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Senate Panel Approves Bill Protecting Public Charities
Earlier this week, I reintroduced a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would give the General Assembly the power to determine whether an institution is a “purely public charity” and thus exempt from paying local property taxes. I am very pleased that the Senate Finance Committee approved my legislation this week, jumpstarting the process for this proposal to be considered by the full Senate in the near future.
Although the General Assembly passed legislation in 1997 that clearly defined what constitutes a purely public charity, a controversial 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling ignored this law and returned to the same guidelines that existed previously, a vague standard that plagued municipalities and charities alike for more than a decade.
The court’s decision created a great deal of confusion among charities and led many municipalities to examine whether they could begin levying real estate taxes on charitable organizations who had previously been deemed exempt. Without legislative action, the ruling will only result in unnecessary, protracted and expensive legal battles that not only drain local tax dollars, but also take money away from the core mission of some of our state’s most widely respected charities.
Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, the proposal must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly during the 2013-14 session. I am hopeful we can put this measure before the voters as soon as possible and remove the sense of uncertainty from our charities and municipalities.
New Committee Appointments Offer Opportunities for Action
It was an honor recently to be appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee and as a member of five other Senate panels that address some of the most important issues in our area. Each of these committees offer opportunities to make progress on the issues of concern to many local residents.
Many members of the community have expressed frustrations regarding the cost of government and how their tax dollars are managed. The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee is responsible for reviewing proposals to restructure state government, cut costs and improve government efficiency. As Chairman, I plan to explore solutions that will prevent our tax dollars from being lost to bureaucracy and poor management.
My other Senate committee appointments include:
New Web Tool Adds Transparency to School District Spending
The public can now learn more about the financial information of public schools, cyber and charter schools and career and technology centers thanks to a new online tool recently unveiled by the Department of Education.
The new SchoolWATCH webpage is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s School Performance Profile website at www.paschoolperformance.org.
Collectively, Pennsylvania schools manage billions of taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers absolutely have a right to know where and how those dollars and being spent, and I am thankful the Department of Education has taken this important step to make this information readily available to the public.
FAFSA Applications Available Now
Students who plan to attend college in the fall can file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) now to get a head start on financial planning for the upcoming school year.
The FAFSA form is a gateway to a number of student aid options, including state grants, Federal Pell Grants, Keystone Stafford Loans, regular Federal Stafford Loans and other federal and institutional programs. FAFSA forms and additional information regarding financial aid programs available to Pennsylvania students are available in my district office in Lititz. Families can also visit www.pheaa.org/fafsa to access the 2015-16 online FAFSA and learn more about the application process.
Students planning to enroll in baccalaureate degree programs in the fall must file the FAFSA by May 1. The spring season is always busy for college students due to finals, and for high school students who are planning for graduation. I encourage local families to consider filling out the FAFSA as soon as possible to get a clearer picture of their financial needs in the fall.
Farm Show Showcases Best of PA Agriculture
The Pennsylvania Farm Show highlights the incredible contributions of our farmers throughout the state. It was a pleasure to meet with numerous local farmers who took part in this year’s event, including many who were honored during the week-long series of competitions and exhibitions.
Agriculture is Lancaster County’s most important industry, and the participation of local residents helped to make this year’s Farm Show an overwhelming success.
Senate Box 203036