HARRISBURG IS BROKEN; Progress on the public's priorities hinges on fixing it
On Thursday, Gov. Wolf signed executive orders that will protect state employees under his jurisdiction, as well as employees of contractors doing business with the state, from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity.
New laws in North Carolina and Mississippi that expressly permit businesses and other groups to discriminate against LGBT residents are causing great controversy and have had serious economic repercussions in those states. What many people don't realize is that in Pennsylvania it is already legal for an employer to fire an employee based on his spouse, or a business to deny service or accommodations to someone because of her sexual orientation. That's something some legislators have been trying to fix for years, most recently with H.B. 1510. But that legislation, which a strong majority of Pennsylvanians support, has gone nowhere in the legislature.
Similarly, a few weeks ago Gov. Wolf signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for hundreds of state workers because legislation to give all low-wage earners in Pennsylvania -- and the state's economy -- a much-needed boost (H.B. 250) has languished in the legislature without a vote.
In addition to a fair wage for all workers and equal treatment under the law for all Pennsylvanians, a significant majority of Pennsylvanians also want quality schools for all kids, higher education that students and families can afford, budgets that are balanced and pay the bills, a commonsense extraction tax that helps Pennsylvania taxpayers, clean water and a healthy environment, and a growing economy that benefits everyone. Yet the Republican-led legislature has addressed none of these issues so far this term, and they languished during the previous four years, as well.
Why? Because Harrisburg is broken and wealthy special interests have too much access and influence. The special interests that have become entrenched in our politics are fighting hard to maintain the status quo and protect the access and privilege they already enjoy. Many legislators from both parties say they've never seen it this bad.
That's why House Democrats are introducing bills to give the public the tools they need to fight back -- to both regulate the access of special interests and reveal the sources of money meant to give them influence over elections and policy. The goal of these bills is to reduce the influence of special interests and money, return control of politics to the people, and restore the public's trust and confidence in a government that works for them. You can read more about House Democrats' reform efforts at www.pahouse.com.
The bottom line is this: We cannot move forward on the people's priorities until we fix broken state government and end the gridlock special interests have created in the Republican-led legislature.