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This Week in Harrisburg

This week, the House Finance Committee approved a resolution I am sponsoring that urges the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. The federal legislation is designed to set uniform standards for the collection of sales taxes by states. 

Thanks to a series of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, states cannot require an out-of-state retailer to collect sales tax. As a result, most online purchases do not include the Pennsylvania sales tax. 

This is bad for our community retailers, which are at a distinct disadvantage when competing with online retailers that don’t charge the state’s sales tax. We believe all retailers should play by the same rules. The loophole also results in the state losing out on badly needed tax revenue, estimated at up to $400 million annually that could go toward broad-based tax relief. 
 
House Resolution 571 next goes to the full House for consideration. 
  
In a continuing effort to strengthen education and jobs in the Commonwealth, three bills to help build and improve student and employee skills moved through House committees this week. The bills, which I am co-sponsoring, next go before the full House for consideration. 
   
House Bill 1816 would allow teachers, guidance counselors and other school administrators to receive necessary education credits if they visit certain manufacturing facilities for in-person tours and orientation programs.   
House Bill 1725 would establish the CareerBound program, which would join local workforce investment boards, businesses and schools in an effort to develop innovative school-to-work pilot programs.   
House Bill 1878 would create the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Strategy, or “PA WInS” program, which would offer a tax credit as an incentive to businesses to organize and collaborate with each other to address similar personnel and training issues.      

Also this week in Harrisburg, I met with representatives from the Governor’s Budget Office and Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission to discuss plans to reopen the civil service testing center in our area. The former center, located at 1601 Union Blvd. in Allentown, closed last summer and was expected to be relocated down the street to the new Lehigh Valley CareerLink Office. However, the move has been delayed due to funding issues. 

In the meeting, I learned that cost-cutting measures are currently being explored that will allow the center to reopen. I am also looking into the possibility of introducing legislation related to this matter. The closure has impacted hundreds of job seekers in the Lehigh Valley. It is imperative the testing center reopens as soon as possible. 
  
Finally, congratulations to Salisbury Township on receiving a Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). 

The township’s $177,000 grant will be used to develop Lindberg Park, including the construction of a pedestrian walkway and handicapped access ramps. DCNR awarded 201 grants totaling more than $38 million for similar community recreation and conservation projects across the state.

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