Jun. 21, 2019

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The Weekly Roundup
The latest news from the State Capitol
 
Boosting PA’s Dairy Industry


I took part in a rally at the Capitol this week in support of two bills pending in Congress to help the dairy industry and our children.

The “Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2019” would allow flavored and unflavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias to give students more choice, while the Dairy PRIDE Act would protect the integrity of dairy products by calling on the feds to enforce existing labeling requirements for milk. Essentially, non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds and plants could no longer be marketed as milk, yogurt or cheese.

One of the speakers was Pennsylvania Congressman Glenn Thompson (at podium), sponsor of the school milk bill.

Earlier, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee approved resolutions endorsing the bills and urging congressional action.
 
 
USDA Offers Assistance to Farmers

Agriculture and conservation issues at the federal level, along with services offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help producers, were the focus of a recent roundtable discussion held by the House Majority Policy Committee. During the hour-long discussion, USDA officials highlighted many of their programs.

Of particular note were two programs, including the Dairy Margin Coverage Program, which opened this week and offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

The second is the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, which helps units of federal, state and local governments protect and restore watersheds up to 250,000 acres. Specifically, it partners with government entities to prevent erosion, floodwater and sediment damage; further the conservation development, use and disposal of water; and further the conservation and proper use of land in authorized watersheds.

The agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Information (NASS) conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. Production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, and changes in the demographics of U.S. producers are only a few examples.

The agency emphasized that one of its greatest challenges is ensuring that farmers, agriculture producers and governments know about the vast variety of programs to help rural areas.
 
 
Congratulations, State Champs!

 

On Thursday, the House of Representatives congratulated the West Perry Girls Softball Team for their PIAA 4A State Championship. I had the pleasure of introducing the team in the chamber and presenting them with a House citation. The Mustangs won the title in exciting fashion last week in State College with a walk-off win over Elizabeth Forward, 3-2.

Click here to view video.
   
 
Marsy’s Law Now Up to Voters

Legislation that would provide Pennsylvania crime victims with a bill of rights passed unanimously in the Senate this week. House Bill 276, also known as Marsy’s Law, will now appear as a ballot question in the November election for voters to decide.

The bill would change the state Constitution and ensure crime victims receive information about their rights; receive notification of proceedings in their criminal cases; be present at court hearings; be heard at plea and sentencing proceedings; and be treated with fairness, respect and dignity.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California. She was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Then, just days later, her mother and brother were confronted by the accused murderer in a grocery store. They were unaware the defendant had been released on bail.

To honor his sister, Henry Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.
Action on House Bill 276 was in addition to six other measures to enhance protections for crime victims that were sent this week to the governor by the House and Senate. They include House Bill 502, which strengthens the right of crime victims to attend court proceedings, and House Bill 504, which shields rape victims against irrelevant cross examinations.
 
 
Taxpayers Deserve Better Budgeting Practices

Respecting the taxpayers who foot the bill for the annual state budget, we adopted several measures to bring more transparency to the budget process.

To help limit “supplemental” spending beyond what is approved in each year’s budget, House Bill 855 would require the secretary of the budget to project revenue shortfalls for the fiscal year starting in December and put that amount of money in budgetary reserve to ensure the budget is balanced at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, House Bill 923 would require the governor to explain the reasons for any supplemental spending requests and offer recommendations for cost-savings or other reforms to address the cause.

Other reform measures would require the administration to provide additional details as part of the governor’s proposed budget (House Bill 922); require quarterly reports on funding committed and awarded through special funds that provide grants and subsidies (House Bill 921); and update budget procedures related to unspent appropriations and how those amounts are dealt with at the close of a fiscal year (House Bill 920).

The bills are part of the House Republican Caucus’ #GovtDoneRight initiative and now go to the Senate for consideration. Learn more here.
 
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Office Locations
Perry County Office, 18 West Main Street, PO Box 9. New Bloomfield PA 17068 | Tel: 717-582-8119
Cumberland County Office, 81 Walnut Bottom Road, P.O. Box 705, Shippensburg, PA 17257 | Tel: 717-477-0905
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Email: mkeller@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614 
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