Senator Aument Introduces Proposal to Protect Charities

HARRISBURG — Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) reintroduced a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution this week that would give the General Assembly the power to determine whether an institution is a “purely public charity” and thus exempt from paying local property taxes.

Senate Bill 4, co-sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), would specify that the General Assembly, not the judiciary, has the exclusive right to set the parameters for an organization to qualify as a purely public charity.

This proposal is necessary due to a 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling which returned to a vague standard, previously used from 1985-1997, that charitable organizations must meet in order to qualify as a purely public charity. The controversial ruling created a great deal of confusion among charities and led many municipalities to examine whether they could begin levying real estate taxes on charitable organizations who had previously been deemed exempt.

“The court’s ruling will inevitably lead to protracted and expensive legal battles that not only drain local tax dollars, but also take money away from the core mission of some of our state’s most widely respected charities,” Aument said. “The purely public charity law was enacted in 1997 specifically to prevent this kind of situation, and I am hopeful this legislation will help rectify a difficult situation that resulted from the court’s poor judgment.”

Because the bill would amend the state Constitution, the proposal must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being decided by the voters via referendum. The proposal was already approved once by the General Assembly during the 2013-14 session.

CONTACT: Zachary Peirson (717) 627-0036