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Government Outreach -August 29, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
August 29, 2023

1. Senate committee schedules vote on proposal to move primary date earlier. A Senate committee is scheduled Wednesday to consider a bill to change the 2024 presidential primary date, thus signaling the prospect for potential action on a time-sensitive issue. The State Government Committee chaired by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, is scheduled to meet at the call of the chair regarding Senate Bill 224 to change the primary date from the current April 23 on the fourth Tuesday of April to March 19 on the third Tuesday of March. Sens. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, introduced SB224 last January as a way to give Pennsylvania more weight in the presidential nominating process for both political parties. In recent weeks there have been calls from Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and others to move the April 23 date to some other unspecified date as it conflicts next year with the Jewish religious holiday of Passover.

2. House committee plans hearing on proposal to ban sex predators from living near schools or day cares. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing in September on House Bill 77, legislation that would bar sexually-violent predators from living near schools or day care facilities. Under current law, those deemed predators must register for the state's Megan's Law list, but there is nothing in the law that bars them from living wherever they choose. The state's Megan's Law website indicates there are nearly 2,700 people who are required to register as sexually violent predators. Pennsylvania law defines a sexually violent predator as a person convicted of one or more of the a sexually violent offenses specified in the law and who has a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses. Under HB 77, sexually violent predators would not be allowed to live within 2,500 feet of schools, pre-schools or day cares. The hearing is scheduled to be held at 1 p.m. on Sept. 12 in Room 60 of the East Wing.

3. Shapiro waives college-degree requirement for would-be state police troopers. Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Monday that his administration is dropping the college-degree requirement for state police cadets. The move comes as police officials have warned that the number of candidates for trooper jobs has been dwindling at the same time the number of troopers retiring or otherwise leaving has increased. Administration and troopers union officials have noted that the state police used to receive 10,000 applicants for positions in the agency's academy. Last year, the state police received just 1,000 applications. The previous educational requirement of 60 college credits has been in place since the 1990s, and this move will expand opportunities for individuals seeking careers as state troopers. Comprehensive and rigorous cadet training lasts approximately 28 weeks and includes coursework in Pennsylvania's crimes and vehicle codes, law enforcement principles and practices, firearms and special equipment training, and physical fitness.

4. Northeastern counties shoulder highest tax burden Pennsylvanians paid $22 billion in property taxes statewide in 2021, but the burden was especially heavy in the northeast corner of the state. On average, the property tax burden was 2.57%, a slight decrease from 2020 thanks to COVID-19 stimulus funds, according to a report from the Independent Fiscal Office. The highest property tax burden was in Monroe County (4.73%) followed by Pike County (3.81%). The trend was for property taxes to be higher when other tax sources, like income tax, generated less revenue. The Pocono Mountains, a popular tourist destination, spans both counties. “The much higher property tax burden in Monroe County is likely due to multiple factors including a relatively higher reliance on school district property taxes (as opposed to earned income taxes) and a relatively high proportion of vacation/secondary homes,” the IFO noted. The lowest property tax burden was in Snyder County, where residents paid 1.51% of their income in property taxes. The highest tax burden doesn’t mean the highest tax revenues, however. Monroe County’s rate brought in $434 million, while Delaware County’s 2.98% burden meant $1.39 billion in revenue. Allegheny County had the highest property tax revenues of $2.5 billion, and Cameron County’s $6 million was the lowest. The IFO pulled data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis and Internal Revenue Service, along with data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Department of Community and Economic Development for its analysis. Read More

5. Pennsylvania’s 2024 presidential primary could move to as early as March 19 Pennsylvania could move its primary election date as early as March 19, a change that would make the state a more decisive player in choosing presidential nominees. Lawmakers still need to reach a final agreement on how early they’ll move the 2024 primary election in the critical battleground state. Officials have discussed moving the election to a date as early as March 19 or as late as April 16. Gov. Josh Shapiro and legislative leaders have all said they support moving the primary election to earlier in the year because the current date conflicts with Passover. The primary is scheduled for April 23, 2024, the first day of the major Jewish holiday. Traditional Jewish law prohibits many regular activities, such as driving, writing, working, and the use of electricity on the holiday, which is observed for eight days in the United States. Pennsylvania will be so crucial in the general election that campaigns and political operatives will be closely watching how candidates perform. A Pennsylvania Senate committee will consider a bill Wednesday to move the primary election to March 19. Other battleground states will choose their presidential nominees that day. The proposed bill would permanently change the date of the state’s presidential primary, but wouldn’t change primary election dates in non-presidential years. Other dates are also a possibility. Read More

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