Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Budget Hearings Delve Into Wolf’s Spending and Tax Plans
  • New Legislation Puts the Brakes on Tolling PA Interstate Bridges
  • Special Committee Set to Begin Bipartisan Election Review
  • County Hospitality Industry Program Grants 
  • March is Youth Art Month
  • Montgomery County Office of Senior Services COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Assistance
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Information
  • Decennial Filing
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Applications Available Now
  • Senate Returns to Session Next Week, Budget Hearings Continue
  • Discounted Fishing Licenses Available for Non-Resident Students

Budget Hearings Delve Into Wolf’s Spending and Tax Plans

The Senate Appropriations Committee began the formal process of reviewing Governor Wolf’s budget proposal this week, including exploring how the governor’s massive new spending plans and record-breaking tax increases would impact Pennsylvania communities, families and small employers.

You can watch my questions and the response from the IFO hearing here and here. To see the questions I asked and the response I received during the Revenue/ Lottery hearing, click here. You can watch my Q&A from the Department of Human Services hearing here. You can watch my Q&A from the DEP hearing here, and my Q&A from the Department of State hearing here.

Some of the key points discussed during the hearings this week include:

  • The 470,000 jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of higher taxes on economic growth, the $500 million difference in revenue estimates between the Administration and the Independent Fiscal Office, and the ways a natural gas development tax and a carbon tax could hurt the state’s economy. Key Points, March 8
  • The 500,000 acres of state land that could be used for natural gas development without surface disturbance, and the potential benefits of allowing broadband infrastructure on state game lands. Key Points, March 9
  • The massive increase in spending for human services programs, the need for greater efficiency with the Community HealthChoices Program, and the shared goal of moving able-bodied Medicaid recipients back into the workforce. Key Points, March 10
  • The need for upgrades to the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system, the use of risk-limiting audits, reimbursements for counties for voting machines, permitting delays, the lack of communication and engagement in the Administration’s decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the number of plant shutdowns and job losses that will result from the state’s participation in RGGI. Key Points, March 11

New Legislation Puts the Brakes on Tolling PA Interstate Bridges

3/11/21 – Putting the Brakes on Governor Wolf’s Bridge Tolling Plan

PennDOT recently announced plans to add tolls to nine existing bridges on Pennsylvania’s interstate system. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to put the brakes on this tolling plan and reform the state’s Public-Private Transportation Partnership (P3) process, which produced the tolling plan. Senate Bill 382 will help to provide better government to Pennsylvania. Senate District 24, the District that I represent, encompasses three counties – Berks, Bucks, and Montgomery. My greatest concern with the action of the P3 Board is the effect on commercial development in Berks County. Are we creating winners and losers with the way we’re tolling bridges? I think we are, and I believe we need to sit at the table and talk about this together to come up with a better funding solution.

The legislation would:

  • Increase transparency by requiring PennDOT to publish a detailed analysis prior to the P3 Board’s voting meeting.
  • Incorporate public input by creating a new 30-day public comment period prior to the P3 Board’s voting meeting.
  • Create a checks and balances on an obscure P3 Board by clarifying the P3 project with a user fee shall be deemed disapproved unless the General Assembly approves.
  • Void the PennDOT Pathways Major Bridge P3 Initiative and requires reconsideration by the P3 Board.

I joined several of my colleagues in Harrisburg for a news conference this week to announce the legislation and to voice support for voiding the statute that PennDOT is using to enact these new tolls.

Special Committee Set to Begin Bipartisan Election Review

A newly created Senate panel will begin a comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with its first hearing on Monday, March 15, beginning at 10 a.m. The hearing is scheduled to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states.

The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform is anticipated to produce a report that will be presented to the General Assembly with recommendations to improve the administration and safety of elections in Pennsylvania.

State residents are encouraged to submit comments through the online form.

County Hospitality Industry Program Grants 

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has allocated $145 million to counties for a grant program to provide financial relief to businesses with a primary activity in NAICS Code subsector 721 (Accommodations) and 722 (Food Service and Drinking Places) per Senate Bill 109, known as Act 1 of 2021, signed by Governor Wolf on Friday, February 5th, 2021.

If you or someone you know are interested in the grant, I encourage you to review your respective county’s information for further guidance. I have provided some basic information for the 24th District counties below:

Berks County

Rebuild Berks’ COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Programs’ eligibility guidelines, application requirements, and program information are available at https://rebuildberks.com/funding/.

Applications will be accepted from March 15 at 12 p.m. to April 5, 2021 at 5 p.m.

Bucks County

Bucks County’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program’s eligibility guidelines, application requirements, and program information are available at https://buckscounty.org/docs/default-source/hcd/chirp.pdf?sfvrsn=41b70def_2.

Applications will be accepted from March 15, 2021 to April 2, 2021. Awards will be based on need fund availability and will be first come, first serve.

Montgomery County

Montgomery County’s PA Hospitality and Industry Recovery Program’s eligibility guidelines, application requirements, and program information are available at https://www.montcopa.org/3705/MontcoStrong-2021-Pennsylvania-Hospitali.

The application window for this program will open at 12 p.m. on Friday, March 12, 2021. Applications will be accepted until all grant funds are awarded.

March is Youth Art Month

March is celebrated all across the nation as Youth Art Month. It is a time when educators, legislators, and the public set aside time to acknowledge the importance of the arts in education, advocate on its behalf, and celebrate the incredible talent of our Commonwealth’s youth artists. In Pennsylvania, the main event is the annual Youth Art Month (YAM) Art Exhibit which is hosted at the Department of Education building in Harrisburg. This exhibit draws hundreds of people who travel from all over Pennsylvania to see the amazing talent in the showcase. This year, the exhibit was moved to an online platform. This is a great way to display our state’s youth artwork, and I’m sure it will bring joy to everyone that views it!

The exhibit can be viewed here.

Montgomery County Office of Senior Services COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Assistance

 

The Montgomery County Office of Senior Services is excited to share their newest initiative that will enable residents who have no access to internet and fall into two specific categories, to pre-register by phone for the vaccine.

See the attached flyer for more information.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration and information is now available.

A guide about how to get the COVID-19 vaccine is now on the Department of Health website, which can be found here: https://www.pa.gov/guides/get-vaccinated/.

Berks County vaccine information can be found at https://www.doyourpartberks.com/covid-19-vaccine-information. To locate a COVID-19 vaccine provider and schedule your vaccination appointment, visit https://www.health.pa.gov/…/COVID-19-Vaccine-Providers…. If you have a question about the COVID-19 vaccines, you can call the PA Health Hotline at 1-877-724-3258.

Bucks County has posted COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration information on their website. Visit https://buckscounty.org/…/CoronavirusInfo/VaccineInfo for more information. For any questions regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations you can email COVID19@buckscounty.org or call 215-345-3318.

Montgomery County has posted COVID-19 vaccine FAQs on their website, along with COVID-19 vaccination registration. Visit https://www.montcopa.org/3660/COVID-19-Vaccine for more information. Any questions or concerns regarding the vaccine registration must be directed to the Montgomery County Office of Public Health at publichealth@montcopa.org or 610-278-3000.

Mobile Home Tax Reassessment Program

 

United Way of Bucks County, in partnership with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, is offering free assistance to mobile home owners in Bucks County to file for property tax reassessment appeals. They will do all the work and pay the fees of the eligible homeowners in the program. See the flyer for more information, or click here.

Decennial Filing

Don’t forget to check whether or not you need to file a decennial filing or decennial report!

All domestic and foreign business corporations, non-profit corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships that are not also limited partnerships, business trusts, as well as insignias and marks used with articles and supplies that have not made a new or amended filing with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations (Bureau) from January 1, 2012 thru December 31, 2021, must file a report that they continue to exist.

Learn more here.

Emergency Rental Assistance Applications Available Now

Renters struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic can apply now for financial assistance through a program authorized by the General Assembly last month. Applications and more information on the program are available from the Department of Human Services.

Funding for the program was released to counties by Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity on Tuesday.

Senate Returns to Session Next Week, Budget Hearings Continue

The Senate will return to session on Monday. You can follow all committee hearings, meetings, floor debates and votes live at www.PASenateGOP.com.

In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee will continue its review of Governor Wolf’s budget with hearings featuring the Department of Education and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education on Thursday.

Discounted Fishing Licenses Available for Non-Resident Students

Non-resident students attending in-state universities now qualify for a discounted fishing license from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The price of a license is $22.97, which is the same price as an annual license for state residents and $30 less than the cost of an annual non-resident license.

Licenses are available through the HuntFishPA online licensing system. The opening day of trout season is April 3.

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