Budget Objectives Show Signs of Hope
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The latest news from the State Capitol
Budget Objectives Show Signs of Hope

This past week, the governor’s budget secretary, Randy Albright, gave a mid-year budget briefing which may signal some of Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget priorities for next year. Although there were certainly details with which I did not agree, such as a severance tax on energy and continued broadening of the state’s public assistance programs, there were also some signs of potential future agreement between the governor and the Republican majorities in the Legislature.

Albright stressed the need to modernize the Commonwealth’s tax structure, particularly those taxes applying to businesses. The recent experience with Amazon’s HQ-2 should serve as a wake-up call to Pennsylvania. In Amazon’s passing over Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, despite an incredibly generous incentive package offered by the governor, state officials are becoming increasingly aware that our highest-in-the-nation Corporate Net Income Tax rate is a barrier to business investment in the state.

Albright also detailed the governor’s support for criminal justice reform that finds alternatives to costly incarceration (Pennsylvania incarcerates more people than any other state) and education funding based on students rather than outdated programs, which benefit schools with declining enrollment or poor performance.

These are all good indicators of what may come from the governor’s office, and initiatives which will find common ground with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Good public policy is not non-partisan.
New Tool to Fight Addiction

Building on the work of lawmakers to develop policies to combat the opioid crisis, a new online tool is available to help individuals identify drug and alcohol treatment options and support services for themselves or a loved one.

The Drug and Alcohol Referral Tool (DART) is not a diagnostic assessment and does not gauge eligibility for any programs. It is designed to assist people who are looking for services but are not sure where to begin. Users get the results based off their answers to survey questions.

DART does not ask any identifying information and does not save answers after it’s closed. After completing the questionnaire, people are able to email, download, and/or print their results.

DART is a free, anonymous resource and can be found here.
Clean Slate Law to Take Effect Soon

Pennsylvanians with certain low-level offenses on their records will have their records automatically sealed under a new law taking effect this month.
Act 56 of 2018 allows records of second and third-degree misdemeanor criminal convictions to be automatically sealed after a 10-year period without subsequent offenses. The law does not apply to violent offenses or those committed with a firearm or other dangerous item; sexual offenses; cruelty to animals; or corruption of minors.

This legislation is an attempt to balance justice and mercy by providing the opportunity for low-level, nonviolent offenders to move forward with their lives, while at the same time not shielding the records of violent criminals.

Pennsylvania was the first state in the nation to enact a so-called “clean slate” law.
Good News for Farmers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with a significant rollback of an Obama-era “clean water” regulation.

The new rule would replace an Obama administration regulation, known as the “Waters of the United States” rule that piggybacked on the 1972 Clean Water Act to expand federal overreach to include low areas in a cornfield that stay wet year after year.

Farmers and property rights groups have long pointed out that the Obama rule unduly prevents property owners from being able to fully use their land because the rule’s overly broad definition regulates ditches that temporarily flood as federally protected waterways.

Two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 came down on the side of landowners, ruling that ponds at the bottom of a gravel pit and a marsh that are many miles from any lake or river were not navigable and thus not subject to the Clean Water Act.
Renew Dog Licenses Now

Pet owners are reminded that all dogs in Pennsylvania three months of age and older must be licensed by Jan. 1, 2019. You can purchase a 2019 license through your local county treasurer’s office.

Violators can be cited with a maximum fine of $300 per violation plus court costs. Learn more here.
Holiday Shopping Scams

Now that the holiday season is here, the Attorney General’s Office is warning all of us to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year. These hoaxes range from the “Bait and Switch” to the “Grandparents Scam,” and you can learn more about them here.
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