayers participated in the program.
Once the program ended, an additional 5 percent non-participation penalty was added to all amnesty-eligible accounts, with any unpaid, under-reported or unreported liability. Any taxpayers who received tax amnesty benefits must remain up-to-date with state taxes for two years; otherwise, the tax amnesty benefits may be revoked.
To read the report, click here.
Continuing the Battle Against Heroin, Opioid Epidemic
The heroin and opioid epidemic plaguing the Commonwealth has now been declared a statewide disaster by Gov. Tom Wolf.
The designation comes on the heels of the General Assembly’s passage of at least a dozen state laws aimed at stopping abuse before it starts through prescription limits and better education outreach, as well as efforts to increase the availability of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone and improved treatment options.
Among the goals set by the administration to address the issue are enhancing coordination and data collection to bolster state and local response; improving tools for families, first responders and others to save lives; and speeding up and expanding access to treatment.
More than 4,600 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to opioid overdose in 2016, and the 2017 statistics are expected to increase.
The opioid crisis affects all groups of Pennsylvanians – not differentiating by race, region, religion, income or any other factor. Beyond the public health toll, opioids are straining prisons, the child welfare system and hospitals, and nationwide have cost more than $50 billion annually in treatment and lost productivity.
• The PA Farm Show will be held in Harrisburg through Saturday, Jan. 13.
• Offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 15, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
• Monthly Radio Address: Thursday, Jan. 25, at 8:30 a.m. on WHLM 94.7 FM.
• The Early Bird Sportsmen’s Expo will be held at the Bloomsburg Fair Grounds from Thursday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 28.