HARRISBURG, Dec. 15 – The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded Delaware County a $62,800 grant for the development of the Darby Creek Trail, state Rep. Margo Davidson announced today. The grant, which comes from DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program, will go toward planning a half-mile section along the trail from Kent County Park in Darby Township to the Gateway Trail in Lansdowne. “Parks and trails greatly contribute to the livability and quality of our communities,” Davidson said. “This was a competitive application that I supported, and it was selected among more than 400 applicants from across the commonwealth. The money will help lower costs for the project and keep it moving. I’m looking forward to the results.” “When the state chooses to invest in Lansdowne, it’s doing so because it realizes that an investment here reflects on the great people, places and opportunities that our community offers,” said Lansdowne Mayor Anthony Campuzano. “This trail project reflects highly on the hard work of local residents and stakeholders, and I’m proud to congratulate them and say thank you for contributing to the quality of life in Lansdowne.” Statewide investments under the program include: 49 trail projects; protecting nearly 8,000 acres of open space; nine projects for planting riparian buffers along streams; 14 projects Read more
Time is running out to file a 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program application. The good news is the deadline to apply has been extended to Jan. 2 and it's free to apply. This benefits: Eligible Pennsylvanians 65 or older; Widows and widowers 50 or older; and People with disabilities 18 or older. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates can boost rebates to $975. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, but please don’t assume you are not eligible. Early next year, the Department of Revenue will make application forms available for those eligible to apply for rebates on property taxes and rent paid in 2017 . Click here for application information and to find out if you qualify. Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 13 – State Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Phila., said he is thrilled that the Senate unanimously passed his legislation that would help Pennsylvania veterans receive federal, state and local benefits. It now awaits Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature. House Bill 1231 would expand the existing Department of Military and Veterans Affairs registry’s reach by bringing other agencies into the process of identifying veterans who stand to benefit. Currently, the DMVA manages an online registry that lists more than 10,000 veterans, but that number is still significantly less than the 894,000 veterans living in Pennsylvania. “There are hundreds of thousands of veterans in Pennsylvania who are potentially missing out on the opportunities and benefits others are receiving through the DMVA registry,” Solomon said. “That’s unacceptable and that’s why this legislation is so crucial.” This bipartisan effort was first co-sponsored by state Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield/Elk. “This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” Solomon explained. “This is simply an issue of ensuring these brave individuals, who put their lives on the line for our freedom, are given the treatment they undoubtedly deserve.” The legislation passed the House in June. Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 13 – The state Senate today passed a bill (S.B. 446) that includes state Rep. Angel Cruz’s language to address the "Air Bridge" issue. “This legislation is needed now more than ever as we face one of the greatest public health epidemics of our time. Addiction is a terrible disease and, without standards for recovery houses, unofficial programs such as ‘Air Bridge’ will continue to take advantage of people,” Cruz said. Cruz’s proposal would ban the owners, administrators and employees of recovery houses from requiring residents to sign over their public assistance benefits. It also would ensure that all drug and alcohol recovery houses throughout Pennsylvania not in compliance with federal, state or local law be referred to the appropriate agency for further investigation. “I’d like to acknowledge the prime sponsor of the bill for his commitment and support to resolve this issue. I am confident the governor will sign the legislation into law,” Cruz said. Air Bridge is a network that promised Puerto Rican drug addicts treatment in lavish recovery houses in cities like Philadelphia. However, once people arrive to receive treatment, they are taken to live in rundown homes, share beds with several other people and are forced to relinquish their food stamps and other public assistance benefits. In April, Cruz led a public hearing in Philadelphia to discuss and find a solution to the Read more
Rep. Brandon Neuman reports that his district office along Washington Road in North Strabane Township will close in late December. However, Neuman’s second office in the George Washington Hotel in downtown Washington, will remain open for the foreseeable future. Read more
Legislation that would allow direct negotiations on the sale of the Allentown State Hospital grounds is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for his signature following passage by the General Assembly, according to state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, and state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. “Passage of this legislation is an essential step in allowing the Department of General Services to negotiate the sale of this highly important and valuable piece of state property within the city," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne said. "The proper development of this site is vital to the continued economic growth and well-being of Allentown and something we will monitor closely as this process moves forward.” Schlossberg said he believes it is his duty to keep constituents informed on the status of this highly visible anchor property on the East Side. “Since before I took office, the status and future of the Allentown State Hospital has been a concern for residents as vacant buildings and neglected property stand to attract unwanted activity and result in blight,” Schlossberg said. “I look forward to working with Senator Browne to ensure the sale of the state hospital enhances the quality of life of the East Side.” According to Schlossberg and Browne, this legislation gives the state three years to come to an agreement with the buyer for the property. The buyer would need to comply with all Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 13 – A bill authored by state Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., to rename a bridge after a Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty passed the Senate today. “Officer Gary Frank Skerski is the best example of a public servant. He was dedicated to the community and passionate about his job. He devoted and gave his life to protect our people. We will always remember his sacrifice and we will work to keep his legacy alive,” Dawkins said. House Bill 1778 would designate a bridge on a portion of state Route 1005, also known as Castor Avenue, as the Officer Gary Frank Skerski Memorial Bridge. The bill has been sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature. Officer Gary Frank Skerski was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2006, while responding to a reported armed robbery at a café near the intersection of Arrott and Adams avenues in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. He had served with the Philadelphia Police Department for 16 years and was assigned to the 15th District. Read more
State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, announced that the city of Easton and Hellertown Borough has received a total of $278,000 in state funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Freeman said the Community Conservation Partnerships Program allows the public and private sector to work together to make neighborhoods and business areas economically strong. The grant awards are as follows: The city of Easton - $100,000 for rehabilitation and further development of Centre Square Park. Work will include renovation of a pedestrian plaza and pedestrian walk ways; installation of lighting; ADA access; landscaping, and other related site improvements. Hellertown Borough - $178,000 Rehabilitation of Dimmick Park. Work will include installation of play equipment with required safety surfacing; construction of storm water management measures; ADA access, landscaping, and other related site improvements. "These grants mean a great deal to communities for projects without placing the additional cost onto local taxpayers," Freeman said. The program is administered by DCNR. The Community Conservation Partnerships Program is designed to help local governments and recreation and conservation organizations with funding to help with projects related to parks, conservation and recreation Read more
State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation that would make health insurance more affordable for Pennsylvanians by permitting the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to sell health insurance. The State Workers' Insurance Fund within the Department of Labor and Industry was established by law many years ago to provide a workers' compensation program for Pennsylvania businesses that could not access workers' comp insurance in the private sector. It is only permitted to sell workers' compensation insurance. Freeman's bill would expand its offerings to include health insurance. "By allowing SWIF to offer health insurance, it would make a quality insurance product available to Pennsylvanians at a lower cost than current rates because of its lower administrative overhead, and it would create more competition within the health insurance market," Freeman said. "In addition, by making this available in the market, it would serve as a yardstick by which to measure the fairness of rates charged by private health insurance companies. "Health insurance rates are increasing considerably. I believe that this proposal will effectively bring health care policies back to an affordable range for the average Pennsylvanian. It would offer a less costly alternative to the current private health plans offered today," he said. Freeman said this new ability would not be an extra cost to taxpayers; the Read more
Rep. Brandon Neuman reports that the state House has unanimously passed his legislation -- H.B. 1821-- which would bolster efforts to ensure timely testing of evidence from sexual assaults. “The House vote is a significant step forward to making sure that sexual assault victims and their families receive justice,” Neuman said. Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 13 – State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Phila., voted against legislation that targets workers’ voluntary contributions to the unions that represent them. Senate Bill 166, also known as the paycheck protection bill, was intended to limit unions’ political donations by prohibiting state, county and local governments from using their payroll systems to let workers voluntarily ask their employers to deduct money for their respective union’s political action committees. The House defeated the bill, 102-90. Neilson said the legislation would have taken back achievements and rights acquired after decades of efforts and advocacy through contract negotiations and the collective bargaining process. “This was an attack on our union worker rights and an attempt to silence their voice in the political process,” Neilson said. “Senate Bill 166 would have put in danger workplace democracy and it would have translated into the weakening of the rights of public sector employees. Workers would not have been able to have a voice for themselves to fight against efforts to privatize or eliminate their jobs. We could have potentially lost thousands of jobs.” He also indicated that states subjected to paycheck protection and similar policies experience higher rates of poverty, greater risk of worker injury and fewer benefits. “We cannot allow such policies to take root in our commonwealth. Our legislature needs to shift its Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 13 – Legislation to better regulate recovery houses in Pennsylvania unanimously passed the House yesterday, including measures to safeguard communities and improve services pushed for by state Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks. Davis advocated for changes to Senate Bill 446 that would ensure that a residence applying for certification would be inspected and monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. The department also would develop and administer a certification program and standards for operation of recovery residences that receive state or federal funding. Davis said changes offered in the bill reflect county and community input received at numerous public hearings and from testimony and reports delivered by The Bucks County Association of Township Officials. “BCATO helped shine tremendous light on how dangerous and unhealthy many recovery homes can be,” Davis said. “Thanks to their critical input, all Pennsylvania communities can benefit from a better-written law.” The bill heads back to the Senate for concurrence in changes. Read more
Rep. Pam Snyder reports that the state House has overwhelmingly approved her measure that would cover motorcycles under Pennsylvania’s Automobile Lemon Law. “Motorcyclists deserve this safeguard when serious defects are found,” Snyder said. Read more
PITTSBURGH, Dec. 12 – Reiterating his longstanding belief that all medical decisions are best left to doctors and patients, state Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny, offered the following statement regarding S.B. 3, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks – down from the current 24 – and make no exceptions for pregnancies for rape or incest, or for seriously malformed fetuses: “While I do not believe that abortion should be used as a form of birth control, I am of the firm belief that such decisions should be made between the doctor and the patient – not by me. I am not a doctor, but I have heard from OB-GYNs that this bill would be limiting their ability to treat their patients. “I evaluate each and every bill and amendment carefully – on some I have been pro-life, on some pro-choice – but ultimately the goal should be the health and safety of the patient. To accomplish that, you’ve got to give doctors the ability to do their jobs. “Personally, I believe that if a patient gets to the 24th week, they fully intended to see the pregnancy through but something drastic must have happened. In such instances, it makes no sense to restrict or limit the safe medical options available to them.” Costa also noted that S.B. 3 is similar in intent to H.B. 1948 of 2016, which he also voted against. Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 12 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., released the following statement condemning a bill ( H.B. 1940 ) which he argues would make unnecessary changes to Pennsylvania’s budget. While Rabb voted against it, the bill passed the House on a largely party-line 116-76 vote: “House Bill 1940 is nothing more than a gimmick and a poor attempt to displace responsibility for passing a fair and balanced budget from the state legislature to the governor. Each year, all 253 members of the Pennsylvania legislature are constitutionally required to present the governor with a balanced budget no later than June 30. This year, the legislature failed to do that, just as it failed to do so the year before and the year before that. “Instead of displacing the blame from where it belongs, House Republicans should instead take the necessary strides to work together to finally have an on-time budget. My bill, H.B. 1706 , would do just that. My mandatory budget impasse transparency and accountability bill would require executive and legislative leaders to hold public hearings if comprehensive spending and revenue bills for the upcoming fiscal year have not been introduced by June 19. These leaders include the governor, state treasurer, secretary of revenue, auditor general, Independent Fiscal Office director, and majority and minority leadership for both the House and Senate. “These hearings would be required to last at least two hours and would be Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 12 – The Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral legislative group supporting women’s health issues, today introduced this session's Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health in a news conference. The agenda is a package of bills supported by the caucus. Caucus co-chairs state Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks; and state Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and Frank Farry, R-Bucks, were joined by outside advocates to discuss the agenda. The Agenda for Women’s Health covers a broad range of proposals that advance three main goals to enhance the health and well-being of women, families and communities: safety and dignity; economic security; and access to health services across the lifespan. “The Women’s Health Agenda is about empowering the 6.5 million women living in Pennsylvania,” Schwank said. “These bills will help them, and, in turn, help Pennsylvania prosper. The ability for our state to grow culturally and economically depends on how we face new challenges. The Women’s Health Caucus recognizes that we cannot afford attitudes and practices that hamper, stifle and waste the talent, skills and creativity women – and sometimes only women – can bring to the table.” Women’s Health Caucus co-chair Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said: “Members from all political parties have a shared interest in empowering women to live healthier, happier lives. It is encouraging Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 12 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware welcomed more than 500 seniors from the 191 st Legislative District to her Holiday Senior Fitness Expo. The event was hosted by Thera Martin Milling of WURD 900AM and offered health screenings by Bayada Hospice and Mercy Health System, fitness for seniors and healthy eating demonstrations by Audra Anusionwu of BeautiFitStrong, LLC, health and wellness information from Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, Catholic Social Services, Connect Health, Penn Medicine, Rite-Aid, PECO and Philadelphia Water Department, and musical selections by Evelyn Graves Drama Ministry and Cornerstone Christian Academy. “Whether it’s keeping fit and eating well or just having a good time, there was certainly something for everyone at this event,” McClinton said. “It was great to meet with many of the seniors in attendance and provide them with resources to help them live healthy and happy.” The event was sponsored by Mercy Health System, Greater Philadelphia Health Action, Inc., Aetna, AmeriHealth VIP Plans, Health Partners, AARP of Pennsylvania, and Legendary Support Group. McClinton said in addition to the event sponsors, she wanted to thank the community partners and volunteers. “I am thrilled with the wonderful turnout we had. I cannot thank the vendors, sponsors and staff enough. They went above and beyond to make this event an amazing success,” McClinton said. Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 12 – State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, in partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department, is hosting a FREE gun lock giveaway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16. The locks will be distributed at four different locations: 19th Police District: Shoprite Super Market, 1575 N. 52nd St. 18th District: 5510 Pine St. (District Headquarters) 16th District: 3900 Lancaster Ave. (District Headquarters) 12th District: 6448 Woodland Ave. (District Headquarters) “A handgun in the home is more likely to be used to injure or kill a family member or acquaintance than an intruder,” Brown said. “What we want to do with this event is prevent access to firearms by children and criminals as a strategy to reduce the continuing toll of gun violence, injuries and deaths, especially for children and families.” Brown said studies have demonstrated that a gun-lock giveaway, supported with written information and brief gun-safety counseling, results in significant improvements in safe gun storage behaviors, which save children’s lives. The statistics, she said, are sobering. According to the Center for American Progress : From 2001 through 2010 there were 12,941 gun deaths in Pennsylvania -- the fourth-most gun deaths of all 50 states. In 2010, Pennsylvania had the fifth-highest rate of gun homicides among children and teens 19 and younger in the country. “Up to 40 percent of Read more
SCRANTON, Dec. 12 – A staffer from state Rep. Marty Flynn's office will provide outreach assistance next week in South Abington Township. The visit will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Dec. 20 at the South Abington Township Building, 2nd floor meeting room, 104 Shady Lane Road, Chinchilla. The monthly outreach visits alternate on the third Wednesday of every month between South Abington Township and Clarks Green. Flynn's staff can help with Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program applications, LIHEAP, PennDOT paperwork, unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, PACE/PACENET prescription-drug coverage, unclaimed property searches and any other state-related matter. His main office – in Jay's Commons, 409 N. Main Ave. – is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is 570-342-4348. Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 12 – A resolution ( H.B. 626 ) sponsored by state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., designating Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2017 as “Kwanzaa Week” in Pennsylvania was unanimously adopted in the House of Representatives. Created in 1966, Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that celebrates African heritage throughout the world. “Thank you to my colleagues in the House for recognizing the cultural significance Kwanzaa holds for people of African descent throughout the world,” Brown said. “Kwanzaa reflects the resilience of the African-American spirit. It allows us to pinpoint and reconnect with our long lost culture.” To commemorate the holiday, Brown is hosting a Kwanzaa celebration event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch St. The event will feature cultural presentations and performances by local artists to tell African history through storytelling and song. Brown’s staff will be available to answer state-related questions on programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This family-friendly event will be free and open to the community. Attendees must RSVP and receive a ticket to attend by contacting Brown’s constituent service office at 215-879-6615. ### Read more
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