In this Update:
This week I was honored to join Veterans Outreach of Pennsylvania in breaking ground on the new Veterans Grove in Harrisburg, which will offer housing and support services for our area’s homeless veterans, with 15 tiny homes and a community center.
Senate Passes DiSanto Bill to Automatically Return Unclaimed Property
The Senate unanimously approved my legislation authorizing the state to return unclaimed property without the need for rightful owners to search for it. It now advances to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Bill 24 would authorize the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to automatically return single-owner property for living individuals valued up to $5,000 after a thorough identification and verification process. The legislation streamlines the return of unclaimed money by eliminating the need for citizens to search and file a claim. For larger and more complex claims, owners would still be required to complete a claim form and provide additional information to confirm their identity and rightful ownership.
These are funds belonging to the residents of Pennsylvania, not the state, and we are currently holding way too much that should be put back in their hands to use as they see fit, not help inflate the state budget. Unlike some of the things I’ve seen move through the legislature, Pennsylvania Money Match is truly commonsense, makes government work better, and is the right thing to do for everyone with unclaimed property transferred to the Pennsylvania Treasury.
To check if you or someone you know has unclaimed property, search Treasury’s database here.
Looking to Change Agency’s Culture, Senate Approves Bill to Rename DEP
The Senate approved legislation to rename the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the Department of Environmental Services. Senate Bill 691, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, will have no effect on the jurisdiction or current statutory or regulatory authority of the department but will give a name that matches the mission and legislative intent of the agency. This change is similar to when, in 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare became the Department of Human Services.
The word “protection” in the department’s name carries a law enforcement connotation rather than that of an environmental resource and partner to the citizens of Pennsylvania. Emphasizing that the department is focused on services will be a major step forward in instituting a needed culture change.
DEP is charged with administering the laws of the commonwealth as enacted by the General Assembly. The General Assembly, through these legislative enactments, is responsible for ensuring the protection of the commonwealth’s environment and natural resources.
Protecting Pennsylvanians from Unauthorized Tracking Devices
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation to protect Pennsylvanians from the unauthorized use of electronic tracking devices. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
While tracking devices have been used for decades, the release of the Apple AirTag has resulted in a low-cost proliferation of such technology. Rather than using them to locate commonly misplaced items, some people place them in people’s purses or on their vehicles when unaware. Current law is vague on criminal culpability.
Senate Bill 159 would make it a misdemeanor of the second degree to use such devices to track another person without consent. Exceptions include law enforcement agencies conducting investigations and parents keeping tabs on their children.
Simplifying Government, Ensuring Adequate Funding for Roads and Bridges
Legislation sponsored to replace Pennsylvania’s Alternative Fuels Tax on electric vehicle owners with a flat fee was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee. It would simplify the process for electric vehicle owners and ensure all drivers are contributing toward the maintenance of roads and bridges.
Currently, owners of electric vehicles are required to file monthly statements with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and remit the alternative fuel tax on how much electricity their vehicle uses. However, most electric vehicle owners do not do this, or are inconsistent at doing so, due to the cumbersome process or simply being unaware.
Senate Bill 656 would exempt electric vehicle owners from the tax and replace it with a flat annual fee of $290. The fee was calculated based on the average annual gas taxes paid by owners of gas-powered vehicles. Like the gas tax, the revenue from the flat fee will be deposited into the Motor License Fund for highway maintenance and construction.
Measure Connecting Individuals in Recovery to Occupations Approved by Committee
To combat Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee passed a bill to connect individuals in recovery with jobs. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Bill 69 would establish the Recovery to Work Pilot Program, pairing those in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards. As local workforce development boards would lead the implementation, the strategies will be locally focused to meet the needs of local employers and the local treatment and recovery community.
Additionally, the legislation would provide incentives for businesses and training providers to participate in the program.
Bill Ensuring Educational Opportunities for Military Children Receives Committee Support
Legislation to reduce the educational challenges faced by children of PA National Guard and Reserve members was approved by the Senate Education Committee and is before the full Senate for consideration.
Military families face frequent reassignments, posing educational challenges for children transitioning between schools in different states.
Senate Bill 209 would give children of National Guard and Reserve members the same help provided to those of active-duty military families through the Military Interstate Children’s Compact. The compact provides a consistent set of policies that make getting started in a new school, joining extracurricular activities and meeting graduation requirements as easy as possible for military children.
Free Junior Game Warden Camps Offered Across PA
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) offers free Junior Game Warden Camps in each of PGC’s six regions in June and July for youth ages 12-15.
Campers will learn about wildlife crime forensics and how wardens catch poachers and solve wildlife-related crimes. Additional instruction will include woodland tracking skills, outdoor survival skills and wildlife capture techniques for nuisance complaints and research purposes.
Registration, available here, is limited to those who have not attended a camp previously.
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