In this Update:
My Legislative Language to Help Crime Victims Now Law
The General Assembly passed legislation that was recently signed into law that includes language to provide information and compensation to crime victims.
House Bill 2464, now Act 77 of 2022 – which amends the Crime Victims Act to give crime victims legal standing in court – was amended by the Senate to include Senate Bill 708, which I co-sponsored with Sens. Art Haywood (D-4) and Vince Hughes (D-7) to better protect crime victims.
The added language reinvests savings generated through companion legislation into victim services and helps streamline the process so more victims receive the help they need. It requires the law enforcement officer responding to or investigating an incident to provide basic information about the rights and services available to crime victims.
Providing for the needs of crime victims is an essential part of the criminal justice system, but in too many cases, victims feel left out of the entire process. This legislation assures all victims understand their important role in the system and receive any compensation they are owed.
As amended, the law also ensures victims know their right to be enrolled into the Address Confidentiality Program, which exempts those who enter the program from providing a public address and telephone number when their life may be in danger.
Creating Jobs and Revenue Through Legislation
Knowing the tremendous benefit of Pennsylvania’s Film Tax Credit program, I have been working to increase the funding that is dedicated to attracting business to the commonwealth. When film producers bring their sets to Pennsylvania, it creates jobs and boosts the economy as more people patronize local businesses both during production and after the movies are released and viewers want to visit the places shown in films they like.
Previously, $70 million was allocated to the program, but because of legislative language I drafted, it was increased to $100 million.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s 2019-20 Film Production Tax Credit Program Report, approximately 860 applicants applied to the program and 509 have been awarded tax credits since the program’s inception in 2007. These companies have directly injected nearly $3.3 billion into the state’s economy and generated $785 million in total state and local taxes while supporting an estimated 30,650 full-time equivalent jobs.
For more information about the film tax credit boost, click here to watch a short segment – including an interview with me – produced by WPXI.
The New State Budget: Clearing Hurdles to Jobs and Opportunity
The new 2022-23 state budget does not include any broad-based tax increases and is structured in a way to minimize the risk of tax increases in the years ahead.
In fact, the budget actually cuts the Corporate Net Income (CNI) tax rate, which is now the highest in the nation. The new budget cuts the rate from 9.99% to 8.99% and creates a phased reduction to 4.99%, or sixth lowest, by 2031.
Not only will a lower rate attract new business, it also makes the state more attractive for businesses that already operate here and need to expand.
The budget also eliminates a disadvantage faced by Pennsylvania small businesses when competing with those in other states. Under federal tax law, a “like-kind” exchange under the Internal Revenue Code allows for tax deferral when property is exchanged for similar property. This long-standing federal provision allows employers to invest in the job-creating assets businesses need to remain competitive. Every state but Pennsylvania provides for a similar deferral on the state level.
The new spending plan also brings state tax law governing expense deductions in line with federal law, eliminating the unequal treatment of small businesses in Pennsylvania. The increase in limits makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and to invest, which promotes job growth.
Additional funding is also included for several tax credit programs that foster economic development in Pennsylvania communities, including Research and Development ($5 million increase), Film Tax Production ($30 million increase), Entertainment Economic Enhancement ($16 million increase) and Waterfront Development ($3.5 million increase).
These changes will make Pennsylvania more competitive with surrounding states and send a strong message to employers that our Commonwealth is open for business.
Deana’s Law Increases Penalties for Repeat DUIs
The Senate recently passed legislation that is now law to increase penalties for multiple DUI offenders.
Act 59 of 2022, Deana’s Law, would require consecutive sentencing, instead of concurrent, for fourth DUIs and above. It would also increase penalties for drivers with multiple DUI convictions involving high blood alcohol content levels.
The law is named after Deana Eckman, 45, who was killed in a 2019 crash involving a six-time DUI offender.
Funding Available for Projects that Promote PA Farm Products
Nonprofits can apply now for grants for projects that promote Pennsylvania farm products and grow export markets.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will award up to $303,000 in matching funds to nonprofits to reimburse up to 50% of costs for promotional and educational projects intended to increase consumer awareness and sales.
Eligible projects in 2022 can promote anything from wine to wool, hardwoods to honey, fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat, poultry or dairy — any agricultural product produced in PA.
Complete guidelines for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Product Promotion, Education and Export Promotion Matching Grant Program are in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Grant applications must be submitted online through the Department of Community and Economic Development Electronic Single Application. Applications are due by Aug. 5.
Accessing Local and County Crime and Crash Data
When crimes and crashes are investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police, the statistical data is available online through the Community Access to Information Dashboard (CAID).
CAID allows the public and the media to access and search data collected from traffic enforcement and crashes for both commercial and noncommercial vehicles, including Incident maps. There’s also data concerning various crimes, with mapping for counties and municipalities.
The dashboard allows the user to choose what data is displayed. Searches can be refined with custom date ranges, locations and categories. Queries can be made in the dashboard with statistical information from as far back as 2019. The dashboard contains no information that could be used to identify the individuals involved.
How to Conserve Energy and Manage Summer Power Bills
As hot weather settles in, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) offers tips on conserving energy and keeping summer power bills manageable.
You can find more tips here. For consumers struggling with paying utility bills, the PUC continues to encourage them to call their utilities to discuss the many different affordability options available.
Celebrating Parks and Recreational Opportunities
Parks and recreational opportunities are key components of healthy communities. I hope you get to enjoy the great outdoors this summer.
The new state budget includes $56 million in state funds to create a new State Parks and Forests Infrastructure Program and $100 million in federal funding for state parks and outdoor recreation.
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