Harrisburg Capitol Building

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Aug. 4. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Arson Law

State lawmakers and Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan held a news conference last week in Thorndale, Pa., to discuss Pennsylvania’s new arson law.

State Sen. John Rafferty, R-Chester, who sponsored Act 16 of 2014 was joined at the Thorndale Fire Co. by Hogan, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, and state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-Chester.

Rafferty introduced the legislation after serial arsonists set more than 30 fires in Coatesville, Pa., several years ago. The fires caused more than $3 million in damage, left scores of people homeless and resulted in the death of an 83-year-old woman, according to a statement released after the press conference.

Act 16 creates a new class of crime known as aggravated arson and sets tougher sentencing guidelines. A person can be convicted of aggravated arson if he or she intentionally starts a fire—or aids or pays someone else to start a fire—with the intent to cause bodily injury or knowing that someone was inside the property at the time.

Bills Introduced

• State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Cumberland, introduced HB 2429, which would amend the act of Oct. 6, 1998 (P.L. 705, No. 92), known as the Keystone Opportunity Zone, Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone and Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone Act, providing for keystone opportunity expansion zones for job creation.

In a sponsorship memo, Kauffman said the legislation would authorize the state Department of Community and Economic Development to designate up to 10 additional keystone opportunity zones (KOZs) within the state. Each KOZ would not be less than 10 acres in size unless contiguous to an existing zone, not exceed the aggregate total of 375 acres and be composed of parcels that are deteriorated, underutilized or unoccupied.

A person or business within a KOZ would be entitled to the tax exemptions, deductions, abatements and credits set forth by Act 92 for a period of no more than 10 years and no less than five years.

The KOZ legislation is being offered to foster economic opportunities and job creation, to facilitate economic development, stimulate industrial and commercial improvements, and prevent physical and infrastructure deterioration of geographic areas within the state.

• State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, introduced HB 2430, which would require all employers in Pennsylvania, including government bodies, to enroll in the E-Verify program. A federal program, E-Verify helps employers determine whether prospective employees are undocumented workers.

Failure to enroll in the program would result in the suspension of all business licenses, permits, registrations and certificates held by a private business. The same penalty would apply if a private business employed undocumented workers.

• State Rep. Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery, introduced HB 2432, which would create the Sexually Oriented Business Revenue Act. In a sponsorship memo, Murt said the bill is based largely on a Texas law that passed judicial review earlier this year. The bill would impose a $5 entrance fee on each customer of a sexually oriented business.

These businesses include night clubs and other establishments that feature live nude dancing, as well as adult entertainment venues that sell sexually explicit movies and material or that feature peep shows and other pornographic activity. Revenue would go to the state Department of Public Welfare to fund its existing grant program for domestic violence and rape crisis centers.

Revenue Collection

Pennsylvania collected $2.2 billion in general fund revenue in July, the first month of the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Sales tax receipts totaled $862 million, personal income tax revenue was $835.9 million and corporate tax revenue was $80.8 million for July. General fund revenue figures for July included $76 million in inheritance tax and $41.4 million in realty transfer tax.

Other general fund revenue, including cigarette, malt beverage and liquor and table games taxes, totaled $98.6 million for the month.

Nontax revenue totaled $251.6 million for the month.

In addition to the general fund collections, the motor license fund received $242.4 million for the month.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported that July gross revenue from slot machine play at the 12 casinos was $201.4 million, generating $107.5 million of tax revenue to the state. That amount was 1.7 percent lower than revenue generated from slot machines in July 2013 when revenue was $204.9 million.

The average number of operating slot machines throughout Pennsylvania at the 12 casinos was 26,400 in July; it was 26,593 in July 2013.