While issues like education, transportation and job creation command a great deal of time and attention from members of the General Assembly, there are also a number of other issues that are just as significant and serve as priorities for us. To that end, I recently reintroduced several bills designed to address specific challenges in our communities and our state government.
One of the most noteworthy bills I reintroduced would improve and streamline the budget process by switching to a two-year budget cycle. The bill would simplify the budget process by eliminating the need for legislators to spend countless hours examining a new budget proposal each year. In addition to offering school districts and non-profit organizations greater clarity in terms of state funding on an annual basis, this change would allow more time and effort to be invested into an exhaustive review of the performance and value of state programs and services to ensure taxpayer dollars are allocated more efficiently. As a result, the bill would help lawmakers avoid many of the redundancies in the budget process and focus on sustainable, long-term solutions to budgetary challenges.
I also recently reintroduced a pair of proposals designed to promote the agriculture industry. One of these proposals would help make our producers more competitive by excluding building materials utilized for the construction or repair of animal production buildings from the stateís Sales and Use Tax. A number of neighboring states offer a similar exemption. The measure would reduce the tax liability of agriculture businesses by an estimated $4 million per year.
Another proposal would add an important layer of protection for agriculture businesses that open their land for entertainment activities such as corn mazes, pick-your-own crop harvests, hay rides and farm vacations. The bill would protect owners from civil lawsuits when no party is at fault for any injury or damages that result from agritainment activities. The right to sue would still be preserved if an owner is grossly negligent, displays willful or reckless disregard for the safety of the participant or intentionally causes injury.
In addition to these measures, I reintroduced a proposal that would honor the wishes of deceased service members regarding the treatment of their remains. In current practice, state courts may designate an individual to be responsible for the handling of a service memberís remains even if that person is no longer significant in the service memberís life. My proposal would allow the state to recognize the federal Record of Emergency Data completed by members of the military, thus allowing the state to recognize the written wishes of a service member instead of allowing the issue to be decided in court.
2013 Pennsylvania Maple Season Opens
Near the end of each winter, Pennsylvaniaís maple producers begin to tap sugar and black and red maple trees to collect sap to be converted into maple syrup. In February, the Department of Agriculture marked the beginning of the 2013 maple season by tapping the first sugar maple tree of the year.
More than 5,000 bags of maple cotton candy and 550 gallons of PA Preferred maple syrup were sold at the 2013 Farm Show. Ranking fifth in the nation in maple syrup production, Pennsylvania taps over 500,000 trees and yields an estimated 96,000 gallons annually. The maple industry generates approximately $5.1 million in cash receipts and $51 million in economic impact in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us.
For more information on issues of importance to Pennsylvania residents, please visit my website at senatorbrubaker.com.