In this Update:
Protecting Targeted Private Property Owners Against Eminent Domain Abuse
Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn as a land where he declared that the “people shall be governed by laws of their own making” and “where no one can be put out of his estate.”
Fast forward to the present day, when Pennsylvania’s Eminent Domain Code, (Title 26, Section 101) sets into motion one of the most extraordinary and ominous powers of government: the right to condemn or, more simply, confiscate private property.
On Jan. 22, as chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, I convened a public hearing in Bellefonte, Centre County focusing on eminent domain abuse and its impact on the private property rights of farmers, job-creating employers and homeowners.
With eminent domain confiscation most recently endangering fundamental private property rights in Centre, Elk and Jefferson counties, our featured testifiers included: Jesse Darlington Jr., Centre County farm owner who is being threatened by eminent domain due to PennDOT’s Route 322 connector project; Andy Bater, member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s board of directors; and Scott Jacobs, small business owner, Fox’s Pizza Den, who was involved in a 10-year legal fight for just compensation after being impacted by eminent domain.
The complete hearing and submitted testimony can be viewed here.
Monday’s public hearing also featured extensive discussion about major factors to consider when establishing fair market value for any private property confiscated through eminent domain. We also talked about my legislation to help protect farm owners whose agricultural properties are seized through eminent domain and the corresponding loss of goodwill.
By ensuring farmers are substantially compensated for any land they are forced to sell, my introduced Senate Bill 800, seeks to restore the inherent and indefeasible rights of enjoying life and liberty, and acquiring, possessing and protecting property in the pursuit of happiness, as specified in Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
January Is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month
In recognition of January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I recently participated in a Senate Republican Policy Committee hearing in Pittsburgh to help raise awareness about the tragedy of human trafficking and to discuss strategies for prevention, victim support and the prosecution of traffickers.
In December, the Senate unanimously advanced my legislation (Senate Bill 44) to ensure sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims have full access to appropriate services and support. That legislation was signed into law (Act 39 of 2023) on Dec. 14, finally ensuring third-party control is never a consideration for access to services.
By way of force, fraud and coercion, human traffickers push their victims into sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
Get Your State and Federal Government Questions Answered on Thursday, Feb. 8
Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson and I are pleased to announce our upcoming Cameron County area satellite office hours.
On Thursday, Feb. 8, team members from both offices will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce, 34 East Fourth Street, Emporium, PA 15834.
This is your opportunity to get important state and federal government questions answered at one location.
Fishing and Boating Grants Available Now
Organizations that provide hands-on education for the recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) of anglers and boaters in Pennsylvania have until March 1 to apply for grants.
Education programs play a role in R3 by providing experiences that increase fishing and boating knowledge and skills, facilitate social support, and provide information on fishing and boating opportunities close to home.
The funding must be used for eligible expenses for projects running approximately July 1 through June 30, 2025. Grants require at least a 25% match of total project costs.
Healthy Rainy Day Fund Cushions Against Hard Times
As of the beginning of January, the state’s Rainy Day Fund sits at a record high of $6.1 billion thanks to prudent decisions the Senate made in the past three years. Most recently, we deposited $900 million as part of the current state budget. While others wanted to spend the money on all sorts of things, we prioritized smart saving so we would have a cushion in the event of hard times.
To build on the benefits of smart budgeting, Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced a new investment pool specifically for the Rainy Day Fund. It’s designed to earn even better returns while continuing to ensure that money will be available when needed.
A strong Rainy Day Fund offers more than just a financial buffer. Because of the state’s healthy nest egg, Pennsylvania received rating improvements from three rating agencies: Moody’s, S&P and Fitch. The better ratings help Pennsylvania taxpayers by reducing the cost of borrowing for the state.
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