Friday, July 25, 2008

State Capitol Roundup for July 25

Here's the weekly State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch (R-147):

GOP Lawmakers Rally to Preserve Privacy and Safety of Residents

Flanked by a number of his fellow lawmakers, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) held a press conference this week to unveil legislation expanding personal rights under Pennsylvania's Wiretap Law. Existing law permits individuals to obtain personal phone records with a subpoena, court order or a customer's permission. However, a loophole exists that could potentially endanger law enforcement officers, their families and the confidential sources of information upon which many investigations depend. Unlike civil trials, lawyers are not required to inform the judge or the person whose records they are seeking in criminal trials. Vereb's legislation, which is expected to be introduced in the near future, closes this loophole and provides greater protection of personal information under Pennsylvania's Wiretap Act.

Tax Break for Emergency Responders Becomes Law

Scores of emergency responders are set to receive tax breaks from the state for the vital services they provide to their local communities. Act 66 of 2008 provides members of volunteer ambulance, fire and rescue companies with a tax credit of up to $100. The credit is to be applied against state personal income tax liability and will apply to individuals' 2008 state income tax returns. Eligibility for the new program is contingent on a point system establishing annual requirements for certification of active volunteers. House Republicans supported the measure, hoping that the tax credit would not only help retain experienced emergency responders but also entice others to volunteer. The state has seen the numbers of volunteer firefighter, rescue and emergency medical personnel significantly decline in recent years.

Lawmakers Shocked at Veto of Property Taxpayer Protection Bill

Two pieces of legislation effectively designed to protect property owners from "spot assessments" resulting in higher property tax bills were recently vetoed by Gov. Ed Rendell. The vetoes come despite overwhelming support for the measures in the House and Senate. The bills would have prevented a county, municipality or school district from appealing the assessed value of a single property except in very specific circumstances. While House Republicans acknowledge this as a setback for homeowners in an already hostile environment, they point to the broad support for the legislation as evidence that it is not dead. Combined, the two measures garnered 485 votes of support and only 16 votes in the negative. When session resumes this fall, the Legislature could override the veto provided two-thirds of the members in each chamber vote to do so.

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