Rep Kurt Masser's Weekly Newsletter

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The Weekly Roundup

Friday, December 17, 2021

The latest news from the State Capitol

 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You and Yours

My staff and I wish you, your family and loved ones a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year. It has been our privilege and honor to serve you in 2021, and we look forward to continuing to work to help residents in 2022.

My district office hours may be limited in light of the holidays. Please call ahead to be sure my offices are open.

Also, PennDOT Driver License Centers will be closed on Saturday, Dec. 25, for Christmas, and on Saturday, Jan. 1, for New Year’s Day.

Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, dmv.pa.gov.
   

 
Beware of Holiday Charity Scams

With so many people donating to charities at this time of year, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS) and Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) are offering tips to help consumers make sure their contributions are going to legitimate charitable organizations.

Be on the lookout for these red flags:
• Similar Sounding Name – Scammers often use names that sound similar to legitimate charities to intentionally create confusion.
• High Pressure Solicitation – Fraudsters will try to force a hasty decision by turning up the pressure. They may cold call, identifying you as a previous contributor, and ask for your renewed support or to update your credit card information.
• 100% Guarantee – Every organization has some level of administrative cost, which can include mailing and printing, rent and utilities, staff or fundraising. An organization that promises 100% of your funds are going directly to an individual in need might require additional scrutiny.
• Donation by Wire Transfer or Gift Card – Legitimate charities will not ask you to make payment via money order or wire transfer. A charity may ask for donations of gift cards such as from a grocery store to supply to someone in need. Never read the information from a gift card over the phone or provide it via email. After verifying the legitimacy of the charity, take any physical gift card donation directly to the location of the charity and request documentation of your contribution.

To help avoid becoming a victim, visit the Department of State’s online charities database to verify an organization’s basic financial information about expenses for program services, fundraising and management. You may also check whether an organization is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt organization here.

Other tips include checking websites closely, avoiding wire transfers or money order donations, doing your research rather than giving in to the pressure to donate, and always directing your payment to a charity rather than an individual.

If you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, contact the Department of State’s Division of Charities Investigation Unit/Audits at RA-STBEICIU@pa.gov or use the online complaint form. You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at here and contact local law enforcement through non-emergency channels.
    

 
Voter ID, Election Audits, Reigning in Executive Powers Among Proposed Constitutional Amendments

 


The House advanced several proposed constitutional amendments this week aimed at restoring the proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government and ensuring the integrity of elections.

Voter ID
In light of the broad, bipartisan support for voter ID, the first measure seeks to amend the Constitution to require all voters to present valid identification each time they cast their ballot, regardless of whether they are voting by mail or in person. Any voter who does not have valid identification would be provided with a government-issued ID at no cost.

Election Audits
Another proposed amendment would require comprehensive auditing of elections, including the administration of elections, certification of election machines, the accuracy of the list of registered voters, the administration of voter registration and election results.

Reining in Executive Powers
Two additional proposed amendments continue the efforts to restore a proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of state government. One amendment would limit executive orders to 21 days unless extended by a concurrent resolution of the General Assembly, and the other would allow the General Assembly to fully disapprove of a regulation without approval of the governor.

The measures were added to Senate Bill 106, which proposes to amend the Constitution to allow candidates for governor to select their running mates for lieutenant governor, similar to the way presidential candidates select vice presidential running mates. Currently, the office of lieutenant governor is elected independently.

In order to amend the state Constitution, the proposal must be passed in identical form by the House and Senate in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and then approved by voters in a referendum.

The bill now returns to the Senate for consideration.
   

 
House Rejects Third-Party Funding for Election Administration

 

Working to ensure the integrity of the state’s elections, the House voted this week to prohibit all county election officials and the secretary of the Commonwealth from accepting private contributions and donations to administer the state’s elections.

House Bill 2044 would specifically prohibit any contribution to counties or the state for the purposes of operating elections, employing staff, equipping polling places or engaging in voter outreach.

Data from the November 2020 election indicates that money from nonprofit entities, such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), was granted in a generous manner to only certain counties. For example, Philadelphia County received nearly $9 per registered voter from the CTCL while several other counties received less than $2 per registered voter. Grants to some counties were awarded before others even knew the funding opportunity was available.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
  

 
House Sends Broadband Expansion Measure to Governor’s Desk

The state House and Senate approved legislation this week aimed at boosting access to high-speed internet service in rural and other underserved areas of the Commonwealth.

House Bill 2071 would establish the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority to facilitate funds anticipated through a federal infrastructure bill recently approved by Congress. The Commonwealth is expected to receive at least $100 million initially with the potential to obtain more after the authority develops a statewide plan for broadband expansion.

Under the bill, the authority also would serve as a single point of contact for parties interested in developing broadband or having broadband developed, helping to minimize duplication and maximize the use of existing infrastructure. Additionally, the authority would be charged with identifying access to funding sources and helping to coordinate joint efforts for broadband buildout.

The authority would sunset in 10 years or until all federal funds have been exhausted and obligations fulfilled.

The bill is now pending the governor’s signature.
  

 
Wolf Effort to Kill Energy Jobs, Inflate Electricity Costs Rejected by House

 


Fighting to protect hard-working Pennsylvanians, I joined a majority in the state House this week to reject proposed regulations by the Wolf administration to enroll the Commonwealth in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Joining RGGI would do great harm and bring no benefit. RGGI was created as a means to cap CO2 emissions for power generation plants, but the Commonwealth is already OUTPERFORMING most states currently enrolled in the initiative in reducing our emissions.

Joining RGGI would significantly increase the operating costs for power plants, and those costs will be passed on to consumers who are already struggling with the highest inflation rate in decades. The action would also lead to significant job loss in the energy industry.

Finally, the governor’s unilateral actions to enroll the Commonwealth in RGGI represent yet another overreach of his authority that completely cuts out the voice of the people.

Senate Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution No. 1 will now go to the governor’s desk.
  

 
Bill Would Ensure Families Easy Access to Students’ Curriculum

The state House has passed and sent to the governor’s desk legislation that would require K-12 schools to post their curriculum online in a standardized, user-friendly manner. The goal is to help parents more easily research what their children will be taught in school.

Information to be posted would include a title or link to all textbooks being used, course syllabus or written summary of each instructional course, and the state academic standards for each course. The bill would take effect with the start of the 2022-23 school year.

The bill also stipulates that a school administrator or designee would be required to post the information online, so as not to burden teachers. Also, school entities would have 30 business days to update their websites after approval of updated curricula.
  

 
Final Reminder for 2020 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Applications

Older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities have until Dec. 31 to apply for the state’s 2020 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. Remember, assistance through my offices is always free. You need not pay a private firm for assistance.

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.

For additional information and applications, click here, or contact my office for assistance.
   

 
PA Farm Show Returns to In-Person Event in 2022

The 106th Pennsylvania Farm Show is set to begin on Saturday, Jan. 8, at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. This year’s theme is “Harvesting More.”

After an all-virtual show in 2021, the event returns to its traditional in-person format but will also continue some of the virtual experiences that allowed Pennsylvanians to participate in the Farm Show in new ways.

The food court will continue to be a popular destination with new offerings including pierogies, shredded portabella mushrooms, veggie burgers and corn dogs, beef jerky snacks and more. New things to do include a canine spectacular, Bethlehem’s National Museum of Industrial History, a “So You Wanna Be a Farmer” section and an Urban Gardening feature. For a full rundown of new foods and features this year, click here.

Admission to the show is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle. Shuttle service is provided.

The show runs through Saturday, Jan. 15. More information is available at farmshow.pa.gov.
    

 


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467 Industrial Park Road, Elysburg, PA 17824 | (570) 648-8017 | Toll-free: (855) 271-9386

315J Main Capitol, House Box 202107, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2107 | (717) 260-6134

463 Mill St., Suite 1, Danville, Pa  (570) 275-3700

TTY: 855-282-0614 

 
 

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