In this update:
Robinson Appointed to Lead Senate Labor and Industry Committee
Senator Robinson was appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward to chair the Senate Labor and Industry Committee for the 2023-24 Legislative Session.
The committee is responsible for considering a wide range of issues important to employers and employees, including workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, workplace safety, building codes and workforce development.
Last session, Robinson served as a voting member of the Labor and Industry Committee, which passed legislation to increase the time for parties to file appeals to unemployment compensation eligibility determinations, modernize the state Workforce Development Act and require workplace safety committees to provide information to employees about the risk of opioid use. The committee also considered legislation sponsored by Robinson, which became law, to improve enforcement of the construction industry’s use of the federal E-Verify system and increase penalties for hiring unauthorized workers.
Robinson’s priorities as the new chairman will include overseeing the operation of the unemployment compensation system, designing job training and other programs ensuring Pennsylvania workers have the skills necessary to pursue stable, family-sustaining jobs, building a stronger environment for job growth and continuing to strengthen relationships between the legislature and labor.
Robinson Appointed to Serve on State Commission on Crime and Delinquency
Senator Robinson has been appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward to serve on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
The PCCD is chaired by the attorney general and includes public officials, judges, law enforcement officials and private citizens who make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly regarding criminal justice issues. The commission works to support crime victims, enhance law enforcement and empower communities by leading advocacy efforts for safe schools, providing technological and information-sharing tools and launching evidence-based innovative criminal justice programs.
Last session, Robinson sponsored legislation that created a local law enforcement grant focused on officer retention and recruitment, training expansion and equipment updates, leading to safer neighborhoods and less crime.
Robinson will serve on the PCCD through Nov. 30, 2024.
Voter ID: Time for PA to Catch Up with Other States, Nations
A proposed constitutional amendment passed by the Senate earlier this month to require ID verification at polling places remains in the House of Representatives. Its approval is needed to let voters have a say through a ballot question in the spring primary election.
Pennsylvania’s failure to enact this key component of election integrity has put it behind not only a vast majority of states and most developed countries, but behind many developing nations as well.
Every excuse used to block this rational election reform has been shown to be false. Requiring proof of identification before voting does not suppress turnout, and acceptable IDs are not difficult to obtain.
Nationally, the calls for voter ID come from Democrats and Republicans alike. Eighty percent of Americans favor voter ID as do 74% of Pennsylvanians. Now is the time to pass Senate Bill 1 and let the voters decide.
Restoring Checks and Balances in Pennsylvania Government
In addition to letting citizens decide whether voters should be required to show ID, Senate Bill 1 includes a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the people’s representatives in the General Assembly to overturn any government regulation that conflicts with the will of the people.
The need for this change was made clear by the Wolf administration’s unilateral decisions during the pandemic, closing businesses and schools with no input from the people. Despite the clear design of our government with three co-equal parts, the executive branch elevated itself above the legislative and judicial branches in an obvious violation of the checks and balances afforded by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
No governor of any party should be permitted to wield such unchecked power again. If the House of Representatives follows the Senate’s lead and passes Senate Bill 1, voters will be empowered to restore this crucial balance of power.
Phase-out of Job-Killing PA Tax Begins
The phase-out of Pennsylvania’s sky-high Corporate Net Income tax got underway this month, part of our efforts to keep good jobs here and create new ones.
Republican lawmakers secured a cut in this job-killing tax as part of the 2022-23 state budget. Before this reduction to 8.99%, Pennsylvania’s CNI tax had been 9.99% for nearly three decades while other states had lower tax rates – some far lower – and many have been lower for almost as long.
When gradually reduced to 4.99% in 2031, Pennsylvania’s CNI rate will have gone from one of the highest in the nation to one of the lowest, making the commonwealth far more competitive with other states.
A 2009 report by an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City demonstrates that the burden of the corporate income tax is borne in large part by labor within the state in the form of lower wages. A 2016 paper published in the journal American Economic Review found employees shoulder about a third of the corporate tax burden.
Reducing this tax will be the difference between jobs coming to our local communities and jobs leaving. This will be a great benefit to Pennsylvania families.
Rebates for Property Taxes and Rent Available to Seniors, Pennsylvanians with Disabilities
Older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities can apply now for rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2022.
The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. Spouses, personal representatives or estates may also file rebate claims on behalf of claimants who lived at least one day in the claim year and meet all other eligibility criteria.
The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. You can find more eligibility and application information here. Eligible applicants can visit mypath.pa.gov to electronically submit their applications.
Local Organizations Can Apply Now for Conservation Grants
Counties, municipalities and municipal agencies, pre-qualified land trusts, nonprofits and other eligible organizations can apply now for state conservation, recreation, trail and related grants.
Administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Community Conservation Partnerships Program is funded with a variety of state and federal funding sources including Pennsylvania’s natural gas Impact Fee.
Applications will be accepted through April 5. Online tutorials are available to aid organizations in the application process.
Lowering the Risk of Birth Defects
Rates of infant deaths due to birth defects have declined by 10% in the United States. However, even today, every 4½ minutes a baby is born with a major problem affecting parts of the body including the heart, brain or foot, causing lifelong health challenges.
The National Birth Defects Prevention Network offers women five tips for preventing birth defects:
Not all birth defects can be prevented. However, healthy choices and habits help lower the risk of having a baby born with these challenges.
Out and About in the 37th
Earlier this month I was pleased to welcome Ashley Estes to the Senate floor. Ashley was in Harrisburg with Fort Cherry 4-H for the 2023 Pennsylvania Farm Show and received a 1st place Blue Ribbon in the Junior Market Lamb Show. Congratulations, Ashley!
Congratulations to our newest Eagle Scouts, Kieran Stoker, Joshua Kiss, Timothy Karvelis and Camden McClelland of Troop 248/9248 in Oakdale! A well-deserved accomplishment after many years of hard work and dedication.