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Friday, June 30, 2017

Capitol Update By Rep. Martin Causer

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Capitol Update
Friday, June 30, 2017 The latest news from the State Capitol
House OKs Compromise Budget, Sends to Governor’s Desk

The House and Senate have approved a $32 billion state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The proposal includes no new or increased taxes and represents a spending increase of less than 1 percent over the current fiscal year.

House Bill 218 increases funding for basic and special education, as well as for early childhood education programs, such as Pre-K Counts and Head Start. While higher education institutions are primarily funded at the same level as the 2016-17 budget, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will see a 7.8 percent increase in its direct appropriation to $2.76 million.

The measure also provides continued support of nearly $7 million for Critical Access Hospitals, which supports access to health care in rural areas.

Another important element of the budget is that it includes funding for increased payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) on Department of Conservation and Natural Resources forest land. The increase from $3.60 per acre to $6 per acre was approved as part of last year’s budget negotiations but was not scheduled to take effect until July 1.

The funding to support the PILT increase is vital to ensuring more appropriate compensation to our municipalities, school district and counties for state-owned lands, which are not subject to property taxes. This is very good for our rural communities and the taxpayers who live here.

While the bill adopted by the House and Senate on Friday is a key component of the annual budget process, the General Assembly will return to Harrisburg next week to work on a number of other budget-related bills.
Fighting Back Against ‘Stolen Valor’

Unscrupulous individuals who seek to benefit financially by falsely identifying themselves as veterans will face criminal penalties under legislation signed into law this week.

Act 9 of 2017, formerly House Bill 168, seeks to protect the honor and valor of America’s veterans by making any misrepresentation of military service or honors for financial benefit a third-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. Examples of such criminal behavior range from lying to receive veteran or health care benefits to fraudulently obtaining preference in a government contract or a job reserved for a veteran.

This new law is designed to help preserve the reputation of legitimate veterans. It will take effect in 60 days.
Fish for Free July 4!

This Tuesday, July 4, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will host its second Fish for Free day to allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on all Pennsylvania waterways. No license is required, but all other fishing regulations will still apply. Find more information here.
Driver’s Licenses to Have New Look

As part of ongoing security enhancements, PennDOT has updated the design and enhanced the security features of its driver license and identification card products. This new look is not related to ongoing efforts to comply with federal REAL ID requirements, which are still being developed.

All driver and photo centers will transition to the new products by the end of October. The new products will be phased in over the next four-year renewal cycle and will replace existing products. Both current and new card designs will be in circulation during the transition period.

The cards, which look very different, will have additional enhanced security features to improve fraud prevention and protect from counterfeiting and alteration. Some of the new features include a larger primary portrait and smaller ghost portrait; a 2D bar code; laser perforation; and lamination with the state motto. The magnetic strip has been eliminated on the back.

For more information and to see an image of the new card design, visit www.dmv.pa.gov.

Congratulations to Lloyd and Dolores Eastman of Port Allegany, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on June 8. It was an honor to present them with a House citation recognizing this very special occasion. Are you or someone you know celebrating a milestone anniversary? Contact my office so we can help you celebrate!

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