You are on page 1of 4

Reichley Report

Newsletter for the People of the 134th Legislative District

Lehigh County: 1245 Chestnut St., Unit #5, Emmaus, PA 18049 Phone: (610) 965-9933 Berks County: Bally Brook Industrial Park, 20 North Front St., Bally, PA 19503 Phone: (610) 845-1425

PRSRT STD U.S. PoSTage PAID HaRRiSbURg, Pa PeRmiT No. 432

Summer 2011

State Budget
The General Assembly passed a $27.15 billion General Fund budget by our constitutional deadline of June 30 that cut spending by more than $1 billion and did not raise taxes. In response to Gov. Tom Corbetts proposed $1 billion cut in education spending, House Republicans restored almost $300 million to school districts to hold down property taxes and another $300 million to Pennsylvanias public colleges in order to hold down tuition rates. We provided more education funding through spending cuts in welfare, corrections and legislative accounts. Because of the loss of $2.7 billion in federal stimulus money, the Legislature needed to focus on where to trim expenses to restore as much money to education as possible. School districts were well aware that the state would not be able to replace the $1 billion in stimulus money they received AND fund all other agency line items at last fiscal years levels. The basic education subsidy is receiving $5.35 billion in state General Fund money, more than during any previous fiscal year. State system schools such as Kutztown and East Stroudsburg universities are funded at 82 percent of what they were last year. Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln received 81 percent of their 2010-11 total, as part of the state investment in higher (continued on page 2.)

Upcoming Events

Power Point Presentation School Property Tax Reform

When: Tuesday, Aug. 30 Time: 7-8:30 p.m. Place: 3450 Brookside Road, Lower Macungie Community Center, Macungie Space is limited. Call our office at (610) 965-9933 for reservations.

Reichley to Hold Town Hall Meetings in September

Light refreshments will be provided. Please R.S.V.P. to (610) 965-9933 or (610) 845-1425 Walk ins are welcome

Saturday, Sept. 17
9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Bally Senior Center 425 Chestnut St., Bally

Senior Expo

When: Friday, Sept. 30 Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Place: Luther Crest Retirement Community, 800 Hausman Road South Whitehall Township

Wednesday, Sept. 21
7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Lehigh Lodge 2100 Route 100 South, Macungie
Rep. Reichley explains the state budget during an April town hall meeting.

Kids Expo

Free admission and refreshments. When: Saturday, Oct. 29 Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Place: DaVinci Center, 3145 Hamilton Ave., Allentown

Saturday, Sept. 24
9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cetronia Fire Company 18 South Scenic St., Allentown

(continued from page 1.) education of $1.6 billion. Some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle decried our spending cuts of more than $1 billion because of anticipated growth in revenue by $700 million next year. However, to spend that anticipated, but not collected, revenue fails to recognize outstanding pension obligations, the potential of a court-ordered $700 million repayment to the doctors medical malpractice fund, $4 billion in unemployment compensation debt to the federal government, not to mention road and bridge repair needs and increases in long-term state debt. Based on these potential expenses, we believed it was not wise or responsible to risk Pennsylvanias fiscal security on wishful thinking that enough money would be recovered to pay for all programs without cutting any spending levels.

State Funding for School Districts

As you can see from the chart below, lawmakers attempted to restore as much of the missing federal stimulus money as possible given limited revenue available this year. School Districts in 134th District Boyertown Area SD Brandywine Heights Area SD East Penn SD Parkland SD Salisbury SD Upper Perkiomen SD 2010-11 Education Subsidies $17,454,627 $4,815,437 $14,311,900 $10,053,062 $2,937,502 $10,139,657 2010-11 ARRA Stimulus $1,680,215 $454,619 $1,286,592 $795,243 $257,384 $994,285 2011-12 Education Subsidies $15,652,182 $4,392,326 $12,441,366 $8,927,582 $2,680,352 $9,134,047 Difference ($1,802,446) ($423,111) ($1,870,534) ($1,125,480) ($257,150) ($1,005,610)

School Districts in 134th District 2011-12 Property Tax Relief Boyertown Area SD $146 Brandywine Heights Area SD $217 East Penn SD $112 Parkland SD $105 Salisbury SD $117 Upper Perkiomen SD $185

As part of the final $27.15 billion budget, significant welfare reform measures were adopted to help control costs. The reforms include: Anti-Benefit Shopping. Cash benefit levels differ from county to county. Previously, welfare recipients were able to apply for benefits in counties other than their home county as temporary residents and receive that countys benefit level. Now, under this new law, residents receiving public assistance benefits will only be eligible for benefits based on the levels allowed in their county of legal residence, regardless of where benefit applications are made in the Commonwealth. This change ensures that all eligible residents receive the benefits, and helps to stop those who defraud the system by shopping around for the highest benefit. Income Eligibility Verification System. The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) will now be required to use an electronic cross-reference system to conduct a 19-point check on applicants eligibility and to create a standard fraud detection system. Special Allowance Program Changes. This program was set up to help cover costs for those seeking employment to get off welfare, but was extensively abused and wasted millions of dollars. The budget requires funding reductions of up to 25 percent and provides the leeway to eliminate allowances within the program. These reforms will help ensure the department has the ability to achieve anticipated savings of more than $470 million. These estimated savings are based on 4 percent error rate identified in DPW during audits and are consistent with estimates during the Rendell and Obama administrations.

Welfare Reforms Address Cases of Waste, Fraud and Abuse

A new law gives citizens more control over school property tax increases and will require school districts to more frequently seek voter approval for property tax increases above the state-set inflationary index. Act 25 also allows businesses to pay school district property taxes in installments as homeowners can do now. Starting next year, Act 25 will enable residents to vote on property tax increases above the local inflationary index except under three exceptions: state reductions in aid for special education expenditures to school districts, school employee pension contributions, and previously approved debt. The proposal would also call on school districts to meet certain financial criteria before gaining approval for the exceptions, which was not originally stipulated under Act 1. Act 25 should result in more back-end referenda and input by taxpayers when a school district proposes an increase in the property tax above the local inflation index. Act 1 had a longer list of 10 exceptions. In the past five years, more than 200 school districts applied to the Department of Education for an exception, and each one was granted. As a result, few back-end referenda have ever been placed on any local ballot. The new law makes it more difficult for a school district to apply for an exception from the referendum requirement enacted under Act 1 of 2006. As a result, fewer school districts will be able to increase property tax rates above their inflationary index without getting voter approval. Clearly more needs to be done, but with enactment of this new law, I hope to see more taxpayer participation in school property tax decisions.

School District Property Tax Exceptions Removed by Act 25

The Legislature extended unemployment benefits making several reforms to the unemployment compensation system to control costs by requiring unemployed persons to engage in an active job search in order to continue receiving benefits, as every other state does. Back benefits will be awarded retroactive to June 11. This law also limits severance pay, as 40 other states do. Under the law, a person can receive a severance of up to $17,853 before unemployment compensation benefits are calculated.

Unemployment Compensation Reform

These reforms will result in average annual savings to the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund of $133 million per year from 2012-18, with the bulk of the savings in the last four years. The cumulative savings will be nearly $1 billion. Pennsylvania currently has borrowed $4 billion in unemployment compensation funds from the federal government. This debt will be repaid by all businesses through higher federal taxes, so we need even more reforms to help businesses offset their higher taxes. A law I co-sponsored would extend a persons right to self-defense to include the use of deadly force in an individuals home, car or business where he or she has the right to be. Act 10 of 2011, known as the Castle Doctrine, clarifies state law so that legal protection is afforded to law-abiding citizens who use lethal force in protecting themselves, their families and their properties. A person should not be held liable for taking action to preserve his or her own life and safety when faced with a grave threat. The new law would create the presumption that an intruder in the process of unlawfully entering a dwelling, business or occupied vehicle intends to do great bodily harm to the occupants, justifying the reasonable belief that the use of deadly force is necessary. The presumption would not apply if the person entering a home was another resident of the home; a law enforcement officer; or a parent, grandparent or other guardian removing a child from the home or vehicle. In addition, this legislation would not apply if a person was using his or her home or vehicle to engage in criminal activity. It is important to emphasize that this legislation does not endorse unlawful aggression. It merely provides individuals with the necessary legal protection to respond to a threat of deadly force whether a person is in their home or out on the street.

Act 17, known as the Fair Share Act, was recently enacted to hold defendants in civil suits liable only for the share of damages for which they are responsible. Under this new law, a person or entity found liable in a lawsuit will be responsible for paying only his or her share of the damages. Any person or entity found to be more than 60 percent at fault could be held responsible for 100 percent of the jury award. Previously, a defendant who was only marginally responsible for a plaintiffs injuries could be held liable for 100 percent of the damages if the other defendants were unable to pay. This encouraged plaintiffs to add deep-pocketed defendants to lawsuits, even if they were not really responsible for injuries. Lawsuit abuse reform is about job creation and retention. It encourages new businesses to locate in Pennsylvania by making the Commonwealth more business friendly. I am glad to see this new law taking effect.

Controlling Lawsuit Abuse Will Help Create Jobs, Retain Medical Professionals

Castle Doctrine Now Law

Rep. Marcia Hahn (R-138), Gov. Tom Corbett and Rep. Reichley at the bill signing ceremony for Act 17, the Fair Share Act on June 28.

Distracted Driving Update

Though the House passed two bills relating to junior drivers training and enhanced distracted driving penalties, legislation banning texting while driving or hand-held cell phone use has not passed the Legislature yet. Members could not reach a consensus on whether to restrict the use of handheld cell phones to all drivers or just to junior drivers. There are sizable enforcement hurdles about whether to make the penalty a primary offense, meaning police could pull over drivers they observe using cell phones or texting while driving and fine them $75, or a secondary offense, meaning drivers could be fined only if they are cited for another driving violation. There would also be one point assessed on a drivers license. The House and Senate have passed different versions of this legislation. A junior driver bill (House Bill 9) increases behind-the-wheel driver training requirements from 50 to 65 hours, restricts the number of passengers under the age of 18 when the driver is a junior license holder, and makes it a primary offense if anyone under the age of 18 is not properly restrained in a vehicle. The careless driving bill (House Bill 896) increases the fine for distracted driving. Specifically, if a driver is cited for careless driving and found to have been distracted by the use of any electronic device, personal grooming device, food, drink, book or other printed material, he or she will be assessed an additional fine of $50 on top of the standard fine for the initial violation. It has been a long process for this public transportation safety issue, but I hope the Legislature and the governor can find a balance to enact the cell phone ban once and for all.

The first law of this session Act 1 of 2011 repealed a government mandate requiring automatic sprinkler systems to be installed in newly constructed homes. The bill stops Pennsylvania from automatically adopting the building code decisions rendered by the International Code Council (ICC). Changes adopted by that council could only apply to Pennsylvania after a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority by the states Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council. The repeal stems from concerns voiced by many builders and prospective homeowners who were worried not only about the significantly higher cost of adding a sprinkler system to a new singlefamily home, but also that frozen or otherwise damaged pipes in a sprinkler system can ruin walls, floors and belongings. The law makes it optional to install a sprinkler system in a new home and puts the decision in the hands of the new home buyer, while improving construction standards to protect our firefighters.

Sprinkler Mandate Repealed

Rep. Reichley spoke at a press conference as part of American Heart Association and American Stroke Association advocacy day in Harrisburg on May 3, recognizing American Stroke Month. He has also introduced House Bill 1400, which designates primary stroke centers in Pennsylvania to ensure the best possible stroke care possible. Rep. Reichley joined emergency medical services (EMS) personnel from the Cetronia Ambulance Corps for a ride along on May 19 after a flag-raising ceremony honoring EMS workers who died in the line of duty. Pictured from left to right are: Reichley; Bill Aull, emergency medical technician (EMT); Michelle Bluis, EMT; Miguel Rivera, paramedic; and Larry Wiersch, CEO, Cetronia Ambulance Corps.

Rep. Reichley met Sheri Peters from the Lehigh Valley Zoo in the Capitols East Wing Rotunda on May 10. Sheri is holding an Argentine tegu, a reptile similar to a Gila monster.

Reichleys There Ought to be a Law Contest Winners

On May 2, Reichleys There Ought to be a Law contest winner Sam Morgan and his family came to the House floor to celebrate his winning entry. Sams proposal was that dogs should be prohibited from riding in the front seat of vehicles because of the potential distraction they present. Pictured from left are: Jeff and Tori Morgan, his father and mother; Jillian Morgan, Sams sister; Sam; and Rep. Reichley.

Reichleys There Ought to be a Law contest runner up Christopher Wainwright and his family visited the Capitol on May 2. Chris was the second-place winner of Reichleys There Ought to be a Law contest. His idea was to allow local police to use radar to make roads safer. Pictured are his father and mother Geoff and Sue Wainwright; his sister, Emily; Christopher; and Rep. Reichley.