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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: August 29, 2013 01:07 PM
From: Representative Kevin Haggerty
To: All House members
Subject: Amending the Home Rule Charter & Optional Plan Law - Local Taxing Power
In the near future, it is my intention to introduce legislation that amends the Home Rule Charter & Optional Plans Law within Title 53, specifically, §2962(b), which provides for taxing power for local municipalities and governing bodies.

The genesis for this legislation is to correct a legislative oversight that is now codified into state statute via Tiltle 53, §2962(b). Essentially, this section gives local governing bodies the authority to override their Home Rule Charter provisions when levying taxes in excess of an expressed, written threshold in the Home Rule Charter.

This all stems from HB 1175 of 1983, Act No. 170 which created the last sentence of §2962(b), and from that, a 2006 Commonwealth Court Ruling which cited the section to side with defendants:

In the opinion issued in Musewicz v. Cordaro, Munchak, and Lackawanna County, Commonwealth Court found that a 48% take hike by then Lackawanna County Commissioners Munchak & Cordaro was legal and did NOT violate Lackawanna County’s Home Rule Charter, and thus, local government rule of law.

Specifically, the court sided with its lower counterpart (Common Pleas) and the County Commissioners citing state case law precedent ; local law was preempted by state statute – Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) , Section 2962(b). Essentially, state law supersedes local charter provision(s).

It is my belief, and that of my constituents, that local governing bodies should not be above their own Home Rule Charters – essentially, Title 53, Section 2962(b), nullifies a municipality’s home rule charter – my legislation intends to reverse that.

The last sentence of 2962(b) was never intended to have the scope ascribed to it by Commonwealth Court. To be clear, the Court’s reading of current section of statute is correct, but the section has unintended consequences, and should be reversed so that a Home Rule Charter is not in essence, violated by inappropriate and unauthorized, excessive taxation.

Please consider co-sponsoring this important taxpayer piece of legislation.

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Introduced as HB1729