Sen. Brubaker on Protecting Public Charities

Senate Passes Brubaker Legislation to Protect Public Charities

Throughout my tenure in public service, I have had an opportunity to meet with numerous coordinators, administrators and volunteers for a number of local charities and learn more about their efforts in our communities each day. These organizations do a tremendous job of improving our quality of life, including providing food and other essentials for families in need, mentoring young people, protecting senior citizens and completing neighborhood improvement projects that lead to stronger and more vibrant communities. The Senate recently approved legislation I sponsored that will allow these organizations to continue to devote more of their resources to help those in need.

Public charities have been exempt from paying local real estate taxes as part of a law approved by the General Assembly in 1997. The law included specific standards for identifying a purely public charity to avoid any confusion regarding which organizations qualify for a tax exemption.

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However, the state Supreme Court applied a different legal standard to determine which organizations qualified for an exemption as part of its ruling in the case of Mesivtah vs. Pike County Board of Assessment Appeals in 2012. The Supreme Courts interpretation of the law was much more restrictive than the original intent of the law, allowing local taxing authorities to challenge the tax-exempt status of many existing charities. By applying their own criteria to the law, the Supreme Court created difficult legal issues for school boards and local governments in communities throughout the Commonwealth.

Without legislative action, the ruling could threaten tax exemptions for a variety of different charitable organizations. In recent months, the tax exempt status for Warren Hospital, Warren County YMCA and four other nonprofit organizations located in Warren County have been revoked. Timely legislative action is necessary to prevent this issue from snowballing into an even greater problem for charities throughout the state.

Senate Bill 4 would clearly define a purely public charity and clarify that the General Assembly has the exclusive authority to define what constitutes a purely public charity. The measure would remove the threat of costly, time-consuming legal battles by providing clear guidance regarding which properties are eligible for a real estate tax exemption.

Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, the measure must be passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by voters in a public referendum. The legislation drew bipartisan support in the Senate and was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Photographers Invited to Capture Beauty of Local Waterways

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is inviting photographers to participate in its ninth annual photo contest. Participants are encouraged to showcase local history, recreation and agriculture in photos that include waterways within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Contest winners will be selected by a panel of CBF employees on the basis of subject matter, composition, focus, lighting, uniqueness, and impact. The public can also vote online for their favorite photo in the Viewers Choice Gallery.

Winners will receive a cash award ranging from $100 to $500 and have their photos featured in a variety of CBF publications. The contest is open to all photographers age 13 and older.

Photo submissions must be received by April 12. More information on the contest is available online at www.cbf.org/photocontest.

For more information on issues of importance to Pennsylvania residents, please visit my website at senatorbrubaker.com.