Northeast Republican Delegation Receives Update on Royalty Lawsuit
This week, several members of the Northeast Republican Delegation in the Pennsylvania House, of which I am chair, met with Attorney General Josh Shapiro to receive an update on his office’s lawsuit against two natural gas companies involved in alleged deceptive royalty payment practices along the Northern Tier. We requested the meeting to emphasize the plight of our constituents with complaints against the companies.
Shapiro told us that oral arguments on preliminary objections are scheduled to take place on July 20. If the cases are successful, Shapiro said the defendants will be required to make restitution to those who have suffered losses, pay civil penalties of $1,000 for each violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, and pay $3,000 for each violation involving a person 60 years and older, as well as permanently refrain from any action that violates the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
During the meeting, Shapiro encouraged any citizen with royalty-related concerns to file a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection in his office at www.attorneygeneral.gov.
To read more about our meeting, click here.
In the meantime, my colleagues and I are continuing to negotiate legislation that would further clarify the 1979 law so that post-production costs cannot take royalty payments below the state minimum royalty payment.
Good Samaritan Bill Advances
To help prevent injury and death of children trapped in hot cars, I introduced a bill that would provide civil immunity for any damage that may be done to the vehicle when forceful entry is necessary to rescue a child. The bill was passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
According to the organization KidsandCars.org, since the beginning of 2017, 12 children have died after being left in hot cars. And in Pennsylvania, our summer season is just beginning. We must remember these are defenseless babies and children – the statistics are devastating.
House Bill 1152 would encourage Good Samaritans to act on behalf of children unable to escape an overheated vehicle.
The immunity only would apply when the person acts reasonably under the circumstances. Good Samaritans must have a good faith belief that the child is in imminent danger; they must have determined the vehicle is locked and there is no reasonable method for the child to be removed prior to forcibly entering the vehicle; and the person must have attempted to contact law enforcement.
The bill can now be considered by the full House.
Protecting Veteran Integrity
Unscrupulous individuals who seek to benefit financially by falsely identifying themselves as veterans will face criminal penalties under legislation signed into law this week.
Act 9 of 2017, formerly House Bill 168, seeks to protect the honor and valor of America’s veterans by making any misrepresentation of military service or honors for financial benefit a third-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
Examples of such criminal behavior range from lying to receive veteran or health care benefits to fraudulently obtaining preference in a government contract or a job reserved for a veteran.
This new law is designed to help preserve the reputation of legitimate veterans. It will take effect in 60 days.
New Law Gets Tough on Animal Abusers
This week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation passed by the House earlier this spring that strengthens existing animal cruelty laws and makes it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal.
House Bill 1238, now Act 10 of 2017, outlines three tiers of cruelty and neglect, with charges ranging from a summary offense for denying an animal food or shelter to a third-degree felony for intentionally torturing an animal or causing serious bodily injury or death.
The new law also requires convicted animal abusers to forfeit their animals and set limits on how long an animal can be tethered outdoors, and clarifies penalties for abusing a horse.
The measure is known as “Libre’s Law,” named after a Boston terrier puppy who was rescued from a Lancaster County farm last summer after suffering from severe neglect.
The new law takes effect in 60 days from signing.
Driver’s Licenses to Have New Look
As part of ongoing security enhancements, PennDOT has updated the design and enhanced the security features of its driver license and identification card products. This new look is not related to ongoing efforts to comply with federal REAL ID requirements, which are still being developed.
All driver and photo centers will transition to the new products by the end of October. The new products will be phased in over the next four-year renewal cycle and will replace existing products. Both current and new card designs will be in circulation during the transition period.
The cards, which look very different, will have additional enhanced security features to improve fraud prevention and protect from counterfeiting and alteration. Some of the new features include a larger primary portrait and smaller ghost portrait; a 2D bar code; laser perforation; and lamination with the state motto. The magnetic strip has been eliminated on the back.
For more information and to see an image of the new card design, visit www.dmv.pa.gov.
Are You Interested in a Nonprofit, Anti-Fraud and Theft Prevention Seminar?
Have you been following local news stories regarding theft of funds at volunteer organizations? Do you have volunteers who manage the finances of your not-for-profit group? Then I have a program for you.
While 99.9 percent of our volunteers are beyond reproach, some are unscrupulous and have absconded with thousands of dollars raised by hard-working members. As a result, I have decided to offer an informational session to help your organization avert a financial catastrophe. The focus of the seminar would be on practical processes, procedures and internal controls for small organizations with few or no employees (PREDOMINANTLY VOLUNTEERS). Examples of local cases of financial mismanagement and specific controls where losses could have been prevented or at least minimalized will be discussed.
The presentation will be given by Dr. Fred Croop, CPA, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Social Sciences at Misericordia University. Dr. Croop has authored two publications addressing financial management and internal controls for volunteer organizations. Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell will also be present to offer his perspective on financial mismanagement cases investigated through his office.
I have reserved the Wyoming County Emergency Management Building for Tuesday, July 25, from 6-8 p.m. for this presentation (depending on the response I receive). If there is not enough interest, I will not hold the seminar.
Please let me know if you are interested in attending this event. You can contact my Dallas district office at 570-675-6000, or my Tunkhannock district office at 570-836-4777.
Independence Day Reminders
Tuesday, July 4, is our nation’s 241st birthday, and celebrations are taking place around the nation to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which occurred right here in Pennsylvania. Please be sure to celebrate safely. Information about fireworks safety is available here.
If you are traveling, check out www.511pa.com, which is free and available 24 hours a day. The site, along with its Twitter handle @511pa, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 770 traffic cameras.
PennDOT will also close its driver license service centers on Tuesday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.
Have a safe and happy July 4!
July 4 Marks PA’s Second Fish-for-Free Day
The second Fish for Free Day in Pennsylvania will be held Tuesday, July 4.
Fish-for-Free Days allow anyone – residents and non-residents – to legally fish in Pennsylvania without a fishing license. On Tuesday, no fishing license is needed to fish in Pennsylvania’s waterways. All other fishing regulations apply. http://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/FishingRegulations/Pages/FishForFreeDay.aspx
To make the fishing experience more convenient, people can borrow equipment from dozens of fishing tackle loaner sites across the state. Many of the sites are located at state parks, along with some county parks and public libraries.Click here for the list of loaner sites.
More information is available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, <www.FishandBoat.com> which includes interactive maps, regional fishing reports, and tips on fishing fundamentals. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.GoneFishingPa.com.
Outreach and Satellite Hours Offered Next Week
A member of my staff will be available at the following locations next week to provide assistance with Property Tax/Rent Rebate forms, PennDOT paperwork, state-related issues and more.
• Wednesday, July 5, at the Dalton Borough Building, located at 105 West Main St., Dalton, from 10 a.m. to noon.
• Thursday, July 6, at the Factoryville Borough Building, located at 161 College Ave. in Factoryville, from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Mobile Vet Center will be in the Ace Hardware-Brady and Cavany Store parking lot in Eaton Township on Monday, July 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Some of the services available for veterans and their dependents include individual, group, family and bereavement counseling; medical referrals; assistance in applying for Veterans Affairs benefits; employment counseling; guidance and referrals; and alcohol and drug assessments.
On Wednesday, July 5, the American Legion will hold office hours at the Tunkhannock district office, located at 133 West Tioga St., Suite 4, in Tunkhannock from 10 a.m. to noon.
A claims consultant from the American Legion will provide the assistance. Area veterans may seek assistance and information pertaining to specific benefits and programs. Additional meetings will be held on the first Wednesday of every month. For more information and to register, visit www.RepBoback.com or call my Tunkhannock district office at 570-836-4777.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program deadline for older adults and residents with disabilities to apply for rebates of rent and property taxes paid in 2016 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2017.
Each year the department evaluates the program as the statutory June 30 application deadline approaches to determine if funds are available to extend the deadline. To date, funding has been available to allow all who qualify to receive a rebate. The Department of Revenue will begin mailing checks after July 1 for those already approved for a rebate.
Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-222-9190.
It costs nothing to apply for a rebate, and free application assistance is available in my district offices. Claimants who already applied for rebates can check the status of claims online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES.
Around Our Community
I attended the Dallas Days Bicentennial Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show last weekend. The show was chaired by Eli Foss.
Last weekend, I attended the Callie Memorial Car Show in Fleetville. Pictured with me are Jeffrey Walter, Stephanie Walter O’Hara, Vicki Walter, Ed Antoine, and (front) Colin O’Hara.
Pictured with me at Dallas Family Day are Kaelyn Traver, Dairy Princess; Toni Traver, Dairy Ambassador; and Morgan Headman, Dairy Maid. The ladies reminded us to drink three servings of milk per day!
It was my pleasure to present a House citation to Eagle Scout Jacob Fiore. Pictured with us are his parents, John and Virginia Fiore.
Founders Day in Tunkhannock
It was my pleasure to visit a variety of vendors at Founders Day last Saturday. Seen in this photo are representatives of the Tunkhannock Area Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization.
Pictured with me are members of the Wyoming County Fair Queen program at Founders Day.
I am pictured with Blue Star Mothers.