WILKES-BARRE — Bipartisan legislation by U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, and Leonard Lance, R-New Jersey, this week unanimously passed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The PREPARE Act — H.R. 4177 — would improve government preparedness for extreme weather incidents.
The Government Accountability Office placed threats posed by extreme weather in its 2017 High Risk List, an accounting of the most pressing fiscal exposures the federal government faces. From 2010-2016, extreme weather events resulted in:
• 422 presidential major disaster declarations.
• 74 events that each inflicted at least $1 billion in damage.
• A total of 1,646 fatalities and $316 billion in economic losses in 44 states.
The PREPARE Act authorizes an inter-agency council whose purpose is to provide recommendations on the best means of planning and preparing for extreme weather. The bill would also provide state and local stakeholders with the best information available and best practices to help them formulate emergency preparation plans tailored to their local needs.
A coalition of more than 50 business and thought leaders supports the legislation, Cartwright said.
“This year, Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey illustrated the devastating effects extreme weather can have,” Cartwright said in a news release. “My zero-cost bill compels the federal government to form a comprehensive plan to prepare for the grave threat posed by extreme weather events. By preparing for the worst, the government can limit the devastation and reduce taxpayers’ exposure to liability from extreme weather. This is the exact type of bipartisan, commonsense legislation that Congress should focus on.”
The OGR Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, lauded Cartwright for introducing the bill.
Cummings said this year, overall economic costs from strong storms includes $90 billion plus in Houston and $95 billion in Puerto Rico.
Barletta votes ‘yes’
on Medicare, CHIP bills
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, this week voted in favor of two bills protecting Medicare, women’s access to health care from community health centers, and reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
• H.R. 849, Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2017, passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 307 to 111.
• H.R. 3922 — CHAMPIONING HEALTH KIDS Act — which funds the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), community health centers, and other public health priorities, passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 242 to 174.
Barletta supported both measures.
“We need to protect seniors and children in this country,” he said in a news release. “What is important to me is that I can go home to my constituents and say we have made sure these programs are financially stable and accessible for the future. Medicare needs to be there for seniors, while CHIP is critical to provide children with health coverage and health care.”
Go to votesPA.com
before casting ballot
In preparation for Pennsylvania’s municipal election Tuesday, Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres reminds residents to visit votesPA.com for comprehensive voting information.
“VotesPA is a valuable resource for voters as they go to the polls on Nov. 7,” Torres said. “We encourage all eligible voters to be fully informed about their rights and what they can expect at the polling place.”
At votesPA.com, citizens can:
• Confirm their voter registration status.
• Locate their polling place and get directions.
• Find contact information for each county election office.
• View a demonstration video of the voting system used in each county.
• File a complaint if they encounter any difficulty or questionable situation at a polling place.
Additionally, votesPA.com includes a link to the department’s voter education toolkit, “Everyone votesPA.” The toolkit includes a Voter Guide, “The Top 5 Things Every Voter Should Know About Pennsylvania Elections,” and “Dates to Remember.” Each publication is available to download and print in English or Spanish.
On Tuesday, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for registered voters to elect:
• Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
• Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania
• Judge of the Commonwealth Court
• Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
• County, school board, and local seats such as mayor, city or borough council member, township commissioner or supervisor, magisterial district judges, and precinct election officials.
In addition, Torres reminds registered voters they have the right to cast a provisional ballot at the polling place if they believe they are registered at the precinct but are not listed in the poll book or supplemental poll book. Provisional ballots will be reviewed by county officials within seven days after the election to determine if the voter was eligible.
Voters appearing at a polling place for the first time will need to show proper identification, which may be either photo or non-photo ID. There is no identification requirement for voters returning to vote at a polling place the second or subsequent election.
A voter is also entitled to have assistance at the voting booth if he or she is unable to enter the booth or use the balloting system.
For complete information about voting in Pennsylvania, visit votesPA.com or call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).
Sen. Casey blasts
GOP ‘tax scheme’
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, this week said Republicans in Congress have taken great pains “to spin their tax scheme” as great for the middle class, but he said a few marginal changes “don’t change the fact that their plan is fundamentally a massive giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.”
In a statement, Casey said by eliminating key deductions like the one for state and local sales and income taxes and the $4,050 personal exemption per family member, some middle class families in Pennsylvania could see their taxes rise while the super-rich get a windfall.
Casey said the GOP proposal finances tax giveaways to the 1 percent. He said “this Republican tax bill, which provides a $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations,” comes on the heels of passage just last week of a Republican budget which proposes cutting Medicare and Medicaid by the same amount — $1.5 trillion.
Casey favors reforming the tax code for the middle class and small businesses. He said congressional Republicans should scrap “this obscene plan” and start over with a bipartisan process that raises incomes for the middle class and creates jobs.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.