Tuesday, October 17, 2017

House Passes Tax Code Bill, More Votes Needed On Remainder Of House Revenue Package

By a vote of 102 to 88, the House passed a Tax Code bill -- House Bill 542 (Thomas-D- Philadelphia)-- as a first step in moving a revenue package to support the $31.9 billion General Fund budget they passed in June.
House Majority Leader David Reed (R-Indiana) said the bill authorizes the Commonwealth Financing Authority to borrow $1.5 billion by securitizing or liquidating the Tobacco Settlement and possibly other General Fund monies, would apply the Sales Tax to online marketplaces ($43.5 million) and impose a new 12 percent assessment on fireworks purchases ($31.7 million).
Also included are provisions related to the Net Operating Loss in the event of an adverse PA Supreme Court decision, changes to the timing and withholding of individual and lease taxes, added a deduction for manufacturing innovation and reinvestment, establishes two film production tax credit districts, established an entertainment economic enhancement program tax credit for rehearsal areas.
There is no commercial storage, hotel or natural gas severance tax.
There are no environmental riders and the Wild Resource Conservation Tax Checkoff is also extended indefinitely.
Click Here for a House Fiscal Note and summary of House Bill 542.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.  
The Associated Press reported tonight Senate Republicans and Gov. Wolf would only say they would look at the proposal.  A Governor’s Office spokesperson continued to press for action on a natural gas severance tax.
Although not part of the Majority Leader’s budget proposal, the House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up a severance tax bill-- House Bill 1401 (DiGirolamo-R- Bucks)-- at a meeting set for Wednesday.
The other parts of Majority Leader Reed’s revenue package, but not yet scheduled for action by the House, are--
-- Fiscal Code Bill: special fund transfers $300 million (not identified yet);
-- Administrative Code Bill (House Bill 118 in House Rules): Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association Fund transfer language (last number was $200 million); and
-- Gaming expansion (the last number was $200 million, House Bill 271 in Senate Rules).
The Fiscal Code and Administrative Code bills both present opportunities for potentially harmful environmental riders.
Rep. Reed also said it was a House Republican goal to pass funding for state-related universities.
The House returns to session at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday as does the Senate.
(Based on Periscope webcast of Rep. Reed’s comments by PLS Reporter.)

Electronics Waste Recycling Bill Subject Of Oct. 24 Senate Environmental Committee Hearing

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Senate Bill 800 (Alloway-R-Franklin) to create a new Waste Electronic Equipment Recover Act to replace the 2010 Covered Device Recycling Act that provides for the collection and recycling of electronics waste.
A Joint Conservation Committee hearing in March of 2016 found the state’s electronic waste program has all but collapsed and needs major changes.
The bill continues the existing ban on disposing of electronic waste in landfills, with a limited exception for old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and monitors.  The bill allows leaded glass to be managed at a facility permitted for the storage or dedicated retrievable cells for leaded glass that complies with EPA waste regulations.
Companies or governments are prohibited from charging for the collection and recycling of electronic waste, except a seller of electronic equipment shall collect a fee from consumers equal to 0.5 percent of the full retail prices, excluding Sales Tax, to be used to administer and implement the program outlined in the Act.
The Department of Environmental Protection is required to establish a network of convenience centers available in every county as a collection point for electronic waste through a Request For Expression Of Interest process to solicit proposals from counties and municipal authorities.
Grants would be available to set up the convenience centers from revenue collected from the consumer fee.
After the convenience centers are established, DEP is required to issue an invitation to bid on recycling electronics waste from these convenience centers. Electronics equipment manufacturers are required to cover the full cost of recycling the electronics waste through the convenience centers.
Electronic equipment manufacturers may petition DEP to set up a convenience center network for recycling electronic waste.
The hearing will be held in Room 8E-A East Wing of the Capitol Building starting at 10:00.  Hearings are typically webcast through the Committee’s webpage.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: gyaw@pasen.gov.   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: yudichak@pasenate.com.

Trout Unlimited: Volunteers Needed For Allegheny National Forest Trout Spawning Sites Survey Nov. 14

Trout Unlimited is seeking volunteers to conduct a trout spawning site survey on several streams in the Allegheny National Forest in Warren County on November 14 starting at 9:30 a.m.
Working in teams of two or more, this effort will require hiking and/or wading a section of a small stream in the forest, identifying redds, taking GPS coordinates for their location and recording your data.
Hiking/wading distance will range from one to three miles and may include some rugged sections.
This data will serve as baseline information to document the success of culvert replacement projects in opening up new habitat for spawning.
Volunteers will meet in Sheffield, PA to provide training on redd identification and to distribute supplies. Teams will then travel to their assigned stream sections to conduct their surveys. Teams will then return to Sheffield to drop off their data sheets and supplies.
To register, please provide your name, email address, phone number and mailing address to Jake Lemon at jlemon@tu.org or 814-779-3965. Registration will remain open until November 6, or until all spots are filled.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Council of Trout Unlimited website.
(Photo: The Spawn: Get Redducated, Keystone Fly Fishing.)

House Finance Committee To Try Again Wednesday On Severance Tax Bill

Rep. Bernie O'Neill (R-Bucks), Majority Chair of the House Finance Committee, just announced on the House Floor he is calling a meeting of his Committee Wednesday to consider House Bill 1401 (DiGirolamo-R-Bucks) imposing a natural gas severance tax.  Click Here for the meeting announcement when posted.
Related Story:
House Republicans Take Another Run At Moving A Tax Code Bill, Funding Package

Last Major Pittsburgh Steel Mill Site Reborn As Hazelwood Green

With key infrastructure elements and land remediation at or near completion at the 178-acre Almono site in Hazelwood, Allegheny County elected officials, community leaders and Almono LLC Project Director Rebecca Flora gathered October 13 to announce a new name for the site - “Hazelwood Green.”
The new name kicks off the official start of direct marketing efforts to attract business and prospective tenants to the site, and to launch the design process for the site’s first public space, a 2.5-acre area that will be open to the community.
Project leaders and collaborators came together to rename the site in a way that honors its legacy, tracing back to the Hazelwood trees that once populated the site.
The new name was created to reflect that the site is an established part of the surrounding community, and captures the site’s riverfront location and commitment to sustainability. Almono LLC will remain the name of the partnership of the site’s foundation owners.
Key milestones in the effort to clear what was formerly the site of LTV Steel and the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. have included: placement of one million cubic feet of fill; grading of the site; environmental remediation, including Act 2 Brownfield Site Permitting; and the installation of green infrastructure to ensure that all rainwater that falls on the site is accommodated, eliminating stormwater runoff into the Monongahela River.
Discussions with prospective tenants interested in the site, and the iconic Mill 19 building, are already underway.
In 2018, construction will begin on the site’s urban-designed Main Street; an integrated energy service provider will be selected to advance the energy goals for the site; and work will continue toward achieving LEED for Neighborhood Development Plan certification, a process engineered to help create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods.
“We are here today to celebrate a new beginning - for this site and its neighborhood. Together, we are creating a new model for sustainable development that will advance our region’s place in the global innovation economy,” said Rebecca Flora, Almono LLC project director. “As such, this site will serve as a living laboratory for innovation that is resilient to changing markets and adaptive to new technologies and practices. I am honored to be advancing this vision on behalf of the Almono LLC Members - the Benedum Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.”
The kickoff brought together civic and community leaders who have collaborated to ensure that Hazelwood Green will be a development that is integrally connected to the Hazelwood neighborhood.
The day included a symbolic handoff of a new street sign that now connects and extends Hazelwood Avenue out into the heart of the site, ending what separated the tract of land from the Hazelwood and greater Pittsburgh community.
“For many years, the people of Hazelwood have waited for new life to be breathed into this part of the neighborhood.  As plans have unfolded, we have watched with a mix of hope, skepticism and anticipation to see if new development will mean new opportunity for the entire community,” says Sonya Tilghman, executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative.  “The partnerships that have been established as part of this project, and the plans for community access and connection that we celebrate today, demonstrate a commitment to making Hazelwood Green an asset for the people living on its doorstep.”
Hazelwood Green will be developed to house a mix of offices, research and development, light manufacturing, housing, retail, parks and public green spaces, trails and transportation, and will offer significant potential for advancing the region’s innovation economy.
“This is an exciting announcement for our county and region. We know that we have a unique opportunity to become a top global designation for technology and to continue to build on the businesses and organizations which already call this county home,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Working cooperatively, as we have always done in this region, we can build upon the work done by the Brookings Institute to attract new companies and investment to this region. Hazelwood Green, and the opportunities it presents for us, is an important part of that attraction.”
The plans for Hazelwood Green also align with and will serve to advance key priorities for the City of Pittsburgh.
“It took great vision for the partners behind Almono to purchase this property 15 years ago, and prepare it for the world-class opportunities the site has at its disposal today,” Mayor William Peduto said. “Almono has long aligned with plans the city of Pittsburgh and its partners have forged to create an innovative, 21st century economic model that equally weighs people, planet, place and performance.”
Future development of Hazelwood Green will align with key sustainability goals established for the project, including commitments to energy efficiency.
The master plan for the site will follow LEED for Neighborhood Development objectives that prioritize reuse of land in urban infill locations; create well connected, walkable communities; and are resource-efficient in operation.
“It has long been documented that LEED buildings operate much more efficiently and retain tenants longer, and the objectives laid out by LEED and others are proven to create places that are highly marketable with lasting value. The use of LEED at a site-wide development scale will produce the same results in a greater scale by attracting tenants that are seeking quality places designed for people and the environment, that are resilient to fast-changing conditions, and efficient to operate and maintain,” said Flora.
Learn more about the project by visiting the Hazelwood Green website.

PennVEST, PA Housing Agency Expands Loan Program To Include Sewer Connections For Homeowners

The PA Infrastructure Investment Authority and the PA Housing Finance Agency are expanding a program intended to help homeowners with repairs and connections to septic and sewer systems.
The goals are to help homeowners deal with the unexpected expenses related to this work and to protect water quality in Pennsylvania.
The Homeowner Septic Program previously covered repairs to residential septic systems and first-time connections to a public sewer. It now is being expanded to include loans for repairs to existing sewer line connections to homes.
This latest enhancement is in addition to other improvements made to the loan program in the last two years.
For instance, it was previously announced that the loan program now has expanded eligibility requirements, can approve loan amounts up to $25,000 (including loans for manufactured homes), and has increased the number of local and regional lending participants.
"We're excited to be expanding this program for homeowners who already are connected to a public sewer system but need to repair the lateral from their house to the main line," said PennVEST Executive Director Brion Johnson. "The cost of these repairs can be burdensome, but now homeowners have someplace to turn for help."
PHFA's Executive Director and CEO Brian A. Hudson Sr. added, "What makes these sewer line repairs so challenging for homeowners is that they usually are an unexpected expense, and they can be costly. So the fact that we offer an affordable loan to help soften the financial impact should be welcome news for homeowners."
The lenders who originate the Homeowner Septic Program loans are: Liberty Mortgage Corporation, Erie; The Muncy National Bank, Muncy; Widget Financial Credit Union, Erie; American Bank, Allentown; Erie FCU, Erie; and Members' Choice Financial Credit Union, Danville.
Together they make the Homeowner Septic Program available statewide. PHFA expects to have additional lenders joining the program in coming months.
Homeowners who want more information or want to start the PennVEST application process should contact one of these participating lenders. They can also call PHFA at 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466), and then press "0" to be connected with the agency's Customer Solutions Center.
Information is also available on PHFA's website
Lenders interested in participating in the Home Septic Program may also contact Roberta Schwalm with PHFA at 717-780-3838.

Senate Environmental Committee Makes Chesapeake Bay Funding Bill Optional

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Tuesday amended and reported out legislation which makes a program to fund Chesapeake Bay nutrient pollution reductions optional for communities.
Also amended and reported out was a resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission to study the vehicle emission program.
The bills include--
-- Senate Bill 799 (Alloway-R-Franklin); and
-- Senate Resolution 168 (Langerholc-R-Cambria) directing the Joint State Government Commission to establish an advisory committee to review the vehicle emissions inspection program.
The bills now go to the full Senate for action.
Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: gyaw@pasen.gov.   Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: yudichak@pasenate.com.

Help Wanted: PennTAP Energy Team Technical Advisor

The PA Technical Assistance Program, housed within Penn State’s Outreach and Online Education organization, is seeking an experienced Technical Adviser that brings the combination of technical training and business development skills to the organization.
This individual will primarily assist manufacturers’ throughout the Commonwealth with reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and act as a liaison to connect these entities to the vast resources available within Penn State.
Additional responsibilities will be to promote and market all of PennTAP’s service offerings to prospective clients.
As a Technical Adviser, you will be responsible for identifying energy savings opportunities at manufacturers and effectively communicate those opportunities to facility representatives.
You will be responsible for, but not limited to, identifying opportunities, writing client reports, client relationship building, student engagement and serving as a PennTAP liaison to Penn State faculty.
You will be expected to work closely with Penn State students to provide them with experiential learning activities outside the classroom, while also connecting manufacturers’ needs to Penn State research, faculty and facilities.
Specific training, education, and experience in the areas of energy efficiency is preferred. Competencies critical to success are: knowledge of, or ability to learn the main sources of energy reductions; results-oriented team player that also works well independently; strong project management skills with an ability to organize a dynamic workload; ability to establish and maintain professional relationships with peers, vendors, and clients; and ability to analyze, prioritize and solve unique problems.
Typically requires a Master's degree or higher plus three years of related experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
This position requires that you operate a motor vehicle as part of your duties. Some overnight travel required. A valid driver’s license and successful completion of a motor vehicle records check will be required in addition to standard background checks.
PennTAP seeks candidates able to demonstrate experience and ability to advance Outreach and Online Education’s diversity initiative. This is a fixed-term appointment funded for one year from date of hire with excellent possibility of re-funding.
Click Here for all the details and how to apply.

Still Time To Fill Out Survey On PA State Parks!

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Tuesday reminded Pennsylvanians that the online survey about planning for the future of state parks will close at the end of this month.
“We’ve already heard from more than 14,000 people about what will help improve and sustain Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks, but want to make sure everyone interested has a chance to make their voice heard,” Dunn said. “This information will help in the creation of a strategic plan to ensure the Pennsylvania state park system will remain as relevant and valuable to future generations as it has been to current and past generations.”
The public can take the “Penn’s Parks for All – Planning for the State Parks of Tomorrow” survey online. The online survey also is available in Spanish.
Survey questions include:
-- Should current outdoor recreation opportunities or experiences be changed?
-- Should park overnight accommodations be changed?
-- How should state parks be financed?
-- How can state parks best be protected?
-- Should state parks offer modern conveniences?
-- Are you satisfied with park services, facilities and activities?
Click Here to take the survey.  Click Here to watch a presentation on State Park Strategic Planning before the Joint Conservation Committee on October 16.
Bureau of State Parks officials say their goal will be to have a preliminary report, influenced by the information gathered this year, available in the fall of 2018, with a final report in 2019.
Additional engagement efforts during the planning process will include a phone survey of a statistically-significant sampling of Pennsylvanians that can be extrapolated to represent the state’s population; a targeted, online survey for minority and young adult audiences; and stakeholder input meetings to focus on specific selected topics.
Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks total almost 300,000 acres. Together with DCNR’s state forest system, they are one of the largest expanses of public lands in the eastern United States and a winner of national recognition.
For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

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