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In this Update:
- Mastriano Introduces Legislation to Repeal Provisions of Act 77 via Constitutional Amendments
- MASTRIANO Op-Ed: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will haunt PA long into the future
- Hearing from Female Veterans About Their Military Experiences
- Reuniting Veterans with Military Decorations
- Ensuring Pennsylvania Homes, Employers Have Access to Diverse Energy Options
- Approving Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers
- Green Light-Go Program Now Accepting Applications
Mastriano Introduces Legislation to Repeal Provisions of Act 77 via Constitutional Amendments
November 3, 2021
HARRISBURG – Senator Doug Mastriano (PA-33) formally announced the introduction of SB 884 to add questions on a future statewide ballot referendum to repeal provisions of Act 77. If passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives in two consecutive sessions, the referendum questions will appear on the May 2023 Ballot.
These questions will allow voters to determine the following changes to election law:
- Elimination of “No-excuse” mail in voting
- Mandatory deadline for mailed ballots to be received by 5PM the Friday before Election Day
- Mandatory signature verification for all mailed ballots
- Elimination of the permanent “mail-in/absentee voter list”
A sitting Governor will not be able to veto this legislation prior to its appearance on the ballot.
Senator Mastriano issued the following statement on the legislation:
“As we witnessed in 2020, Act 77 in its current form is susceptible to unconstitutional changes that weaken its election security safeguards. The state Supreme Court unilaterally extended the deadline for mailed ballots to be received and mandated that mail-in ballots lacking a verified signature be accepted. Additionally, the State Department encouraged certain counties to notify party and candidate representatives of mail-in voters whose ballots contained disqualifying defects; thereby enabling voters to cure said defects.
“A poll from earlier this year showed that about 1 in 3 Pennsylvanians who voted in the 2020 general election indicated that they were not confident that the final results accurately reflected how Pennsylvanians voted. Another poll this year showed that 59% of voters believe elections laws need revision.”
“Significant doubt in the validity of a one’s vote has serious repercussions for our republic. SB 884 will allow the people of Pennsylvania to have the final say on these important election security measures.”
The bill now awaits vote in the State Government committee.
MASTRIANO Op-Ed: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will haunt PA long into the future
By Senator Doug Mastriano
Pennsylvania is an energy powerhouse. We are the nation’s number 3 energy producer, number 3 coal producer, and the number 2 natural gas provider. Not only do we meet our own energy needs, we meet the needs of other states who depend on us to keep their own energy grid up and running. 60 plants powered by fossil fuels account for over 60% of Pennsylvania’s electric generation.
It may make some sense for legislators in the 11 states who joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to support the pact. After all, those states do not come close to the number of electricity production facilities we have here in Pennsylvania. Those states will not have to deal with the effects of rising consumer prices, plant closures, and job loss on a mass scale.
The carbon tax imposed by RGGI will result in immediate job loss across our energy sector. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, all 5 remaining coal power plants will be shuttered within a year of enactment. Not only will those workers be out of the job, but so will many of those in the coal production business which feeds into these power plants.
As companies look to invest in future natural gas facilities, are they going to invest in PA or instead invest in states like Ohio and West Virginia who will not be subject to RGGI’s burdensome regulations and taxes?
The acceleration of Pennsylvania’s booming energy industry has been a blessing to our state. Many of our coal and natural gas energy production plants are in economically distressed communities. These areas were decimated as Pennsylvania’s manufacturing base shifted overseas in the past few decades.
Counties like Indiana, Fayette, and Montour have seen energy industry jobs provide a lifeline to the community. We are told by proponents of RGGI, that those who are soon to lose their jobs will have to find jobs elsewhere such as in the renewable energy sector. There is no guarantee of that industry providing anywhere near the same amount of positions and pay that are enjoyed by fossil fuel energy sector workers. We all remember the failure of Solyndra in 2011 after being propped up with millions from the Federal Government. Renewable energy jobs cannot be relied on to replace the damage of RGGI.
Immediate job loss will not be the only negative impact of RGGI. Like all taxes, the carbon tax will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity rates. A report by the Penn State Center for Energy Law and Policy found that consumers would pay up to $2 billion more in electricity costs over nine years.
Energy costs in the U.S are already up by 25% compared to last year. Inflation in the economy as a whole has compounded the struggles of lower and middle-class families. We cannot afford to make high energy costs permanent by entering RGGI.
Supporters of RGGI say that billions in revenue from the carbon tax will be generated for the general fund and “re-invested” into struggling communities. I would much rather have money kept in the pockets of the everyday people as opposed to being subject to misguided spending by legislators and bureaucrats.
Lastly, RGGI will have adverse implications for national security. Crucial American allies in Europe rely on PA natural gas imports to offset dependence on imports from the predatory government of Russia.
For example, vulnerabilities in the face of a more hostile Moscow include economic blackmail due to heavy reliance on Russian oil and gas. To counter this threat, nations like Lithuania and Poland built Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals as a way to reduce dependence on Russian energy. Due to cost and accessibility, most of the LNG imported thus far has come from Norway. I
Imports from the United States began in 2017 and European leaders hope to expand the amount of LNG they purchase from Pennsylvania in the future. RGGI’s carbon tax to stunt the natural gas industry will make that quite difficult.
Some will say that any of the aforementioned adverse effects of RGGI pale in comparison to the cost of inaction to combat climate change. But Pennsylvania has already been making steady progress to limit CO2 emissions. According to the Consumer Energy Alliance, emissions in PA have dropped by 18% since 1990. Any further drops in emissions resulting from RGGI will be negligible. Fossil fuel powered energy plants will simply relocate to less restrictive states and release the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Every RGGI participant state joined the pact after receiving approval from their respective legislatures. Governor Wolf, as he has done throughout his tenure, acted unilaterally to join after our state after not getting what he wanted from the General Assembly.
This sets a dangerous precedent. The General Assembly is the body that is closest to the people of Pennsylvania. No Governor, regardless of political party, should have unchecked unilateral power to impose a tax and enter our state into such a consequential interstate pact. This week, the State Senate acted by voting to disapprove the regulation to join RGGI. Next up is a vote in the House of Representatives. Following passage there, Governor Wolf will presumably use his veto pen and a legal battle in the courts will ensue.
One thing is for sure. RGGI will do far more harm than good.
Hearing from Female Veterans About Their Military Experiences
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hosted a roundtable discussion with female veterans about their military experiences.
The discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges for females in a historically male-dominated field. They spoke of how common it was to be the only woman in a classroom filled with men and the exhaustion that comes from needing to work harder than their male peers without feeling like the work pays off.
The women also spoke of how military sexual trauma impacted, and frequently cut short, their service. Often, services available to help people cope with sexual assault aren’t known to the victims, so the roundtable participants emphasized how important it is to make that critical information available to military members at all levels of service.
Despite challenges they faced, the women emphatically felt that their service was valuable to their own personal development and cited the character development and work ethic as benefits they received.
Reuniting Veterans with Military Decorations
The Pennsylvania Treasury’s vault holds tangible unclaimed property, including hundreds of military decorations that Treasury is working to return to each and every veteran or their family. There are military ID tags, pins, campaign ribbons and medals, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.
Most tangible property received by Treasury is auctioned off after about three years, but not military decorations. These symbols of sacrifice are kept in perpetuity and never sold.
Treasury has a database dedicated to military decorations so families can easily search to see if anything is waiting to be returned to them or a loved one. Click here to search the database of unclaimed military decorations.
Ensuring Pennsylvania Homes, Employers Have Access to Diverse Energy Options
The state Senate voted to ensure Pennsylvania homes and employers have access to diverse energy options.
Senate Bill 275, known as “Energy Choice” legislation, would limit municipal entities from banning a specific type of fuel source for appliances and heating homes or businesses. The language is fuel-neutral and is not specific to one energy source.
Pennsylvania’s history of energy choice has resulted in reductions in energy costs as well as emissions. While other states are seeking to ban fuel sources, such as natural gas, Pennsylvania residents have a myriad of energy options from which to choose, helping to keep energy bills lower. By allowing businesses to retain the option to choose energy sources, the bill helps employers stay competitive in an increasingly challenging global market.
The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Approving Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers
To help Pennsylvania move out of a pandemic economy and create jobs, the Senate passed a bill to bring state tax law governing expense deductions in line with federal law. It would eliminate the unequal treatment of small businesses in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 349 is part of a Small Business Tax Reform Package to help employers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated shutdowns.
The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 raised the federal limit for IRS Section 179 expense deductions from $500,000 to $1 million annually. However, Pennsylvania law limits the deduction to $25,000 for personal income tax purposes, which covers S Corporations, partnerships and individuals.
The increase in limits makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and to invest, which promotes job growth in Pennsylvania.
Small businesses create 65% of the jobs in Pennsylvania. Passage of Senate Bill 349 is part of a broader recovery effort to rebuild Pennsylvania’s economy.
The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Green Light-Go Program Now Accepting Applications
Through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Green Light-Go Program, approximately $40 million is expected to be available to municipalities and metropolitan or rural planning organizations for upgrading traffic signals to light-emitting diode (LED) technology and intelligent transportation applications. It may also be used for autonomous and connected vehicle-related technology, performing regional operations such as retiming, developing special event plans, monitoring traffic signals and for maintaining and operating traffic signals.
Grant applications will be accepted through Jan. 14, 2022. Prior to application submission, applicants must complete and submit a Pre-Application Project Scoping Form to the appropriate Department Engineering District in accordance with the Green Light-Go Program Guidelines. Applicants must also update information in the Department’s Traffic Signal Asset Management System as indicated in the Green Light-Go Program guidelines available here.
Grant recipients must provide a 20% match of the grant awarded.