Aug. 23, 2019


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I’ve Negotiated a Plan with the Governor to Remove Surcharges on Water Bills

 
I have great news! At a press conference this week in Horsham, Gov. Tom Wolf and I announced that we had worked together to allocate $3.8 million to support water treatment efforts in Horsham, Warminster, Warrington and Warwick townships to remove surcharges from residents’ water bills and provide infrastructure to remove contaminants. I want to thank my colleagues, Reps. Meghan Schroeder and Todd Polinchock, for their invaluable help making this a reality.

This new money will bolster the $10 million I secured in 2016 to provide carbon filters for the contaminated wells in Horsham.

Horsham residents shouldn't have to bear the costs of removing the federal government's PFAS contamination from our drinking water. Working together with Gov. Wolf, we've been able to provide funds to eliminate the unfair surcharges Horsham residents have been paying to ensure their water is safe to drink.

This is how government is supposed to work. State government and local government officials collaborating and working across the aisle to solve problems in our communities. That sentiment was the basis for my remarks at the press conference which you can see here.
                                              

Fighting Felons With Tougher Sentences
What we witnessed last week in Philadelphia is the terror and tragedy that comes when violent criminals are treated too leniently. Maurice Hill, who has been convicted six times, was arrested and charged for attempted murder in the shooting of six Philadelphia police officers. He clearly illustrates the need for tougher sentences for violent criminals.

That’s why I will introduce a three-bill package of reforms to deal with violent criminals who endanger our families.

The first bill would reinstate Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders. This bill has passed the House with a large bipartisan majority in previous sessions.

Several years ago, Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentences were invalidated on procedural grounds by the United States and Pennsylvania Supreme courts. This bill will provide the constitutional procedures the courts found lacking in our statutes.

Specifically, this legislation would reinstate mandatory sentences for offenses committed with firearms, for certain drug offenses committed with firearms, for offenses committed on public transportation, for offenses against the elderly persons and infants, and for offenses committed while impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Mandatory sentences ensure that people committing these serious crimes will be held accountable for their actions and take violent offenders off our streets.

The second bill combats gun violence committed by those already prohibited from possessing firearms. A similar bill also passed the House with a large bipartisan majority in a previous term.

If we want to get serious about getting illegal guns off our streets, we must get serious with the penalties we impose for felons who illegally possess firearms. Tougher penalties will deter felons from illegally possessing firearms as well as provide our prosecutors with tools to combat the straw purchasers who illegally provide these firearms.

Currently, there are no mandatory minimum sentence for felons who illegally possess firearms. My bill would impose a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

My legislation would also designate the crime of a felon illegally possessing a firearm as a “crime of violence,” triggering our second-strike and third-strike provisions with 10-year and 25-year mandatory sentence provisions for repeat offenders.

The third bill would ensure violent criminals receive separate sentences for each victim they targeted.

Current law diminishes the value of crime victims by allowing judges to permit violent criminals to serve their sentences concurrently. My bill requires judges to impose consecutive sentences for each victim of a violent crime.
 

Seeking Investigation of PA’s Parole Processes
Responding to a series of murders committed by people recently paroled from the state prison system, the House Judiciary Committee is calling for an investigation of the state’s parole procedures by Inspector General Bruce Beemer.

While the Department of Corrections is rightfully conducting an internal review of these cases to determine if improvements can be made to prevent such tragedies, it is also vital to conduct an independent investigation to ensure every effort is being made to protect public safety.

In a letter to the inspector general, Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) pointed to the stabbing deaths of three children and a woman, the strangulation of a domestic partner, and the shooting death of a police officer committed by state parolees as evidence of the need for an investigation.
 

Save for Higher Education with State 529 Plan
 
For families looking to plan for higher education, the Pennsylvania Treasury offers two savings programs: the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP), in which growth is tied to the rate of tuition inflation, and the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), in which investment returns are determined by financial markets.

Contributions to PA 529 plans are deductible from Pennsylvania income taxes, grow tax free, and, when used for qualified educational expenses, are federal and state tax exempt. Both plans provide flexibility to pay for higher education expenses at most higher education institutions across the country, including colleges and universities, as well as many technical and career schools. The money may also be used to pay for tuition expenses up to $10,000 at elementary or secondary public, private or religious schools.

The PA 529 GSP is offering free enrollment – a $50 savings – for all new accounts opened before Aug. 31. Sign up at PA529.com and use code “SUMMERGSP” when prompted.

The PA 529 IP features low fees and more than a dozen conservative and aggressive investment options. No enrollment fee is charged for the PA 529 IP.

Information about both programs is available here.  
 

Savings Program to Support People with Disabilities Experiences Rapid Growth
A state program designed to help people with qualified disabilities save for future disability-related expenses has more than doubled its assets in just one year, reflecting the high level of popularity and need for this savings option.

PA ABLE provides a tax-advantaged way for Pennsylvanians with special needs and their families to save.

Participation does not jeopardize access to state and federal programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (savings up to $100,000) and Medical Assistance. But it does allow for savings to be used to pay for any qualified disability-related expense including housing, education, health care and assistive technology to improve quality of life.

Administered by the State Treasury, the program has more than $18.4 million in assets, up from $8.6 million in July 2018. More than 2,500 PA ABLE accounts have been opened since the program launched in 2017.

For more information, visit PAABLE.gov or call 1-855-529-ABLE (2253).
 

Blue Star Museums Offer Free Admission to Active-Duty Military
 
Active-duty military personnel and their families have free access to dozens of museums in Pennsylvania – and thousands nationwide – through the Blue Star Museums initiative.

The initiative is a joint effort of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums nationwide.

The program concludes on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2.

To find participating museums, click here.
 
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