(12/2016) In the final days of the 2015-16 legislative session, several bills were moved through the state Legislature and sent to the governor where they were signed into law. Included was my legislation to prevent the Department of Revenue from retroactively taxing agricultural easements and land bank transfers to the exemption that became
effective on Sept. 11.
The tax code portion of this year’s budget specifically exempts agricultural conservation easements from the Realty Transfer Tax, but the exemption language did not include a retroactive effective date. Therefore, the department began retroactively taxing agricultural conservation easements for the three-year period in which they were not covered by an exemption.
The Commonwealth leads the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved for agricultural production. More than 20,000 acres have been preserved for farming in Adams County alone. Without my legislation, the practice of retroactively taxing these farmers would have had a chilling effect on Pennsylvania’s successful farmland preservation program. House Bill
2370, now Act 175, not only removes the retroactive tax liability, but it also permits taxpayers to petition for a refund of taxes improperly imposed on them prior to the exemption. The new law went into effect immediately and is retroactive to July 13, 2016.
Before session ended, we also moved to address a public health and safety issue that is of growing concern in the Commonwealth and nationwide – opioid abuse. We passed legislation to prevent opioid and heroin-related abuse and overdoses, which last year claimed more than 3,500 lives in Pennsylvania. Now law are limits on how opioids are prescribed to minors, and by
hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers. Physicians and dispensers of the drugs must also receive continuing education in pain management, addiction and dispensing practices; and must consult the new prescription drug monitoring database within 24 hours of prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine. Medical schools and medical training facilities are now required to establish a safe
opioid prescribing curriculum, and another new law provides for the safe disposal of opioids and other medications.
Another bill recently signed into law will authorize local municipalities to enact earned income and property tax liability tax credits for active volunteers of a fire company or emergency medical service company. The tax credits would provide up to 20 percent of an active volunteer’s tax liability based on the number of calls he or she responds to, their training or
participation in the functions of the organization. It is believed that House Bill 1683, now Act 172, will help to retain first responders and may encourage more people to volunteer.
It’s the holiday season and for hunters who may be interested in helping those in need, the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program is an excellent way to do so. Now in its 25th year, the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program assists participating hunters across the Commonwealth who choose to donate all or part of their harvested deer to local food banks, missions, homeless
shelters and churches, as well as individual families and food pantries. The program helps hunters locate participating processors, which prepare the meat for distribution. To find a list of local processors or for more information, visit www.ShareDeer.org.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and for giving me the opportunity to continue serving you. I wish you and your family peace and happiness throughout the holiday season and in the new year. Merry Christmas!
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