Oct. 26, 2018

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Harrisburg Update

A quick look at what’s happening in Harrisburg
and the 125th Legislative District...

Pension Commission Holds Final Pension Hearing
As chairman of the Public Pension Management and Asset Investment Review Commission (PPMAIRC), I convened the last of three informational hearings in Harrisburg to examine the need for improvements in transparency around investment expenses and returns of the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) and the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS). Thursday’s hearing identified cost-saving opportunities for the pension boards. A major goal of the commission is to develop a plan to identify $1.5 billion in cost savings over 30 years for each of the two systems.

The testimony from investment consultants provided the commission with a full view of the pension issue. Changes are needed to ensure workers – past, present and future – enjoy a competitive retirement benefit without overburdening taxpayers. Unaddressed, this will have a negative impact on the Commonwealth’s business growth.

The commission was established in 2017 under the broader pension reforms of Act 5 of 2017 to conduct a comprehensive review of PSERS and SERS investment management. The commission has six months to complete its review and to report findings and recommendations to Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly.

Fighting Back Against Food Stamp Fraud
It has been my belief that to contain costs and bring about real reform to Pennsylvania’s welfare system, we need laws in place that can help give more families an opportunity to improve their quality of life, while tackling waste, fraud and abuse from within the current system.

This week, legislation was signed into law that would help prevent food stamp fraud by imposing tougher penalties for the illegal trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (SNAP) benefits.

Senate Bill 1127 – now Act 160 of 2018 – would create a new penalty for the fraudulent trafficking of SNAP benefits in an amount greater than $2,500. Violators would be required to pay restitution of up to three times the amount of fraud they committed.

The legislation stems from a case uncovered last year by the Office of State Inspector General in which a Harrisburg restaurant traded drugs for electronic benefit transaction (EBT) cards and bought thousands of dollars of supplies from a food wholesale club to be resold for profit. This serious problem across Pennsylvania takes food from our most vulnerable citizens.

New Law to Protect Highway Workers
We want to lead the way in emphasizing the importance of road workers’ safety, or any pedestrian who must navigate streets where vehicles are present. To help enhance safety within construction zones, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 172 – now Act 86 of 2018 – which will better protect construction workers along roadways.

Under the new law, automated speed enforcement cameras will be deployed as part of a five-year pilot program in active work zones along certain federal highways under PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s jurisdiction.

Motorists who exceed the speed limit by at least 11 mph when construction workers and these cameras are present will receive a written warning for the first offense, a $75 fine for the second offense and a $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses. Cameras could start appearing as early as the spring 2019 construction season.

This legislation was modeled after a similar law in Maryland, which saw a substantial reduction in work zone-related crashes. For more information about highway safety, click here.

Heating Assistance Program to Open Next Week
Residents who are struggling with their home heating bills can apply for assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) beginning Thursday, Nov. 1.

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps individuals and families pay their heating bills through home heating energy assistance grants. It also provides crisis grants to help in the event of an emergency or if a resident is in danger of losing his or her heat due to broken equipment, lack of fuel or termination of utility service.

The income limit for an individual is $18,210; for a couple, the limit is $24,690; and for a family of four, it is $37,650.

Residents may apply for LIHEAP online or by contacting the County Assistance office in their county of residence.

State Funding will Benefit Area Improvement Projects
Good news for our area! Schuylkill Haven was awarded $229,398 that it will use for an industrial tub grinder/wood chipper for the Schuylkill Haven Recycling Center, a new card access gate and additional security cameras at the site.

This improvement project was made possible through state funding approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and was among the more than 195 governmental entities that received funding through Recycling Development and Implementation Grants from DEP.

I am pleased to play a role in obtaining the funding for these worthy projects. Our area will benefit from these needed enhancements.

Grant Awarded for Playground Improvements
Tri-Valley High School graduate Micah Ulicny developed an inclusive playground as his Eagle Scout project in 2017 at the Hegins-Hubley Elementary School in Valley View.

A $14,580 grant provided by the Northeast Pennsylvania Lions Foundation will allow additional improvements to be made at the playground. The area provides a special place for life skills students to play and interact with others.

I commend Micah on his desire to build this playground and I commend the Lions Foundation for providing funding for improvements. The willingness to give back to the community should be contagious in all of us because it has a real impact on children and their families.

The inclusive playground is surrounded by three walls, providing a quiet, secure place for students to explore. Improvements include maintaining a sensory garden, building a new bridge and paving the walkway.

In July, I had the privilege of attended the Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony for Micah Ulicny of Troop No. 662 in Valley View. Micah has earned a total of 34 merit badges and has served his troop in a variety of ways. I am pictured with the Eagle Scout and Sen. Dave Argall.
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Office Locations
988 Route 61 South, East Main Street, Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972 | Phone (toll free) (855) 271-9384
Borough Building, 200 S. West St., Williamstown, PA  Phone (717) 647-7208
4B East Wing, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2147 
Email: mtobash@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614