House panel approves Argall super load transport bill

HARRISBURG – The House Transportation Committee passed legislation today that would permit qualified private companies to facilitate transportation of super-sized loads, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Senate Bill 748 would allow super-sized loads to be attended by certified pilot escorts with oversight from PennDOT and the State Police.

Under current law, any tractor-trailer transporting a load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide requires a police escort. This requirement places a serious burden on the Pennsylvania State Police, often requiring officers to work overtime.

“Current requirements for police escorts create a significant strain on the resources of the State Police, and these demands will only grow as additional road and bridge improvement projects begin across the state,” Argall said. “Allowing qualified private operators to escort super loads will remove this burden while maintaining the oversight needed to ensure the safety of motorists.”

The bill was sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate passes Argall bill to allow private sector to escort super load transports

HARRISBURG – The Senate unanimously passed legislation on Sunday that would allow qualified private companies to facilitate transportation of super-sized loads, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Under current law, any tractor-trailer transporting a load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide requires a police escort. This requirement places a serious burden on the Pennsylvania State Police, often requiring officers to work overtime.

Senate Bill 748 would allow super loads to be attended by certified pilot escorts with oversight from PennDOT and the State Police.

“The need for bridge beams, steel structures and other large items to repair our roads and bridges will only increase with new investments in public infrastructure,” Argall said. “Allowing qualified operators in the private sector to facilitate transportation of these items will help remove a serious burden from the State Police and ensure they can better meet their responsibility to protect the public.”

The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Argall bill to limit “spot appeals” of assessments wins Senate committee approval

HARRISBURG – Legislation that would ban a taxing district’s ability to appeal a property assessment based on the sale of the property received the unanimous support of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee this morning, according to the bill’s sponsor Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Argall says his legislation, Senate Bill 877, would remove the inequality of taxation between properties within a given taxing district.

“It’s unconscionable to me that two property owners could have the same exact make and model of a home, and because one homeowner purchased a property, he or she could be footing a much higher property tax bill,” Argall said. “The Pennsylvania Constitution states that all taxes shall be uniform. When school districts cherry-pick property owners to raise property taxes, it creates fear in the market and discourages future home sales in that district.”

Senate passes Argall’s blight demolition funding proposal

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved legislation today to give counties a new option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Senate Bill 486 would offer counties the option to levy up to an additional $15 fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county. The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 49-0.

“Blight is not the kind of problem that can be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. Every community faces its own unique challenges in dealing with the cost of remediating abandoned and blighted structures,” Argall said. “Over the past several years, the General Assembly has given counties and municipalities numerous weapons to fight against blight. This bill is a continuation of the process to provide a broader menu of options to fit the needs of each individual community.”

The legislation was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate committee to hold hearing on anthracite coal industry in Pottsville next week

POTTSVILLE – A Senate committee will hold a public hearing in Pottsville on June 11 to receive an update on current economic conditions as well as state and federal regulations affecting the anthracite coal industry and coal-refuse fired alternative energy plants, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), will hold the public hearing, starting at 11 a.m. in the Council Chambers on the 2nd Floor of City Hall at 401 North Centre Street in Pottsville.

“This hearing will provide valuable insight to members of the committee to learn more about the importance of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal and the hurdles and regulations the industry deals with every day,” Argall said.

“For over two hundred years, Pennsylvania anthracite coal has played an important part in our energy portfolio, supplying domestic and international markets and creating countless direct and indirect jobs in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania,” said Senator Yaw. “Unfortunately, crippling environmental regulations and overreach from state and federal authorities are having significant economic consequences. The fact is, we don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment – we can continue to create family sustaining jobs, while limiting environmental impacts if we work cooperatively.  I look forward to joining Senator Argall for this important public hearing.”

Argall authored a resolution to call on the U.S. Congress to examine unfair regulations crippling domestically mined anthracite coal.

More information, including an agenda and testimony, will be available on Senator Gene Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com.

The public is invited to attend.

Senate Appropriations Committee approves Argall’s demolition funding proposal

HARRISBURG – Counties could have another option to finance the demolition of blighted and abandoned properties under legislation approved today by the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Argall’s legislation, Senate Bill 486, would give counties the option to levy up to an additional $15 fee on deeds and mortgages recorded in the Recorder of Deeds office. The new revenue must solely be used for demolition funding within that specific county.

“This provides a much-needed option for counties to levy local funding to remediate blighted properties,” Argall said. “This measure will provide another weapon to continue the war on blight.”

The legislation heads to the full Senate for its consideration.

Majority Policy Committee to explore wastewater, stormwater issues

HARRISBURG – The Senate Majority Policy Committee will study potential avenues to comply with federal run-off pollution reduction mandates during a public hearing in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

Committee Chairman David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) said the hearing would help lawmakers explore solutions to help Pennsylvania meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) clean water goals within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“The EPA’s pollution reduction goals are ambitious, and meeting these goals will also be expensive both for taxpayers and private sector employers,” Argall said. “We need to explore every potential avenue for savings as we work to reduce run-off pollution throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

The hearing will focus on Senate Bill 724, legislation introduced by Senator Elder Vogel (R-47) that would help the state comply with federal nutrient management requirements without the need for expensive stormwater and wastewater upgrades.

The hearing will be held in the North Office Building, Hearing Room 1, at 9:30 a.m. Testifiers will include representatives from the agriculture industry, environmental advocacy groups and the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

Video and written testimony will be available online following the hearing.

Op-Ed: Taxpayers deserve a fair trade with school property tax elimination

Many local football fans have watched their favorite NFL team make numerous trades and acquisitions over the past two weeks. Some of those trades leave fans scratching their heads and wondering what the front office is doing to help the team get to the Super Bowl.

Two weeks ago, I heard a similar reaction from local residents to Governor Wolf’s trade offer to give Pennsylvanians permanent increases in state income and sales taxes in exchange for a temporary reduction in school property taxes—a raw deal for taxpayers.

Over the last several days, his administration tried to tie their property tax “relief” proposal to a plan that was developed over the course of the last several years by over 80 grassroots taxpayer groups across Pennsylvania – Senate Bill and House Bill 76.

The broad bipartisan coalition of individuals that crafted Senate Bill and House Bill 76 deserves a lot of credit because they are willing to make a fair trade – eliminate school property taxes in exchange for an increase in income and increase and expansion of sales taxes.

Senate Bill and House Bill 76 raises over $11 billion necessary to eliminate school property taxes by increasing the state’s Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; increasing the state’s Sales and Use Tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and expanding the sales tax base to cover more goods and services.

The governor’s plan raises $3.8 billion, approximately 34 percent of the current statewide school property tax bill, by increasing the state’s Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent; raising the state’s Sales and Use Tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent and expanding the sales tax base to cover more goods and services.

Senate Bill and House Bill 76 will kill off the property tax beast altogether so it can never return. The governor’s plan would allow this monster to survive and continue to devour new local tax revenues year after year.

The people in Berks and Schuylkill Counties have given me a simple mission: completely eliminate the hated school property tax that has funded schools since the 1830s. Maybe it made sense nearly two centuries ago, but we need to find a fairer way to fund public schools and remove the heavy, unfair burden on property owners.

Poll after poll demonstrates that the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are unwilling to support the governor’s concept, which only temporarily reduces property taxes. His budget secretary noted that a current state law will limit the growth of property taxes in the future. Just last year, with this law in place, one-third of Pennsylvania’s school districts raised property taxes above the capped 2.1 percent increase. The nightmare scenario would play out in a matter of years: Increased income taxes, increased sales taxes and again, high school property taxes.

The governor is selling his plan as real relief, but as the taxpayers know, his is a trade where they lose. I don’t see any taxpayers excited to make a trade for high income taxes, high sales taxes and eventually high property taxes.

While I’m pleased to see the issue of property tax reform finally getting the attention it deserves, we need to ensure that the taxpayers come out on top of this trade through school property tax elimination, not just a temporary reduction.

Argall: Beware the governor’s “bait and switch” property tax plan

HARRISBURG – Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) released the following statement regarding Governor Wolf’s school property tax proposal: “Eighty-four grassroots taxpayer groups across the state have rallied behind a proposal they designed to eliminate school property taxes by shifting to increases in the income and sales taxes. The growing call to eliminate school property taxes crosses traditional political boundaries and covers every corner of Pennsylvania. “Today, the governor proposed a permanent increase of sales and income taxes for a temporary reduction in school property taxes. In a few years, those property taxes will grow and taxpayers will be left with higher income taxes, higher sales taxes and again, high school property taxes. Needless to say, today’s budget proposal is not a long-term solution for the taxpayers, instead, it is a long-term solution to grow taxes, with no limits on spending. “I don’t believe that the governor’s plan – by far, the largest tax increase ever proposed in state history – is a realistic solution. Instead, we have to address major cost-drivers in state government and completely eliminate the unfair, 1834-model school property tax. Elimination is the key – not some ‘bait and switch’ scheme.”

David Baldinger, Spokesperson of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations, including 84 grassroots groups across the state, added: “Governor Wolf’s property tax relief plan is simply more smoke and mirrors that, in the end, accomplishes nothing. As long as school property taxes are allowed to increase unchecked there is NO ‘relief’ plan that will work. Replacement funding sources like the sales and income tax increase at one-third the rate of increase of the school property taxes; you might see a few years of help but, in the end, the property tax will go right back to where it was before but with the new replacement taxes to pay. This is not a solution to the property tax crisis.”

Argall Bill Heads to Governor, Creates New License Plates for PA Veterans

HARRISBURG – The state legislature gave final approval today to legislation sponsored by Senator David G. Argall (R-29) creating new specialty license plates honoring the exceptional military service of Pennsylvania residents.

Senate Bill 1187 provides for a number of new license plates designed to honor the service of Pennsylvania veterans. The bill was originally intended to create license plates for Army veterans who earned the Combat Infantry Badge during their tour of duty. The measure was suggested by Berks County Vietnam veteran Joe Soga.

“I would like to thank Senator Argall for his efforts to honor my fellow veterans by introducing legislation to establish a Combat Infantry Badge license plate,” Soga said.

“Local heroes like Joe Soga deserve to be recognized for their achievements,” Argall said. “I’m pleased to see the General Assembly act in a bipartisan manner to provide for new license plates honoring the achievements of those who put on the uniform to serve our nation.”

In addition to the new plate honoring Combat Infantry Badge recipients, the bill was amended in the Senate and House to provide for other license plates honoring military service. Specifically, servicemen and women earning the Combat Action Ribbon (Marines, Navy and Coast Guard), Combat Action Badge (Air Force), Combat Action Medal (Army) and Combat Medical Badge (Army medics) will be able to show their achievements on their Pennsylvania-registered automobile.

The legislation also expands eligibility for Merchant Marines plates for those who served during the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Desert Shield.

Several other specialty plates are included in the legislation, including a new “Pennsylvania Monuments” license plate that will provide funding for restoration projects in Gettysburg National Military Park. Additional specialty plates will include an “In God We Trust” plate and a “United States Olympic” plate, with proceeds of the latter assisting the amateur athletes from Pennsylvania advance to the Olympic Games. The proposal also includes the creation of new Hunting Heritage plates to fund conservation, youth hunting and game donation programs.

The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday, with the Senate signing off on the new plates today. The bill heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.