Kampf in the News

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July 2, 2018
Penn Record
Pennsylvania House votes down bill to limit punitive damages in nursing home litigation

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsors viewed as a reform measure that sought to limit punitive damages in verdicts against nursing homes was defeated in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week.

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsors viewed as a reform measure that sought to limit punitive damages in verdicts against nursing homes was defeated in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Warren Kampf, a Republican and introduced last year, would have applied the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, capping punitive damages at 250 percent of the total compensatory damages award.

In September, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in a 14-13 vote, but the bill was defeated by a final vote of the House 103-91.

Curt Schroder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, criticized the move on the legislature’s part.

“The majority of the PA House chose to collaborate with the trial lawyers over protecting access to nursing home care in Pennsylvania. As a result, out-of-state law firms will continue their assault on our long-term care facilities,” Schroder said.

In Schroder’s view, long-term care facilities choose to settle almost all of the cases brought against them due to the threat of unlimited punitive damage awards, since insurance providers do not cover punitive damages and such expenses would then be paid out-of-pocket.

“This has the potential to bankrupt those caring for our oldest and most vulnerable family members. Plaintiffs’ attorneys know that long-term care facilities will settle to avoid the risk of going out of business and they use this to their maximum advantage. That is why out-of-state lawyers advertise heavily to promote lawsuits against nursing homes in Pennsylvania,” Schroder explained.

“The PCCJR urges the Pennsylvania House to revisit this issue in the near future. There were many factual and legal inaccuracies maliciously spread by the trial bar to distract legislators from the damage being done by lawyers to the availability of long-term care. If punitive damage abuse is not curtailed, long-term care providers will leave Pennsylvania. It will be hard to find long-term care close to home for our loved ones and that will be a tragedy for Pennsylvania’s families.”

Robert L. Sachs Jr. of Shrager & Sachs in Philadelphia, a board member of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, offered contrasting comments on the House’s decision.

“This bill demonstrates that the Pennsylvania legislature, which remains majority-controlled by Republicans, works very hard to balance the interests of its individual constituents and the business interests here in Pennsylvania,” Sachs said.

“And I think that this outcome is a very good example of them striving to strike a balance. From our perspective, we think they have found an appropriate balance at this time.”

Sachs added the timing of the bill was perhaps inopportune for nursing homes, given the widespread press attention which resulted from the recent, neglect-related death of H.R. McMaster Sr., the father of former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, in the Cathedral Village nursing facility in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced at a press conference last month that 30 year-old Christann Gainey, a nurse at Cathedral Village, stands accused of falsifying medical records, not providing adequate care and additional charges, including neglect of a care-dependent person in connection with McMaster Sr.’s death.

“That received a great deal of press, and the care that our most vulnerable citizens, [those] being senior citizens, receive is the focus of a great deal of inquiry right now and appropriately so. Because of some very high-profile events that have sadly taken the lives of seniors across Pennsylvania, I don’t think those advancing this legislation picked the best time to pursue it,” Sachs said.

Sachs continued that the very same limitations on punitive damages sought by supporters of this legislation were already contained in the MCARE Act, which has been the law in Pennsylvania for nearly 16 years.

“As I’m fond of saying, they were offering a cure without a diagnosis. There is no problem,” Sachs said.

Currently, verdicts against doctors have a punitive damages cap of 200 percent of the compensatory award.

“What they already get the benefit of is a higher standard to prove punitive damages than we hold a drunk driver to, when you take somebody’s life. They’re asking for protections that already exist, and they’re asking for protections…as a cure for a problem that hasn’t even been diagnosed,” Sachs stated.

Sachs defied the supporters of the bill to point to more than five punitive damages award verdicts involving nursing homes in Pennsylvania in the last few years.

“They just don’t exist,” Sachs said.

Sachs continued that due to being in touch with many of the lawyers who handle nursing home cases across Pennsylvania, and in consulting with them, they did not see a large number of punitive damage verdicts that would set off concern and the need for it to be addressed.

Moreover, Sachs stated the last time concerns of this nature were expressed in the media, both the Pennsylvania State Legislature and State Supreme Court acted “very promptly” in passing the MCARE Act and Certificate of Merit rules.

“Both the courts, in their own rulemaking power, have policed what’s going on at the trial level, and the legislature as well. Those changes from 16 years ago remain effective today,” Sachs stated.

Schroder disagrees.

“Of course they have not seen a high number of cases with punitive damages because the nursing homes are petrified of having to pay a huge punitive damage verdict out-of-pocket, so they settle virtually every case. And those litigating these cases know that,” Schroder stated.

Schroder added the higher standard for securing punitive damages as included in the MCARE Act versus the need limit for a limit was “mixing apples and oranges” as a comparison.

“This higher standard does NOT prevent lawyers from alleging punitive damages in the complaint. That is all it takes to force a settlement, so that the provider does not run the risk of being put out of business by the litigation industry due to the fact there is no cap,” Schroder said.

Priority Healthcare Group and Saber Healthcare Group, two major nursing care groups operating in the Pennsylvania region, did not respond to requests for comment on the legislation not passing. Source

June 7, 2018
mainlinemedianews.com
Kampf proposes law to make use of eminent domain on open space land more difficult
Proposed bill comes in response to potential action at Stoneleigh in Lower Merion

DSC_0392
Richard Ilgenfritz Digital First media The Stoneleigh Mansion in the Villanova section of Lower Merion. The Stoneleigh mansion is located in the Villanova section of Lower Merion. State Rep. Warren Kampf, R-157, has proposed a bill in response to the Lower Merion School District’s proposal to take land at the Stoneleigh site using eminent domain. Richard Ilgenfritz — Digital First Media file photo

LOWER MERION >> A proposal by the Lower Merion School District to take land designated for open space in Villanova has prompted state legislators to introduce a bill that could make such seizures more difficult and require entities to prove to a judge they have no other option.

House Bill 2468 was introduced this week by state House Reps. Warren Kamph, R-157, Marcy Toepel, R-147, and Kate Harper, R-61, that would limit the use of eminent domain for land that has been set aside for open space or green space.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Kamph said the bill is a direct reaction to the Lower Merion School District’s consideration of taking a portion of the Stoneleigh garden.

“I read and heard about what was going on in Lower Merion, and so did a number of my colleagues … and we talked about what changes could be made statewide to help in this situation and also if it were to arise in any other situation down the road,” Kamph said.

Since its board meeting in March, Lower Merion School District officials have said they would like to use a portion of the Stoneleigh site for playing fields.

Stoneleigh, located along Spring Mill and County Line roads in the Villanova section of Lower Merion, is the former Haas Estate that was left to the Natural Lands. In May, it opened as a public garden.

One option the school district has been considering is to build a new middle school at the site of the Foundation for Islamic Education at 1860 Montgomery Ave. and then use 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh site for its playing fields.

Although it had expressed interest in at least part of the site publicly in March, in April, the district sent a letter to the Natural Lands informing them it wanted to look at the entire site for possible condemnation.

“Lower Merion School District (“District”) seeks to have its employees and/or agents enter the above-referenced property owned by your client The Natural Lands Trust (“NLT”) in order to make studies, surveys, tests, soundings and appraisals in contemplation of a potential condemnation of all or part of the property other than the above-referenced 6.9 acres of land,” according to a portion of the letter signed by district Solicitor Ken Roos.

Also at the April school board meeting, Roos specified that having a nature easement on a property does not prevent the district from taking a property through condemnation.

Although the bill doesn’t outright ban the taking of preserved land, it makes it much harder.

“What [the bill] does is put a lot more scrutiny on this kind of taking, and the bottom line is if a government entity is going to try and take permanently preserved land, they are going to have to go to the Orphans’ Court and convince a judge that there is no other place that this can be done because that land has been preserved for a very good reason and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen simply because the district says we need it,” Kampf said.

According to a press release containing additional details on the bill, the procedure for the taking of such land is similar to the Agricultural Area Security Law that requires additional scrutiny before condemnation of agricultural lands can take place.

Kampf said he thinks if the bill could get passed fast enough, it could still help in this case, as he is hoping to have a committee hearing and a vote on the bill during the week of June 11. He said presuming it gets out of committee quickly, it could take another week before going to the House of Representatives.

“My goal is to at least have it over to [the] Senate in time for them to act on it before budget is done at the end of June,” Kampf said.

So far, Kampf said the reaction toward the bill has been positive with other house members and he hasn’t yet heard any opposition to the bill has it has been making the rounds.

“We must limit a government agency’s ability to use the Eminent Domain Code to override the preservation of our open space and parkland,” co-sponsor Marcy Toepel said.

Currently, the bill is in the Local Government Committee that is chaired by Harper.

“Eminent domain laws are important, but must be used sparingly, and not as a tool to develop land set aside as open space,” Harper said in a statement.

In a statement, the district said it is aware of the proposed bill but said it has not removed any option from the table.

“The District is aware of this proposal. At this time, all options remain under consideration as we seek the best options for our students in light of the challenges posed by our rapidly increasing enrollment,” the district’s statement reads.  Source

Feb 25, 2018
Post-gazette.com
Brian O’Neill: Fix the congressional map now — then fix the system

Pennsylvania Republicans are appealing the state’s new congressional map to the nation’s highest court, which is reminiscent of the New England Patriots complaining after they were caught cheating in Spygate.

Sure, they know they’ve rigged the game. But when you’ve put so much work into finagling the system, and have gotten really good at it, it’s an affront to turn the controls over to lesser mortals.

The zigzagged mess that was the Republican congressional district map has been replaced by a more streamlined model commissioned by the Democratic-dominated Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It’s indisputable that this new map is more favorable to Democratic hopes in several congressional races, but that’s like noting it became somewhat easier for Patriots’ opponents to win once New Englanders were barred from videotaping other teams’ signals.

It’s also true that jiggering the map to favor the party in power did not begin with these Republicans; Democrats played these same games with more primitive technology back when they ran Harrisburg. But gerrymandering never has been about serving the people; it’s always been about politicians serving themselves.

In one week, Pennsylvania congressional races became unpredictable

So when we hear that this is not the best time to be doing this, so close to the 2018 elections, we agree. The time to do it was generations ago. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“Honestly, it’s ludicrous to have legislators saying there’s no transparency, and they weren’t part of the process, when they have so blatantly shut everyone else out of the process,” Carol Kuniholm, chair and cofounder of Fair Districts PA, said last week.

Her group formed only 15 months ago but has had more than 360 public meetings and claims more than 18,000 attendees. Maybe because Pennsylvania is generally at or near the top of any list of the most gerrymandered states, Pennsylvanians are riled about this otherwise wonkish topic. A meeting at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library last March drew a crowd larger than the fire code permitted.

Even if the current map survives the court challenge, fixing it one time isn’t enough. A permanent solution, with a nonpartisan board setting state and congressional district boundaries, is needed “or our state will be right back to gerrymandering in 2021.”

That’s the prediction from state Rep. Steve Samuelson, a Democrat from Bethlehem, who is behind House Bill 722 for a Legislative Apportionment Commission. The bill has 109 co-sponsors — 71 Democrats and 38 Republicans — a majority of the 203-member state House.

The independent commission would be made up of four registered Republicans and four registered Democrats (assuming they remain the two largest parties), and three members who are unaffiliated or registered to a minority party. They cannot have held federal or state office, or been a staff member, in the five years immediately preceding appointment.

In short, “we have to draw the districts without the politicians in the room,” Mr. Samuelson said.

Eleven new co-sponsors have jumped aboard since New Years’ Day, eight of them Republicans. State Rep. Warren Kampf, R-Montgomery County, said last week he was backing the bill because “events of the past month have show that the only way to fix this system is to make it truly of the people.”

Because it’s a constitutional amendment, this bill would need to pass both the state House and Senate in successive sessions. Apart from its own merits, this needs to pass because some are already using gerrymandering as the excuse for not downsizing America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature.

Seriously, all other arguments having failed, the new argument against rightsizing is that if you think legislative leaders can jerk voters around when they have 203 districts to play with, just wait to see what they’ll do when it’s time to throw 52 representatives over the side and get down to a still-sizable 151-member House.

Implicit corruption is not a good reason to keep an oversized, extraordinarily expensive statehouse that can’t get out of its own way.

You might ask your own state rep and senator how they feel about HB 722, for a nonpartisan redistricting commission, and HB 153, to downsize the statehouse. If you don’t like their answers, this would be a great year to vote them out of a job.

Brian O’Neill: boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947 or Twitter @brotheroneill
Source

 

HB1213 is active again – see two stories below for background.

June 10, 2018
Mercury News
Kampf says his law firm not a factor in sponsoring bill limiting tax assessment challenges

Warren Kampf

In addition to representing the Chester County’s 157th state House District, Republican Kampf is also an attorney with the very old, very large law firm of White and Williams, which was founded in 1899.

With 240 lawyers in 10 offices, the firm advertises itself as being expert in, among other things, business tax and real estate issues — the heart of property tax assessment challenges.

Williams and White is “well-suited to counsel clients with entity formation, licenses, financing, contracts and strategic negotiations, as well as governance, labor disputes, tax, intellectual property and real estate,” the firm’s website states.

According to the firm’s profile of Kampf, “he regularly represents construction companies and other businesses and their insurers, as well as building owners, in property damage, construction defect and personal injury lawsuits.”

But it wasn’t his firm’s clients or experiences with re-assessment that spurred him to propose this bill, Kampf told Digital First Media.

It was what he sees as the inherent unfairness.

“I can’t even take credit for the idea. This bill has been kicking around for about a decade,” Kampf said.

“But the guy who has been sponsoring it in the past got elevated to Speaker of the House,” Kampf said in reference to Mike Turzai. “And when I found out the bill didn’t have a sponsor, I decided to take up because I don’t like this practice. It’s anti-competition and it’s anti-taxpayer.”

Added Kampf, “no one in my law firm has spoken to me about this, nor are they motivating me on any particular issue in my work as a representative.”

In its profile, the firm does make note of Kampf’s 2010 election to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.

It is an election White and Williams had no small hand in winning.

At $21,545, the firm ranks in the top 10 of on Kampf’s list of campaign contributors — although that number is dwarfed by the more than $400,000 provided over the years by the House Republican Campaign Committee of Pennsylvania, Kampf’s number one contributor according to FollowTheMoney.org.

And Kampf is certainly not the only candidate White and Williams has supported.

In the last 18 years, White and Williams has donated $82,345 to 35 different campaign finance filers, according to Follow the Money — but more than one quarter of that total has gone to Kampf.

And although Kampf said no one at the firm has spoken with him about their employee’s proposed legislation to limit a school district’s ability to challenge property assessments, it is an issue on their radar.

Last September, the firm published an article about the School District of Philadelphia’s plans “to challenge Philadelphia real estate tax assessments for 2017,” writing the effort would most certainly focus on commercial properties. The article offered tips and information about things to consider if commercial property assessments are challenged.

The article makes particular note of a new contract the district signed with outside law and real estate firms, and ends with a suggestion that those with questions or concerns about the city’s appeals, contact the article’s authors — two business law experts at White and Williams.

The article also states 2017 “will be the first time the School District of Philadelphia has ever engaged private counsel to review OPA assessments and bring appeals on its behalf.”

Five months later, in a February memo to other legislators announcing his intention to sponsor HB 1213 and his reasons why, Kampf wrote “much of the money achieved through these spot assessments, however, is paid to third party bounty hunters who take a finder’s fee for identifying the best properties to target.”

But, Kampf said, if his motives were in any way connected to White and Williams, it wouldn’t make sense for him to sponsor this legislation at all.

“A law firm makes money when there is a case and controversy, and my bill would eliminate that controversy,” said Kampf.   Source

June 3, 2018
Mercury News
Montgomery, Chester county schools oppose state bill limiting assessment challenges

LOWER POTTSGROVE >> School leaders are speaking out against a bill that could limit a school district’s ability to challenge a property assessment and, they say, could cost districts millions in revenue.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Warren Kampf, R-157, and is needed, he says, to help improve Pennsylvania’s business climate.

In a memo to other legislators Kampf wrote in February before he introduced the bill, he called the practice “spot assessment” and wrote that “it is one of the most anti-competitive government practices in existence today.”

But Pottsgrove schools Superintendent William Shirk said in a May 22 letter to district residents that the bill “doesn’t help senior citizens, low-income families or homeowners. It only helps commercial property owners. Unfortunately, this could come at the expense of our schools.”

Although Pottsgrove has not challenged commercial property assessments, but “moving forward we want to preserve our right to appeal, because of the potential revenue it could create for the district,” Shirk wrote.

In fact, Pottsgrove has wrestled with the opposite problem, challenges that reduce revenue and don’t raise it.

In January, the school board approved a settlement of three years of assessment challenges brought by, among others, the owners of property where a Sanatoga strip mall and the current Landis Supermarket are located that required the district to cut a refund check of more than $200,000 and will cost another $70,000 in lost revenue going forward.

The bill could mean “cuts to programs and higher taxes for homeowners,” Shirk wrote.

“This restriction in the ability to generate future local revenues will harm schools that are already grappling with overall declining state aid and unfairly shift the property tax burden to homeowners,” wrote the Pennsylvania School Boards Association in a May 8 letter to the House Commerce Committee.

“Any property that is simply underassessed for whatever reason inherently shifts the tax burden over to those property owners who are properly assessed in the form of increased millage rates,” PSBA wrote. “House Bill 1213 would take away the only voice on behalf of other homeowners and businesses being forced to subsidize under-assessed properties – school districts.”

But Kampf argues his bill would protect homeowners as well as business property owners.

Last month, he told Digital First Media, “Imagine if your tax bill went up $9,000 overnight, and your neighbor’s did not? Wild fluctuations in property taxes can and do drive people out of their homes.”

However some provisions of the bill — particularly one which would have allowed assessments on commercial property to be based on the value of vacant buildings — have been removed.

“Some concerns came in from citizens about House Bill 1213, and my colleagues and I are listening,” Kampf said.

One of those citizens was Phoenixville schools Superintendent Alan Fegley, who noted that when the economic crisis hit and the real estate market crashed in 2007, “everyone was challenging their assessment to lower their taxes and since then, as the economy has recovered, school districts are challenging assessments to try to recover what they lost.”

Fegley said he spoke to Kampf’s office about his concerns and believes a better approach would be to pass a bill that requires counties to undertake countywide property reassessments on a regular schedule.

“Whether its every five years, or every 10 years, or you do some sections of the county one year, and another the next, that would eliminate the need for Rep. Kampf’s bill because property would regularly be reassessed,” Fegley said.

PSBA agrees.

“Issues with property assessment appeals by taxing bodies are merely a symptom of the state’s broken assessment laws. Pennsylvania’s property assessment system needs comprehensive reform,” wrote PSBA. “Because counties throughout Pennsylvania are not required to perform a regular reassessment, it could be decades before taxing bodies have any opportunity to realize additional revenues from ongoing redevelopment efforts and/or growth.”

PSBA concluded that “the proper approach is to fix the current system that makes these appeals necessary in the first place.”

Kampf’s bill acknowledges the preference of countywide reassessments.

In fact provisions in Kampf’s bill in its current formprevent an assessment appeal by a school district or municipality based on a recent purchase, refinancing or safety improvements. However, an assessment appeal could be mounted after a county-wide assessment, according to the bill’s text.   Source

Dec 12, 2017
WHYY
Pa. lawmakers send Wolf abortion restrictions he plans to veto

Gov. Tom Wolf vows to veto a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and criminalize the most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions.
Gov. Tom Wolf vows to veto a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and criminalize the most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Pennsylvania’s House on Tuesday voted after an impassioned debate to send a bill limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to Gov. Tom Wolf, who immediately repeated his threat to veto it.

The Republican-controlled House voted 121-70 for the legislation that would alter the existing 24-week limit.

The measure would keep in place exceptions under current law for when a mother’s life is at risk, or if she could suffer a serious, permanent injury without an abortion. It does not allow exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.

Supporters said medical advances mean premature fetuses are now able to survive at an earlier point in the pregnancy than previously possible.

The strong feelings and stark language that characterizes the abortion discussion on the national level were reflected in the House debate.

“As people try to frame this debate in terms of women’s rights, the question that begs to be asked is, what about the rights of those preborn women in the womb being exterminated?” said Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York.

Opponents argued that parents should be allowed to make their own abortion decisions with medical input and by consulting their sources of spiritual advice.

“We have to be careful in this body that we don’t put an ideology on everybody and say that everybody has to live like this,” said Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny.

Planned Parenthood said the bill would make Pennsylvania’s abortion law among the nation’s most restrictive.

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, said a House that is “80 percent men and 0 percent physicians” should not be making decisions for women about terminating their pregnancies. She noted that a tiny fraction of abortions currently occur after 20 weeks.

The bill “does not protect women,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. “It attempts to control them by imposing the views of some legislators on women, and I think that’s wrong — that’s morally wrong.”

The legislation also would outlaw what the bill terms “dismemberment abortion,” a phrase not used by medical professionals. It would effectively ban dilation-and-evacuation, a procedure that is the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

“Dismemberment abortion is completely inhumane, it’s barbaric,” said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.

Some opponents noted that the bill had not received public hearings, while supporters said the issues have been discussed in depth for years.

Wolf, a Democrat, called the bill an assault on the doctor-patient relationship and “cruel” because it lacks exceptions for rape or incest.

“These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors,” Wolf said in a written statement.

The bill passed the Senate in February by a 32-18 vote. The margins in both chambers raise doubts about whether supporters will be able to muster sufficient votes to override Wolf’s promised veto.  Source   House votes here

Dec 6, 2017
Patch
Funding Sought For New Phoenixville Rec Center, Fire Station
Local leaders are working to gain support for a proposed new senior center, a combo fire station-recreation center, and a transit center.

PHOENIXVILLE, PA — Local leaders are working to gain support for a proposed new senior center, a combo fire station-recreation center, and a transit center.

Both State Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester/Montgomery) and State Rep. Becky Corbin (R-East Brandywine) have presented a pair of projects for funding to Harrisburg.

“Over the last 20 years, the Borough of Phoenixville has undergone very significant changes and growth,” Kampf wrote in a statement. “Population has increased, the downtown bustles with retail, restaurants and new multi-family developments, and what was once a struggling former manufacturing town has transformed itself.”

Kampf’s office added that State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) also supports the project, giving it bipartisan support.

Funding would come through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

Lawmakers noted that increased population has meant more and more people driving, increasing area traffic. A multi-modal transportation plan would incorporate more parking, public transit, additional trails, and other projects to make the area more walkable and bikeable.

“As Phoenixville has transformed into a thriving suburban town that serves residents from throughout the region, the need for capital improvements has increased,” Corbin said in a statement. “The Phoenixville Fire Department is in serious need of a new building given that its current home is more than one hundred years old. A multi-modal center with additional parking would alleviate some of the congestion and parking problems residents, merchants, and commuters face.”

Officials are hoping for an $8.3 million grant for the fire station and recreation and senior center, plus $4.2 million for the transit center.  Source

Nov 17, 2017
Meadville Tribune
Legislation seeks to bar ‘spot assessments’ of properties

HARRISBURG — While the state Legislature considers how or whether to replace property tax, there’s another element to the tax that is creating controversy.

Legislation in the state House would make it harder for school districts and other local taxing bodies to do “spot assessments” that seek to get an updated estimate of the value of a property after it’s been purchased.

“The practice literally has the effect in some cases of hammering a property owner with a huge tax increase after he has decided to buy the property and participate in our state economy,” state Rep. Warren Kampf, R-Chester County, said in a memo to other lawmakers. “It strikes me as one of the most anti-competitive government practices in existence today.”

In a Thursday interview, Kampf said he took up the issue after being alerted to it by a constituent.

“As I looked at it, it really just outraged me,” Kampf said.

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Board Association, said the districts’ freedom to challenge whether a property owner is paying the proper amount in tax is a fairness issue. Property owners have the same right to go to court to try to convince a judge that they are paying too much in property tax if they think their assessment is too high.

Since most counties haven’t updated their countywide assessments, school districts are the only ones in a position to go after property owners who may be paying too little in tax, said John Callahan, chief advocacy officer for the school board group.

“We’re skirting around the issue” by looking at the school board’s actions rather than the underlying problem of the need to get property assessments updated across the state, Callahan said.

The practice of spot assessment and the controversy over the practice seem more intense in southeastern Pennsylvania, according to Republican state Rep. Brad Roae of Crawford County. But, he said Kampf’s probably onto something.

“Unfair spot reassessments do not seem to be a major problem here (in Crawford County),” Roae said. “But it would make sense to pass better legislation to guard against it.”

State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, noted that this controversy has been festering for years. In 2008, the Legislature passed a series of bills similar to Kampf’s, but they were all vetoed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell.

Rendell, at the time, argued that all property owners would be forced to pay more to compensate if school districts, cities and counties couldn’t seek the spot assessments to collect more from under-valued properties.

While commercial appeals have gotten a lot of the attention, Longietti said, the issue has at times gotten more scrutiny when school districts have gone after residential homeowners.

In those cases, people who had purchased homes while factoring in the current cost of the property taxes were “shocked” when they got higher tax bills because the district had appealed their assessments based on the amount paid to purchase the home, Longietti said.

Efforts to make spot assessments more palatable by limiting them to commercial properties appear to be illegal based on a Supreme Court decision handed down last summer, Kampf said.

That makes the need for his bill all the more obvious, he said.

His legislation was amended on the House floor to bar spot assessments only on residential properties and farms. But Kampf said he believes that based on the court decision, that amendment language would be unconstitutional.

Kampf said he’s been trying to find a compromise that will be acceptable to the school districts.

“Any time the school groups oppose something, it becomes difficult to pass,” he said.

But Callahan, at the Pennsylvania School Board Association, said the Supreme Court decision in Valley Forge Towers vs. Upper Merion School District makes Kampf’s bill unnecessary.

The Supreme Court decision in Valley Forge Towers v. Upper Merion School District found that the school district was in the wrong because its policy exempted residential properties. But while the school district lost that lawsuit, the court decision did reinforce that school districts can do spot appeals as long as they don’t target one type of property, Callahan said.

The court decision strikes at the heart of the concerns raised by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said Lisa Schaefer, director of government relations for the group. The county organization has been most focused on ensuring that Kampf’s legislation treats property owners uniformly, she said.

“Essentially, the court said that any particular class of property cannot be selected for appeals, but a taxing authority does have discretion in setting its appeals process and could use a monetary threshold as criteria,” Schaefer said.

The monetary threshold concept would allow a school district to enact a policy explaining that’s targeting properties that appear to have a market value that exceeds a specific amount over the assessed value of the property.

“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as suggesting” that the use of such a threshold “would violate uniformity if it were implemented without regard to the type of property in question or the residency status of its owner,” Chief Justice Thomas Saylor wrote in the July 5 decision.

Callahan said he’s not aware of any school district that’s yet tried to roll out a spot assessment plan guided by this type of threshold trigger.  Source

August 31, 2017
Southern Chester County News
Attorney General visits Kennett to wage war on opioid crisis

KENNETT SQUARE >> Determined to curb an opioid epidemic that is now the leading cause of death for all Americans under age 50, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro came to Kennett Square to discuss the crisis with state lawmakers, municipal officials and law enforcement officers.

“I need to know what’s happening on the ground and how my office can assist in the local efforts,” said Shapiro, who has visited eight counties in the past two days. “We need to have a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to deal with the number one public health threat in Pennsylvania – the heroin and opioid epidemic. And these forums provide a great opportunity.”

The discussion, which coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day, took place at Kennett Fire Company’s Red Clay Room, and included almost the entire Chester County legislative delegation, state Rep. Steve Barrar, state Rep. John Lawrence, state Rep. Harry Lewis, state Rep. Becky Corbin, state Rep. Warren Kampf, and state Rep. Carolyn Comitta. Also in attendance were local police chiefs from throughout Chester County and Chester County Commissioners Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell.

“I can’t think of a family that hasn’t been affected by this,” said Barrar.

New Garden Police Chief Gerald Simpson said more efforts must be put into educating the younger set.

“We had five (opioid-related) deaths last year,” Simpson said. “If had five fatal accidents in one year, my community would be outraged and would ask me what I plan to do about it.”

Simpson said 25 percent of the opioid-related cases his department worked on last year resulted in death.

“That’s a scary number,” he said.

Shapiro told the panel that the crisis is taxing law enforcement and first responders in a significant way. He said police sometimes return to administer Narcan to the same person multiple times. There were 4,642 drug-related deaths in Pennsylvania last year, and if nothing is done, that number will skyrocket, he said.

Dinniman said he was glad to see Shapiro make the opioid crisis a priority.

“It was a productive and comprehensive discussion,” Dinniman said. “At the end of the day, solving the opioid crisis is not going to be a one-agency issue. Rather, it’s is going to take multi-pronged and cooperative effort between law enforcement personnel, public health officials, educators and others. And one of this morning’s overriding themes was how can we take what is working in Chester County and replicate it throughout the state.”

Shapiro cited his office’s and other local and state law enforcement departments’ efforts to crack down on illegal drug dealers amid the continued use and abuse of prescription medicine.

“We’ve arrested 844 drug dealers since I took office eight months ago. We could do that every day on and on, but at the end of the day it’s not going to solve it,” he said. “Prescription drugs are the root cause of so many of these problems.”

He also discussed efforts to deactivate and dispose of unwanted or unused prescription drugs, holding opioid manufacturers accountable, and working to improve access to addiction treatment and recovery options.

Cozzone expressed concerns about young people and students being prescribed opioids for sports injuries.

Dinniman discussed Senate Bill 535, legislation that calls for opioid awareness and addiction prevention education in Pennsylvania schools. That bill was incorporated in the Pennsylvania School Code, which recently passed the Senate.

Comitta, who said she plans to talk to the local medical community about the problem, said the roundtable discussion is a great start to eradicating the problem.

“We all need to put our heads together to figure out how to combat this very complicated, very distressing opioid epidemic,” Comitta said. “It’s multi-faceted and it will take every level of government and every level of law enforcement. This is a public health crisis.”

Lawrence said here is bipartisan support among local lawmakers to attack the opioid problem.

“There are a lot of callenges, but we are talking about people’s lives,” Lawrence said. “I can tell you there is a united front on this and we will move forward. It’s an issue that all of us are searching for solutions.”

Thursday morning’s discussion was one of several events involving combating opioid abuse in Chester County that day. Later that afternoon, Dinniman joined Shapiro to announce a series of roundtable discussions at Pennsylvania colleges and institutes of higher education aimed at addressing drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and sexual assault on campus. Source

July 31, 2017
PennRecord
Rep. Kampf says HB1037 would ‘reduce frivolous litigation’ against nursing facilities

HARRISBURG – Fearing the outcome of continued excessive litigation against Pennsylvania nursing home facilities, House Representative Warren Kampf (R) has sponsored HB1037 with hopes of protecting those who care for the state’s elderly population. The bill, introduced for the 2017 session, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee in March.

Essentially working to amend a 2002 state policy known as the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Act, Kampf and the bill’s 26 other sponsors hope to limit the amount of punitive damages one may seek against a nursing facility. In Kampf’s March 6 memorandum, he states that purpose of HB1037 is “to provide further lawsuit-abuse reform for our long-term care facilities throughout the Commonwealth.”

HB1037’s sponsors hope to extend the limit on amount of damages one may seek against a health care provider to the state’s nursing, assisted living, and home care facilities. The move would be beneficial in protecting such facilities against heavy litigation that outweighs the mounted damages, Kampf says.

In his memorandum, Kampf continues by stating that his goal is to “reduce frivolous litigation and shift resources back to patient care where they should be spent.”

W. Russell McDaid, CEO of the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association (PHCA), is in support of the measure.

“This legislation does not limit compensatory damages for individuals who may have been harmed, which can be significant and includes compensation for pain and suffering in Pennsylvania, which is often a significant award for the individual,” McDaid said in an email to the Pennsylvania Record.

“Nor does it change the definition of punitive care in the MCARE law in effect for physicians since 2002.

“Punitive damage reform is crucial for Pennsylvania’s long-term care providers in order to continue to provide quality care to our most vulnerable citizens. Excessive litigation and damage awards result in higher costs to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers and people residing in long-term care settings. These excessive awards also lead to decreased availability of quality care.”

Kampf was unable to be reached for comment. Source

July 5, 2017
Philly.com
Pa. high court’s tax ruling could affect school budgets

In a ruling that ultimately could affect school budgets across the state, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Montgomery County Court to reconsider a decision that allowed the Upper Merion Area School District to appeal the assessments of four apartment buildings. Read more

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