House Advances Landmark Bills to Combat Human Trafficking
1/24/2020
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#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
 
House Advances Landmark Bills to Combat Human Trafficking


With overwhelming support, the House approved more than a half dozen bills aimed at stopping the scourge of human trafficking in the Commonwealth. The problem exists in big cities, small towns and everything in between. It is especially prevalent in communities near major interstates.

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or purchase of persons for the sole purpose of exploitation. Since 2007, more than 1,200 human trafficking cases have been reported in the Commonwealth. In addition, Pennsylvania is ranked 10th on a list of top human trafficking states. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, of which $99 billion is generated by sexual exploitation.

Among the bills passed by the House are those that would increase penalties for anyone knowingly patronizing a victim of human trafficking and anyone connected to trafficking victims. Other bills would assist victims and aim to increase resources and protections.

To further draw attention to the problem, the House also approved a resolution to recognize the month of January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. Click here to learn more.
 
 
Reforms for State System Universities Proposed

Earlier this week, several lawmakers joined officials with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) in calling for a series of reforms aimed at updating and improving operations within the system.

PASSHE is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, overseeing the 14 state-owned universities. Since its formation in 1982, it has provided accessible, affordable and relevant undergraduate, graduate and career-development programs to the public. However, despite significant changes to the landscape of higher education, PASSHE’s enabling legislation, Act 188 of 1982, has not been significantly updated since its initial enactment.

Currently, PASSHE is facing considerable challenges that threaten the sustainability of its operations. To address these challenges, the organization is in the midst of a redesign, some of which requires enabling legislation.

Bills introduced in the House aim to reform the governance and accountability of PASSHE’s Board of Governors and the Councils of Trustees, make needed financial and legal reforms, streamline reporting, and clarify and update statutory language. The bills are pending consideration in the House Education Committee. Read more here.
 
 
Recreation, Conservation Grants Available

Local governments and recreation and conservation organizations are encouraged to apply for grants through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Funded through DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program, grants benefit planning, acquisition and development of public parks, recreation areas, motorized and non-motorized trails, river conservation and access, stream buffers, open space conservation, and regional and statewide partnerships to better develop and manage resources.

The 2020 grant application round closes April 22. DCNR has scheduled two webinars to help potential applicants. The first is being held on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 10-11:30 a.m. regarding grants for conservation, trail and riparian buffer projects. The second is being held on Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 10-11:30 a.m. regarding the statewide and regional partnership grant program for public recreation, conservation or heritage-area initiatives undertaken across a statewide or regional landscape.

Click here for additional information.
 
 
Protect Your Tax Identity

With tax-related identity theft on the rise, next week, Jan. 27-31, is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week in Pennsylvania.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 300,000 American taxpayers had their tax return details stolen as a result of a 2015 security breach, and approximately $1.6 billion in fraudulent tax refunds were paid in 2016 related to identity theft.

Additionally, approximately 5,000 victims have paid more than $26.5 million to scammers who pose as IRS agents according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

For more information, click here to view the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

If you believe you may be a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent state personal income tax return was filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit within the state Department of Revenue at 717-772-9297 or RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov for assistance.
 
         
Recognizing Milton Hershey School


Students and staff from Milton Hershey School joined me on the House floor this week as we marked the school’s 110th anniversary with House Resolution 650.

MHS President Pete Gurt shared how Milton S. Hershey started the school for orphaned boys. Today, the school has nearly 11,000 alumni and 2,100 students enrolled in coed, cost-free education. They have year-round housing and educational opportunities.

Congratulations to the members of the Hershey Volunteer Fire Co. I am glad I could attend their annual banquet and address the group. Our first responders are to be commended for their dedication to our communities.

I recently participated in the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC Legislators Forum. This was an important opportunity to come together and update business leaders on legislative initiatives.

I could not be prouder of Lower Swatara Township Police Officers Timothy Shea and Joshua Malott, who on Jan. 15 received the District Attorney's Medal of Valor relating to their heroic actions on Oct. 14, 2019.

We’re so fortunate across the 106th District to have great police officers protecting us and serving our communities.

I recently had an opportunity to tour Exceptional Learning Academy of Hershey. It was great to see all the programs they offer and meet with the students and faculty. I also got to celebrate Brittany’s birthday party. Thank you for the Oreo cupcake.
                  
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