Government Affairs & General Updates
August 14, 2023
Note: Thoughts & Prayers for the Plum Families, Residents and More Regarding this Weekend’s Unfortunate/ Tragic Accident!
1. Lawmaker proposes legislation to allow school boards to replace property tax with other taxes. A state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would allow school districts to decide whether to use other forms of tax to replace a portion of the revenue they generate with property tax. Gov. Josh Shapiro signed legislation expanding property tax rebates for seniors and those with disabilities earlier this month. Efforts to make broader reforms to alleviate the burden of property tax for more homeowners have repeatedly stalled in the Legislature over concerns about how to effectively replace the revenue. Local tax revenue provides more than half of the funding school districts depend upon and property taxes account for the bulk of that local revenue. The dependence on local property tax has been widely criticized for contributing to increased home unaffordability and aggravating the funding inequities that led state courts to determine that the state's system of school funding is unconstitutionally short-changing students in poor districts. School boards in more wealthy areas can generate more revenue more easily by raising local property taxes than school boards in poorer areas. Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Allegheny, said his legislation would allow local school boards to cut property taxes by increasing other taxes, such as earned income taxes, occupation taxes, per capita taxes, local share taxes or business privilege and mercantile taxes. CLICK HERE to read more.
2. Labor shortages, red tape mean high home prices, months of delay - Pennsylvania homebuilders are caught in a bind: labor costs are high and the state’s bureaucracy slows down construction. The result is a situation where it takes months longer to build a house in the commonwealth and prices are higher. The lack of housing construction has been a long-standing problem. Experts warned the House Urban Affairs Committee last year that “record-level building” needs to happen to lower the cost of housing. One study estimated that Pennsylvania has a housing deficit of 98,000 units. Without more workers in construction and the trades, however, costs will stay high. “Labor is our biggest pain point,” said Chad Weaver, president of Weaver Homes, a construction company that operates in the Greater Pittsburgh area. “A lot of the older craftsmen are aging out and retiring … you don’t have the people coming into the trades, whether to be a plumber, or a brick mason, or an electrician.” Those missing plumbers and electricians means labor costs go up, driving up construction costs. Inflation, too, drove up costs across the board. In a three-year span before and after COVID-19, Weaver said his costs went up by 35% to build a home. Read More
3. Justice reform groups continue to balk at probation reform bill that passed state Senate. Legislation attempting to fix the state's probation system continues to face resistance from groups aiming to fix the state's probation system. Senate Bill 838 passed the state Senate by a 45-4 vote in June. The legislation moved out of the House Judiciary Committee but did not come up for a vote before the full chamber. The legislation would require courts to hold probation review conferences for probationers, set criteria for when the conferences must occur, and establish a presumption that probation will end unless the person doesn't qualify. It would also allow the review conference to happen earlier if the probationer demonstrates good conduct, such as reaching educational or employment goals. "But a coalition of civil rights and justice reform groups say the bill fails to address core problems with the system, such as the lack of a limit on the length of probation terms, the use of back-to-back probation sentences, and the common practice of sentencing offenders to prison followed by years of probation," the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported. "Every problem with probation in Pennsylvania flows from the original sin that there is no limit on the amount of time that a person can be sentenced to probation," said Elizabeth Randol, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
4. Pa. rescue team members go to Hawaii to help with Maui fire aftermath - Two members of PA Task Force 1, an urban search and rescue team, left for Hawaii on Friday to help first-responders there after wildfires have killed dozens of people and destroyed a tourist town. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield said in a news release: “Pennsylvania is exceptionally proud to have these two task force members deploying to play a part in assisting with coordinated recovery efforts in Hawaii. “I want to wish these responders a safe deployment and a speedy return to their loved ones in Pennsylvania, and we extend our gratitude to the families and employers supporting them throughout their deployments.” The two Pennsylvania team members will be part of a 28-member Federal Emergency Management Agency urban search and rescue incident support team. They’re expected to start work on Sunday and stay about two weeks. PEMA says hundreds are still missing in Hawaii. PA Task Force 1 is one of more than two dozen federal search and rescue teams across the country that are part of the FEMA system. It was among the searchers after the 9/11 attack in New York. Read More
5. Pennsylvania team punches ticket to Little League World Series with walk-off homer 2023 Little League World Series on the line, an unlikely walk-off home run was all Pennsylvania needed on Friday to punch its ticket to next week’s tournament. The aspiring Media, Pa. little league team defeated Washington D.C., 2–0, in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship to earn a coveted LLWS berth, thanks to a two-run bomb from Trevor Skowronek on the first hit of the game. After a scoreless 6.5 innings, Skowronek stepped to the plate to deliver the winning homer facing a 0–2 count in the bottom of the seventh, sending the ball flying over the right field wall as the crowd erupted. Friday’s thrilling win will now send Media back to its home state in triumph as the club prepares to travel to Williamsport, Pa. as one of 20 teams in this year’s LLWS. The tournament will begin Aug. 16 and end Aug. 27. Read More