Feb. 24, 2019

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The latest news from PA State Representative Rosemary Brown

District of Character
The “District of Character” is an initiative I created to enhance character development and promote daily reminders for residents of the 189th District about how we can create a stronger community without policy changes. No one is perfect, but we can always work to improve our character daily.
February word of the month is “Faithfulness.”

“Steadfast in affection or allegiance; loyal.”

Farewell to My Chief of Staff Brian Fenstermaker

Last week we said goodbye and best wishes to our dear friend and colleague, Brian Fenstermaker. As you may know, Brian served as my district office chief of staff for many years and started with me early on as an unpaid intern for over a year and worked his way up to his current position. I appreciate and am thankful for all he has done for me, my office, and the constituents of the 189th legislative district.

Brian currently lives in Northampton County and his new career chapter begins as District Outreach Coordinator for Sen. Mario Scavello in his Northampton office. Best wishes, Brian, and we will miss you in the 189th office!

Meet Maria Varney, Our Newest Constituent Outreach Specialist

I want to introduce Maria Varney, our newest constituent outreach specialist. Maria is originally from Long Island, NY, but has been a Mt. Poconos resident for the past three years. She is excited to join our team and we appreciate your patience as she learns the needs of the district.
First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Legislation Passes the House

On Thursday, my first-time homebuyers savings account (FHSA) legislation, House Bill 128, earned House approval and moves to the Senate for consideration. Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) is a co-author of this legislation.

A home, for most Pennsylvanians, symbolizes establishing their own roots and building a foundation of stability for themselves and their families. Purchasing a home today has become more and more difficult for Pennsylvanians, which is why I introduced this legislation. It would act as a tool to help people plan and save money toward a home purchase.

The goal of the legislation is to allow Pennsylvanians to set aside savings, which may be used as a deduction on state income tax, toward the eligible costs of purchasing a first home. House Bill 128 allows account holders to contribute a total of $50,000 over a 10-year time period. There is an annual contribution cap of $5,000 for those who file as a single taxpayer, and $10,000 for those who file a joint tax return. The maximum amount of all contributions to the account is $150,000.

If the money in the FHSA is not used after the 10-year expiration date, or if an account holder or beneficiary withdraws any amount from the account and uses the withdrawal for purposes other than the costs eligible under this act, or uses the property as an ineligible use, then the entire amount withdrawn must be included in the account holder’s taxable income as interest income for the tax year the withdrawal was made.

Home ownership strengthens communities and provides stability for families. A FHSA can be a tool in helping people overcome financial obstacles to home ownership.
Farmers Insurance Ribbon Cutting

Maria Varney from my district office attended a ribbon cutting for Farmers Insurance – Gary Alt Agency on Thursday, Feb. 14, on Milford Road in East Stroudsburg.
Sen. Mario Scavello, along with township supervisors, Chamber of Commerce and local residents were present as well to welcome Gary’s business to Middle Smithfield township. We wish Gary tremendous success in his new endeavor!
Lyme Disease and Tick-borne Illness Legislation and Seminar

As an advocate for ensuring Pennsylvania works diligently on the health crisis of Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses, I have introduced several pieces of legislation that I believe will help protect the health of residents.

First, by requiring doctors to complete a reasonable Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit yearly on these diseases, pathogens and updated information to help diagnose the disease state as early as possible (House Bill 96).

Second, encouraging the federal government to appropriate dollars at a higher level to Pennsylvania for these efforts due to our ranking of No. 1 in reported Lyme disease cases (House Resolution 38).

Third, requiring school nurses to remove a tick and save it for seven days if found on a child at school, while sending home communication and information on tick testing, Lyme disease and tick borne illnesses (House Bill 94)

The video below is an educational tool and seminar that I held at East Stroudsburg University in 2018 that can offer some additional public health information and guidance on protecting your family from Lyme and Tick-borne illnesses. Information such as spraying from your knees down to your shoes can protect you from ticks tremendously. This is a longer video but one that can be very helpful in your knowledge on this health crisis.

Click here to view full seminar

University of PA Veterans Upward Bound Program
The TRIO Veterans Upward Bound Program, offered by the University of Pennsylvania, is an educational opportunity program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It advocates for the learning experience of under-represented, Philadelphia-area military veterans. The program provides intensive pre-college academic courses and comprehensive supportive services to promote the academic development of veterans towards the pursuit of a post-secondary education. We offer classes at the Coatesville VAMC and at the University of Pennsylvania.

This program offers the following:
• Intensive coursework in math, literature, writing skills, science, Spanish and computers.
• Assistance with FAFSA applications, scholarships, financial literacy and getting out of student loan default.
• Tutoring in all subjects six days a week.
• Career development and exploration.
• Assistance with selecting and applying to college.
• Assistance with public transportation is provided upon income eligibility.

All programming and supplies are provided and there is no cost.

For more information or to obtain an application, call University of Pennsylvania’s Veterans Upward Bound at 215-898-6892.
Good Jobs for PA: Focusing on Careers and the Future of Pennsylvania Workers

A key to economic success for all Pennsylvanians and the Commonwealth as a whole is to ensure our students and workers are prepared to fill the good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow.

House Republicans launched our #GoodJobs4PA initiative this week, focusing on efforts to enhance our workforce development system to help students, under-employed and unemployed adults, as well as returning military veterans and others enter fulfilling, family-sustaining careers.

The bills aim to address the skills gap and worker shortages faced by industries across the state, as well as enhance educational programs and access to those opportunities for workers of all ages.

The launch coincided with the governor signing an executive order to create the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. The center is charged with addressing barriers to employment and enhancing cooperation among education and workforce development entities.
Preparing PA Students for Careers

As a foundational part of the #GoodJobs4PA initiative, the House Education Committee held a press conference last week, which my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and I attended, to unveil a package of bills aimed at improving career and technical education (CTE) in Pennsylvania.

The package of bills includes:
House Bill 265, which would expand the online database that allows students and potential students to plan where courses, programs, certificates and diplomas transfer among public schools and institutions of higher education.

House Bill 297, which would direct the State Department of Education to develop materials outlining workforce needs, including training opportunities and future earning potential.

House Bill 334, which would expedite the approval of important educational programs to respond better to industry and workforce demands.

• House Bill 393 (to be introduced soon), which would create an online career resource center.

• House Bill 394 (to be introduced soon), which would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to inventory workforce development programs offered at secondary and postsecondary institutions.

• House Bill 395 (to be introduced soon), which would require CTE programs to establish occupational advisory committees.

• House Bill 396 (to be introduced soon), which would add at least one member from a Career and Technical Center to each Workforce Development Board.

House Bill 522, which would create a CTE investment incentive program, including tax credits for contributions to support CTE programs and enrollment expansion programs.

These bills are designed to increase awareness of job-training opportunities and high-demand careers for students.
Supreme Court Responds to House Pressure, Delays Venue Rule Change

Seeking to prevent a health care crisis in Pennsylvania, physicians, administrators, attorneys and industry professionals told members of the House Majority Policy Committee last week that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should not change a rule dealing with medical malpractice lawsuits. Shortly after the hearing concluded, the Supreme Court decided to postpone its consideration until a study on the impact of the rule change is conducted later this year.

The pending proposal would reverse a rule that requires malpractice cases be brought in the county where the malpractice occurred, thereby prohibiting “shopping” for venues, such as Philadelphia, where jury awards tend to be higher.

Reversing the rule would also reverse progress that has been made to ensure access for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of ZIP code, to quality health care. Prior to the rule’s implementation, skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates were forcing many doctors and specialists to retire early or move their practices out of state. Rural areas were hit especially hard, and a reversal of this rule could again put health care into a crisis situation.

Residents can continue to do their part to ensure their voices are heard by visiting  PAGOPPolicy.com and sharing with the court how such a rule change could impact their health care. The deadline to submit comments to the court is Friday, Feb. 22.

Improving the Do-Not-Call List

Helping Pennsylvanians cut down on the number of telemarketing calls they receive is the goal of House Bill 318, which was passed this week.

The bill gives Pennsylvanians the ability to sign up for the state’s telemarketing "do-not-call" list without requiring them to re-register every five years.

The bill also aims to cut down on the annoyance of telemarketing calls during holidays by banning telemarketing calls on legal holidays. It would also ban the use of calls from computerized auto-dialers (robocalls).

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Just a reminder: If you are encountering an issue with state government, please feel free to contact my district office. We are here to help you with the following services:      
 - Driver’s license and vehicle registration applications and renewals. 
 - Assistance with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, special registration plates, vanity plates, and temporary placards for disabled persons).                         
 - PACE and PACENET applications for seniors.                         
 - State Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing Work.
 - Voter registration forms and absentee ballot applications.                         
 - State tax forms.                         
 - Student aid applications.                         
 - Free state maps, state park information, and PA Vacation Guides.                         
 - Copies of legislation and tours of the State Capitol.                         
 - Referrals to agencies to resolve state-related matters. 
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Office Locations
143 Seven Bridge Road, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301 | Phone: (570) 420-8301
210 Ryan Office Building, PO Box 202189, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2189 | Phone: (717) 260-6171
Email: rbrown@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614