April 2014
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Natural Gas & Business Leaders Criticize Severance Tax Proposals

Leaders from Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry and business community held a statewide telephone conference call to criticize proposals to impose a state severance tax on unconventional natural gas producers and to warn of the potential negative impact on the Commonwealth’s economic climate. Representatives from the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, and the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce participated in the conference call. The various severance tax proposals were described as “short-sighted”, “misguided”, and based on “politics not economics.” Check the Capitol Toolbox later today for the full story.

Education Groups Release Survey Data Showing Strong Support for Increased K-12 Funding

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS), Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), and Central Pennsylvania Education Coalition (CPEC) held a conference call this morning to highlight recent survey data showing widespread support amongst registered voters for increasing investments in basic education statewide. Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of PASA, said, “While our state’s year-over-year job growth sits amongst the weakest states and the state’s contribution to public education funding is below the national average, Pennsylvanians are making connections that state officials have so far missed.” The questions were included in Terry Madonna Opinion Research’s Spring 2014 Omnibus Survey, and the responses reflect majority support for greater state funding for local school districts, implementation of an equitable funding model, and the importance of education in economic development. Nathan Mains, Executive Director of PSBA, emphasized, “Public education funding must be seen for what it is–an investment in Pennsylvania.” The groups pointed out that the current “inadequate, inconsistent funding” for school districts has made long term planning difficult, as well as exacerbating costs related to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), building construction projects and program offerings.

PLS subscribers check the Capitol Toolbox later today for the complete story.

API Releases Polling Data Reflecting Public Support for Domestic Oil and Natural Gas Development

The American Petroleum Institute (API) held a conference call this morning to highlight national polling data that reflects growing public support for the growth and development of the country’s oil and natural gas resources. Karen Moreau, Executive Director of API’s New York State Petroleum Council, outlined the broad public support for the domestic energy industry based on the potential economic and security benefits. “It is clear that the American public is looking to capitalize on the opportunity we face at this moment to use our nation’s energy portfolio to help consumers and create jobs,” she stated. “The right public policies can fuel America’s economic revival and improve our energy security for future generations through the safe and responsible production, refining and transportation of our country’s oil and natural gas resources.” API announced the “Faces of Energy” advertising campaign that shares images and stories of the people behind the polling data. The campaign will include grassroots advocacy efforts alongside digital outreach, online advertising and the release of several state-specific polls. Moreau said, “As a nation we need to look forward to our bright energy future, and that means making the right energy choices at the national and local levels.”

PLS subscribers check on The Capitol Toolbox this afternoon for the complete story.

Local Government Day Program Honors Municipalities, Officials

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley recognized several municipalities and local government officials from around the Commonwealth for their “dedication and commitment to strengthen their communities and better serve their residents” this afternoon in the East Wing Rotunda. Lt. Gov. Cawley lauded the attendees and awardees for working in local government, saying the award ceremony is being held to celebrate the innovation and creativity that occurs at the local government level.  He explained eight local government leaders and eight communities across the state will receive an award recognizing the creative ways they have improved their communities. Members present at the ceremony included Representatives Stanley Saylor (R-York), Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield), and Mario Scavello (R-Monroe).

PLS subscribers find the full story in the Capitol Toolbox.

PLCB Honors Young Artists, Highlights ‘Alcohol Awareness Month’

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) held a ceremony this afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda to recognize the winners of the 22nd annual Alcohol Education Poster Contest. The 50 winners were selected from over 1,000 entries representing 40 counties and 80 school districts. Joseph Brion, Chairman of the PLCB, said, “The poster contest is a great way for parents and teachers to start a conversation with children about the dangers of alcohol and it’s a conversation that needs to be had.” The winning designs are used by the PLCB to create posters, bookmarks and coloring sheets to distribute to students throughout the state. Furthermore, the original posters will be displayed in the Capitol Rotunda from April 14th through April 18th as part of Alcohol Awareness Month.”Every year, we are amazed and encouraged by the entries we receive from our young artists at all age levels. Their creativity is tremendous, but their messages are even more impressive,” stated PLCB member Robert Marcus. “Art has always been a way for young people to express themselves and these students couldn’t be clearer in promoting alternatives to underage drinking.”


Senate Local Government discusses changes to Act 47 for distressed municipalities

The Senate Local Government Committee held a public hearing this morning to discuss SB 1157 and HB 1773, which includes a variety of amendments to the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act. In particular, the legislation contains provisions outlining changes to the Early Intervention Program, timelines for municipalities to remain in Act 47 status, and administrative control directed under DCED. Amy Sturges, Director of Governmental Affairs for the PA Municipal League and State Association of Township Commissioners, said, “This legislation attempts to change the outcome of fiscally challenged communities without wading into the touch, but absolutely necessary causes of Act 47 distress.” Other testimony highlighted the need for more flexibility and support to municipalities prior to entering Act 47 status.

PLS subscribers check the Capitol Toolbox later today for the complete story.

Advocates, Legislators Discuss the Value of Financial Literacy Amongst Youth

Hilary Hunt, Pennsylvania Jump$tart Coalition president, speaks in the Main Rotunda about the importance of financial literacy education for youth.

Hilary Hunt, Pennsylvania Jump$tart Coalition president, speaks in the Main Rotunda about the importance of financial literacy education for youth.

Advocates were joined by several members of the General Assembly this afternoon to celebrate Financial Education Month in Pennsylvania, as well as call for an expansion of financial education programs for the state’s youth. Hilary Hunt, Pennsylvania Jump$tart Coalition president, discussed the increasing importance of financial education with young people facing student loans and a difficult job market. She asserted, “A sound financial education–taking place not just once but repeatedly over the course of a child’s development–is one of the most powerful tools we can give to the young people of Pennsylvania.” Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer) mentioned HB 1838, which would require all schools in Pennsylvania to require a capstone course in personal finance for graduation. “There’s a real hunger out their amongst our young people to learn financial literacy concepts,” he stated. “I think that hunger, in part, is fueled by the lessons of the great recession.”

PLS subscribers check the Capitol Toolbox later today for the complete story.

House Commerce Discusses SB 622

The House Commerce Committee held an informational meeting this morning to discuss SB 622. Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), prime sponsor of the bill, explained the legislation would require debt settlement providers to be licensed in order to operate in the Commonwealth. Testifying on the legislation was Brian Tawney from the American Fair Credit Council, Paul Wentzel from the Department of Banking and Securities, and Patricia Hasson from Clarifi.

PLS subscribers find the full story in the Capitol Toolbox.

Transportation Committee Receives Status Report on PennDOT Performance Audit

The House Transportation Committee, chaired by Rep. Nicholas Micozzie (R-Delaware), conducted an information meeting to receive a status report from the staff of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LB&FC) on the LB&FC’s performance audit of PennDOT. Under a statute enacted in 1981, the LB&FC is required to do a performance audit of PennDOT every six years and the current audit is due on June 30, 2014. The committee members were briefed by LB&FC Executive Director Philip Durgin and Project Manager Elizabeth Voras. Voras provided an overview and explained to lawmakers that the audit will look at revenue and expenditure trends; quality improvement; the operations of the department’s district offices; and the impact of the revenues from Act 89. Check the Capitol Toolbox later today for the full story.

Legislators Call for Severance Tax on Natural Gas Extraction

Members from both chambers of the General Assembly held a press conference this morning in support of enacting a Severance Tax on Marcellus Shale drilling. Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) stressed that this issue has bipartisan support, particularly with the current budget situation. He asserted that the state’s education is “faltering” due to a lack of funding, which could be alleviated by directing revenue from a severance directly to public schools across Pennsylvania. Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) stated, “This is common sense, reasonable legislation.” He argued that the introduction of a moderate tax would not “scare off” the industry, as Pennsylvania could still maintain one of the lowest tax rates along with a significant advantage in resources.

Subscribers check the Capitol Toolbox this afternoon for the complete story.