In this Edition:
The Mensch Report: Veterans Appreciation
This edition of the Mensch Report features highlights from my fifth annual Veterans Appreciation Breakfast.
The event featured special guest speaker Sergeant Major (Retired) Richard C. Hamp. Sergeant Major Hamp currently serves as Director for the Bureau of Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration and Outreach with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. In addition, State Representative Marcy Toepel, State Representative Justin Simmons, and State Representative Ryan Mackenzie gave formal remarks and thanked the veterans for their service.
State Program of the Month – 2017 Tax Amnesty Program
Every month, we will feature a state program that may be helpful to you. January’s program of the month is the 2017 Tax Amnesty Program.
The program will waive 100 percent of penalties and half of the interest for any individual or business that pays delinquent state taxes from April 21 – June 19, 2017. To learn more about the program, I encourage you to access the Tax Amnesty Webinar here or via YouTube through this link.
Residents Urged to Take Part in January 10 Telephone Town Hall on PA Heroin/Opioid Crisis
Senator Mensch and Senator Gene Yaw discuss the heroin and opioid crisis and the upcoming telephone town hall on the problem.
Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic will be the focus of a third telephone town hall meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10 from the State Capitol in Harrisburg.
I urge area residents to participate in the event, which is part of a statewide effort to gather information on how the growing epidemic is affecting Pennsylvania and what can be done to save lives and battle addiction. It is the third of five ‘regional’ tele-town halls scheduled around the state.
Those interested in taking part can sign up ahead of time at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com to receive a phone call a few moments before the town hall meeting begins. Individuals can also sign up by texting the keyword “talkheroin” to the number 828282. Audio streaming for the tele-town hall will also be available online.
The event will be hosted by Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), who chairs the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan, bicameral legislative research agency of the General Assembly. He will be joined by experts from across the Commonwealth and other special guests to answer questions about heroin and opioid addiction and what the Legislature is doing to curb the use of these dangerous drugs.
Nearly 3,400 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania in 2015, an increase of more than 23 percent over 2014. In approximately four out of five of those deaths, the presence of heroin or at least on opioid was reported.
I strongly encourage everyone to participate in the January 10 telephone town hall discussion on Pennsylvania's battle with heroin and opioid addiction. You can listen or participate in the discussion.
Two-Year Renewal and Elimination of Registration Sticker
PennDOT is no longer issuing or providing registration expiration stickers to be placed on registration plates or issue replacement registration stickers.
Customers are still required to maintain a valid and current registration and must present the registration card to law enforcement when asked. The valid registration card is also still required when having a safety inspection completed.
All motor vehicle forms and publications to registrations were updated to remove the reference of a “sticker” and were also updated to reflect the two-year renewal option. The updated forms are available online.
In addition, customers may elect to pay a two-year registration fee for a two-year registration period for certain types of motor vehicles. The fee shall be two times the amount of the registration fee payable for the motor vehicle registration. Motor vehicles under the International Registration Plan and a motor vehicle with a seasonal registration are not eligible for this two-year registration.
Beware of Fraudulent Unemployment Websites
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry warns constituents filing for unemployment benefits to beware of fraudulent unemployment websites. Always ensure you are on the Labor and Industry website when filing for benefits, changing your personal information, or signing up for direct deposit. Labor and Industry will never ask you to pay for UC services or ask for your credit information.
Locating Lost Insurance Policies for Loved Ones
Uncollected payouts from lost life insurance policies are not rare according to the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance (PID).
Beneficiaries, and those who have reason to believe they may have been designated a beneficiary, can begin by filing a free request with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), triggering the NAIC, PID, and life insurance companies to search their databases.
Within 90 days, the requester should be notified if a policy exists and whether he or she is a beneficiary or entitled to information about the life insurance policy. You may contact the Pennsylvania Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau for further assistance at 1-877-881-6388 or send an email for additional insurance-related questions or issues to be resolved.
Pennsylvania Launches Research Program for Industrial Hemp
Pennsylvania is one step closer to reintroducing industrial hemp to the Keystone State as the Department of Agriculture recently released the application and guidelines to conduct pilot research projects that will help to determine opportunities for its growth, cultivation and marketing.
Under the guidelines the department released, a maximum of 30 projects will be selected for the 2017 growing season. The department will select the successful projects based on a complete program application and a determination of the merit of the proposed research.
The department will issue a research permit to an institution of higher education or to a person contracted to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. The department will only approve products or uses that would use hemp fiber or seed for industrial purposes.
Industrial hemp was grown commercially in the United States, and in Pennsylvania, until after World War II, but became regulated along with marijuana and its cultivation was prohibited. Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant. Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp is grown for fiber and seed, and must maintain a concentration of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, below the 0.3 percent legal threshold.
The deadline to apply for a 2017 PDA Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program is January 6, 2017. Applications will be reviewed, and those applicants who are tentatively approved for research projects will be notified by February 17, 2017.
At this time, there is no regulatory framework that allows movement of viable hemp seed across state lines, so even as applicants are applying for the research projects, the department has taken the initial steps to begin the federal process for importing hemp seeds from other countries. The Department of Agriculture has applied for a general import registration, which is also available to institutions of higher education.
Successful candidates in the competition for research projects will work with the department’s registered importer to purchase seed for their projects. All seeds will be shipped directly to the department and will be held for delivery to approved projects in time for spring planting.
For more information and to view application materials, visit http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Protect/PlantIndustry/Pages/Industrial-Hemp-.aspx.
CHEMSWEEP: Disposing of Pesticide Products
CHEMSWEEP provides Pennsylvania farmers and other licensed pesticide applicators with a means to dispose of canceled, suspended or unwanted pesticide products. Through CHEMSWEEP, applicators can legally dispose of unwanted pesticides, generally at little or no cost. Almost all of the waste pesticides collected are burned in EPA-approved incinerators. The remaining pesticides are treated and placed in EPA-permitted hazardous waste landfills.
CHEMSWEEP has collected over 2.4 million pounds of unwanted pesticides through 2016.
CHEMSWEEP operates in a selected number of counties each year. Licensed farmers, professional pesticide applicators and pesticide businesses in the counties selected for that year are eligible to participate. If you are a pesticide applicator in agriculture, pest control, lawn care or other professional capacity, or a pesticide dealer, check the CHEMSWEEP 2017 map below to see if your county is eligible. If so, complete the CHEMSWEEP registration form and return to the address shown by the deadline of February 28.
To access the registration form, or to learn more about CHEMSWEEP, click here.
Track the Snow Plows Before Leaving Home
GPS-equipped snow plows will allow motorists to determine if the state roads they rely upon to get to work are plowed and treated this winter, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Using 511PA, click the box beside the truck that appears above the map. Then click on the individual plow trucks appearing on the map to view details on the plow’s movements over the previous six hours.
Select winter road conditions, then click on the weather symbols posted along your planned route to reveal additional details including wind direction and speed, temperature and wind chill. Sunny or snowy, the website will also indicate traffic volume including free flowing, moderate, heavy, stop and go, and closures.
This pilot program began with 119 plow trucks and expanded to include 516 PennDOT trucks and 212 rental trucks removing snow on interstates and expressways across the state during 2015. The Department intends to install the tracking technology on over 2,000 plow trucks this winter.
Deer Collisions Cannot Increase Insurance Premiums
Pennsylvania had the second highest rate of deer-related vehicle collisions during 2015, according to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
The average insurance claim for deer crashes is about $4,000. With a one in 70 chance of being involved in a deer-related collision, the Department is reassuring drivers, their insurance company cannot add a surcharge to their premium for an accident with a deer.
These “not-at-fault” crashes tend to occur at dusk and dawn when deer are most active and drivers are commuting to and from work. For additional questions, contact the Insurance Department Consumer Services Bureau online or by calling 1-877-881-6388.
What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?
"What's So Cool About Manufacturing?" is a dynamic student video contest created in 2013 by consortium partners in the Lehigh Valley, led by Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC), that is introducing thousands of middle school students to exciting Advanced Manufacturing career paths.
The program is growing throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Valley contest model is being implemented in seven additional regions in Pennsylvania, as well as other parts of the country.
The eight Pennsylvania "What's So Cool About Manufacturing?" Student Video Contests combined represent 130 middle school teams from 16 different counties. Each middle school will feature a unique manufacturing company across the Commonwealth.
To date, the student teams have visited and filmed their company's facility, technology, products and employees. Their next task is to create a two-minute video about what's so cool about manufacturing that utilizes the footage they recorded. Professional coaching is available throughout their editing process.
To learn more about the program, click here.
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