Jan. 19, 2017

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The latest news from PA State Representative Rosemary Brown


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District of Character Word of the Month:

“Not being proud or arrogant; realizing you are not above anyone else.”
Learn more here
Improving the Way the State Handles Issues from Within Planned Communities

Nearly one quarter of Pennsylvania residents live in some type of self-governing community. At my district office in East Stroudsburg, my staff and I receive a tremendous amount of phone calls from frustrated residents and board members from within self-governing communities when certain issues arise.

Unfortunately, besides directing the complaint to a private lawsuit, there are not additional resources available to resolve issues. That is why I am reintroducing legislation to improve the opportunity to mediate and investigate complaints at the state level.

Communities formed under Title 68 are operated under a set of governing bylaws, which create micro governments within. When occasional serious disagreements or incidences of fraud occur in these communities, residents and unit owner boards need somewhere to turn.

Title 68 already allows for complaints regarding financial documents to be filed with the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection; however, it does not assist with other complaints that may be a violation of other portions of Title 68. Examples include meetings, quorums, voting/proxies and other association records.

My bill would assign such additional tasks to the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Since the bureau is already equipped to handle similar complaints in a way that will find resolution and justice for these disagreements and violations, it makes sense to add these issues to their purview.

The intent of the legislation is to provide assistance to unit owners and board members, alike, when they feel their rights and benefits may have been violated. It could also prevent these parties from having to enter potentially costly lawsuits. Simply put, I believe there should be a way to help mediate and investigate specific violations to ensure the rights of homeowners and boards are protected, working to create more harmonious community living.

I introduced similar legislation in the 2015-16 legislative session (House Bill 1774) which was approved by the House, but not voted on in the Senate. I am hopeful we can get this through both chambers and to the governor’s desk for his signature during this session.
20th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast

On Monday, Jan. 16, I attended the 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast held at East Stroudsburg University. Carey Casey (pictured left) was the keynote speaker at the breakfast. Carey Casey leads the National Center for Fathering. He is a chaplain and an author, and nationally known speaker.

Virginia “Ginny” Kirkwood accepted the Community Member Award at the breakfast, and she is pictured on the right. Kirkwood is the director/owner of The Shawnee Group. In addition to being a Pocono Mountains resort destination, the Shawnee Inn serves the community by providing free meals to those in need during winter months and is the home of a year-round, free community concert series. Kirkwood has served as president of the Pocono Mountains Chamber of Commerce and is a former recipient of its Humanitarian of the Year award. She founded the Women in Business organization in Monroe County, served as honorary chair of Monroe County’s United Way Campaign, and is on the board of Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center. Kirkwood has also been involved in international nonprofits since her time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1960s. She is the director of The Kenan Institute, Asia, a Bangkok-based board working in major development projects throughout Thailand and the region. She serves as a director on the National Peace Corps Advisory Board and as a director of World Education, a Boston-based group that addresses HIV/AIDS and women’s health issues. Congratulations, Ginny, and thank you for your compassion and work for others!

On Monday, Jan. 16, I also attended a discussion by Monroe County United, once again featuring Carey Casey. Casey led a dynamic discussion on racial reconciliation and why it is so critically important to all communities. Casey is pictured here with Monroe County United President Thomas Jones.
Honoring Members of the Marshall Creek Volunteer Fire Company

On Saturday, Jan. 14, I attended the Marshalls Creek Volunteer Fire Company Annual Banquet, held at Wolf Hollow at Water Gap Country Club. Several members of the fire company were honored with Years of Service awards. Thank you to all the members of the fire company for their service. Sen. Mario Scavello and I are pictured here with William Uhrig, who received House and Senate citations for his 45 years of consistent and dedicated service to the fire company and the community. Please remember we are 100 percent serviced by volunteer fire departments and our community safety relies on them.
2017 Monroe County History Challenge

The Monroe County Historical Association recently announced the 3rd Annual Monroe County History Challenge will be held on Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m., at East Stroudsburg University. This event will feature high school juniors from our area schools competing for scholarship dollars by answering four rounds of questions testing participants’ knowledge spanning from international to Monroe County history and events. Click here to learn more.
Applications Soon Available for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

Forms for the state’s 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program are available for download from the Department of Revenue’s website starting Friday, Jan. 20. Paper forms will be available in the coming weeks. Please call my office at 570-420-8301 if you want a form mailed to you.

Eligible participants can receive a rebate of up to $650 based on their rent or property taxes paid in 2016. The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

Residents do not need to pay a private entity for assistance in filing the forms. Copies of the forms, as well as assistance with filing them, are available at no cost at my district office; however, applicants should be prepared to provide all the necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately. Applications are due by June 30.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is one of many initiatives supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery, which dedicates its proceeds to support programs for older Pennsylvanians. For more information, click here
How to Navigate Pennsylvania’s Roundabouts

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation launched a video to assist Pennsylvanians in navigating roundabouts. The video instructs viewers how to use both single and multi-lane roundabouts whether in a vehicle, on a bicycle or on foot.

A modern roundabout is a type of circular intersection where traffic flows continuously in a counterclockwise direction around a central island and where the entry traffic must yield to the circulating traffic. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) encourages implementing roundabouts as they have been proven to significantly improve safety and reduce traffic delays over traditional stop- or signal-controlled intersections. In tandem with the FHWA’s recommendation, the Pennsylvania State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) has prioritized implementing roundabouts as alternatives to traditional intersections when possible.

Crash rates and severity of at least three years of data from before and after installation for the state’s first 10 modern roundabouts built at previous traditional stop-sign or signal-controlled intersections showed that fatal crashes were eliminated (two to zero) and major-injury crashes were also eliminated (four to zero). Additionally, moderate-injury crashes were reduced by 71 percent (seven to two) and minor-injury crashes by 25 percent (16 to 12) as well as the total number of crashes which dropped by 16 percent (63 to 53).

National studies have shown that modern roundabouts reduce fatal crashes by up to 90 percent and result in a 75 percent reduction in injury-causing crashes. Modern roundabouts also improve pedestrian safety by allowing people to cross shorter distances with slower moving one-way traffic.

Modern roundabouts have been built in the United States for less than 30 years and in Pennsylvania for less than 15 years. In Pennsylvania, there are currently 32 completed roundabouts, 20 under construction and at least 10 more expected to go to construction over the next two years. To learn more about roundabouts, visit penndot.gov and enter “roundabouts” in the search bar.
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
164A East Wing, PO Box 202189, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2189 | Phone: (717) 260-6171
Email: rbrown@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614