Jun. 21, 2019


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 The latest news from the State Capitol

Marsy’s Law Now Up to Voters

Legislation I co-sponsored that would provide Pennsylvania crime victims with a bill of rights passed unanimously in the Senate this week. House Bill 276, also known as Marsy’s Law, will now appear as a ballot question in the November election for voters to decide.

The bill would change the state Constitution and ensure crime victims receive information about their rights; receive notification of proceedings in their criminal cases; be present at court hearings; be heard at plea and sentencing proceedings; and be treated with fairness, respect and dignity.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California. She was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Then, just days later, her mother and brother were confronted by the accused murderer in a grocery store. They were unaware the defendant had been released on bail.

To honor his sister, Henry Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.

Action on House Bill 276 was in addition to six other measures to enhance protections for crime victims that were sent this week to the governor by the House and Senate. They include House Bill 502, which strengthens the right of crime victims to attend court proceedings, and House Bill 504, which shields rape victims against irrelevant cross examinations.
Taxpayers Deserve Better Budgeting Practices

The House this week adopted several measures to bring more transparency to the budget process.

To help limit “supplemental” spending beyond what is approved in each year’s budget, House Bill 855 would require the secretary of the budget to project revenue shortfalls for the fiscal year starting in December and put that amount of money in budgetary reserve to ensure the budget is balanced at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, House Bill 923 would require the governor to explain the reasons for any supplemental spending requests and offer recommendations for cost-savings or other reforms to address the cause.

Other reform measures would require the administration to provide additional details as part of the governor’s proposed budget (House Bill 922); require quarterly reports on funding committed and awarded through special funds that provide grants and subsidies (House Bill 921); and update budget procedures related to unspent appropriations and how those amounts are dealt with at the close of a fiscal year (House Bill 920).

The bills are part of the #GovtDoneRight initiative and now go to the Senate for consideration. Learn more here
Committee News

As the result of a recent committee hearing on my bill to help alleviate the rainwater tax, the House Environmental Resources and Energy and Local Government committees this week convened a joint public hearing to explore the stormwater requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the impact on local governments. Committee members heard from municipal officials about the challenges they face in implementing the costly guidelines and the consequences for their residents.

I’m the sponsor of House Bill 781, which would give county governments the option of using impact fee funds derived from the Marcellus Shale industry for stormwater management in order to give ratepayers relief.

As chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee, I led an informational meeting on Wednesday on Pennsylvania’s implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act. We heard from representatives of a consulting firm and the Human Services Department on the steps being taken to have the initiative in place by the Oct. 1, 2021, deadline.

The new law aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment and in-home parenting skill training.                                    
Boosting PA’s Dairy Industry

A rally was held at the Capitol this week in support of two bills pending in Congress to help the dairy industry and our children.

The “Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019” would allow flavored and unflavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias to give students more choice, while the Dairy PRIDE Act would protect the integrity of dairy products by calling on the feds to enforce existing labeling requirements for milk. Essentially, non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds and plants could no longer be marketed as milk, yogurt or cheese.

One of the speakers was Pennsylvania Congressman Glenn Thompson (at podium), sponsor of the school milk bill.

Earlier, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved resolutions endorsing the bills and urging congressional action.
Capitol Visitors

Three outstanding young women participating in the Keystone Girls State Program stopped by my office while they were at the Capitol this week. Pictured with me are (from left) Kelsey Riemer, Pittsburgh; Hannah Holbert, Wayne County; and Grace Ciaccia, Dallas. Keystone Girls State is a civic leadership development program run by the Pennsylvania American Legion.

I had the pleasure of visiting with the Luzerne County Dairy Court while they were at the Capitol this week. Pictured with me are (from left) Juliet Price, Luzerne County Dairy Maid; Toni Traver, Luzerne County Dairy Ambassador; and Kaelyn Traver, Luzerne County Dairy Princess.
Scam Warning

The Department of Revenue has issued a warning about a scam targeting seniors and people with disabilities who applied to the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

The scam consists of unsolicited telephone calls from a person claiming to work for the Department of Revenue. The caller starts by saying the recipient’s application for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been approved. The caller then asks if the recipient would like the rebate directly deposited into a bank account, which prompts a request from the caller for the recipient’s banking information.

The department says it never calls an applicant to collect banking information or confirm information has been received and approved. Learn more here.
Bringing State Government to You

On Tuesday, June 25, a member of my staff will be holding satellite office hours at the Meshoppen Borough Building, intersection of Canal Street and Route 267, from 10 a.m. to noon; then at the Laceyville Borough Building, 324 Church St., from 1-3 p.m.

On Wednesday, June 26, a small business representative from Wilkes University will be at my district office in Dallas, 105 Lieutenant Michael Cleary Drive, from 9-11 a.m. In addition, a small business representative from the University of Scranton will be at my district office in Tunkhannock, 133 W. Tioga St., Suite 4, from 10 a.m. to noon.

On Thursday, June 27, a member of my staff will be holding satellite office hours at the Falls Active Adult Center, 2813 Sullivan’s Trail, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Sign Up for Our Spotted Lanternfly Seminar

On Wednesday, July 17, at 6 p.m., I will be hosting an awareness seminar focusing on the spotted lanternfly at Back Mountain Regional EMA, 3593 State Route 118 in Lehman Township.

Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties have yet to report an official sighting of this destructive insect. Nearby Carbon and Monroe counties, however, are on the quarantine list, and we’re trying to be proactive due to the potential damage that can be inflicted by the spotted lanternfly on more than 70 varieties of plants, including hardwood trees, grapes, apples, peaches and hops.

This event is contingent on sufficient pre-registration. If you plan to attend, please reserve your seat by contacting our Dallas district office at 570-675-6000. The deadline to RSVP is Monday, July 8.
Fun for All Ages Awaits at PA Fairs

Summer has officially arrived, and that means it’s also Pennsylvania fair season.

From June through September, communities across the Commonwealth will host more than 100 fairs featuring food, fun and entertainment as well as competitive exhibits highlighting animals, produce, crops, crafts, baking and more.

To make your fair planning easier, the Department of Agriculture is offering an interactive Fair Guide this year that will allow you to search for your favorite events through the “Find Fairs Near Me” tool or filters that narrow down fairs by county, month or date. Click here to access the guide.

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Office Locations
105 Lieutenant Michael Cleary Drive, Dallas, PA 18612 | (570) 675-6000, (800) 278-3930
133 West Tioga Street, Suite 4, Tunkhannock, PA 18657| Phone: (570) 836-4777
41-B East Wing, Main Capitol, PO Box 202117, Harrisburg PA 17120-2117 | Phone: (717) 787-1117
Email: kboback@pahousegop.com