|The latest news from the State Capitol
House Approves Responsible Budget
The House recently approved a no-tax-increase $32.7 billion budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that respects the taxpayer while also investing more money for all levels of education and protecting our communities and families.
For education, the budget creates a new, $60 million initiative to ensure Pennsylvania’s children are in a safe learning environment and invests $100 million more for basic education, $25 million more for early childhood education and an additional $15 million for special education. This equates to a record-high $12.3 billion for prekindergarten through 12th-grade education. Additionally, the budget includes a 3 percent increase for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities and community colleges; a 3.3 percent boost for the State System of Higher Education; and $30 million more for career and technical education.
Additional funds will help protect communities by training more state police troopers, caring for those with intellectual disabilities, supplying home visiting services for families affected by opioid crisis and supporting emergency medical services.
This budget is the result of prudent spending, an improved economy and responsible policies that prevented the need for the governor’s repeated calls for increased taxes over the last four years.
For the Budget story, can you change the last sentence to: On Friday, the governor signed the spending plan into law.
More information is available here.
Meeting with Keystone Girls
Earlier this week, we welcomed to the Capitol young women participating in the American Legion Auxiliary Keystone Girls State.
Keystone Girls State is a program that helps young women develop leadership skills and a better understanding of the governmental process. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for these bright young women.
Gas Drilling Tax Now Tops $1.4 Billion
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission announced this year’s distribution of Impact Fees on natural gas producers totals $209 million, which is approximately $36 million higher than last year.
County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $114,784,380 for the 2017 reporting year. Additionally, $76,522,900 will be transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways and other projects throughout the state. Also, $18.25 million will be distributed to state agencies
Since 2011, the fees have totaled $1.4 billion. For those who say gas drillers aren’t paying their fair share, these figures beg to differ.
Processing Birth Certificates Faster
This week, the House voted overwhelmingly for legislation that aims to prevent unreasonable delays in getting birth certificates to citizens who need them.
With the implementation of REAL ID, many Pennsylvanians will be requesting a copy of their birth certificate from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records. Despite efforts to work with the department to improve processing times, it currently takes as long as six months for the state to issue a birth certificate.
House Bill 84 would overhaul the process for issuing birth certificates by permitting the Division of Vital Records to coordinate with city and county officials, along with more than 150 registrars statewide, to help with the issuance of the birth certificates. It also would mandate a top-to-bottom, third-party review of the current process to issue birth certificates, with a goal of increasing efficiency and processing times.
House Bill 84 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
New Fireworks Law in Effect for Independence Day
Pennsylvanians celebrating Independence Day in Pennsylvania will have more options for purchasing fireworks, thanks to a new law passed last fall.
Under the new law, consumers can now purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks that include firecrackers, Roman Candles, bottle rockets and similar fireworks that contain a maximum of 50 milligrams of explosive material. The expansion includes those fireworks that were previously only available to out-of-state residents.
“Display fireworks,” which are classified as including fireworks that contain more than 2 grains or 130 milligrams of explosive materials, and professional-grade aerial shells containing more than 60 grams of pyrotechnic compositions, are still only to be used by professionals with a permit from the municipality where the display will take place.
Several restrictions are in place regarding where fireworks can be ignited or discharged, including having express permission of the property owner. Fireworks cannot be discharged from or within a motor vehicle or building, toward a motor vehicle or building or within 150 feet of an occupied structure. Also, it is recommended to check on any applicable local ordinances.
Anyone 18 years or older can purchase fireworks. They are legal to be sold at any licensed facility, including temporary ones. These temporary structures can sell fireworks between the dates of June 15-July 8, and Dec. 21-Jan. 2 each year.
For more information on the law and fireworks, click here.
July 4 Marks PA’s Second Fish-for-Free Day
The second Fish-for-Free Day in Pennsylvania will be held Wednesday, July 4.
Fish-for-Free Days allow anyone – residents and non-residents – to legally fish in Pennsylvania without a fishing license. All other fishing regulations apply.
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, which includes interactive maps, regional fishing reports, and tips on fishing fundamentals. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.GoneFishingPa.com.