Feb. 01, 2019

Applications Available for up to $650 Rebate

Applications for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program are now available on my website, and at my district office.

The program is designed to help eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older to receive up to a $650 rebate from the property taxes or rent they paid last year.

To be eligible, homeowners must earn less than $35,000 a year and renters less than $15,000 with half of Social Security income excluded.

Certain supplemental rebates can boost homeowner rebates up to $975. The supplemental rebates are automatically calculated by the Department of Revenue for qualifying homeowners.

Residents should not pay a private entity for assistance in filing the forms. Copies of the forms, as well as assistance with filing them, are available at my office at no cost.

Applicants should be prepared to provide all the necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately. Applications are due by June 30.
     
 
Court Rule Change Could Drive Away Doctors and Raise Cost of Health Care

 
If the state courts repeal a rule that has been in place for more than a decade, many Pennsylvanians may lose their doctors, face higher health care costs or have to drive farther to receive the care they need.

More than 10 years ago, Pennsylvania was facing a health care crisis. Trial lawyers were targeting doctors with junk lawsuits. This drove up the cost of practicing medicine in the Commonwealth and, as a result, many doctors left Pennsylvania and set up their practices in other states. Patients were left with lower-quality care and fewer options.

The state addressed the situation in part by implementing a commonsense rule. That rule currently requires medical malpractice cases to be filed in the county where the alleged incident occurred. Prior to the enactment of this rule, trial lawyers engaged in the process known as “venue shopping,” where they would file lawsuits in counties with reputations for ruling against doctors. This one commonsense reform ensured cases are heard in the counties where they occurred, rather than in a courtroom with a history of favorable decisions for the trial lawyers.

The courts now are thinking about removing that rule and enabling trial lawyers once more to use the legal system to extract money from Pennsylvania doctors.

This week, the House Majority Policy Committee hosted a forum to examine the issue and hear from numerous stakeholders about the negative impact this rule repeal could cause. To learn more about the issue, click here.

The General Assembly is expected to submit its comments to the courts, but you can also let the courts know how this would impact you. Click here to submit your comments by Feb. 22.
     
 
House Republicans Call for Public Hearing to Save Our Health Care


At a press conference this week, House Republican leaders called for a public hearing to help save our health care. Pennsylvania residents may soon face a crisis in health care, if the state courts repeal a rule that helped stave off a similar crisis more than a decade ago.

Currently, medical malpractice cases must be brought in the county where the alleged malpractice occurred. If that rule is repealed, doctors’ insurance premiums would skyrocket. When this happened in the early 2000s, doctors closed their practices, moved to other states or retired early.

The press conference also featured compelling stories from two physicians and a long-term care official who experienced the crisis firsthand and have serious concerns about the future of health care in the Commonwealth.

This change could lead to patients having to say goodbye to their physicians or patients having to drive farther for care. Additionally, recruiting physicians and specialists would be difficult, and medical innovations may be halted. Overall, patient care would suffer and everyone would face higher health care costs. To learn more about the issue, click here.

To learn more about the potential negative impact this rule repeal could cause, the House Majority Policy Committee will hold a public hearing on Feb. 12 in the Lehigh Valley.
                                                
  
Ensuring Victims’ Rights

 
Legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to add a victims’ bill of rights was reintroduced this week in a step toward putting the question before voters.

Last session, Marsy’s Law passed in the House and Senate unanimously. An identical bill must be passed this session before the question is placed on the ballot.

While Pennsylvania has protection for victims written into its laws, a constitutional amendment is the only way to ensure that victims have equal footing with offenders and the only way to ensure that victims have some kind of redress when their rights are violated.

The amendment would require notice of hearings and other proceedings, physical and emotional protection from the accused, notice in cases of release or escape, proceedings free from unnecessary delay, the ability to confer with the prosecutor in the case, full and timely restitution from the offender, and notification of all of these rights.
 
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