Jan. 24, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
 
House Advances Landmark Bills to Combat Human Trafficking

The House has approved more than a half dozen bills aimed at stopping the scourge of human trafficking in the Commonwealth. Being divided by I-81, which is a human trafficking corridor, Franklin County sees more than its share of this criminal activity. 

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for the sole purpose of exploitation. Since 2007, more than 1,200 human trafficking cases have been reported in the Commonwealth. In addition, Pennsylvania is ranked 10th on Insider Monkey’s list of top human trafficking states. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion is generated by sexual exploitation.

Among the bills passed by the House are those that would increase penalties for anyone knowingly patronizing a victim of human trafficking and anyone connected to trafficking victims. Other bills would assist victims and aim to increase resources and protections.

To further draw attention to the problem, the House also approved a resolution to recognize the month of January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. Click here to learn more.
 
 
Reforms for State System Universities Proposed

Earlier this week, several lawmakers joined officials with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in calling for a series of reforms aimed at updating and improving operations within the system.

PASSHE is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, overseeing the 14 state-owned universities. Since its formation in 1982, it has provided accessible, affordable and relevant undergraduate, graduate and career-development programs to the public. However, despite significant changes to the landscape of higher education, PASSHE’s enabling legislation, Act 188 of 1982, has not been significantly updated since its initial enactment.

Currently, PASSHE is facing considerable challenges that threaten the sustainability of its operations. To address these challenges, the organization is in the midst of a redesign, some of which requires enabling legislation.

Bills introduced in the House aim to reform the governance and accountability of PASSHE’s Board of Governors and the Councils of Trustees, make needed financial and legal reforms, streamline reporting, and clarify and update statutory language. The bills are pending consideration in the House Education Committee. Read more here.
 
 
Recreation, Conservation Grants Available

Local governments and recreation and conservation organizations are encouraged to apply for grants through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Funded through DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program, grants benefit planning, acquisition and development of public parks, recreation areas, motorized and non-motorized trails, river conservation and access, stream buffers, open space conservation, and regional and statewide partnerships to better develop and manage resources.

The 2020 grant application round closes April 22. DCNR has scheduled two webinars to help potential applicants. The first is being held on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 10-11:30 a.m. regarding grants for conservation, trail and riparian buffer projects. The second is being held on Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 10-11:30 a.m. regarding the statewide and regional partnership grant program for public recreation, conservation or heritage-area initiatives undertaken across a statewide or regional landscape.

Click here for additional information.
 
 
Protect Your Tax Identity

With tax-related identity theft on the rise, next week, Jan. 27-31, is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week in Pennsylvania.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 300,000 American taxpayers had their tax return details stolen as a result of a 2015 security breach, and approximately $1.6 billion in fraudulent tax refunds were paid in 2016 related to identity theft.

Additionally, approximately 5,000 victims have paid more than $26.5 million to scammers who pose as IRS agents according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

If you believe you may be a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent state personal income tax return was filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit within the state Department of Revenue at 717-772-9297 or RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov for assistance.

For more information, click here to view the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.
 
 
PennDOT Hiring for Summer Maintenance

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is starting to hire for its summer maintenance program, which supplements the permanent workforce with college students between May and August.

All candidates, including both new hires and rehires, must complete the online application to be considered for employment. The application and information about positions are available at www.employment.pa.gov.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, enrolled full time in college for the next semester and have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. The hourly rate is $13.97.

Tasks includes sign upgrades, maintenance and custodial services at roadside rest facilities, and laboring and flagging duties at highway worksites.
 
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