In This Update:
Food Drive for Families and Pets a Big Success
Our food drive for struggling families and pet owners was a big success! Along with Rep. Chris Quinn, I held a food drive last Saturday at the Concord Township Building for the benefit of those served by the Media Food Bank and Brandywine Valley SPCA.
Several dozen residents stopped by to contribute. More than four truckloads of food and supplies were collected for our neighbors in need and their furry friends. It was great to see the generosity and spirit of our community in action!
Constitutional Amendment to Limit Emergency Declarations Earns Senate Approval
The Senate voted in favor of a bipartisan bill this week that would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to limit future emergency declarations and require legislative approval of any declaration lasting more than 21 days.
The bill would create three separate ballot questions: one to limit emergency declarations, another to clarify the General Assembly’s authority to terminate or extend a disaster declaration without the governor’s approval, and a third to ensure equality under the law and prevent discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, it does not need to be approved by the Governor. Instead, it must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being approved by voters via referendum.
Applications Available Now for Beginning Farmer Tax Credits
Experienced farmers will now have an incentive to sell or lease land, buildings and equipment to beginning farmers thanks to a new tax credit program that was created last year. Applications for the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program can be filed now at esa.dced.state.pa.us.
Under the program, landowners will receive a one-time personal income tax credit for the sale or a multi-year lease of property. The legislation requires all leases be enforced through written agreements and that the sale of property be for fair market value in order to qualify for the tax credit.
Complete program guidelines, eligibility, and application instructions are available here.
Senate Votes for New Tool to Crack Down on Blight
Municipalities would have a new tool to crack down on dangerous abandoned and dilapidated properties under a bill approved by the Senate this week. The bill would allow municipalities to file condemnation orders on the properties with the county recorder of deeds.
The order would be considered a lien on the property and its validity would not be impacted by upset, judiciary, or repository sale of the property. Under current law, anytime a condemned property’s ownership changes hands, local officials must expend significant time repeating their code enforcement process. This bill closes that loophole and allows municipalities to take the appropriate steps to remove these dangerous eyesores from our communities.
Senate Passes Bipartisan Probation Reform Proposal
A bipartisan bill to improve Pennsylvania’s probation system received the unanimous approval of the Senate this week. The bill would give the courts stronger guidelines and restrictions on sentencing to ensure periods of incarceration are limited to individuals who commit new crimes or serious violations. The bill also creates incentives for probationers to succeed through credits for good behavior, such as maintaining a job and performing community services.
In current practice, technical violations that are not actual crimes – such as being late for an appointment, traveling out of state or being unable to pay fines and restitution – can lead to extensions of probation or prison time that far exceed the original sentence handed down at trial. The cost to incarcerate these individuals is much greater than the cost of supervision, resulting in wasted taxpayer dollars without any benefit in terms of public safety.
Bill Would Provide Greater Flexibility in Obtaining Teacher Certifications
The COVID-19 pandemic created a severe disruption in the certification process for teachers, as testing centers were closed statewide. The Senate approved a bill this week that would help teachers, recent graduates, undergraduate students and paraprofessionals to navigate the state required certification process.
The legislation will enable graduates to obtain temporary certifications and extend certain deadlines to provide additional flexibility so schools are not faced with additional challenges in recruiting staff when reopening schools.
New Laws Support Police Reform, Child Safety, Blight Remediation
Several noteworthy bills that were approved by the Senate recently were signed into law this week, including:
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