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Friday, December 4, 2015

Capitol Update

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Capitol Update
Friday, December 04, 2015 The latest news from the State Capitol

Budget Talks Ongoing

Meetings among the House, Senate and administration continued this week as we work toward the adoption of a 2015-16 state budget that increases our investment in public and higher education while keeping spending in check.

Both chambers of the General Assembly have been working to position several pieces of legislation that will make up the 2015-16 state budget, in addition to separate bills to make necessary reforms to the state pension and liquor systems.

The goal of liquor system reforms is to improve consumer convenience. Pension reforms for future state employees and school district employees will allow employers – and taxpayers – to better meet the cost of pension obligations now and in the future, as well as bringing greater flexibility for the worker.

As more details on the final budget become clear, visit my website at or follow me on Facebook at for updates. Votes are expected to take place throughout the weekend and into next week.

House Votes to Delay Keystone Exams

Last week, the House advanced legislation to delay the implementation of the Keystone Exam as a graduation requirement until the 2018-19 school year. Currently, the class of 2017 must take and pass the Keystone Exam in Algebra I, literature and biology in order to graduate.

This delay would allow time for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to re-evaluate the policy and recommend potential changes, while granting school districts, students and their families more preparation time.

The delay is also being sought to ensure that exams are not prohibiting students from seeking vocational and technical education opportunities in the trades, since one of the major concerns of job creators is a shortage of skilled workers.

In addition to the delay, Senate Bill 880 would require the department to investigate alternatives to the exam and issue its findings and recommendations within six months.

The legislation was sent back to the Senate for concurrence.

Reminder: Flu Shot Clinics Coming Up

Just a reminder about upcoming flu shot clinics offered by the state Department of Health. The cost is $5 per person for individuals and families who fall above income guidelines; however, no one will be turned away for an inability to pay. The schedule in our area is as follows:

  • Cameron County: Dec. 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Memorial Hall, 300 Chestnut St., Emporium. Call 814-834-5351 for an appointment.
  • McKean County: Dec. 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., McKean County Health Center, 84-90 Boylston St., Bradford. Call 814-368-0426 for an appointment.
  • Potter County: Dec. 9, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Gunzburger Building, 1 Main St., Coudersport. Call 570-724-2911 for an appointment. 
The Department of Health is encouraging all Pennsylvanians over six months of age to get a flu vaccine. Infants and children, seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions are especially susceptible to developing flu-related complications.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Forms Due Soon

Eligible Pennsylvania homeowners and renters who haven’t yet applied for the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program have until Dec. 31 to file for rebates as part of the 2014 program year.

The program provides property tax and rent relief for eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with permanent disabilities age 18 and older.

The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Fifty percent of Social Security income is excluded when determining eligibility. The maximum standard rebate is $650.

For more information or an application, click here. My district office can offer assistance in filling out the forms at no charge.

If you have already applied for a rebate and haven’t yet received it, click here for status information.

Save for College with PA 529 Plans
If you are concerned about the cost of your child’s future higher education, you may want to consider opening a tax-advantaged Pennsylvania 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP).

The PA 529 GSP is designed to enable a family’s savings to keep pace with the rising costs of higher education, as contributions grow at the rate of tuition inflation (subject to fees and premiums). For example, if saving enough for a semester at one of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education universities today, there will be enough for a semester there in the future – no matter when or how much tuition has gone up in the meantime.

Pennsylvania also offers a second 529 plan, the PA 529 Investment Plan (IP), which features low fees and more than a dozen conservative and aggressive investment options.

If you sign up for the GSP before the end of the year, the $50 enrollment fee is waived. Just visit and enter the code “Causer” to enroll for free. There is no enrollment fee for the IP.

Contributions to PA 529 plans are deductible from Pennsylvania income taxes, grow tax free, and, when used for qualified educational expenses, are federal and state tax exempt. Both plans provide flexibility to pay for higher education expenses at most higher education institutions across the country.

Families may also enter for a chance to win a $529 college savings account by registering at by Dec. 31. 

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

wow your telling me if you don't pass this your not graduating .. Wow I wonder how this is going to work with no child left behind cause I know for a fact there are a lot of kids out there that will NOT pass this exam .. So that means the graduating classes will be smaller than what goes down now..