Jun. 21, 2019 / Email Archives

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Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
MS4 Stormwater Requirements

As a result of federal requirements under the Clean Water Act, local municipalities are having to implement plans to reduce pollutants and sediment from stormwater runoff flowing into tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. These mandates and costs to municipalities were discussion points Wednesday in a joint hearing of the Local Government and Environmental Resources & Energy (ER&E) committees. I am on the ER&E committee and attended the hearing, which was our second on this subject.

It has been remarkably difficult to nail down the particular demands of the federal legislation, and to ascertain if the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is interpreting the federal requirements more strictly than necessary. The latest round of requirements is supposed to result in a 10% reduction in sediment flowing into waterways. The outcome of the last 10% reduction was an estimated 1% decrease in overall sediment into the Bay. Since the current round of requirements will be exponentially more expensive for local municipalities, meaning significant increases in taxes or fees to us, many rightfully ask if this investment is worth the outcome.

Hearing the testimony of officials from the DEP will be critical in finding out if we are doing more than federal law demands. Although DEP was invited to participate in the recent hearing, the agency declined to send a representative. It is our hope that we can have meaningful input from DEP soon so that the legislature can be fully informed on this issue.

Currently, in my district, Greencastle borough, Antrim Township and Hamilton Township are being impacted by MS4 requirements. Greencastle borough and Hamilton Township propose to charge an impervious surface fee (sometimes called a “rain tax”). Antrim Township is reviewing its options.   
Pennsylvanians Deserve Better Budgeting Practices

This past week the House moved legislation which should bring more transparency to the state budget process.

To help limit “supplemental” spending beyond what is approved in each year’s budget, House Bill 855 would require the secretary of the budget to project revenue shortfalls for the fiscal year starting in December and put that amount of money in budgetary reserve to ensure the budget is balanced at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, House Bill 923 would require the governor to explain the reasons for any supplemental spending requests and offer recommendations for cost-savings or other reforms to address the cause.

Other reform measures would require the administration to provide additional details as part of the governor’s proposed budget (House Bill 922); require quarterly reports on funding committed and awarded through special funds that provide grants and subsidies (House Bill 921); and update budget procedures related to unspent appropriations and how those amounts are dealt with at the close of a fiscal year (House Bill 920).

The bills are part of the House Republican Caucus’ #GovtDoneRight initiative and now go to the Senate for consideration. To learn more, click here.

To be candid, supplemental spending may not be entirely the fault of the governor. If, during the budget process, the legislature does not appropriate enough funds to cover the reasonably anticipated expenses for programs such as social services, the governor is left with little option but to approve supplemental spending in order to fund those programs for the entirety of the year. This budget maneuver effectively allows the state to spend more money than the annual budget shows. If this is truly the case, a pox on both houses – the legislature and the governor. This year, several of us will be analyzing those expenditures more fully so that we can shed light on budget gimmickry, if there are budget tricks being used.
Boosting PA Agriculture, Dairy Farmers

The focus on supporting our state’s top industry continued this week with House approval of several bills to help carry on our agriculture traditions for future generations and a Capitol rally in support of two federal bills aimed to boost the dairy industry.

The House gave overwhelming approval to measures that would ensure a quick state-level response to threats such as invasive species or disease; establish the Dairy Investment Program to provide grants to support dairy farmers; create a Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center to help farmers develop a business plan, transition plan or succession plan; enhance youth exposure to opportunities in the agriculture industry; and empower the State Conservation Commission to provide technical assistance and financing options for implementing best management practices.

We also approved bills that would boost enrollment in the veteran farmer Homegrown by Heroes program, provide specialty crop block grants and aid with meat inspection costs for small or new processors.

Also on Tuesday, dairy farmers and advocates from across the Commonwealth gathered in the Capitol rotunda to rally support for two bills pending action in Congress that would help the dairy industry as well as our children.

The “Whole Milk for Health Kids Act of 2019” would allow flavored and unflavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias to give students more choice, while the Dairy PRIDE Act would protect the integrity of dairy products by calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce existing labeling requirements for milk. Essentially, non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds and plants could no longer be marketed as milk, yogurt or cheese.

The rally followed a meeting of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee in which committee members heard from two members of the state’s congressional delegation about the bills and also unanimously approved resolutions endorsing the measures.
PennDOT’s Schedule for June 24 to June 28
  • Patching on Pa. 16 (Buchanan Trail East) in Washington Township.
  • Patching on Old Scotland Road in Greene and Southampton townships.
  • Crack sealing on Social Island Road and Jack Road in Guilford and St. Thomas townships.
  • Pipe replacement on Old Scotland Road and at Interstate 81 Exit 20 in Greene Township.
  • Bridge replacement on Stoney Batter Road in Peters Township.

Welcoming a Special Visitor

My 13-year-old son, Tommy, joined me in the Capitol on Thursday. It was great to have him meet Speaker Mike Turzai and others.
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1402 E. Main Street, Waynesboro, PA 17268 | Phone: (717) 749-7384
1270 Crottlestown Road, Chambersburg, PA 17202 I Phone: (717) 263-1053
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Room 150-B, East Wing, PO Box 202090, Harrisburg PA 17120-2090 | Phone: (717) 783-5218
Email: pschemel@pahousegop.com