March 31, 2014

PA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rates To Decline In April For Some

The Departments of Insurance and Labor & Industry Monday announced a 5.15 percent workers' compensation rate reduction, effective April 1, saving millions of dollars for many Pennsylvania employers.
"As a result of this action, we estimate that Pennsylvania employers will experience annual savings in workers' compensation insurance costs of approximately $140 million," Commissioner Consedine said. "This is the third workers' compensation insurance decrease since 2012 and we see this as a very positive trend. Total savings for the past three years is approximately $410 million."
The rate reduction is due to the Insurance Department's approval of the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau's annual loss cost filing.  These loss costs are used to determine the premiums businesses pay for workers' compensation insurance.
The premium savings for an individual employer will vary based on the employer's risk classification, claims experience and other factors. Not all employers will see a decrease.
Workers' compensation insurance covers the cost of medical care and rehabilitation for injured workers, lost wages and death benefits for the dependents of those killed in work-related accidents.
"We have spent the past several weeks celebrating the safe workplaces of Pennsylvania employers by presenting the Governor's Award for Safety Excellence to ten employers across the state," Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway said. "It's clear that employer safety programs produce tangible benefits and cost savings."
More than 10,530 state-certified workplace safety committees have been established since March 1994, protecting more than 1,396,306 workers. Additionally, employers with certified workplace safety committees have saved close to $524.3 million in workers' compensation premiums. These savings in insurance costs are due solely to the five-percent premium discount provided to businesses that have these committees.
Employers should contact their insurance company or agent for more information about how their workers' compensation premiums will be affected.
For more information, visit L&I’s Workers’ Compensation webpage.

Monday NewsClips

Editorial: Public Safety Over Special Interests On Guns
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March 28, 2014

March 31 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The March 31 PA Environment Digest is now available.  Click Here to print entire Digest.

Sen. Yudichak Natural Gas Severance Tax Proposal Funds Education, Environment

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Thursday joined local leaders in education, environmental protection and business at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center to unveil details of a plan to enact fair and reasonable severance tax proposal on the Marcellus shale industry.
"In order to fully capitalize on the benefits of the Marcellus shale industry, we must have a comprehensive economic strategy in place – and that strategy needs to include a fair and reasonable severance tax," Sen. Yudichak said. "Fair taxes mean better jobs, better education and better environmental protection; and a severance tax would level the playing field for all Pennsylvania businesses to grow along with the Marcellus shale industry and ensure that we do not have to make drastic budget cuts to important state programs every June."
The plan would levy a new 5 percent tax on the extraction of Marcellus shale gas and the revenue generated by the tax would be used to fund education, protect the environment and stimulate the economy. It is estimated that the severance tax would generate $720 million in the first year alone.
Under the proposal, education would receive the largest share of the revenue generated by the severance tax, with $375 million in FY 2014-15, growing to $453 million in FY 2015-16, and more than $1 billion by 2020 dedicated to education funding. All annual increases in tax and fee collections after FY 2015-16 would be dedicated to fund education.
Roughly $195 million of the revenue in FY 2014-15, and $250 million every year after that, would be used to fund DCED programs; make infrastructure investments; fund local economic development projects and implement new tax reduction incentives to improve the local business climate.
The proposal would also make significant investments in environmental protection with $75 million dedicated to Growing Greener programs and $75 million dedicated to replace the administration's plan to allow Marcellus drilling near state parks and forest land in FY 2014-15.
In FY 2015-16 and every year thereafter, the proposal would allocate $120 million for Growing Greener programs and $30 million for other environmental programs.
Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna), who was scheduled to participate in the event, also offered his support of the severance tax proposal.
"Every other state with abundant natural gas resources levies a severance tax on the industry that extracts that natural resource. I believe the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are not being adequately compensated for the volume of natural gas extracted in this state," Sen. Blake added. "The industry expected a severance tax and is certainly able to pay it, provided it is reasonably and responsibly levied in a manner that does not undermine the competitive position of the industry or the state."
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Minority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added his support.
“We need to make sure that our classrooms have all the resources necessary for our students to be successful,” said Sen. Hughes. “It’s clear that education is suffering in Philadelphia because of state budget cuts. That needs to change.”
“This plan ensures that programs that provide real opportunities to people are fully funded going forward,” said Sen. Hughes. “Our proposal also makes sure that natural gas drillers, which include some of the largest corporations in the world, are paying their fair share going forward.”
Senator Hughes’ proposal would generate far more revenue than the state currently receives from natural gas drilling. This year, Pennsylvania is only projected to receive $217 million as a result of the current drilling impact fee. The proposed legislation would generate $937 million through a combination of both the fee and severance tax.
“Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not impose a severance tax on natural gas,” said Sen. Hughes. “This legislation will correct this policy failure and generate funding for critical needs, including education.”
The plan will be introduced as Senate Bill 1333.
Sen. Yudichak was joined by Mike Dziak, President/CEO Earth Conservancy; Anthony Grieco, Luzerne Intermediate Unit #18 executive director; and other local leaders in education and business at NEPIRC in Hanover Industrial Estates for the event.
Report Finds Each Gas Well Costs Thousands In Road Damage

Friday NewsClips

Harrisburg Incinerator Deal Better Than Expected
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March 26, 2014

Jack Wagner Drops Out Of Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

Former Auditor General and Senator Jack Wagner filed paperwork Wednesday to remove himself from the Democratic gubernatorial primary leaving four candidates still in the race: Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz, Rob McCord and Katie McGinty.
Wagner Bows Out Of Governor’s Race

Superior Court To Hold Special Session At Penn State Dickinson School of Law

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania will hold a special session at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, University Park campus on April 1 and 2.
Court sessions will begin at 10 a.m. on April 1 and at 9:30 a.m. on April 2.  Court will recess at approximately 4 p.m. on both days. Sessions will take place in the Apfelbaum Courtroom of the Lewis Katz Building in University Park and will be simulcast to law school facilities in Carlisle.
“The session is a wonderful opportunity for the public to see this appellate court in action,” said Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler, who is helping to organize events that will include educational sessions for law students and local members of the bar.
The Superior Court is one of the busiest appellate courts in the nation, deciding close to 8,000 cases each year.  The court hears arguments on appeals in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but occasionally visits other locations around the Commonwealth for special sessions.  During the two-day Penn State session, the court will hear arguments on appeals from decisions of local trial courts in civil, criminal and domestic cases.
Penn State Dickinson School of Law invited the Superior Court to sit on campus to foster educational opportunities for its students and members of the public.  A special invitation was also extended to high school students in Centre County.  More than 100 students are expected to attend the oral arguments over the course of the two-day session.  All sessions are open to the public.
Serving on the Superior Court panel will be Judges Christine Donohue, Cheryl Lynn Allen and Sallie Updyke Mundy.  Judges Donohue and Allen maintain chambers in Pittsburgh.  Judge Mundy’s chambers are in Tioga County.
Judge Allen is a 1969 graduate of Penn State’s College of Education.  She was one of only 22 Penn State alumni honored as an Alumni Fellow in 2013 for her outstanding professional achievements.
The title of Alumni Fellow is the highest award given by the Penn State Alumni Association and is designated a permanent and lifelong title by the Penn State Board of Trustees.  Since the award was established in 1973, fewer than 800 alumni have been honored with the title, representing only one-eighth of one percent of all 616,000 living Penn State alumni.

Wednesday NewsClips

Harrisburg Public Works Hits $300K Deadline
Click Here for Today's PA Environmental News