LATROBE, May 16 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced Shannon Cypher has joined his district office staff as a legislative assistant and will be working daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Latrobe office, located in the Latrobe Municipal Building at Jefferson Street. Petrarca said Cypher, who has experience in state government, is well-versed in handling a variety of issues and concerns for constituents. “It’s vital that as elected officials, we be accessible to the people we serve,” Petrarca said. “Shannon is excited to help constituents with various PennDOT and Department of Revenue forms, as well as any questions about state services, programs and notary services.” The Latrobe office can be reached at (724) 539-7560. Petrarca also has district offices located at 620 N. Chestnut St. in Derry and 239 Longfellow St. in Vandergrift. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 16 – Bethlehem-Center and Carmichaels school district students will have access to a healthy breakfast, thanks to a grant through the state’s School Breakfast Initiative, announced state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington. The Bethlehem-Center School District was awarded $15,000 through the program, with Carmichaels Area School District awarded $8,247. “Breakfast is one the most important meals of the day, especially for students,” Snyder said. “We know that nutrition plays a key role in a child’s development, but also in their academic performance. This funding will allow students to focus less on their empty stomachs and more so on their schoolwork.” The state’s School Breakfast Initiative, which launched two years ago, allows schools to use grants to increase and sustain breakfast participation by implementing or expanding alternative breakfast options, including grab-and-go breakfasts, or breakfast in the classroom. Schools can also expand an existing program to include an alternative serving method. “The state’s Department of Education notes that only half of students who receive a free or reduced lunch also receive breakfast,” Snyder said. “These grants will enable schools to address food security issues, while at the same time, also help more students in need, either through starting a new breakfast program or improving an existing Read more
HARRISBURG, May 16 – State grants totaling $19,161 will fund breakfast programs for four schools in the 7 th Legislative District, state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, announced. Longietti said the funding – part of the governor’s School Breakfast Initiative – should boost student performance. “There’s a clear link between nutrition and academic achievement, and that’s especially true when it comes to breakfast,” Longietti said. “Studies have shown that kids who eat breakfast before class are two times more likely to perform well on tests than those who don’t. I’m especially pleased that we were able to help secure this funding, which will go a long way toward ensuring our kids perform at their best.” Longietti said the following Mercer County schools will receive grants: Case Avenue Elementary School – $4,860 Sharon Senior High School – $4,958 West Hill Elementary School – $4,976 C.M. Musser Elementary School – $4,367 Launched two years ago, the School Breakfast Initiative provides schools funding to implement breakfast programs using alternative serving methods such as “grab-and-go” or breakfast in the classroom. Schools can also expand an existing program to include an alternative serving method. Read more
MALVERN, May 15 – State Rep. Kristine Howard, D-Chester, announced that she will hold a Kids Fest from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 1 at Kathryn Markley Elementary School, located at 354 Swedesford Rd., Malvern, PA 19355. Several local organizations will participate, including the East Whiteland Fire and Police Departments, the SPCA, the Chester County Historical Society, and the Chester County Library. Festivities will include activities such as face painting, touch a firetruck, story time with the Rep. and more! Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – A measure to allow Pennsylvania veterans to participate in state prescription drug assistance programs – even if a state veterans’ benefit or federal disability payment puts them over the income limit – has unanimously passed the House, announced state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny. Kortz, a co-sponsor of H.B. 375 , said the measure would remove the value of federal veterans’ disability payments and the value of all state service-connected payments from income eligibility calculations for the PACE and PACENET programs. Currently, state law requires that these payments be counted as income. “This vote means we can move ahead to protect our veterans’ access to these valuable programs,” Kortz said. “Our veterans have given so much to our country, and a bonus or stipend that he or she receives because of their service should not disqualify them from PACE or PACENET.” The income limits for PACE eligibility are $14,500 for a single person and $17,700 for a married couple. PACENET income limits are slightly higher. For a single person, total income can be between $14,500 and $27,500. For a married couple, combined total income can be between $17,700 and $35,500. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – State grants totaling $12,236 to two area school districts will help Lawrence County students start their day with a nutritious breakfast, state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, announced today. “Ensuring that our students have a healthy meal at the start of the day helps equip them for success,” Sainato said. “It’s well known that students learn and retain information better after they’ve had a decent breakfast. That translates to better test scores and greater confidence, both inside and outside the classroom. I’m extremely pleased that our efforts in securing these grants were successful, as the funding will help ensure that our kids are getting the resources they need to do their best.” Sainato said the following Lawrence County schools will receive grants under the program: Union Area School District – Lawrence Union Area High School – $2,718 Union Area School District – Lawrence Union Memorial Elementary School – $2,718 Wilmington Area School District – Lawrence Wilmington Elementary School – $2,200 Wilmington Area School District – Lawrence Wilmington Area High School – $4,600 Launched two years ago, the initiative provides schools funding to implement breakfast programs using alternative serving methods such as “grab-and-go” or breakfast in the classroom. Schools can also expand an existing program to include an Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – State Rep. Wendy Ullman is fighting against environmentally dangerous legislation that could be voted on at any moment. Ullman argues that H.B. 827 undercuts an agency’s right to regulate Pennsylvania’s water quality and so threatens Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and water. The bill is expected to be voted on when the legislature returns to session in June. “I’m fighting for our environment,” Ullman said. “Our environment’s health and welfare are dependent on upholding the authority of regulatory agencies such as Delaware River Basin Commission and our commonwealth’s constitution.” The bill would address the regulations adopted by the DRBC that prohibit natural gas fracking activities within the basin , saying that the ban constitutes a taking of property. The bill would declare that the DRBC owes the oil and gas estate owners compensation. Ullman said H.B. 827 would bankrupt the commission by requiring it to compensate landowners because hydraulic fracturing can’t take place on their property – even though the fracking ban does not prohibit other gas drilling and development activities. The amendment to H.B. 827 that Ullman had proposed last week—that was ultimately defeated—held that a ban on hydraulic fracturing would not constitute a taking of property and emphasized the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi announced that schools in the Perkiomen Valley, Pottsgrove and Pottstown school districts will receive grants through Gov. Tom Wolf’s School Breakfast Initiative. Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 151 schools. The funds can be used to implement a school breakfast program using an “alternative serving method” like grab-and-go or breakfast in the classroom, or to expand an existing program. “We can’t expect children to learn if they’re hungry when they arrive at school. These grants make it easier for schools to get breakfast to all students, so they are ready to take on the day,” said Ciresi, D-Montgomery. “I’m pleased to see our local school districts awarded these grants to help meet students’ needs.” The recipients are: Perkiomen Valley School District Schwenksville Elementary, $4,882 Pottsgrove School District West Pottsgrove Elementary School, $3,382 Pottsgrove Senior High School, $3,745 Ringing Rocks Elementary School, $3,402 Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School, $3,382 Pottstown School District Rupert Elementary School, $5,000 “Students are more focused and in a better position to learn when they start their days with a healthy, nutritious meal,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “However, we know that only about 52% of the students who receive a free or reduced lunch also receive Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – More Erie students will start their day with a healthy breakfast thanks to more than $8,500 in state grants, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, announced today. Bizzarro said the grants promise to fuel better academic performance for area kids. “Just as nutrition plays in a key role in child development, it’s also strongly tied to academic performance. Studies show that a proper breakfast improves kids’ concentration, thinking and other skills needed for success in the classroom. I’m so glad our efforts to bring about this funding were successful. Our kids deserve every chance to be their best.” The funding, which is part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s School Breakfast Initiative, includes $4,660 to General McLane High School and $3,843 to the Montessori Regional Charter School. Launched two years ago, the initiative provides schools funding to implement breakfast programs using alternative serving methods such as “grab-and-go” or breakfast in the classroom. Schools can also expand an existing program to include an alternative serving method. Read more
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed state Rep. Neal P. Goodman’s bill that would allow Pennsylvania veterans to participate in state prescription drug assistance programs if a state veterans’ benefit or federal disability payment puts them over the income limit. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – The House today unanimously passed a bill that would remove outdated, derogatory language from the state’s Public School Code, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie. “Our laws are a reflection of our values as a society,” Harkins said. “Pennsylvania has made measurable progress in updating our classrooms and educational programs to be inclusive of students with mental health issues and disabilities. At the same time, however, derogatory terms such as ‘defective’ and ‘handicapped’ remain in the Public School Code. “Language is powerful: Studies have shown that the use of certain words and phrases maintains the stigma surrounding mental health issues and disabilities. It is time to update our laws so that they keep pace with our advancement toward a more inclusive society. I’m extremely pleased that the House unanimously passed this legislation. Removing such language from our laws would go a long way toward eliminating it from speech, social interactions and perceptions.” The bill (H.B. 1196) now heads to the state Senate for consideration and a vote. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – State Reps. Robert Freeman, Lee James and state Sen. David G. Argall said a report about the state’s historic preservation incentive tax credit program shows it is successful but that it should be enhanced. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – A bill to allow more veterans to participate in state prescription drug assistance programs unanimously passed in the House, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced today. Petrarca, who is a co-sponsor of H.B. 375 , said the bill would remove the value of all state service- connected payments and federal veterans’ disability payments from being counted toward the income eligibility calculations for the PACE and PACENET prescription drug programs. State law currently requires that these payments be counted as income. “I’m pleased we can move forward to protect our veterans’ access to these valuable programs,” Petrarca said. “They have served their country with grace and dignity, and a bonus or stipend that he or she receives should not disqualify them from PACE or PACENET.” The income limits for PACE eligibility are $14,500 for a single person and $17,700 for a married couple. PACENET income limits are slightly higher. For a single person, total income can be between $14,500 and $23,500. For a married couple, combined total income can be between $17,700 and $31,500. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – State Rep. Steve Malagari will soon introduce legislation that would exempt detection dogs from licensing fees in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Dog Law already exempts the payment of licensing fees for service dogs and police dogs, but not for detection dogs. Malagari’s bill would remedy the situation and include detection dogs under the exemption. “Detection dogs are trained to protect our communities in emergency situations – sniffing out accelerants, explosives and narcotics. Given that, it’s fitting that we offer the same exemptions for those dogs as we do for police and service dogs,” said Malagari, D-Montgomery. “My bill would support the handlers who work with these dogs in recognition of the vital service they provide.” Malagari circulated a memo seeking support for the bill today. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 15 – Saying the move falls squarely in line with his written request in 2017 to hold Big Pharma accountable, state Rep. Frank Burns is applauding the state attorney general’s decision to sue the maker of OxyContin for contributing to the opioid crisis plaguing Pennsylvania. Burns, D-Cambria, commended Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a former Democratic House colleague, for filing the suit against Purdue Pharma for its over-zealous marketing of the drug, which included a mind-boggling 531,000 visits to physicians’ offices and pharmacies. “My good friend Josh Shapiro has taken this company to court, alleging a multi-pronged, illegal effort to market OxyContin, an addictive opioid that doctors overprescribed and, in some cases, illegally prescribed to patients,” Burns said. “This lawsuit is exactly the type of action I had in mind when I wrote letters to Mr. Shapiro and Governor Tom Wolf , asking them to take action against the makers and peddlers of prescription opioids.” Burns said he recognized early on that pharmaceutical companies were lining their pockets and putting profits ahead of the addiction and deaths of thousands of Pennsylvanians each year. He added that Shapiro’s lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma of targeting vulnerable populations, including the elderly and veterans, which is unconscionable. “Hearing that makes my blood boil – and makes me glad that Mr. Shapiro is going to make this Read more
HARRISBURG, May 14 – The state House of Representatives today unanimously approved Rep. Mike Zabel’s resolution marking the 10-year anniversary of the founding of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, whose experts have helped exonerate eight Pennsylvanians since 2009. Pennsylvania has marked 67 exonerations in its history, according to the National Registry of Exonerations and according to the project, the wrongfully convicted served over 800 years of prison time while innocent. Since 2009, the project’s experts have exonerated cases for eight Pennsylvanians. “Thanks to fantastic public collaboration, including from the state, the project has accomplished nothing short of miracles for wrongfully convicted Pennsylvanians and their loved ones,” Zabel said. “Few can imagine the horror and terror of serving time for a crime you did not commit, and the project will work until no one has to.” The project also provides clinical training to tomorrow’s law, journalism, criminal justice and forensic science professionals while collaborating with law enforcement agencies and the courts to address systemic factors of wrongful convictions. Attending Monday's ceremony were Pennsylvania Innocence Project Executive Director Marissa B. Bluestine, members of the board of directors Jeffery Bresch from Pittsburgh and Board President Howard Scher from Philadelphia, as well as founding board members David Richman and Read more
State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., Democratic Whip, issued the following statement today upon the passage of H.B. 321:“Unfortunately, with the passage of House Bill 321, it seems as though some legislators in the House who consider themselves pro-life are simply pro-birth. I say this because today we heard verbose speeches about the value of the life of a child born with Down syndrome, and make no mistake, there is abundant value in their life. The value of their life was never in question. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 14 – State Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks, said legislation that would prohibit child marriage in Pennsylvania before the age of 18 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee today and can now be considered by the full House. Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford/Fulton/Franklin, and Warren are the bill’s co-prime sponsors. “This bill is about child protection. Studies have shown that a child often does not have the capacity to make a decision to marry before 18, and a child under 18 does not have the legal rights of an adult,” Warren said. Warren added that child marriages are often coercive and exploitative and increase the risk of domestic violence while undermining the child’s long-term educational, health and economic opportunities. Under current Pennsylvania law, a marriage license may be issued to an applicant younger than 16 with court approval. A marriage license also may be issued where an applicant is older than 16 but younger than 18 with the consent of a parent or guardian. The Warren/Topper bill (H.B. 360) would repeal those exceptions and set the minimum age at which a marriage license may be issued to 18. Warren said the issue of child marriage was brought to his attention in 2017 by two constituents, including Newtown Borough Councilor Tara Grunde-McLoughlin. “When I speak about this bill,” Warren said, “invariably someone asks, ‘Child marriage – is that a thing?’ It is, Read more
HARRISBURG, May 14 – Saying ‘enough is enough,’ state Rep. Frank Burns is urging swift action on efforts to crack down on welfare fraud, citing a report this week from the state inspector general, which charged 178 people with fraud that cost the state nearly $890,000. “How is it possible so many people are scamming the welfare system of close to $900,000? The system is broken and it’s time the legislature stops ignoring the problem and takes action,” Burns said. “It’s a slap in the face to the people who truly need assistance and to the hardworking taxpayers of Pennsylvania.” Burns, D-Cambria, a longtime advocate of welfare reform, recently signed on as a supporter of legislation to create a pilot program to move welfare recipients to full-time jobs in one year. The “welfare to work” bill would establish a public-private partnership designed to wean welfare recipients off the system by letting them continue to collect benefits while gradually phasing in pay for their full-time work. Burns has sponsored a variety of welfare reform bills, including measures that would require drug testing for individuals to receive public assistance and would place photo IDs on welfare benefits cards – both efforts that could prevent welfare fraud, he added. “People who can work should be working, not living off the system, and the vast majority of people in my district feel the Read more
HARRISBURG, May 13 – The House today unanimously passed legislation that would allow Pennsylvania National Guard members to earn educational benefits for their spouses and children after completing a service obligation and committing to serve an additional six years, according to state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, one of the bill’s two prime sponsors. Sainato, who is Democratic chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, co-authored H.B. 1324 to establish the Military Family Education Program with Republican chairman state Rep. Steve Barrar, R-Chester/Delaware, as an incentive to boost Guard retention rates while providing a deserved benefit to family members. “This legislation shows what can happen when a committee works together in a bipartisan fashion,” Sainato said. “Majority Chairman Barrar and I went to Fort Indiantown Gap; we met with stakeholders; we worked with the governor; and we have been focused on this legislation ever since. It’s a shining example of what can be accomplished when you work together to focus on legislation that’s truly needed. “It’s clear that we need retention in the National Guard, so this legislation would be a win-win for everyone. For our higher educational institutions, for our Guard members who do so much to protect our safety and for their families, who sacrifice so much as well.” Sainato said the program would be similar to the Read more
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