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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Capitol News from State Rep. Martin Causer

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Capitol Update
Thursday, February 27, 2020 The latest news from the State Capitol

It was an exciting day last week when Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative officially launched its high-speed, fiber-to-the-home Internet project. The six-year initiative aims to place over 2,800 miles of fiber line, making broadband service available to every one of Tri-County’s more than 16,000 members across seven counties.

The first phase of the project is supported by $1.5 million in state redevelopment assistance funding, a worthwhile investment in a service that is no longer just a luxury – it is a necessity for our schools, businesses, health care facilities and more. I believe this project will be a model for other regions of the Commonwealth. Just as our rural electric cooperatives brought power to the most rural areas of our state, they are now ready to do the same for high-speed Internet. Learn more about the project at

I am pictured here with Congressman Fred Keller; Craig Eccher, president and CEO of Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative; and state Rep. Clint Owlett.

School Safety Grants Awarded

Area school districts serving the 67th Legislative District were awarded more than $875,000 in School Safety and Security Grants this week. The grants are authorized the Legislation and awarded by the School Safety and Security Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

I am pleased to see funding devoted to school safety coming back to each and every one of our schools here in Cameron, McKean and Potter counties. Safety is something we used to take for granted at school, but that is no longer the case. This funding will go a long way toward helping our students learn and our teachers teach in a secure environment.

For a full list of the grants awarded, click here.                                    

Celebrate Charter Day with Free Admission to PA Lumber Museum

In honor of the Commonwealth’s 339th birthday, the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum will be among nearly two dozen museums and historic sites offering free admission next Sunday, March 8.

The annual Charter Day celebration offers visitors to The State Museum of Pennsylvania a rare opportunity to see the original Charter of Pennsylvania written in 1681. Additionally, in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 15th Amendment, the Pennsylvania State Archives will exhibit two rarely seen documents: Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (1780) and the state’s ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1869), which ensured the right of American men to vote, regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The documents will be on display until 1 p.m. Friday, March 13.
For more information about Charter Day activities, including a full list of participating museums and historic sites, click here.

Governor’s Proposed State Police Fee, Ag Spending Among State Budget Hearing Issues

Click here to view video.

A second week of budget hearings has drawn to a close with lawmakers continuing to dissect the governor’s $36 billion spending proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

As chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, I participated in the state Department of Agriculture’s hearing on Wednesday and took the opportunity to question Secretary Russell Redding about the way his agency is spending money appropriated to it by the General Assembly. In the current year’s budget, for example, the agency took money from specific line items to fund IT needs though no requests for IT money were made during budget negotiations. It is important for the executive branch to implement the budget as written by lawmakers.

Another issue I’ve been following closely in the budget hearings is the governor’s proposed fee for state police services. He has been making similar proposals for a couple years now, and this year’s version actually charges a fee to all municipalities, regardless of whether they have their own police force or not (previously, only municipalities that did not have their own police departments were subject to the fee).

Despite the changes the governor has made, the bottom line is the proposal hits rural Pennsylvania the hardest. We already pay for state police through our taxes. I do not support an additional fee that could easily lead to municipalities having to increase taxes on their residents.

Next week is the last week of budget hearings, and it’s a big one. The two biggest state agencies in terms of funding – the departments of Education and Human Services – are on deck. The hearings begin at 10 a.m. Monday with the Department of Education, followed by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Tuesday brings the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and state-related universities. The Department of Human Services hearing will be held all day on Wednesday, and hearings close on Thursday with the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association and the state budget secretary. To watch live streams or archived video of the hearings, click here.

Additional information about the 2020-21 state budget proposal may be found here.

Final Property Tax/Rent Rebate Clinic Next Week

The last of our free Property Tax/Rent Rebate clinics is coming up this Wednesday, March 4, from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Ulysses Senior Center, 522 Main St., Ulysses.

If you’re not able to make it, you are welcome to visit any of our local offices in Bradford, Coudersport or Kane for assistance.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities. Eligibility income limits are set at $15,000 for renters and $35,000 for homeowners, excluding 50 percent of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits. Also, applicants with veterans disability benefits and/or pensions do not need to declare that income.

Residents are reminded to bring all necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately.

For more information, contact my offices in Bradford (78 Main St., first floor, phone 814-362-4400); Coudersport (107 S. Main St., Room 1, phone 814-274-9769) or Kane (55 Fraley St., phone 814-837-0880).

Website Helps Voters Learn New County Voting Systems

With the Commonwealth’s April 28 primary election about two months away, the Department of State has launched 67 new webpages – one for each county – where voters can learn specifics about their county’s voting system and how to use it.

Each webpage includes a description of a county’s voting system along with photos and videos that guide voters through a step-by-step process of how to use it. The webpages also include accessibility information for voters with disabilities and contact information for county election offices if voters have additional questions.

The county webpages are part of the Department of State’s Ready to Vote 2020 initiative, which aims to educate voters about new voting systems and other changes enacted by the Legislature under Act 77 of 2019. Those changes include:

•   Vote by mail-in ballot.
•   Extended periods of time to submit absentee ballots and applications.
•   Extended periods of time to register to vote.

For more information on voting in Pennsylvania, including key dates for upcoming elections, visit the Department of State’s website at

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