In this Update:
People Have the Right to Restore Balance in Constitution
Continuing efforts by the General Assembly to ensure no single person, authority or interest can outweigh the voices of the people of the Commonwealth, House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and I are introducing two amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would restore the balance of power to the three-branch system of governing.
The legislation co-sponsorship memo states in part, “Our form of government, and our Constitution, make it clear that neither the executive branch nor any unelected bureaucrat should ever have the unilateral and unchecked authority to issue open-ended orders or regulations. To give such limitless discretion would elevate the executive branch’s power above the other two branches of our tripartite government.”
The two amendments would:
The memo highlights the abuse of the executive order and regulatory process by the current administration compared to previous governors, saying:
“The current administration has issued 52 executive orders to date – compared to an average of just over 16 executive orders by the prior four administrations. This continued effort by the executive to operate as a Regulatory State in direct contravention of our Constitution’s divisions of responsibility threatens the legitimacy of actions taken by our government and invites further erosion of a system that is dependent on respecting our specifically enumerated duties.”
It is important to note that the excessive use of executive orders is not due to the pandemic, as only two of the 52 executive orders were related to COVID-19.
The constitutional amendment process requires passage in both chambers in consecutive legislative sessions, followed by a ballot referendum.
Our Constitution remains the steadfast guide our Commonwealth needs to navigate these difficult times. The divisions of power and checks and balances among our three branches of government are the very components of why free people allow themselves to be governed.
Celebrating the Success of Conestoga Wood Specialties
It was my pleasure to speak before a crowd touring Conestoga Wood Specialties, one of Pennsylvania’s premier hardwood products companies. Conestoga employs 1,100 craftsmen and delivers its own products, resulting in superior customer service often at a lower cost than is available through commercial carriers.
PA’s small businesses are a driving force of our economy, and Conestoga certainly plays an important role. Rather than simply making doors and cabinets, Conestoga supports families remodeling or building a home.
They are an incredible example of the success a small business can have when government doesn’t get in the way. Because of the pandemic, we have unfortunately seen how detrimental – and often permanent – the effects of an overbearing government can have on PA’s small, family-owned businesses.
That’s why I introduced the Prioritize PA Small Business legislative package earlier this year. To emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before, we must create a favorable environment for business and job growth. Learn more here.
Don’t Miss These Health Happenings at the Ephrata Public Library
On Thursday, Nov. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a drive-through flu shot clinic will be offered through a partnership with WellSpan Health and Rite Aid in the Community Commons (right next to the Ephrata Public Library). This is a no-cost opportunity.
On Friday, Dec. 3, from 1-6 p.m., the American Red Cross will be holding a blood drive at Community Commons. Please register online here by entering the zip code 17522 and navigating to the drive at the Ephrata Public Library.
On Thursday, Dec. 16, from 1-7 p.m., no-cost mammograms will be offered because of a partnership with WellSpan Health. Appointments are required. The full-service mammograms will be done on a luxury RV-style bus that will be in the parking lot (route 272 side) of the Ephrata Public Library. Please register by calling 717-466-2666.
Veterans: Please Join Me for an Appreciation Breakfast
On Monday, Nov. 22, from 8:30-10:30 a.m., I will be hosting a Veterans Appreciation Breakfast at Indian Rock Center, Woodcrest Retreat, 225 Woodcrest Drive, Ephrata. A complimentary breakfast from Shady Maple Smorgasboard will be provided, and George P. March of the Society of The Honor Guard will present a program in observance of the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Information about relevant legislation and veterans’ benefits will also be available.
All veterans in the 36th District are invited to attend and may bring a spouse or guest. Seating is limited, so registration is required. Please call 717-627-0036 to RSVP or register online here.
Reinforcing State Law for Second Amendment Rights
The Senate voted to reinforce Pennsylvanians’ Constitutional right to bear arms while continuing to safely protect our communities by preventing municipalities from bypassing state law prohibiting them from regulating firearms and ensuring those legally allowed to own a gun can carry it openly or concealed, without needing a permit.
Senate Bill 448 allows for an individual or member organization to sue a county or municipality that implements a local firearms ordinance in violation of existing state law; allows for individuals adversely affected by local action to seek relief and damages; puts the burden on the municipality to defend its actions instead of placing the burden on the individual; and makes it clear the General Assembly is the only elected body that is responsible for passing legislation related to the right to bear arms.
The legislation seeks to maintain uniformity in gun laws across the state and level the playing field for gun owners by allowing recovery of legal fees and damages if the municipality is found in violation of the state’s preemption law.
Senate Bill 565 allows for law abiding citizens to carry guns in a concealed manner without a permit. There will be an optional permit for firearm owners that will cover them for reciprocity purposes in other states which Pennsylvania already has an agreement in place.
Both bills now head to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Approving Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers
The Senate approved legislation to advance small business tax reform that would help move Pennsylvania out of a pandemic economy and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.
Senate Bill 347 would eliminate a disadvantage faced by Pennsylvania small businesses when competing with those in other states. Under federal tax law, a “like-kind” exchange under the Internal Revenue Code allows for tax deferral when property is exchanged for similar property. This long-standing federal provision allows employers to invest in the job-creating assets businesses need to remain competitive. Every state but Pennsylvania provides for a similar deferral on the state level.
The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. It is part of a Small Business Tax Reform Package to help employers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated shutdowns. Small businesses create 65% of the jobs in the commonwealth.
The Senate previously passed Senate Bill 349 to bring state tax law governing expense deductions in line with federal law, eliminating the unequal treatment of small businesses in Pennsylvania. The increase in limits makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and to invest, which promotes job growth.
Helping PA’s Economy and Veterans
To support Pennsylvania’s economy and veterans, the Senate supported legislation that would establish a Veteran-owned Business Loan Guarantee Program and would clarify the Veterans Preference Law to include veterans who served honorably but were discharged with a disability before completing their initial obligation.
Senate Bill 830 would create a program providing loan guarantees to commercial lending institutions that make loans to veteran-owned businesses. The program would authorize the Commonwealth Financing Authority to guarantee up to 50% of the outstanding principal of the loan, limited to $250,000 for any one loan.
Senate Bill 849 would add an exemption for those with a disability discharge and would ensure that veterans with medical discharges receive the preference with seeking careers within the Commonwealth.
Both bills now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Financial Assistance Available Soon for Homeowners
Pennsylvania has been allocated $350 million through the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) to help homeowners behind on their mortgage and other home-related expenses due to the pandemic. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) will administer the program and is working to develop the Pennsylvania HAF program, which must be approved by the U.S. Treasury before it can become operational.
Pennsylvania’s program will include an online and mobile application portal. Applicants will be able to apply and submit required documentation through the web-based application or may be assisted by a third-party counseling agency.
The program is expected to be available in the coming months, but homeowners may sign up now to receive updates about the financial relief. Click here to be notified or for more information.
Control Your Electricity Costs with PA Power Switch
As electric costs are on the rise and only projected to worsen throughout this winter, there has never been a better time to be proactive about controlling your electricity costs.
You can shop for your electricity and choose your supplier, regardless of your local utility, by researching your options on PAPowerSwitch.com.
Under state law, you have the option to switch to a competing supplier which can offer the lowest price or provide a specific service you want such as green or renewable energy. The electric utility that distributes your electricity will remain the same. You would simply be taking advantage of the power of competitive retail electric shopping to see if a better price is available with a supplier.
PAPowerSwitch.com offers comparison data regarding price, fixed-price contract terms, renewable content, deposit/cancellation fees and other consumer information.