On this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you’ll all join me in taking time to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in service of our country. Over the course of U.S. history, hundreds of thousands of Americans have served in the Armed Forces. Many of us have had the fortune to know a veteran – there is likely one in your family. This Monday, we pause to remember those who did not make it home. We can never repay them, but we can remember them and honor them for the selfless decision to serve on our behalf. And we must also remember to reach out to our living veterans and those still serving our country. If you or a family member need assistance navigating the services available for veterans or military members, my office stands ready to help. A complete listing of programs and eligibility requirements, as well as the appropriate applications and forms, can be found online at the Veterans Affairs website. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs offers a brochure listing benefits and services for veterans and their beneficiaries in Pennsylvania. You can download a copy here . Veterans who were released or discharged under conditions other than dishonorable are also eligible to have their status included on their Pennsylvania driver's license. Learn more at the PennDOT website . As we prepare for upcoming events in observance of the holiday, my district office will be closed on Friday, May 26 and Monday, May 29 . If Read more
PHILADELPHIA, May 26 – State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-Phila., today joined local clergy and community leaders for a news conference and an open discussion on strategies for change in response to a recent proliferation of gun violence in north central Philadelphia. Thomas was joined by representatives of the Father's Day Rally Committee, the Philadelphia Council of Clergy and the Southwest New Stop Program, as well as faith leaders from the area. "No amount of gun violence is acceptable, but the level of gun violence in north central Philadelphia in the past 30 days is intolerable and unacceptable. No one person, no one agency can resolve this alone – this is going to require all of us becoming outraged at the devaluation of life in our community," Thomas said. Thomas said the explosion of violence and lawlessness in north central Philadelphia within the last 30 days includes: Nine people shot at 23rd and Huntingdon streets Three people killed and one injured by gunshot in the 1100 block of West Stiles Street Shooting in the 2900 block of Marvine Street 35-year-old woman killed at 21st Street and Susquehanna Avenue Two young men shot, one of them killed, at 17th and Master streets Two people shot at 24th and York streets 2-year-old and father from the Kensington community shot Shooting at 24th Street and Lehigh Avenue. To address this wave of violence, Thomas released the following recommendations today: Read more
As we prepare for upcoming events in observance of Memorial Day, my district office will be closed on Friday, May 26 and Monday, May 29 . If there are any questions or concerns please leave a message at (215) 242-7300 or email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org . Read more
HARRISBURG, May 25 – The state House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would help put Pennsylvania in line with federal Real ID rules and ensure that state residents don’t face difficulty using their IDs for air travel or visits to federal facilities, said state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester. Once S.B. 133 is signed into law, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will provide Pennsylvanians the option of choosing a standard driver’s license or photo ID card, or IDs that are Real ID-compliant. Gov. Tom Wolf’s office has indicated that he will sign the bill in short order. Before those changes can take effect, the federal Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue extensions that would allow Pennsylvanians to continue using their standard driver's license to fly and access federal buildings until 2020. “Our freedom to travel shouldn't be hindered because of a decision legislators made on your behalf back in 2012,” Comitta said. Pennsylvania had been given a deadline of June 6 to adhere to the 2005 federal Real ID Act, which set minimum standards for issuing identification cards. Otherwise, residents could have been prohibited from using their state-issued identification to board a plane, starting in 2018, or enter certain federal buildings, starting this summer. The Real ID Nonparticipation Act prohibited state agencies from complying with the federal Real ID law. Pennsylvania and Read more
HARRISBURG, May 25 – State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, and co-chairmen from the other three caucuses in Harrisburg held its 2017 kick-off meeting this week for the PA HOPE Caucus. The PA HOPE Caucus, which stands for Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education, is a bipartisan, bicameral group of state lawmakers who have focused their attention on the prescription drug crisis that is affecting people and communities across Pennsylvania. The other chairmen of the caucus include Republican state Rep. Aaron Kaufer and Democrat and Republican state Sens. Jay Costa and Gene Yaw, respectively. The meeting featured panelists giving an overview of their organization’s concerns and policy issues, followed by a round-table discussion among the participants. Participants were: Dr. Rachel Levine, physician general, PA Department of Health Laura Conrad, deputy secretary, Legislative Affairs, PA Department of Drugs & Alcohol Susan Shanaman, legal counsel, PA Coroners Association Deb Beck , president, Drug & Alcohol Service Providers Organization of PA Marianna Horowitz, program coordinator, PA Recovery Organizations Alliance (PRO-A) Kristen Varner , director of training & advocacy and Denise Holden , CEO, RASE Project Donald Holman , parent advocate. “The discussion was a sobering event,” Gainey said. “So many people and families are affected by this scourge, and so much of Read more
State Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Lackawanna, has announced that he has helped to secure a $2.9 million loan from the Commonwealth Financing Authority for Blakely Ridge LLC to construct a NEPA Wellness Center in Blakely Borough, Lackawanna County, that is expected to create 250 jobs. Total project cost is $3.9 million. Haggerty said a recent regional bio-tech study indicated that the northeast region should better meet the needs of its elderly population. “I am pleased that Lackawanna County will be getting a much needed medical center to serve us with a combination of traditional medical services, such as standard medical treatments, physical therapy and psychotherapy and alternatives practices like acupuncture,” Haggerty said. The site consists of 23 acres of wooded land located along Business Route 6 in Blakely Borough. Haggerty said funding will be used for acquisition, roads/streets, water/sewer, utilities, excavation/grading, professional services, engineering, permitting fees, signage and landscaping. The Commonwealth Financing Authority administers and finances economic development projects and is an independent agency created by the legislature. The agency oversees the state’s Building PA, Business in Our Sites, PennWorks, New PA Venture, Capitol Investment, New Pennsylvania VENTURE Guarantee, Tax Increment Financing Guarantee, Second Stage Loan and other programs. These programs are aimed at using targeted state investments Read more
The Pennsylvania Treasurer's Office wants to hear from all fire companies in my district about possible unclaimed property. The Treasurer's Office has generated a list of fire companies and you can search the website at www.patreasury.gov or call the department at 1-800-222-2046. The treasury holds nearly $180,000 in unclaimed property. Each year, the treasury receives millions of dollars in unclaimed property – money from items such as abandoned bank accounts, forgotten stocks, uncashed checks and contents of safe deposit boxes. Fire companies and first responders in my district are facing financially hard times so it is important that they receive the property that belongs to them. If you have a state-related concern, please contact my office . Read more
HARRISBURG, May 25 – Members of the legislature's LGBT Equality Caucus today submitted public comment in favor of a state agency's proposals to interpret existing law on sex discrimination to protect LGBT people from discrimination, as several courts and agencies have already done. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission , which enforces state non-discrimination law, is accepting public comment through Friday on its proposals to update how it interprets the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. That law bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on several categories, including sex. The commission also proposes to make a similar update to how it interprets the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act. State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said, "While I still believe we need the Pennsylvania Fairness Act signed into law to avoid any ambiguity, I fully support these proposals to interpret existing laws to include anti-LGBT discrimination. As Equality PA noted in its public comment, a federal appeals court stated, 'Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant -- woman or man -- dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex... It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the 'sex' from 'sexual orientation.'" The bipartisan Read more
State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, has been appointed to the House Ethics Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session, an eight-member body whose mission is ensuring House members and staff uphold high standards of conduct. Schweyer said the committee investigates and deals with alleged violations of House rules, and issues advisory opinions at the request of House members or employees. The legislative code of ethics, the Lobby Disclosure Act and developing new rules of ethical conduct also fall under its purview, as does planning and conducting House ethics education courses – including updating and distributing member and staff handbooks on ethical conduct. “It’s an honor to be selected to serve on this important committee,” Schweyer said. "Public trust is vital and most applicable when in a public service position. It’s about ensuring that everyone carries out his or her duties in the highest ethical standards so that one's actions are beyond reproach.” Schweyer said the House Ethics Committee is evenly split with four Democratic and four Republican members, and meets as needed to fulfill its statutory obligations and handle any matters brought before it. Other Democratic members of the committee are state Reps. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny; Steven Kinsey, D-Phila.; and Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery. Read more
PHILADELPHIA, May 25 – State Rep. Brian K. Sims, D- Phila., announced that the Risk Assessment Task Force he created with co-chairwoman Marni Snyder, a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, testified on Tuesday before the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing . “I formed this task force due to the growing concern over new guidelines, like the Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument, that are being created,” Sims said. "We cannot have a fair criminal justice system within our state if the guidelines we use are imbalanced and unfair.” As a Philadelphia native and seasoned attorney, Snyder works on behalf of the Philadelphia court system. Snyder’s expertise has focused on both criminal and special education law. The task force also includes a diverse field of practitioners, scholars, jurists and advocates within the criminal justice system. During Tuesday's hearing the task force proposed this new guideline would not only be considered unjust towards defendants but could also ignite costs and delays for the local courts. On March 16, the commission adopted for public comment the Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument. Its purpose is to serve the sentencing court in determining the appropriate sentence within the limits established by law. Specifically, it would aide in evaluating the relative risk that an offender will reoffend and be a threat to public safety. The instrument further determines whether a more thorough assessment would Read more
State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, invites residents of the 22nd Legislative District to participate in a Town Hall meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 25, at the Union Baptist Church, 302 N. 6 th St., Allentown. “I look forward to talking with my constituents about a variety of issues that have an impact on them and their families,” Schweyer said. During the event, Schweyer will discuss and take questions on a variety of state issues, Constituents also can call Schweyer’s district office at 610-791-6270 for more information about the event Editors: Press Coverage is encouraged. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 25 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong, has introduced legislation that would re-establish Pennsylvania as a leader in organ and tissue donation awareness and transplantation. Commonly referred to as the Donate Life PA Act , this legislation would create a comprehensive framework for public education on organ and tissue donations, clarify the methods for making such donations, streamline the process of working with law enforcement in deaths under investigation and update the law to reflect the best clinical practices to support donations for transplantation. “Every 18 hours, someone in Pennsylvania dies waiting for an organ that never comes. That's why this measure is so important. We will be able to help more than 8,000 patients awaiting life-saving organ transplants in the Commonwealth," Petrarca said. Pennsylvania's current law was crafted in 1994 by Petrarca's father, the late Rep. Joseph A. Petrarca Sr., himself an organ donation recipient. Furthermore, that legislation helped set a national standard for anatomical donations. Since its enactment, Pennsylvania hasn’t updated its organ and tissue donation laws, but nearly every other state has updated theirs. “We’re working to reinforce the priority of transplantation in the law and to encourage the cooperation of medical examiners and coroners with organ procurement organizations. This will help us facilitate donations by avoiding Read more
PHILADELPHIA, May 24 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, welcomed more than 600 constituents of the 191 st Legislative District to her 2017 Community Day, where the whole family could enjoy a day of fun and entertainment. “It was my honor to host the first ever Cobbs Creek Community Day in the school yard of one of our neighborhood elementary schools, Add B. Anderson,” McClinton said. “The purpose of the event was to celebrate community, promote peace in our streets and empower neighbors with resources. I love to hear first-hand what issues our constituents face in their daily lives, and my staff was able to provide on-the-spot assistance.” The event began with a March for Peace that left from the schoolyard of Bryant Elementary School and included health screenings conducted by Penn Medicine and Sayre Health Center, children’s activities provided by Art(is) for Kids, food and refreshments donated by Fred’s Water Ice, HERR’S, WaWa, McDonalds, the Pretzel Factory and Sunshine Supermarket, and live stage entertainment. Attendees also had the opportunity to gather information on a variety of state programs such as CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), Medicaid, and the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. Congressmen Bob Brady and Dwight Evans, state Rep. James Roebuck and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell participated in the event. McClinton said she wanted to thank the Klutch Kings, Motivation High Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing to explore the home care industry 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 30 at the Schoolhouse Senior Center, 600 Swarthmore Ave., Folsom, PA 19033. Krueger-Braneky requested the hearing to hear from stakeholders on issues facing the industry including worker retention and quality of care. The current agenda is: 2:00 p.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks 2:10 p.m. Panel One: Gary Watkins , Consumer Milan Green , Consumer Andrea Harrington , Home Care Worker Ray Landis , Advocacy Manager, AARP Pennsylvania 2:50 p.m. Panel Two: Vicki Hoak , CEO, PA Home Care Association Maria Dunlevy , Founder/Business Manager, Victoria’s Home Care 3:20 p.m. Panel Three: Jen Burnett , Deputy Secretary for Office of Long-Term Living, PA Department of Human Services Kevin Hancock , Chief of Staff for Office of Long-Term Living, PA Department of Human Services Kim Lay , Deputy Secretary for Office of Income Maintenance, PA Department of Human Services Barbara Nicolardi , Planner, Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging 3:50 p.m. Closing Remarks MEDIA COVERAGE IS INVITED. Read more
State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation (H.B. 1450) that would allow communities to extend their participation in the Main Street Program an additional five years, for up to 10 years in Pennsylvania. Currently, a community is limited to only five years in the program. Freeman said the state Department of Community and Economic Development would grant a period of up to an additional five years for administrative costs associated with the hiring of a Main Street manager, if it determines that it would be beneficial to the community in reaching its revitalization goals. “I feel the time period of only five years is often too short for Main Street programs to thrive and succeed in their objectives,” Freeman said. “Under my bill communities would be given an additional five years for a total of 10 years. My bill would provide Main Street communities with more time and, in turn, be able to fully implement a revitalization and enhancement strategy for downtown commercial areas.” The Main Street Act was created to provide grants for commercial downtown revitalization efforts, including infrastructure improvements, marketing and promoting the established commercial downtown within the Main Street area and façade grants, all under the direction of a Main Street manager. Currently, grants for a maximum of five years may be made to support and implement the efforts. Freeman said the legislation Read more
State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation designed to institute a tutoring program where 11 th - and 12 th -grade students could tutor elementary school-aged children for academic credit. Freeman said his legislation (H.B. 1449) would require the state Board of Education to establish an in-house tutoring program in Pennsylvania school districts, which would allow students in 11 th and 12 th grades to tutor pupils in grades one to six and receive academic credit for their tutoring. “The benefits of high school students tutoring elementary students is abundant,” Freeman said. “Tutoring can increase good study habits, improve academic performance, boost self-esteem and can put students in charge of their own learning process and pass that knowledge onto the children. The students being tutored get the extra attention they need to improve their academic performance and are typically more receptive to learning from a high school student they look up to.” Freeman said school districts would be able to implement the program at little or no cost to taxpayers and it would foster a sense of community and pride in students. “Tutoring is the most cost effective way to enhance academic performance for both the student being tutored and the student who serves as tutor,” Freeman said. The legislation is expected to be referred to the House Education Read more
Rep. Ryan Bizzarro reports that the state House of Representatives has approved compromise legislation that puts Pennsylvania on track to fix the Real ID problem with state driver’s licenses. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, applauded the announcement that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has started an investigation into the state Transportation Department's selling of drivers' personal information and other issues as part of a wide-ranging performance audit. Matzie previously has called for an audit regarding the selling of the potentially private information. “I specifically asked the auditor general to review the benefits, as well as the potential dangers of selling this information, and to ensure the safety of the information that may be released,” Matzie said. “With the regular announcement of security breaches at so many different companies and government entities, limiting our resident’s potential exposure is essential. “The process which the auditor general just began actually goes beyond my initial request and will also include an evaluation of the entire PennDOT procurement, bidding and project oversight processes.” The transportation funding plan (Act 89 of 2013) gave PennDOT the authority to sell personal data such as information on drivers, registrations, titles and security interests to other individuals and businesses. The act also gave those third parties the authority to resell that information for an unspecified fee and without the payment of any additional fee to PennDOT. Matzie introduced legislation in both the Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., was appointed by House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody to serve on the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Wholesale and Retail Privatization Commission. "Last year's law that changed alcohol sales in Pennsylvania, Act 39, also set up this commission to research and make recommendations about any further privatization of wine or liquor sales," Kinsey said. "I am very skeptical of any further privatization, especially at this time. The state store system provides more than 3,000 family-sustaining jobs, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue each year that we can count on at a time when the state has a massive deficit. And two different reports in recent years have said that selling off the state stores would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion in transition and stranded costs. "Alcohol is not hard to get in Pennsylvania. In fact, in Philadelphia, we have been working to address the issue of 'stop-and-go' convenience stores that take advantage of current laws to sell alcohol," Kinsey said. Kinsey and Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., recently hosted a public meeting in northwest Philadelphia on the "stop and go" issue with officials from the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. Kinsey said, "I will continue to look at this matter closely Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, has been appointed Democratic chairman of the House Ethics Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session, an eight-member body whose mission is ensuring House members and staff uphold high standards of conduct. Costa said the committee’s duties include investigating and dealing with alleged violations of House rules, and issuing advisory opinions at the request of House members or employees. The legislative code of ethics, the lobby disclosure act and developing new rules of ethical conduct also fall under its purview, Costa said, as does planning and conducting House ethics education courses – including updating and distributing member and staff handbooks on ethical conduct. “Being selected as the ranking Democrat on this important committee is an honor and a solemn obligation,” Costa said. “Of all the things applicable to holding a public service position while maintaining the public’s trust, none is more important that carrying out one’s duties in the highest ethical manner and making sure your actions are beyond reproach.” Costa said the House Ethics Committee is evenly split with four Democratic and four Republican members, and meets as needed to fulfill its statutory obligations and handle any matters brought before it. Other Democratic members of the committee are state Reps. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh; Steven Kinsey, Read more
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