In this Update:
Regan Convenes Second Hearing on Adult-Use Marijuana Legislation
This week, as Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee I convened a second hearing on the topic of legalizing adult-use marijuana, this time with a focus on other states.
It is not necessary for us to go about this blindly when 18 other states have navigated the process already. It is important that we fully understand which states are models of success, which ones we should look to for guidance on specific aspects of establishing an adult-use cannabis program in Pennsylvania and which states have failed in one way or another.
As neighboring states adopt adult-use laws, residents may flock across Pennsylvania’s borders to buy product, taking their tax dollars with them. In turn, they will be contributing to the tax base of those states and helping to pay for their roads and bridges while Pennsylvania deals with the implications of purchases brought across state lines without the revenue or resources in our legal system to address them.
A third hearing will be held on Monday, March 14th to learn about the current Office of Medical Marijuana’s handling of the medical cannabis program, which will help us as we work to determine how best to establish regulatory oversight of an adult-use cannabis program.
Pennsylvania Takes Steps to Support Ukraine
Pennsylvania has the second-largest population of Ukrainian Americans in the nation, with more than 122,000. Many steps have been taken in Harrisburg as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in order to deny funds to Russia and show solidarity with Ukrainians.
Over the weekend, I was contacted by a constituent and friend who suggested the Pennsylvania Capitol building be lit in the Ukrainian colors of blue and yellow. I immediately reached out to Lieutenant Governor Fetterman and Senate Leadership to make this happen.
Additionally, as Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which has oversight of the Liquor Control Board (LCB), I joined with Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman in sending a letter to the LCB calling for them to immediately halt the sale of Russian spirits in our state stores, which they have since done.
Treasurer Stacy Garrity has also started to divest $2.9 million in holdings in Russian-based companies, and the executive boards for both the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) have voted to start divesting millions in Russian-related investments.
To keep Russia in check in the long term, we must reassert America’s energy independence. Increasing domestic energy production and exports to European countries will go a long way toward reducing Russian influence and denying the regime the funds it needs to make war.
Regan Participates in Harrisburg Regional Chamber Legislative Forum
Last week I had the opportunity to speak to area business leaders as part of a legislative forum sponsored by the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC – Capital Region Economic Development Corporation. I was joined by Senator Chris Gebhard, who represents portions of Lebanon, Dauphin, and York Counties.
Senator Gebhard and I covered a number of legislative topics starting with Governor’s budget proposal, which as noted below would increase spending by $4.5 billion – a level the Commonwealth cannot afford and that would create an even worse financial situation over the next several years. Taking steps to make Pennsylvania business-friendly is necessary for us to attract and retain businesses that will help our economy grow.
I also talked about my work in developing legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana, which I am approaching from a law enforcement perspective with a focus on safety. Employers want to ensure that they will maintain the ability to enforce policies against use in the workplace and impairment of employees, and they currently can with drugs and alcohol.
Senate Hearings on Proposed State Budget: Week Two
Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $45.7 billion budget that would increase spending by $4.5 billion. Based on projections, this will create a $1.3 billion deficit in the following fiscal year and produce a $13 billion deficit by 2026-27.
Among the highlights:
At the hearing for the Attorney General’s Office, committee members discussed concerns with state government’s cyber security infrastructure. Last year, a data breach involving a Department of Health contractor exposed tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians’ personal information to hackers. The hearing also covered the latest stats from the Safe2Say Something anonymous threat reporting system for schools, as well as Philadelphia’s skyrocketing homicide rate.
At the hearing for the Department of Community and Economic Development, members stressed the need to improve Pennsylvania’s economic standing, noting that the current Corporate Net Income Tax rate has prevented many businesses from relocating and investing in Pennsylvania.
You can find information on other budget hearings, hearing video, livestreams and more at PASenateGOP.com.
Assistance for Home Septic Repairs, Sewer Hook-ups
Low-interest loans are available to eligible Pennsylvania homeowners who need to repair or replace their on-lot septic system or connect to a public sewer.
The assistance can help homeowners avoid or respond to municipal citations and improve the environmental health of their property. Loan terms are up to 20 years (up to 15 years for manufactured homes). There is no prepayment penalty if the loan is paid off early. The maximum loan amount is $25,000.
The program is administered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. You can find more information and terms here.
PA ABLE Helps Families Save for Disability-Related Expenses
In 2016, the General Assembly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and created PA ABLE accounts that give individuals with qualified disabilities, their families and friends a tax-free way to save for disability-related expenses, while maintaining government benefits.
Administered by the Pennsylvania Treasury, the accounts allow people with disabilities and their families the opportunity to save up to $100,000, without affecting eligibility for important government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid. The withdrawals from the accounts for qualified expenses related to an individual’s disabilities are also considered exempt from federal and state taxes, and the accounts are not subject to Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax.
To learn more about how you might be able to save money with the program, the Pennsylvania Treasury is hosting free webinars, with the next one for individuals with disabilities, families and professionals scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 from 6-7 p.m.
Disabled Veteran Real Estate Tax Exemption
Pennsylvania veterans with a financial need who served during a period of war and are 100% disabled could benefit from a state real estate tax exemption program.
An applicant whose gross annual income exceeds $95,279 will be considered to have a financial need for the exemption if allowable expenses exceed household income. You can find details about eligibility here.
Contact your local County Veterans Affairs Director to apply for this program.