Busy time in Harrisburg as budget deadline looms
By Rep. Anita Kulik
At this time of year, the Capitol is filled with groups coming to speak about budget requests and legislative priorities. I believe it is the best time of year here at the Capitol because there are so many people from different areas of the Commonwealth who come with ideas and issues that need to be addressed. Meeting with and talking with these advocates is a great way to exchange ideas and discuss plans.
In a recent session in Harrisburg, I again joined with my colleagues to rally against the proposed tolling of certain bridges across the Commonwealth. Of particular interest to our district is the I-79 bridge at the Bridgeville Interchange. This is an ongoing issue across our state, and there are court cases that remain pending. I will continue to advocate against this proposal and will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the process is made transparent and fair. Especially with rising gasoline prices, this unfair tax is neither timely nor appropriate.
As the House and Senate move toward final budget negotiations and votes, several bills have been passed on the House Floor. House Bill 1780 passed the House by unanimous vote. Sometimes, laws are put in place for a period of time. You may be familiar with the term "sunset," relating to when a bill will expire. This bill would extend the sunset for the Underground Storage Tank Environmental Cleanup Program, and for the Underground Storage Tank Pollution Prevention Program, until the end of 2027.
Also passed by unanimous vote was House Bill 2125. This bill removes homosexuality from the definitions of “sexual activity” and “sexual content” in Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.
House Bill 1155 addresses an issue relating to municipal recreation programs operated by a municipality that has adopted health and safety standards through its legislative process. The bill will exempt such recreation programs from the current requirement that it be certified by the Department of Human Services as a childcare facility.
Several bills passed the House with bipartisan support. A package of bills seeks to address issues with the Department of Environmental Protection’s permitting processes. The purpose of these bills is to help alleviate some of the permitting processes that local governments have had to utilize in emergency situations, in particular. These bills deal with the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act.
Before coming to Harrisburg this month, I had many opportunities to meet with people in the district and bring their ideas and concerns to the Capitol. During the Memorial Day weekend, I was with many Veterans and first responders. These heroes deserve our unwavering appreciation and support. The many services and parades I attended showcased how our communities come out to support our most distinguished citizens. The reverence shown to our Veterans, and the support shown to our first responders, was very heartwarming.
I also had the opportunity to attend the opening of the new bridge built through the efforts of the Hollow Oak Land Trust. The bridge connects portions of the trails that run through Robinson and Moon Townships. We are blessed to have multiple trails and nature reserves in our region. They provide safe places for our families to enjoy the outdoors.
It has always been exciting to me to represent communities that border the Ohio River. The last week of May was Safe Boating Week and I again want to remind everyone to be safe on our waterways. Life jackets for adults and children are a MUST. Remember that speeding on the rivers gets the same attention of the Fish and Boat Commission that drivers get on our roads. And please especially remember that drinking alcohol while driving a boat is a punishable offense.
Hopefully, the budget is passed by our set deadline of June 30. Too often, that has not happened. If it does, I hope to be able to address some of the highlights of the budget in my next column. I especially hope that the budget efforts will result in additional funding for our schools, especially for those districts suffering financial difficulties.