Senate approves Phillips-Hill’s broadband package

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved two reform measures aimed at cutting regulations and improving the state’s partnership to better deploy high-speed internet throughout the Commonwealth, according to Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), who sponsored the legislation.

“We have seen an incredible increase in our daily reliance on high-speed internet throughout the state. As the chair of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, my goal has been to identify state solutions to this complex problem,” she said.

“After a series of public hearings, the committee identified three key pillars to addressing the digital divide: remove regulatory barriers, maximize existing assets and identify funding sources. This package of bills addresses all three of those needs,” she added.

Senate Bill 341 would remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment for landline telecommunications providers. The legislation would update the Public Utility Code and require the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to waive certain regulations, review regulations every three years and eliminate those that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.

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Phillips-Hill’s legislation also addresses a major challenge to closing the digital divide – funding.

In 2019, the Wolf Administration entered into a $100 million, 20-year contract – with the option to renew the contract up to an additional 10 years – with an out-of-state company to inventory state-owned assets to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania.

The state contract sends all revenue generated from leasing state-owned assets to various carriers into the state’s General Fund. Senate Bill 442 would pull the new revenue into a restricted account with one purpose: expand access to high-speed access.

The bill would also require state agencies to conduct an inventory of all state-owned assets to help with the further deployment of broadband. The bill also encourages counties to conduct their own inventory but does not mandate them to do so. Phillips-Hill argues that leveraging state-owned communication towers, poles, buildings and facilities across Pennsylvania could position high-speed broadband internet to unserved and underserved areas.

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“We know that getting more families and small businesses connected to high-speed internet will be a multi-pronged approach, and these bills are a critical part in achieving our goals,” Phillips-Hill said.

Both bills move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves New Tool to Support Redevelopment of Blighted Properties

HARRISBURG – Municipalities would have a new tool to transform blighted properties into thriving parts of the community under a bill approved by the Senate today, according to the bill’s author, Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

Senate Bill 352 would allow local taxing authorities to provide a tax exemption for up to 10 years for any improvements and new construction on blighted properties. The bill focuses on mixed-use redevelopment including both residential and non-residential uses, in order to support the development of more vibrant communities, Ward said.

“A number of blighted properties throughout the state hold great potential for future use, and this bill can play a role in helping to regenerate these properties and improve the quality of life for local residents,” Ward said. “The bill would not create any sort of new mandate. It would simply give municipalities another option to rehabilitate the abandoned and dilapidated properties that create a dangerous eyesore in the community.”

Projects would only be eligible for the tax abatement if all zoning ordinances are observed, all code violations are cleared, and the value of the property increases by at least 25 percent. In addition, the property owner must pay any delinquent taxes related to the subject property, and projects that receive any other property tax abatement or relief from local or state programs would be ineligible to participate in the new tax abatement program

Senate Bill 352 is supported by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

CONTACT:   Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490

McGarrigle Advances Killion Affordable Housing Legislation

Senator Tom McGarrigle (R-26), chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate’s Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, today advanced a key affordable housing bill.

Senate Bill 1185, sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-9), cleared McGarrigle’s committee with a bipartisan unanimous vote.  McGarrigle is the first co-sponsor of the bill.

This legislation will increase private investment in affordable housing by creating a state housing tax credit.  This new tax credit, modeled after the highly successful federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), will incentivize private investment in new and existing affordable housing.

The goal of the legislation is to increase affordable housing options for struggling families.

“Strong families are the key to stable, healthy neighborhoods, and the lack of affordable housing undermines both families and communities,” said McGarrigle. “Senator Killion’s state housing tax credit will not only help senior citizens, individuals with disabilities and families, it will spur economic development and replace blighted properties with new and refurbished housing.”

McGarrigle noted that affordable housing is desperately needed in Pennsylvania.  For every 100 low-income households in our state, there are only 66 affordable rental units, and for every 100 very low-income households, there are only 38 affordable units available.

Killion’s bill is supported by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the state’s premier coalition advocating for affordable housing.

“There is an affordable housing crisis in our state,” said Killion.  “We need to do everything we can to help provide homes for families who are facing economic challenges.  I am grateful that Senator McGarrigle is helping to make this affordable housing tax credit a reality,” he added.

Contacts:
(Sen. McGarrigle)       Mike Rader mrader@pasen.gov (717) 787-1350
(Sen. Killion)               Shannon Royer sroyer@pasen.gov (717) 787-4712

Rural Broadband Public Hearing Set for April 5

 

Agenda

HARRISBURG – The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors, chaired by State Senator Gene Yaw, will hold a public hearing in Wellsboro, Pa., on Thursday, April 5, 2018 to hear from broadband service providers and consumers about the issues, challenges, and opportunities of delivering broadband services in rural Pennsylvania.

Joining Senator Yaw at the hearing will be Center Board Members Rep. Garth Everett (vice chairman), Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich (treasurer), Dr. Nancy Falvo of Clarion University (secretary), Stephen Brame, Dr. Stephan Goetz and Darrin Youker. Senator Joe Scarnati will also join the panel.

Confirmed testifiers include representatives from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives, Blue Ridge Cable, Indigo Wireless, PenTeleData, Tri-County Rural Electric, Progress Authority, North Central PA Regional Planning and Development Commission, UPMC Susquehanna, JC Blair Memorial Health System, Wellsboro Area School District, PA Route 6 Alliance, Visit Potter-Tioga, Susquehannock Lodge, and Port Farms. 

“Broadband access means so much more than interactive gaming or connecting with your family and friends,” said Sen. Yaw. “Broadband access means connecting with your healthcare provider, completing a classroom assignment, and maintaining and expanding your business.” 

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 39 percent of rural Americans (23 million people) lack access to broadband, defined as 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. In Pennsylvania, 29 percent of the population in Tioga County, 39 percent of the population in Bradford County, 30 percent of the population in Potter County, 69 percent of the population in Sullivan County, and 11 percent of the population in Lycoming County do not have access to fixed, advanced telecommunications. 

“The Center’s board wants to know more about the challenges and opportunities regarding rural broadband deployment because it impacts such a large part of our everyday lives,” Yaw said. “We know that the geography of rural Pennsylvania and the lack of population are issues that affect the availability, access and cost of broadband, but we have seen that rural Pennsylvania can serve as a testbed for innovation and unique ways of dealing with the challenges of geography and isolation.”

The public hearing will be held in the Red Room of the Penn Wells Hotel, 62 Main St., Wellsboro, Pa., 16901 and will begin at 9 AM. Members of the public are invited to attend.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Center works with the legislature, educators, state and federal executive branch agencies, and national, statewide, regional and local organizations to maximize resources and strategies that can better serve Pennsylvania’s nearly 3.5 million rural residents.

CONTACT:

Barry Denk, Director
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania
(717) 787-9555
denkb@rural.palegislature.us

Senate Appropriations Committee approves legislation on prison closings

HARRISBURG – Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation reforming possible state prison closures in Pennsylvania.

On January 6, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections publicly announced the closures of two of five selected state correctional institutions located across the state.  A final decision for closures was set for January 26, 2017, leaving only twenty days to gather feedback from parties directly affected by these closings, including the institutions’ workforce, local governments and elected officials. 

Senate Bill 748 establishes the Public Safety Facilities Act which ensures there is adequate notice and consideration of any proposed state correctional institution closures, as well as other structures that employ law enforcement staff. The bill requires specific notification requirements and the development of comprehensive strategies to minimize undue stress on employees and local communities.  The bill is modeled after a law passed in New York regarding a similar debate. 

The prime sponsor of the bill, Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), noted the importance of creating an open dialogue between state facilities and local communities.   “Wherever state facilities are located, an immensely important economic relationship is developed with local communities. If the necessity arises for changing that relationship, it should result from an open and extensive discussion with all affected parties,” Argall said.

The bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

 

Contact:  Mary Beth Dougherty
570-773-0891

Senate unanimously approves bill to penalize negligent property owners

HARRISBURG – Today, the Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) to hold negligent property owners, not the taxpayer, accountable for properties that are in the delinquent tax sale process.

Senate Bill 851 amends the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to clarify ownership of these properties, many of which have code violations pending against them.

“The goal of this legislation is to correct the flaw that was made in a 2002 court decision and to place the burden of the costs where it belongs – on negligent property owners of severely blighted properties, not the taxpayer,” stated Argall.

The bill will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Contact: Sakura Ung

717-787-2637

Senators Promote Western PA as Home for Amazon HQ2

Attached is a letter sent to Governor Tom Wolf today by a group of Senators representing Western Pennsylvania, led by Senator Dan Laughlin of Erie, urging the Administration to aggressively market Western Pennsylvania as a location for Amazon’s proposed second headquarters facility. 

Senate Approves Stefano Bill to Help Communities Fight Neighborhood Blight

 

The State Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) to provide local redevelopment authorities with greater authority and additional resources to combat neighborhood blight.  Stefano said Senate Bill 667 would grant redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act, enabling them to take an active role in rehabilitated blighted properties and neighborhoods.

Stefano noted from his many tours of local municipalities that “Dealing with blight has been the one issue that every municipality, large and small, has asked for help with. I’ve seen buildings on the verge of collapsing onto a main street and piles of rubble where once stood a business.”

“Blighted, abandoned properties pose a danger to the public, increase crime rates and reduce property values,” Stefano continued.  “This legislation will give communities a valuable tool to effectively blight, which is becoming a growing problem in many areas of the state.”

A land bank is an independent public entity created by a municipality to expedite the process of acquiring and rehabilitating blighted, dilapidated, and abandoned properties. In many instances, land banks and redevelopment authorities work in unison to eliminate blight in communities.

“While land banks have been crucial in this fight, many of the Commonwealth’s counties have active redevelopment authorities which have been performing these same functions since 1945 but do not have specified authority under Pennsylvania law” Stefano said.  “Granting redevelopment authorities the same powers as land banks would allow them to acquire tax delinquent properties at a judicial sale without competitive bidding.”

The legislation would also enable redevelopment authorities to discharge tax liens on blighted properties, and to share up to 50% percent of the real property taxes for five years after conveyance of authority-owned property. It would also eliminate the need to form an entirely new entity in these municipalities, which can be redundant and cost-prohibitive, given the lack of resources and funding for these initiatives.

“Under my proposal, land banks will continue to remain a successful and useful tool for municipalities in combatting blight,” Stefano said. “This bill will offer another resource for municipalities with active redevelopment authorities to use in eliminating blight, rehabilitating properties and improving neighborhoods and communities while saving them money and avoiding costly and timely duplication of services.”

Senate Bill 667 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Ben Wren (717) 787-7175

Blight/Revitalization Issues

Roundtable

Senate Majority Policy Committee

and

Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 | 10:00 a.m.

Harrisburg Area Community College
Midtown Campus (2nd Floor)
1500 N. 3rd Street | Harrisburg, PA 17102

 

 

10:00 a.m.       Welcome and Opening Remarks
Senator David G. Argall, Chairman, Senate Majority Policy Committee
Senator Tom McGarrigle, Chairman, Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee
Senator John DiSanto 

10:10 a.m.       Presentations and Discussion with
City of Harrisburg
Mayor Eric Papenfuse
Jackie Parker, Executive Director of Community and Economic Development
David Patton, Codes Administrator

WCI Partners
Alex Hartzler, Managing Partner & Founder

Community Blight Solutions
Robert Klein, Founder & Chairman

11:15 a.m.       Adjourn

 

DiSanto to host roundtable in Harrisburg with two senate committees to discuss anti-blight efforts

HARRISBURG – Senator John DiSanto (R-Dauphin/Perry) is bringing in the Senate Majority Policy and Urban Affairs and Housing committees for a roundtable discussion with city officials, local developers and industry experts to find solutions to combat blight and abandonment in Pennsylvania.

The roundtable discussion will feature presentations by the City of Harrisburg, WCI Partners and Community Blight Solutions to review ways the state can assist local officials and developers to revitalize the city and all communities dealing with blight.

The roundtable will take place at Harrisburg Area Community College’s Midtown Campus, 1500 N. 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102 (Second Floor) on Tuesday, May 23 at 10 a.m. 

Regarding the roundtable, DiSanto said, “I look forward to having a discussion with my Senate colleagues and those on the front lines of blight remediation about ways we can change state law to better support our communities in preventing and eradicating blight.”

Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks), who chairs the Senate Majority Policy Committee, said these forums allow officials to come together to discuss solutions and ways to implement successful anti-blight strategies.

“This is the first of several roundtables we plan on holding throughout the state,” Argall said. “This forum will help us come up with new ideas to take back to the Capitol to assist Harrisburg in its fight with blight. In addition, we will review recent laws which we have already passed to help communities just like Harrisburg to evaluate their effectiveness.”
Senator Tom McGarrigle (Delaware/Chester), Majority Chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee said, “I am looking forward to sitting down with both committees and local officials to discuss strategies that have been effective and ineffective in fighting blight in the City of Harrisburg.  As we work our way through these various discussions I am hopeful that we can take what we learned back to the legislature and implement these strategies across the Commonwealth. “

 

Contact:
Chuck Erdman (DiSanto)
717.787.6801

Jon Hopcraft (Argall)
717.787.2637

Daena Prinsen (McGarrigle)
717.787.1350