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Friday, May 15, 2015

Capitol Update By Rep. Martin Causer

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Capitol Update
Friday, May 15, 2015 The latest news from the State Capitol
    
Pennsylvania Lumber Museum Marks Grand Re-Opening

The newly renovated Pennsylvania Lumber Museum celebrated its grand re-opening and rededication this morning (Friday). I was honored to take part in the celebration and encourage people of all ages to check it out!

The renovated visitor center houses museum offices, meeting spaces for community groups, visitor amenities, a library and a gift shop.

A new permanent exhibit, entitled “Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania’s Forests,” also opened today. The exhibit outlines the history of the state’s timber industry.

Visit the Lumber Museum’s website for more information

 
Getting ready to cut the ribbon! Pictured left to right: Michael Berberich, maintenance foreman, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum Associates; Robert Miller, president, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum Associates; Potter County Commissioner Doug Morley; Sen. Joe Scarnati; me; Brenda Reigle, director, Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; and Patricia Berberich, records officer, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum Associates. 
                 

Eighth-graders from Kane Middle School were at the state Capitol on Monday for the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications Technology showcase. The students offered an impressive demonstration of the “blended learning” model used in their classroom, which includes student blogs/electronic portfolios. As part of the blended learning model, students participated in a “Genius Hour” project this year in which some students taught themselves how to code and developed their own computer games. Pictured in the front row, left to right, are teacher Jeannine Kloss, Neo Smith, Paige Niklas, Kristen Zilkofski and Zachary Zilkofski. In the back row, left to right, are Sen. Joe Scarnati, Alex Rezzelle and me. What a great group of students!  



Property Tax Bill Misses Mark


The House this week approved legislation that claims to provide dollar-for-dollar property tax relief in exchange for increased income and sales taxes. While I recognize the major problem property taxes pose for many residents, especially senior citizens, I could not support this bill.

Under this proposal, the state income tax rate would increase to 3.7 percent and the sales tax to 7 percent. The money collected from these increased taxes would be sent to Harrisburg and then be redistributed to school districts across the Commonwealth to provide property tax relief.

Initial estimates show residents in the majority of school districts here would pay out more in sales and income taxes than they would get in property tax relief. An additional concern is that nothing in the bill would prevent property taxes from climbing again in the very near future, leaving taxpayers with higher income and sales taxes as well as higher property taxes.

I am encouraged that even those members who voted in favor of this bill recognize that it is still a work in progress. House Bill 504 is headed to the Senate for further discussion and consideration.  

 

Second Amendment Action Day at the Capitol

There was a great turnout again this year for the annual Second Amendment Action Day at the state Capitol. This year’s keynote speaker was Richard Mack, former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona. Sheriff Mack is the only sheriff in American history to sue the federal government and win a landmark case that stopped national gun control laws. You can watch the rally here.
 

   

Ag Committees Discuss Industrial Hemp

The House and Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees held an informational meeting this week on legislation proposing to allow the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp in the Commonwealth. In general, those who spoke at the meeting support the legislation, though all agree there are some questions that would have to be addressed before the bills could move forward.

A primary concern is funding. Both the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State noted that research projects like this require funding and other resources to be successful. Members also discussed the ability of banks to work with hemp growers.

Other questions raised during the meeting involved the market for hemp, price stability, disease management issues and impact on existing crop rotations.

Currently, federal law only allows for pilot programs initiated and performed by institutions of higher education and the state Department of Agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. The legislation under discussion by the committees would allow Pennsylvania to participate in a pilot program.

It was interesting to note that, according to the state Department of Agriculture, the United States is one of the largest importers of industrial hemp in the world, and the only importer that does not allow the crop to be grown. Hemp has a variety of valuable uses, including rope, food, clothing, horse bedding, automotive paneling and even a clean-burning alternative fuel.

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