State Representative Dave Hickernell
98th Legislative District
September signals the ringing of the school bell and the return to studies for our children. In Harrisburg, September means a return to the floor for the State Legislature. While there are always new issues coming to the forefront, much of what we will be tackling is leftover from the 2007-08 budget season. Most of those issues were at one time part of Gov. Ed Rendell’s contingency plan for signing the budget. He fortunately thought better and kept the budget process from being held up longer than it already had been.
Budget negotiations included the promise of further discussing alternative energy during a special session in September. I voted against House Bill 1202, the Clean Fuels and Energy Independence Act, which passed the House and awaits Senate action. This bill would establish minimum content standards and timetables for the sale of biodiesel and ethanol within Pennsylvania. Although I support efforts to encourage use of alternative energy, my disappointment was rooted in being asked to vote on a bill that, at the time, we barely had a chance to view and digest. I hope the discussion can now take place in a more thorough, less haphazard fashion.
Pursuit of a smoking ban in the workplace and in public buildings will continue in the fall session. The latest attempt at passing such legislation ended July 16, when the Senate voted down the amendments that the House tacked on to Senate Bill 246. The measure will go to a House and Senate Conference Committee, where a compromise will hopefully be reached.
The current bill exempts from a smoking ban private clubs, cigar bars and public events whose purpose is to promote and allow sampling of tobacco products. Amendments to include bars, casinos, and a business owner’s private office all failed, as did attempts to ban smoking in vehicles with passengers less than eight years of age.
Health care remains a hot topic and you will hear more about Gov. Rendell’s plan to insure all Pennsylvanians through hitting employers with a three percent payroll tax if they do not offer their employees health insurance. We certainly do not need another tax on Pennsylvania employers, who would be forced to pass this additional tax along to the consumer or cut jobs.
In response to the governor’s tax on employers, the House Republican solution, the “Real Prescription for Pennsylvania," focuses on expanded health care choices, increased access, improved quality of services, and lower costs. It is designed with the health care consumer in mind to keep Pennsylvanians safe, make health care affordable and accessible, give consumers flexibility, make the health care system effective and efficient, and ensure health care and health insurance costs are transparent. You can obtain more details on this plan by visiting the Internet at HealthCareForPaFamilies.com.
Changing the calendars of the school year and election year might also be discussed this fall in the Legislature. House Bill 258 sits in the Rules Committee and would mandate that schools start classes no sooner than the day after Labor Day. House Bill 289 passed the House and would change the April Primary Election to February in years when we vote for President. It remains to be seen if the Senate will consider the bill.
I am hopeful that significant discussion will take place on the important issue of providing tax relief to property owners in Pennsylvania. The overwhelming defeat of the Act 1 referendum in May means that the General Assembly must look at alternatives to help reduce the burden of the school property tax.
I welcome your input on these issues. My goal remains to be a voice in Harrisburg for constituents in the 98th Legislative District.
Rep. Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
House Republican Public Relations