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Kerry A.

Benninghoff
Email: kbenning@pahousegop.com Website: kerrybenninghoff.com

STAT E RE P RE S E N TAT I V E

Serving the People of the 171st Legislative District
Winter 2010

Dear Neighbor,
As your state representative in the General Assembly, this is my report to you. I encourage you to read through it to learn about what is going on in our state Capitol and also in our district. This newsletter also has valuable information about state programs and services that may be a benefit to you. Unfortunately, 2009 ended on a sad note for my Bellefonte district office. Just a few days before Christmas, the building that housed my district office caught fire during the middle of the night. While the fire caused great material damage, we are thankful that no one was hurt. We appreciate the efforts of our volunteer fire personnel and also offer our thanks to Bellefonte Borough for allowing us to temporarily operate out of their chambers. This newsletter includes information about state budget reforms that I have proposed to make the process more transparent, allowing taxpayers to see what is going on. It also includes an article about my recent efforts with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to convince Gov. Ed Rendell to release funding for state-related universities, including Penn State. If you have questions about anything you read in this newsletter or any state government-related issues or services, please feel free to contact one of my district offices. We are here to serve you! Sincerely,

State Budget Reforms Necessary to Improve Process
Last year, Gov. Ed Rendell signed the state televised. The measure would kick into efbudget into law more than 100 days after fect each year on July 1 if the leaders and the the June 30 deadline. While the budget has governor failed to reach a timely agreement not been enacted on time since Rendell took on the budget. office, this was one of the longest stalemates My second reform proposal is intended to in recent memory. The delay was completely ensure that any future budget stalemates do unnecessary and proved the need for impornot cripple state government. I introduced tant reforms to improve the process used to House Bill 2027, which would amend the develop Pennsylvania’s annual budget. state constitution so that, if a state budget is In the midst of last year’s not signed into law when budget stalemate, I proposed the new fiscal year begins two reforms: one would on July 1, the state would make the budget process continue to operate on a more open so Pennsylvanians scaled-back version of the know what their government previous year’s budget. is doing; the other would help On July 1, my bill prevent budget delays in the would automatically enact future months after missing a budget that includes 80 the deadline. percent of the previous The budget standoff came year’s spending allocations. to a head last year when the In other words, until a House and Senate passed I will continue to fight for common- final budget agreement is differing versions of a state sense budget reforms to make the reached, the state would spending plan. After the process more open and account- operate on a scaled-back budget bounced back and able to the people of Pennsylvania. budget where each and forth between the chambers every department would with each insisting on its own version, a implement a 20 percent spending reducbipartisan, bicameral conference committee tion. was set to be established with three senators This proposal would help prevent law(two Republicans and one Democrat) and makers or the governor from using the budget three House members (two Democrats and as a point of leverage to push for their other one Republican). The committee’s meetlegislative proposals. The temporary, reduced ings would have been subject to the state’s budget would avoid the “crisis-mode lawsunshine law, ensuring the public would be making” that too often drives the legislative able to see what was happening. process in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, before the committee Both of my bills are currently awaiting members were appointed, House and Senate consideration by the House State Governleaders met with members of the Rendell adment Committee, of which I am the minority ministration to finally negotiate the budget. chairman. Because Democrats hold a majorThis was done in an apparent attempt to ity of seats on the committee, a few of my avoid the open meetings law. colleagues from across the aisle would have In response, I introduced House Bill to support the bill in order for it to move out 1887, a measure that would mandate that of committee and before the entire House all budget meetings between legislative leadfor consideration. I remain optimistic that ers – with or without the governor – would we can work in a bipartisan manner to make be conducted in public view and would be these reforms a reality.

Kerry Benninghoff State Representative 171st Legislative District

DISTRICT OFFICES: 140 West High Street 77 North Main Street Bellefonte, PA 16823 PO Box 592 (814) 355-1300 Reedsville, PA 17084 (814) 355-3523 FAX (717) 667-2319 (717) 667-6025 FAX

HARRISBURG OFFICE: 41B East Wing PO Box 202171 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2171 (717) 783-1918 (717) 260-6528 FAX

 YOU SHOULD KNOW
Preparing for Electric Choice
Electric customers are in line for some good news. While preliminary “doomsday” predictions suggested electric rates could rise by up to 50 percent following electric deregulation, it now appears the increase will be much smaller. During the 1990s, Pennsylvania began the transition from a heavily regulated electric market with arbitrary price controls to a free market where electric customers can choose among several service providers. The rate caps kept electricity prices arbitrarily low, which some thought could lead to significant increases when the caps are removed during the next several years. The rate caps on Allegheny Energy and Penelec, which serve local residents, will expire on December 31 of this year. While preliminary estimates suggested rates could soar by more than 50 percent when rate caps were removed, an October news release from Allegheny Energy suggests, “a typical Pennsylvania residential customer’s [electric] bill in 2011 would increase $8.74, or 9.6 percent” if current trends persist. For more information about the transition to the system of electric choice, please visit my Web site at KerryBenninghoff.com and click on the “Electric Choice” link on the left-hand side.

New Bellefonte Office Location

YOU SHOULD KNOW

Less than 24 hours after a fire damaged my Bellefonte district office, we were operating a partially functional temporary office to continue helping constituents. In December, the building that housed my Bellefonte district office caught fire in the middle of the night. While thankfully no one was hurt, the fire did ruin our district office space. We set up a temporary office at the Bellefonte Borough building so that we could continue to help local residents with state government-related concerns and issues. After a few short weeks, we re-opened our Bellefonte district office at 140 West High Street, across the street from Cool Beans Coffee & Tea. Our phone number will remain 814-3551300. Feel free to stop by and check out our new location!

PennDOT Changes Age Requirement for Photo ID Cards
Since Sept. 11, security issues have been front and center. Among them are the need to develop ways to accurately identify people, including minors. That was the thinking behind one recent positive change in state law. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently made photo identification (ID) cards available to Commonwealth residents ages 10 and older. The previous minimum age requirement to obtain a photo ID card was 16. Act 159 of 2006 lowered the minimum age requirement for a Pennsylvania photo ID card to age 10. The law took effect Nov. 29, 2009. All other requirements for obtaining a Pennsylvania photo ID card remain the same. To obtain a photo ID card, an individual must complete Form DL-54A, “Application for Initial Photo Identification Card,” which is available on PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services Web site, www.dmv.state.pa.us, under the “Driver License/ Photo ID Information Center” link. An individual must bring the completed form, along with the required identity documents and a fee of $12 to a PennDOT Driver License Center to obtain the photo ID. Required identity documents are listed on Form DL-54A. PennDOT reminds individuals under the age of 18 applying for a photo ID card that a parent, guardian or person acting in loco parentis must accompany them to a PennDOT Driver License Center. To locate a PennDOT Driver License Center, visit the “Locations Information Center” on the Driver and Vehicle Services Web site.

Applying for Non-Civil Service State Jobs Just Got Easier!
The Commonwealth has improved the way you can apply for non-civil service state jobs. Paper applications are being phased out, so from now on you’ll need to apply online at www.employment.pa.gov. You will provide your contact information and work history, then select the type of job for which you would like to apply. Applicants say it takes about 20 to 30 minutes and you can log back on any time to update your information or apply for additional jobs. Approximately 70 percent of the state’s jobs are civil service including, for example, technical and professional positions in fields such as nursing, budgeting or accounting, auditing, engineering, information technology, and human resources. If you’re interested in civil service jobs, you should continue to apply at www.scsc.state.pa.us. More information about Pennsylvania jobs— including salaries and benefits—is available at www.employment.pa.gov. If you do not have Internet access, you can find computers at most public libraries and PA CareerLink sites. Call 1-866-8582753 to locate the closest PA CareerLink.

Table Games Coming to Pennsylvania
The General Assembly in January approved and the governor signed into law a bill legalizing table games – such as poker and blackjack – at Pennsylvania casinos. The new law will not provide one penny in property tax relief until the state’s Rainy Day Fund reaches $750 million. That fund was completely emptied during last year’s budget. While the state attempts to rebuild this reserve fund, homeowners will receive no property tax relief from table game proceeds. I would like to change the way the state’s share of the table games revenues are used. I believe property tax relief must be our top priority. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me as I attempt to positively reform this newly enacted law.

Rockview Land Transfer Update
During the past five years or more, a tremendous amount of discussion, research and debate has occurred regarding the divestment of approximately 1,800 acres of property currently owned by the PA Department of Corrections. In 2003, Gov. Ed Rendell deemed this land “surplus property,” which systematically triggered a process for disposition. Any state surplus property must first be offered to state agencies for first right of refusal. Following that, several agencies – including, but not limited to, state-related institutions of higher education – can attempt to acquire ownership. After exhausting all these options, state surplus property can then be put up for public auction following an appraisal to determine its fair market value. The Rockview property has drawn interest by several potential owners and Sen. Jake Corman, Rep. Mike Hanna and I have each introduced legislation delineating different owners. Though each proposal may have differed in potential owners, we did agree on encouraging local public input, utilizing the now-completed master plan and on the need for law enforcement capabilities to better ensure the numerous protections insisted upon by citizens of the county. Over the past several months, we have taken a different approach and concentrated our efforts on stewardship rather than ownership. Additionally, we started by looking at soil types on the property, what their best use is and how we can best protect the land while facilitating non-motorized public access. As the process moved forward, an exciting concept emerged. A potential compromise could include roles for the PA Fish & Boat Commission, the PA Game Commission, Clearwater Conservancy and the Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences. This could provide interagency educational opportunities for many of our college students, allowing them to take classroom learning into the field alongside biologists, geologists, foresters, wildlife managers, aquatic biologists and many other trained and experienced professionals. These hands-on learning opportunities could be developed for local high school students as well. Recently, we hosted a public forum to gather additional public input and reflections on the compromise concept. Of the more than 350 participants, 25 individuals spoke at a public microphone to share their ideas. In addition, we gathered written comments that evening and beyond. Several people raised concerns about the need to ensure we have protections in any legislation to preserve historic features and landmarks. The most recent public meeting provided valuable information that the local legislative delegation will now meet to review, digest, and consider as we move forward. I am pleased the bulk of the decisions are now being made at the local level. This will continue to be the case as the steering committee assists with the implementation of the very detailed and comprehensive master plan, regardless of whom the new owners turn out to be. In any final legislative draft, distinct provisions will be made to ensure this land will not be developed, resold for non-public use or transformed into wasteland. The process to identify a new owner for the Rockview property has been drawn out, sometimes contentious and full of strong opinions on all sides. In short, it has been a classic example of democracy in action, with each interested party given an opportunity to publicly share their views before a final decision is reached.

w w w. K e r r y B e n n i n g h o f f . c o m

Effort to Release Funding for Penn State and Other Schools is Successful
When the governor signed the state budget into law in October, the spending plan did not allocate funding for Penn State University or the three other “state-related” schools – Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. Gov. Ed Rendell attempted to tie funding for these schools to the controversial bill legalizing table games at Pennsylvania casinos. The governor threatened that, if lawmakers failed to legalize table games – such as poker and blackjack – he would not release funding for Penn State and the other schools. I sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders, urging them to separate these two unrelated issues and release the funding for the state-related universities. I argued that Pennsylvania could provide funding for Penn State without legalizing table games. I think it is bad public policy to hold students and teachers hostage for some politician’s ambitions to legalize table games. I also publicly called for legislative leaders and the governor to work together to release the funding for these schools and their students. To view the letter I sent to legislative leaders or a column I wrote regarding this issue, visit my Web site at KerryBenninghoff.com and click on “Press Releases” under the “Latest News” link on the left-hand side. Finally, approximately one week before Christmas, the Legislature approved and the governor signed into law a bill releasing the funding for Penn State and the other state-related schools. The law was signed despite the fact that the Legislature had not yet approved a bill legalizing table games, proving these two issues did not have to be tied together. Fortunately for the students served by these schools, good public policy trumped politics in the end and the General Assembly and governor worked together to enact the law necessary to release the funding.

Honoring Vietnam Veterans
I recently had the distinct honor and privilege to present medals of appreciation to many of our local Vietnam War veterans. Like other generations of Americans, our Vietnam War veterans answered the call to duty. We owe them a sincere thank you. At the ceremony, we paid tribute to those who were present, but also honored those who never made it home – including prisoners of war (POW) and those categorized as missing in action (MIA). I felt blessed just to stand in the same room with so many true American heroes and patriots. May we never forget their sacrifices on our behalf.

“America - land of the free, because of the brave.”

Welcome Home Troops!
In April, I plan to attend a parade hosted by Charlie Company to celebrate our troops as they return home from overseas. For more details about the parade and other ways you can support our troops, call my Bellefonte district office at 814-355-1300.

Vietnam Veteran Health Care Benefits
Did you serve in Vietnam and receive combat pay? You may be eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits! To determine your eligibility, you can all the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center (VAMC Altoona) at 1-877626-2500.

WHAT MY OFFICES CAN DO FOR YOU
• A clearinghouse for all Pennsylvania state government forms. • Driver’s license and vehicle registration applications/renewals. • Assistance with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, special registration plates, vanity plates and temporary placards for disabled persons). • Copies of birth and death certificates. • PACE and PACENET applications for seniors. • Copies and summaries of state legislation. • Access to all Pennsylvania state tax forms. • Information on hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania. • Applications for state higher education grants. • Assistance with Property Tax/Rent Rebate forms. • Coordinate tours of the State Capitol. • Provide state maps and publications. • Information on unemployment claims.

Representative KERRY BENNINGHOFF
DISTRICT OFFICES: 140 West High Street Bellefonte, PA 16823 (814) 355-1300 (814) 355-3523 FAX 77 North Main Street, PO Box 592 Reedsville, PA 17084 (717) 667-2319 (717) 667-6025 FAX HARRISBURG OFFICE: 41B East Wing, PO Box 202171 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2171 (717) 783-1918 (717) 260-6528 FAX

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www.KerryBenninghoff.com

S e r v i n g t h e Pe o p l e o f t h e 1 7 1 s t L e g i s l a t i v e D i s t r i c t

Kerry A. Benninghoff
STAT E RE P RE S E N TAT I V E

PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID HARRISBURG, PA PERMIT NO. 529