Jan. 24, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampShort# The latest news from the State Capitol
 
House Advances Landmark Bills to Combat Human Trafficking


With overwhelming support, the House has approved more than a half dozen bills aimed at stopping the scourge of human trafficking in the Commonwealth. The problem exists in big cities, small towns and everything in between. It is especially prevalent in communities near major interstates.

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for the sole purpose of exploitation. Since 2007, more than 1,200 human trafficking cases have been reported in the Commonwealth. In addition, Pennsylvania is ranked 10th on Insider Monkey’s list of top human trafficking states. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion is generated by sexual exploitation.

Among the bills passed by the House are those that would increase penalties for anyone knowingly patronizing a victim of human trafficking and anyone connected to trafficking victims. Other bills would assist victims and aim to increase resources and protections.

On Thursday in Harrisburg, the House held a press conference to outline the bills and answer questions. Click here to watch my comments on this critical issue.

To further draw attention to the problem, the House also approved a resolution to recognize the month of January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. Click here to learn more.
 
 
Area Fire and EMS Companies Receive Grants

I am proud to report that many of our local first responders recently were awarded a grant from the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.

To assist our first responders in the difficult job they perform on a daily basis, my House colleagues and I approved more than a dozen measures last year designed to boost volunteerism, offer more flexibility in funding and assure better access to training. The bills are awaiting action in the Senate.

Check out the list of those companies who received grants by clicking here.
 
 
Reforms for State System Universities Proposed

Earlier this week, several lawmakers joined officials with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in calling for a series of reforms aimed at updating and improving operations within the system.

PASSHE is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, overseeing the 14 state-owned universities. Since its formation in 1982, it has provided accessible, affordable and relevant undergraduate, graduate and career-development programs to the public. However, despite significant changes to the landscape of higher education, PASSHE’s enabling legislation, Act 188 of 1982, has not been significantly updated since its initial enactment.

Currently, PASSHE is facing considerable challenges that threaten the sustainability of its operations. To address these challenges, the organization is in the midst of a redesign, some of which requires enabling legislation.

Bills introduced in the House aim to reform the governance and accountability of PASSHE’s Board of Governors and the Councils of Trustees, make needed financial and legal reforms, streamline reporting, and clarify and update statutory language. The bills are pending consideration in the House Education Committee. Read more here.
 
 
Recreation, Conservation Grants Available

Local governments and recreation and conservation organizations are encouraged to apply for grants through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Funded through DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program, grants benefit planning, acquisition and development of public parks, recreation areas, motorized and non-motorized trails, river conservation and access, stream buffers, open space conservation, and regional and statewide partnerships to better develop and manage resources.

The 2020 grant application round closes April 22. DCNR has scheduled two webinars to help potential applicants. The first is being held on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 10-11:30 a.m. regarding grants for conservation, trail and riparian buffer projects. The second is being held on Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 10-11:30 a.m. regarding the statewide and regional partnership grant program for public recreation, conservation or heritage-area initiatives undertaken across a statewide or regional landscape.

Click here for additional information.
 
 
Protect Your Tax Identity

With tax-related identity theft on the rise, next week, Jan. 27-31, is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week in Pennsylvania.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 300,000 American taxpayers had their tax return details stolen as a result of a 2015 security breach, and approximately $1.6 billion in fraudulent tax refunds were paid in 2016 related to identity theft.

Additionally, approximately 5,000 victims have paid more than $26.5 million to scammers who pose as IRS agents according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

If you believe you may be a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent state personal income tax return was filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit within the state Department of Revenue at 717-772-9297 or RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov for assistance.

For more information, click here to view the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.
 
 
Completing the Census is Easier Than Ever

Each decade, the federal government counts the number of people in each state to help determine how many seats the state gets in the U.S. Congress and how to distribute more than $675 billion in funding to states, counties, municipalities, school districts and social service programs and organizations.

Being counted in the Census helps to improve our communities, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, fire and police departments, parks, playgrounds and more.

Beginning in March, Census letters will be mailed. For the first time, people can respond to the Census online. There will also be a toll-free number so residents can share their information verbally. The traditional method of filling out the paper questionnaire will also be an option.

People can be confident that the Census Bureau will not share their information with anyone, including federal, state or local authorities of any kind, including law enforcement, immigration or landlords. There are no exceptions to this law, which is enforceable with five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

Learn more at www.pa.gov/census/.
 
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202 East Broad Street, Tamaqua, PA 18252 | Phone: 570-668-1240
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Email: jknowles@pahousegop.com
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