HARRISBURG, June 4 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, today said the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program deadline to apply for a rebate on property taxes or rent paid in 2014 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31. Pennsylvanians 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older, and people with disabilities 18 or older qualify for the benefits under the program. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Half of Social Security income and any COLAs are excluded. “Rebates for this program will be distributed beginning July 1,” Schweyer said. “I encourage all qualified individuals to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of possibly getting up to $650.” Constituents may contact Schweyer’s district office staff at 610-791-6270 for assistance with completing the form. The staff will let them know what paperwork they need to bring with them. Schweyer’s office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is located at 1912 S. 4th St., Allentown. The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is one of five programs supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery. Since the program’s 1971 inception, older and disabled adults have received more than $5.6 billion in property tax and rent relief. The expanded portion of the rebate program is paid for with revenue from slots gaming. For more information about the program, go to www.revenue.pa.gov . Read more
HARRISBURG, June 4 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca said the state has extended to the end of the year the deadline for older adults and residents with disabilities to apply for a property tax or rent rebate. The deadline is Dec. 31 for the state's Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program for eligible residents to receive a rebate on their paid 2014 property taxes or rent. "If you think you might be eligible, I invite you to apply," said Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana. "Positive changes to the program should make more people eligible, since Social Security cost-of-living adjustments now won't automatically disqualify applicants, and now there's more time to inquire and get those applications in. My office staff and I stand ready to help." The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older and people with disabilities 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. A second change to the program last year, which Petrarca also supported, now allows rebate claims to be filed by spouses, personal representatives or estates on behalf of deceased claimants who meet all qualifying criteria and lived at least one day in 2014, rather than the entire year. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. The Revenue Read more
ERIE, June 4 – Joined by volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services providers at West Lake Fire Department, state Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro today voiced his support for legislation that would exempt emergency responders from paying more than $47 in fees for state and federal background clearances. Bizzarro discussed H.B. 1081 , which would excuse volunteer and paid firefighters and EMS providers from paying the $10 state Department of Human Services child abuse clearance fee, in addition to the $10 Pennsylvania State Police criminal background clearance fee. It would also waive FBI clearance fees, totaling nearly $30, provided the emergency responders have lived in Pennsylvania for the past 10 years and have clean records. “Our volunteers put their lives on the line for us every day, while saving the commonwealth billions of dollars,” Bizzarro said. “We rely on them to keep our communities safe, even though many volunteer organizations’ budgets are suffering. Instead of potentially deterring many interested people from signing up to volunteer, we should ease the burden of these fees so our courageous men and women can continue to help improve our state.” According to Bizzarro, the fees are the unintended consequences from recent changes to the state’s child protection laws. “One of our most important jobs is to protect our children,” Bizzarro said. “However, we also need to look out for those caring Read more
The state House this week unanimously voted to extend by three years the Aug. 31 deadline for Pennsylvania veterans to apply to the state’s Persian Gulf Veterans' Bonus Program. Read more
Bill to ban nicotine products in Pa. schools advances
State Rep. Gerald Mullery’s bill to expand the types of tobacco- and nicotine-based products banned from Pennsylvania schools was unanimously voted out of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Under House Bill 1189, e-cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco and other nicotine products would be banned from schools. Cigarette smoking is already prohibited on school grounds.
HARRISBURG, June 3 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca this week voted to extend the Persian Gulf Veterans' Bonus Program for an additional three years. The program which provides a small, one-time stipend to veterans of the first Gulf War, is set to expire on Aug. 31. "I supported the creation of this program back in 2006 and now I'm urging its extension because I want to make sure that everyone who qualifies for this bonus is able to apply for it," said Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana. More than 200 veterans applied to the program just last month. Since the program's inception, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has processed more than 11,000 applications. About $2 million remains in the fund from the last bond sale – more than enough to cover the program extension without the need for additional money. The Persian Gulf Veterans' Bonus Program pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For those whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in the operations, an additional $5,000 is available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war also may be eligible for an additional $5,000. The program is open to veterans of the Armed Forces, the reserves or the Pennsylvania National Guard who served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations between Aug. 2, 1990 and Aug. 31, 1991. Recipients of the Read more
HARRISBURG, June 2 – House Urban Affairs Committee Democratic Chairman Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House of Representatives passed a bill to financially boost the state's affordable housing program. House Bill 792 would provide an additional source of funding for the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, or PHARE. "Our urbans areas are afflicted with affordable housing issues," Caltagirone said. "While they bear the brunt of the problems, affordable housing issues are prevalent in suburban and rural areas also." Caltagirone said the legislation would provide a dedicated funding source for the fund, utilizing any increase realized in Realty Transfer Tax revenue collected by the commonwealth. Under the bill, half of any additional revenue realized by the tax beyond the base year would go into the fund and the other half would go into the state's General Fund. The legislation also would provide a funding formula upon enactment. "This is a real opportunity to help families struggling to purchase or build a new home, pay rent or rehab an existing property," Caltagirone said. "Reversing blight and abandonment takes a long time but this could move that process along." Caltagirone added that prior to the House vote, the measure was unanimously approved by the House Urban Affairs Committee. Read more
State Rep. Neal P. Goodman’s legislation that would extend the Persian Gulf Veterans’ Bonus Program for three more years passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tuesday. The program, which provides a small, one-time stipend to veterans of the first Gulf War, is set to expire on Aug. 31.
HARRISBURG, June 2 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, today said a student from Allentown has been awarded with the Outstanding Middle School Student with a Visual Impairment award during the 2015 Blindness Awareness Expo. The event is held every year in the State Capitol and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. According to the entry submitted for her nomination, Treasure Signorelli is a sixth-grade student at South Mountain Middle School. She does not identify herself as having a disability and takes every opportunity to participate in activities, both in and out of school. Treasure is a hard-working student who receives high marks in all her classes. Schweyer said Treasure is a role model both academically and socially. “It’s always sends a powerful message when someone defies the odds and does great things, not only for themselves, but also for their community,” Schweyer said. “I am truly inspired by Treasure’s accomplishments and actions and wish nothing but great things for her in the future.” Other awards given out during the Blindness Awareness Expo include the Outstanding Elementary School and High School Student with a Visual Impairment, Outstanding Employee with a Visual Impairment and the Independence Award. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 2 – House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, announced today that the committee will hold a public hearing about a national perspective of retirement security from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 4 in the House Minority Caucus Room, 418 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg. Read more
State Rep. Gerald Mullery has introduced legislation (H.B. 1274) that would ensure employees who are paid with a debit card have access to the full amount of their wages and no-cost access to their accounts. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 1 – Voting rights advocates joined state Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, at a news conference at the state Capitol today on Bizzarro’s legislation to make the electoral process easier through same-day voter registration. Read more
The energy investment plan contained in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal would create good, green jobs, save schools and municipalities money through reduced electric costs and help the environment. Those conclusions came from a panel that included representatives of energy companies, a suburban Philadelphia school official, farmers and a high-ranking member of the Wolf administration. They testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee during a hearing Monday in the state Capitol.
PHILADELPHIA, May 29 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., today released a statement on the importance of buying local produce and the value of PA Preferred, the state-supported agricultural marketing program for food and agricultural products grown, produced or processed in Pennsylvania. “It’s that time of year to start my rounds to the local farmers’ markets in the 194th Legislative District, and I am always impressed and pleased with the fresh produce and goodies I can find,” she said. “This week I stopped by the Bala Cynwyd Farmers' Market at its new location on the Barmouth Trailhead of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. I love bringing the farm to my table; somehow the food just tastes better, and I know it is better for me.” DeLissio added that there are many other organizations devoted to local and fresh produce and products, including Farm to City , a Philadelphia-based program whose goal is to unite communities, families and farmers year-round through good locally grown food. “As a member of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, I am acutely aware of the benefits PA Preferred provides growers and consumers,” DeLissio continued. “By purchasing goods made in Pennsylvania, you are making a difference by instilling pride in our homegrown products and helping our local economy. Many of my farmers’ market buddies sell their PA Preferred products not only roadside, but look Read more
HARRISBURG, May 29 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro today announced that GeorgeKo Industries Inc. in Erie County received a $9,500 Small Business Advantage Grant from the state. The plastic parts manufacturer is one of nearly 140 businesses statewide that will install energy efficiency or pollution prevention projects using grants provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection. DEP recently awarded more than $980,000 to 139 small businesses for those purposes.
PITTSBURGH, May 29 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, said he supports today's court ruling requiring local health care giant UPMC to continue accepting the health insurance of Highmark Medicare Advantage customers. "Today's decision gives some security to our seniors currently enrolled in the Highmark Medicare Advantage program," DeLuca said. "Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini left no doubt that the previous agreement which extended coverage through 2019 could not be cancelled by one side." UPMC previously announced plans to end the agreement, which would have left 182,000 Highmark Medicare Advantage subscribers without access to UPMC facilities beginning in January 2016. "The court ruling today was a sharp reminder that neither UPMC nor Highmark has the authority to change the consent decrees that are currently in effect." DeLuca added. "Now these Medicare Advantage subscribers can look to the fall open enrollment period with a sense of stability and the knowledge that their current plan will remain in effect for the next three years." DeLuca has been active in trying to end the dispute between Highmark and UPMC and introduced H.B. 1172, which would give the state Insurance commissioner the authority to provide additional patient protection for consumers who are impacted by the Highmark-UPMC dispute. As part of the original consent Read more
PITTSBURGH, May 29 – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, released the following statement in light of the ruling today by Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini in the ongoing dispute between UPMC and Highmark: "Today’s decision by Judge Pellegrini is a momentous victory for consumers in western Pennsylvania. Under this decision, UPMC is required to continue to see Highmark Medicare Advantage patients at in-network rates which means that 180,000 seniors will not lose access to their doctors," Frankel said. "The decision is important in several ways. Not only does it resolve the ongoing confusion regarding Medicare Advantage, it requires both UPMC and Highmark to resolve outstanding issues related to their consent decrees through binding arbitration which must be completed by September 30, 2015. In doing so, this decision could help provide clarity to hundreds of thousands of consumers in Pennsylvania who’ve been held hostage by this ongoing situation," Frankel said. "Additionally, Judge Pellegrini made it clear that neither entity can make changes in their future business relationship with each other without court approval. The decision also requires the Commonwealth to make recommendations on how to change the corporate governance structure of both entities. This could lead to long-term changes in UPMC and Highmark’s behavior that reorients them to an even stronger commitment to serve Read more
The Senate and House Democratic policy committees hosted a joint hearing at Philadelphia City Hall to discuss legislation that aims to improve public health and safety by giving workers the opportunity to accrue paid sick leave. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 28 – State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne/Lackawanna, will introduce an omnibus Public School Code bill that would establish a moratorium on Keystone Exams being used as a requirement for graduation. Carroll said this suspension would benefit students and their families, while offering much-needed relief to school districts that face significant financial and educational obstacles to fully implement the graduation requirement. "It has become ever more apparent to me that the linkage of Keystone exam passage to graduation is riddled with problems and that more thought is required to assess students with a wide range of abilities," said Carroll, a member of the House Education Committee. "A one-size-fits-all approach seldom works in the real word and the Keystone exam requirement is no exception." Carroll said this provision of his pending bill complements an effort by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, Democratic chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Carroll's bill also will include all of Gov. Tom Wolf's education code changes, except that his bill will go beyond Wolf's plan to ensure fairness in special education funding for both charter and cyber charter schools. It will seek to accomplish this by applying the special education formula recommended by the Special Education Funding Commission to both charter and cyber charter schools. Another key difference between the Wolf plan and Read more
HARRISBURG, May 27 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, said the Commonwealth Financing Authority today approved nearly $800,000 in state gaming grants for important projects in portions of Lackawanna County he represents.
“While the casinos have provided thousands of jobs and helped the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania, an additional benefit is the local economic development dollars that are provided to adjacent counties,” Flynn said.
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