State Rep. John Taylor (R-Kensington) hosted Gov. Tom Corbett in Kensington where he ceremonially signed Taylorâ€™s legislation into law, giving cities a new tool in the fight against blight. Act 153 of 2012 will now allow Pennsylvaniaâ€™s municipalities to create public land bank authorities in order to efficiently acquire, manage, and develop tax-foreclosed properties.
Corbett ceremoniallyÂ signed the bill into law during a visit to Impact Services Corp., 1952 E. Allegheny Avenue. It was actually signed at the end of 2012.
Taylor said, â€œVacant and abandoned properties are a major drain on our city and neighborhoods. They cripple property values, attract vermin, and when their owners are delinquent on taxes they force the rest of us to pay what they wonâ€™t. This law will help the city reclaim these properties.â€
Pennsylvania has about 300,000 vacant and abandoned properties. Of these properties, 35,000 are in Philadelphia, 19,000 are in Pittsburgh, and the remainder are scattered throughout the state.
SEN. KITCHEN INVITES ALL TO 2ND-CHANCE SEMINAR
State Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D-N. Phila.) is hosting a public meeting to update the public on current legislation that would help give non-violent ex-offenders a second chance toward a better life.
The public is invited to attend the meeting on Friday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sobriety Through Out Patient Inc., 2534-36 N. Broad Street (Broad & Huntingdon Streets), Suite 200. Street parking is available and lunch will be served.
Attendees will also be offered an opportunity to lobby for second-chance legislative efforts on Tuesday, Feb. 12 in Harrisburg.
â€œWhile state laws are improving, nonviolent ex-offenders still face an uphill battle in their efforts to obtaining meaningful work, housing, and a better life,â€ Kitchen said.
The Senator has been raising awareness about second-chance legislation for more than a decade in the state legislature. For more information, call her office at (215) 227-6161.
CLARKE TAKES COUNCIL TO SEE BALTIMORE CAMERAS
Look for City Council to change some of the Mayorâ€™s suggested budget expenditures to include more money for surveillance cameras.
President Darrell L. Clarke and several members in Council visited Baltimore to see for themselves the effectiveness of that Cityâ€™s network of surveillance cameras, monitored by a central police. The Cityâ€™s attempt isnâ€™t doing the job, he feels.
So look for City Council to increase funding with a hands-on approach. The cityâ€™s crime statistics are alarming.
REP. BOYLE ANNOUNCES SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast) said students can now apply for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship Program. The program provides four-year scholarships to two high-school seniors per year. Each award consists of the value of one semester of tuition at the State System of Higher Education for each of four years.
â€œI encourage all students planning to go to college to apply for this scholarship,â€ Boyle said. â€œMany families struggle to pay for college, and this scholarship would be a huge help to a student in need of financial assistance.â€
The eligibility criteria are as follows: graduating high-school senior; legal resident of Pennsylvania; attendance at a Pennsylvania college, university, or career school as a full-time student; academic achievement (minimum 3.0 cumulative high-school GPA); commitment to community and leadership qualities; extracurricular activities; and financial need. The application for this program is available online at www.tfec.org. In addition to the application, students must also submit other scholarship information, their resume, community and leadership skills, FAFSA Student Aid Report, a personal essay, three personal reference letters, their official transcript, a guidance counselor form and a $10 processing fee.
All of these materials must be received by Mar. 1. Materials may be sent to: The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship, Attn: Allison Moesta, Program Associate for Educational Enhancement, 200 N. 3rd Street, 8th floor, PO Box 678, Harrisburg, PA 17108-0678.
TARTAGLIONE REAPPOINTED AS LABOR CHAIR
State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Kensington), recently reappointed as Democratic chair of the Senate Labor & Industry Committee, said she will use the position to push for changes in Pennsylvaniaâ€™s minimum-wage law in order to prevent working parents from sinking into poverty.
â€œThis is the committee where Iâ€™m comfortable and this is the committee where I have had great experience and success,â€ she said. â€œMaking sure there are jobs for everyone who wants to work and making sure those jobs pay enough to put food on the table have been my main focus in the Senate and that will remain the same.â€
The last time Pennsylvania passed a minimum-wage adjustment, in 2006, came after six years of effort over three sessions and three different bills, Tartaglione said. Tartaglione was the author of the stateâ€™s last minimum-wage bill, which raised the stateâ€™s lowest wage from $5.15 to $7.15 in several steps. Since then, the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25.
After the last increase, Tartaglione said, Pennsylvaniaâ€™s poverty rate took a steep decline, only to gradually increase to a 20-year-high in 2010.
â€œPaying minimum wages that donâ€™t keep pace with inflation puts more burden on government services, like food stamps and child care,â€ Tartaglione said. â€œPutting an inflation index on our minimum wage would decrease that burden and create a predictable base for employers.â€
WASHINGTON NAMED TO SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SEAT
The Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Leadership released its list of committee assignments for the 2013-2014 legislative session, naming State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) to the Appropriations Committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee makes vital decisions about the Stateâ€™s financial priorities, including crafting each yearâ€™s state budget.
â€œI am honored to be selected to serve on the Appropriations Committee and I look forward to working to ensure that we are using taxpayer funds to afford Pennsylvania families an opportunity to succeed,â€ Washington said. â€œI pledge to use my seat on the committee to fight for more investment in education, better health and human services, economic opportunities for minorities, as well as better assistance for hardworking Pennsylvanians who are struggling to provide for their families.â€
BROWN HOSTS 30 AT PA. FARM SHOW
State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.), chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, made the trip from Philadelphia to Harrisburg with 30 constituents and community leaders to visit the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
â€œIt is a different experience for citizens who live in the inner city,â€ Brown said. â€œThe atmosphere in the building is so electric, and many of my guests were experiencing this part of Pennsylvania culture for the first time in person. â€œIf thereâ€™s one thing that Philadelphians appreciate, itâ€™s hard work, and the amount of time and preparation dedicated by so many of the participants was evident,â€ she said.
BROWNLEE RECEIVES HOUSE COMMITTEE APP’TS
State Rep. Michelle Brownlee (D-N. Phila.) has been appointed to serve on the Appropriations, Children & Youth, Human Services, and Urban Affairs & Policy House Committees for the 2013-14 legislative session.
Brownlee will also serve as Democratic vice chairwoman of the Children & Youth Committee, subcommittee chairwoman for education within the Appropriations Committee, subcommittee chairwoman for drugs and alcohol within the Human Services Committee and subcommittee chairwoman for cities and counties of the first class within the Urban Affairs Committee.
SIMS TO SERVE ON 3 COMMITTEES
State Rep. Brian Sims (D-S. Phila.) was appointed to serve on three House committees: Commerce, Professional Licensure and State Government.
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) also appointed Sims as Democratic chairman of the State Government Subcommittee on State-Federal Relations and Democratic secretary of the Commerce Committee.
Sims represents the 182nd Legislative Dist., which includes Rittenhouse, Fitler and Logan Squares, the Gayborhood, and parts of Washington Square West, Bella Vista, Graduate Hospital and Grays Ferry.
McGEEHAN TO PUSH FOR PHILLY TAX RELIEF
Joining the Philadelphia legislative delegation in a united goal to lessen taxpayer pain from the Actual Value Initiative, State Rep. Michael P. McGeehan (D-Northeast) announced he will introduce one prong of a four-part package that would offer homeowners tax relief. McGeehan said his bill would offer a simple yet effective solution to the Cityâ€™s tax-delinquency problem â€“ which impacts one in six properties â€“ by letting property owners make installment payments on their taxes, at a frequency rate of the Cityâ€™s choosing.
â€œRight now, you have to pay it all at one time â€“ so once people fall behind, they just fall further and further behind,â€ McGeehan said. â€œThis bill would allow people to have an installment plan, making payment easier so they donâ€™t fall behind in the first place. Itâ€™s a commonsense way to stop the cycle of tax delinquencies.â€
Other members of the Philadelphia Delegation will introduce three companion bills as part of the package, which would give the city additional authority to collect delinquent taxes, call for a constitutional amendment allowing Philadelphia Co. to impose a different taxation rate on residential and commercial properties, and permit the city to consider the age and financial status of a longtime owner-occupant in levying property taxes.
WASHINGTON BILL EXPANDS USABLE VOTER-I.D.
State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) has introduced legislation to expand the acceptable forms of identification that can be presented to vote under the Stateâ€™s voter-ID law.
â€œI still fear the current voter-ID law disenfranchises voters more than we were led to believe and we must do everything we can to loosen those requirements that restrict voters,â€ Washington said. â€œThis legislation will make it easier for voters to confirm their identity and still exercise their constitutional right to vote.â€
The legislation, SB 69, expands acceptable forms of voting identification to include voter-registration cards, utility bills, financial and ownership documents, government-issued checks, and firearm permits.
2 GOODE BILLS FOCUS ON COMMUNITY
Councilman Wilson Goode continues to seek more ways to create jobs through tax credits. He has introduced two such bills.
One requires banks to report on their fair-lending plans. The other allows contributions in return for tax credits to CDCs for neighborhood economic development.
FARNESE TO CHAIR TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-S. Phila.) has once again been named the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Communications & Technology Committee. He was also named as a member of the Senate Appropriations, Judiciary, and Banking & Insurance Committees.
â€œWe need to ensure we are modernizing our laws to keep pace with the rapid advancements in communications and technology,â€ said Farnese. â€œIâ€™m grateful to once again serve as Chairman of the Communications and Technology Committee and I look forward to working with my colleagues in crafting meaningful public policy that meets the needs of all Pennsylvanians.â€
DeLISSIO SETS TOWN-HALL MEETS
DeLissio Sets Town Hall Meets
State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio (D-Northwest) is committed to facilitate a dialogue on issues facing the 194th Legislative Dist. as well as legislative priorities for all of Pennsylvania.
The meetings are scheduled for Jan. 24 at Simpson House, Society Hall, 2101 Belmont Avenue, 7 p.m.; Jan. 29 at Wolcoff Auditorium, Roxborough Hospital, 7 p.m.; and Jan. 31 at Roxborough Hospital, 10 a.m.