In this Update:
Hearing on Proposed Charter School Regulation Changes
I participated in the state Senate Education Committee examination of the proposed regulation changes for Charter School proposed by the Wolf Administration.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) proposed the regulation changes in September that included a public comment period that ended Monday. The proposed changes impact charter school applications, admission policies, boards of trustees, information on management companies, liability coverage, fiscal and auditing standards, funding and academic accountability.
Opponents of the regulation changes say the Wolf administration is attempting to use the proposed regulation changes to circumvent the legislative process for reforming the state’s charter school rules.
I remain committed to working to ensure that the legislature provides balance to the executive branch and they attempt to make changes to how our children are being educated. You can watch the full hearing here and see my comments below.
Calling for the Protection of Banking Privacy
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity joined a coalition of 23 state treasurers, auditors and financial officers calling on President Joe Biden and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to dismiss proposals that would require private banks and credit unions to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) account flows valued at more than $600.
This proposal, which is part of the Biden Administration’s $3.5 trillion American Families Plan revenue proposal, would allow for the unnecessary monitoring of private banking activity of more than 100 million Americans. It would be one of the largest infringements of data privacy in our nation’s history and cause exceptional administrative burdens for our community banks and credit unions.
The Pennsylvania Bankers Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, and the CrossState Credit Union Association all oppose this proposal.
$21 Million for Blair and Huntingdon Counties Water Improvement Projects
Bellwood Borough, Greenfield Township Municipal Authority, Hollidaysburg Borough Authority, and Roaring Springs Municipal Authority in Blair County will receive $9.6 million to improve water services through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). Of the $9.6 million, a total of $4,095,102 in grant funding and $5,507,192 in the form of a low-interest loan.
The Alexandria Borough in Huntingdon County also will receive $11.7 million to help enhance water services through PENNVEST. The Alexandria Borough Water Authority will receive a total of $7,330,175 in grant funding and $4,419,285 in the form of a low-interest loan.
The repairs and improvements needed for these aging systems comes with an enormous price tag. Without the help of PENNVEST, the ratepayers could not afford these needed upgrades that will ensure the system is functioning safely. Safe and reliable infrastructure to provide clean drinking water is essential for the viability and growth of our region. PENNVEST’s critical investments in water infrastructure improvements for these projects will help provide clean, lead-free drinking water for residents and business that rely upon these systems.
The funds will be used to make improvements to the Robinson Run Reservoir, Alexandria Borough water system improvements, Bellwood Borough waterline replacement, Greenfield Township new water treatment facility, Hollidaysburg Borough waterline replacement, and Roaring Spring Municipal waterline replacement. Collectively these funds will be used to install about 63,000 feet of waterline, 76 fire hydrants, over 100 shutoff/gate valves, and 395 water meter replacements.
Founded in 1988, PENNVEST provides low-interest loans for design, engineering and construction of publicly and privately owned drinking water distribution and treatment facilities, as well as storm water and wastewater projects.
PENNVEST is not supported by the state’s General Fund budget, which covers the daily operations and services of the Commonwealth. Financing is provided through the use of federal funding and prior bond issues by the state as well as proceeds from Act 13 of 2012, the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee.
Senate Passes Bill to Allow for First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts
This week, the Senate passed a bill to allow individuals to open a first-time homebuyer savings account with a financial institution.
Senate Bill 157 would allow individuals to open an account of up to $150,000 with a financial institution of their choice for the sole purpose of purchasing a first home. Funds from a first-time homebuyer savings account may only be used to pay or reimburse the eligible costs for the purchase of a single-family home in Pennsylvania.
Since 2009, the number of first-time homebuyers has significantly decreased. According to the National Association of Realtors, the share of first-time homebuyers in the national home sale market has fallen from 45% to just more than 32%.
Individuals taking advantage of a first-time homebuyers savings account will be able to deduct up to $5,000 on their individual taxes, or up to $10,000 for a joint account. The tax deduction can be for no longer than 10 years and may not exceed $50,000 within a ten-year period. Unused funds would be counted against an individual’s taxable income.
The bill passed to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Addressing Teacher Shortage by Improving Certification Process
The Senate unanimously passed a bill in response to the teacher shortage that would simplify the process for out-of-state teachers to obtain certification in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 224 would allow an out-of-state candidate who has completed any state-approved educator preparation program (including field placement/student teaching) from an accredited institution of higher education to be eligible for a comparable in-state instructional certification.
The bill would also require the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to recognize and accept out-of-state candidates’ qualifying scores on equivalent content tests toward PDE’s testing and certification requirements. It would also grant Pennsylvania certification to any candidate who holds a valid certificate issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards – the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education.
According to PDE, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 66% since 2010.
Senate Bill 224 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Ways to Reduce Your Energy Usage and Costs
Since October is National Energy Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to become more energy efficient. In addition to the environmental benefits, it will also benefit your wallet.
Click here for ways you can reduce your energy usage and associated costs.
Another way to save on energy costs is by switching your electric supplier. In Pennsylvania, you can choose the company that generates your home or business’s electricity. This means you can choose a supplier that offers the lowest price or provides a specific service you want, such as renewable energy.
Click here to shop for your electric supplier at PA Power Switch, the official electric shopping website of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Tips for Crime Prevention Month
October is Crime Prevention Month, a good time to recognize that avoiding being a victim involves informed citizens in addition to efforts of local law enforcement.
Here are some crime prevention tips from the National Crime Prevention Council.
Out and About in the 30th
Congratulations to the new Master Gardeners from Blair County. Thank you to Donna Fisher, the Executive Director of the Blair Conservation District and all the new Master Gardeners for hosting this event.
It was an honor to meet with Darcy Hutzell who has been selected as the Alternate Dairy Princess. Congratulations on this wonderful achievement.