HARRISBURG, June 12 – The Northeastern Intermediate Unit was recently awarded a $399,099 grant for use in the Scranton School District, according to state Rep. Kyle Mullins. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 12 – Public utilities and municipal authorities would be required to restore a roadway to the same or better condition as when they start underground work, under legislation introduced this week by state Rep. Gerald Mullery. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 12 – State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., today announced the formal introduction of bipartisan legislation aimed at ensuring adequate mental health resources for students in public schools. Known as “Phillip’s Law,” the bill ( H.B. 1622 ) would require the Department of Education to investigate the number of school mental health professionals available to students, as well as make recommendations on how to increase their numbers to meet nationally accepted levels. It was introduced by Kenyatta and state Reps. Wendi Thomas, R-Bucks, and Joanna McClinton, D-Phila. Kenyatta suggested the legislation following the death of an 11-year-old student from his district, Phillip, who committed suicide after school. The child’s family said he urgently tried to get the attention of support staff but was unable to connect. “When an 11-year-old takes his life, everyone must take stock of how and why children can get that far in their despair,” Kenyatta said. “The tragedy of Phillip’s passing sheds light on the fact that school mental health professionals are not always available or equipped to identify and intervene when a child is suffering. In fact, there is no mandate for schools to retain mental health staff, and there certainly is not enough funding provided for it. But there should be.” Kenyatta recently created an action item on his website, www.pahouse.com/Kenyatta , to give Pennsylvanians the Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Kristine Howard, D-Chester, the first Pennsylvania legislator to call on accused sexual harasser Sen. Daylin Leach to withdraw intimidating lawsuits he filed against three of his accusers, today lent her support to two bills introduced by Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, which address sexual harassment in the workplace – “#TimesUP - Sexual Harassment by Public Officials” and “Preventing Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace.” These bills together carry a bipartisan group of over 50 co-sponsors. The first bill would expand the duties of the State Ethics Commission, an independent state agency, to include investigating sexual harassment claims against officials and public employees at all levels of government in Pennsylvania. “A position of power should not exonerate wrongdoers,” Howard said. “This legislation will prevent the sort of legal extortion carried out by accused abusers like Senator Leach, who I called on back in February to withdraw lawsuits he filed against his less financially well off accusers.” Davidson’s legislation would help foster an environment within the legislature where victims of harassment and discrimination can come forward without fear of unwarranted retaliation. “For those who commit sexual harassment, we say, ‘Time’s Up,’” Davidson said. “Victims of sexual harassment involving people in positions Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, issued the following statement on House passage of H.B. 1524 , which would allow a tourist development project to acquire a liquor license for a flat $65,000 fee from the state Liquor Control Board, compared to current law where prospective business owners must purchase a liquor license from an existing licensee or be the highest bidder at a PLBC license auction: “Growing up in a family-run business, I know firsthand the struggles they face. It’s unfathomable that we would pass legislation that provides special advantages to big developers at the expense of mom-and-pop businesses in Pennsylvania. The sheer fact that this legislation is catering to one particular developer should outrage the public. “For the past 80 years, liquor licenses have been sold between two private businesses. This bill changes that by allowing the state to sell licenses directly to the developer for a flat fee, who can then turn around and sell them for a profit. We should be forcing these developers to look in the private sector for licenses and let the free market determine the price. “We’re rushing this bill through the legislature instead of taking time to do the right thing. There is a better way to accomplish the goals of this legislation and that is by overhauling antiquated liquor laws to allow restaurant licensees to sell across county lines. “Rather Read more
HARRISBURG, June 12 – State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, today announced that her amendment to H.B. 357 has been adopted in the House chamber. “Certain charter schools have complicated our public school funding formula for years, and the funding that goes to public schools should not be going to these charters if they have plans to disband or terminate their charter,” Hill-Evans said. “I’m happy that my colleagues have agreed to my amendment that would make it illegal to allow more students to enroll at a charter school if they plan to eliminate their charter. Our tax dollars and our students should not be sent to a charter school if it is going to be shut down within less than a year.” Hill-Evans' amendment would make it so that upon notification of a nonrenewal or termination of a charter, a charter school may not enroll new students unless the charter school files an appeal to the Charter School Appeal Board. If that appeal is denied, the charter school must immediately stop enrolling new students. In 2013-14, the York City School District paid $9 million in charter school tuition to New Hope Academy, with nearly half a million attributable to New Hope’s enrollment growth between 2012-13 and 2013-14. The school closed in 2014. The latest to shut down is Helen Thackston Charter School after a legal battle over audit reports with the York City School District, and a decision not to appeal the court ruling ordering it to Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, on Tuesday released the following statement on the passage of H.B. 3 , a bipartisan bill that would create an authority to operate a state-based health insurance exchange for Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual market plans, and enact a reinsurance program to reduce premium increases: “I am encouraged to see a bipartisan, consumer-oriented House bill quickly make its way through the House and move on to the state Senate. As Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, I was happy to quickly move this bill out of the committee and on to the House floor for a near-unanimous vote. This is good legislation – the type of legislation our constituents put us in office to draft and vote on. “I sponsored this legislation because, quite frankly, it’s a no-brainer. This is a bill that gives the commonwealth the opportunity to operate its own exchange at a lower cost than the federal government, while also reducing premium increases. It also would allow for the creation of a state reinsurance program, which would allow insurers to offer their products at a cheaper price by limiting their exposure to high, unpredictable medical expenses. “We have a great opportunity to help roughly 400,000 people struggling to afford quality health insurance for themselves and their families at no additional cost to the taxpayer. It’s my sincere Read more
As part of her ongoing fight for criminal justice reform, state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell is teaming up with state Sen. Vincent Hughes to hold an Expungement, Clemency, and Pardons Clinic this Friday, June 14. The event is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Bible Way Baptist Church, 1323 N. 52 nd St. Legal experts from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, Philadelphia Defenders Association, Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and Community Legal Services will be on hand to provide free information about the criminal justice system, explain eligibility requirements, and offer limited on-site application assistance. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – Residents have more time to apply for a rebate on property taxes or rent paid in 2018, as the deadline to apply for the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, announced today. “The program is a terrific way for qualifying residents to recoup a portion of their prior year’s housing expenses, and last year, nearly 572,000 applicants did just that,” Longietti said. “It’s helpful that the deadline has been extended, but I’m urging residents who meet the eligibility requirements to apply sooner, rather than later. Rebates take about six to eight weeks to process and are mailed out in the order claims are received and processed.” Longietti noted the program applies to residents who are 65 or older, widows or widowers 50 or older, and individuals with disabilities who are 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 annually for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Half of Social Security benefits are excluded when calculating income. Those eligible may qualify for a standard rebate of $650, although supplement rebates for some qualifying homeowners can boost that amount to $975. Spouses, personal representatives, or estates may file claims on behalf of deceased claimants who lived at least one day in 2018 and meet all the other requirements. Longietti said that his district office has applications, and any Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – Pennsylvania is one step closer to meaningfully controlling insurance premiums for residents insured through Affordable Care Act-based health insurance plans after the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to permit the commonwealth to create its own insurance exchange and reinsurance program, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, announced today. The federal government currently runs the insurance exchange – the means by which insurance plan choices, rates comparisons and other key information is delivered to consumers. “Today’s vote is a great example of what we can accomplish on both sides of the aisle when we work together,” said Bizzarro, a member of the House Insurance Committee and one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Pennsylvania’s more than 400,000 residents who rely on private insurance plans under the ACA are facing the prospect of escalating premiums. This bill would allow us to stabilize and hopefully reduce those premiums by taking the private ACA market out of federal control and placing it in the hands of the state, where it belongs. “The best part of the plan is that it would not impose any new costs on the state because it is based on what we’re already spending. The federal government – which currently runs the exchange – is expected to fund 75% of reinsurance program costs, while the remaining 25% would be paid for by the savings generated by converting Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, on Tuesday released the following statement on the passage of H.B. 3 , a bipartisan bill that would create an authority to operate a state-based health insurance exchange for Affordable Care Act individual market plans, and enact a reinsurance program to reduce premiums: “Today we have a win in the fight to provide all residents with affordable access to quality health coverage. Today’s near-unanimous passage of House Bill 3 shows in overwhelming fashion that all members of the House of Representatives recognize the need to provide residents with top-tier health coverage that in part also will save taxpayer money and stabilize premiums. “From the time this bill was introduced to the time it was quickly passed through the Insurance Committee, it was evident that the full House was working in unison to get this bill to the House floor for an affirmative vote. I’m encouraged to see the support behind this bill, and I’m hopeful it quickly makes its way to the governor’s desk so that it can be signed into law.” H.B. 3 now heads to the state Senate for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – Bipartisan legislation that would protect employees in the commonwealth from sexual harassment in the workplace passed in the House today by a vote of 199-0, said state Rep. Morgan Cephas, prime co-sponsor of the bill. House Bill 849 would prohibit employers from requiring current or prospective employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement related to sexual harassment as a condition of employment. It would not prevent such an agreement if both parties consent to it. “Sexual harassment can take many vile forms. The one thing all these reprehensible acts have in common, however, is that they frequently involve attempts by the perpetrator to silence the victim – to exert undue influence and power over them,” said Cephas, D-Phila. “It’s often done through an insidious practice in which the employee is forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement.” Cephas said the bill would prohibit employers from forcing employees to sign agreements that prevent them from disclosing, reporting or participating in a sexual harassment investigation. “This bill would be an important step toward protecting all employees in the commonwealth from the scourge of sexual harassment, the pain and humiliation it inflicts on victims and the havoc it can wreak on their lives,” Cephas noted. “The legislation is a product of bipartisan effort, thanks to the prime sponsor of the bill, Representative Kate Klunk.” House Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-Bucks, said she was proud to announce that state Sen. Sharif Street, D-03, would be introducing a companion bill in the state Senate that is modeled on Ullman’s legislation, H.B. 1322, which would create a 5-cent beverage bottle and can deposit program in Pennsylvania. Ullman’s bill is part of the House Democrats’ “Zero Waste PA” legislative package, which is aimed at reducing single-use plastics and addressing pervasive issues of litter and the various environmental harms caused by a “throwaway” society. “ We all know litter is unsightly and pollutes our streets, countryside and waterways, but it is also COSTLY,” Ullman said. “PennDOT spends upwards of $10 million a year cleaning up litter. Reducing the amount of beverage containers in the litter stream will bring a significant cost savings to taxpayers. “The fact that beverage containers alone make up about 6% of our waste stream and half of all litter shows that we need to do more to promote recycling in Pennsylvania. My legislation will support and reward recycling, which will ultimately reduce waste throughout Pennsylvania and keep our outdoor areas beautiful and free from litter.” Ullman’s 5 cent beverage bottle and can deposit program in Pennsylvania would include a redemption rate of 5 cents on returnable containers and a handling fee of 2 cents per Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took a major step toward better health care for state residents by voting today to establish a state-run health insurance exchange. “We have the opportunity to help 400,000 people struggling to afford good health insurance for themselves and their families,” Dermody said. “Currently these consumers have to buy their health insurance on the federal exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act. But the ACA also gives states the option to set up a state-specific exchange to connect insurance sellers with customers,” Dermody said. “By setting up a state-based exchange and leveraging federal funds to set up a re-insurance program to better manage risk in the individual market, we can better control premium increases in Pennsylvania.” Dermody noted that because the new state entity would be a full partnership with the federal government, it does not require new taxes or assessments. In fact Pennsylvania will be able to operate its exchange at a lower cost than the federal exchange and use those savings to provide additional insurance to Pennsylvania residents. He praised the bipartisan effort which led to today’s vote and thanked Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, as well as Reps. Tina Pickett and Tony DeLuca, the Republican and Democratic chairs of the House Insurance Committee. “We also got great support and suggestions Read more
LEVITTOWN, June 11 – State Rep. John Galloway said today that his district office will be accepting donations for the next month for the United Way of Bucks County’s Operation Helping Hand food drive. Nonperishable food donations can be dropped off at Galloway’s office at 8610 New Falls Road until Thursday, June 20th. Items especially needed include 100-percent fruit juice, cereal, peanut butter, canned chicken, tuna or salmon, canned fruits or vegetables, applesauce (no sugar added), oatmeal and pasta. “This is our fourth year participating in Operation Helping Hand, and I’m always amazed to see the generosity of our community,” said Galloway, D-Bucks. “I’m happy to be able to play a part in helping needy families in our area.” Anyone with questions can call Galloway’s office at 215-943-7206. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. John Galloway, D-Bucks, announced that legislation he spearheaded to provide funding for clean drinking water and infrastructure to remediate the toxic man-made chemicals known as pre- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, was voted with overwhelming bipartisan support out of the House Commerce Committee today. In 2006, when the federal government closed down the Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Montgomery County, it discovered significant environmental issues, including contamination of the drinking water in some Bucks and Montgomery county communities as a result of the use of firefighting foam at the military installation. “It’s unfair that local ratepayers and taxpayers have had to bear the costs of removing harmful contaminants from their drinking water when the federal government is responsible for the contamination,” Galloway said. There continues to be ongoing runoff from the military base and the continued pollution of the aquifer. The environmental and drinking water issues have delayed the redevelopment of the former military base, which has cost the commonwealth tax revenue and job opportunities. “Something had to be done to resolve this issue that impacts the health and welfare of many Pennsylvanians,” said Galloway, the minority chair of the House Commerce Committee. “That’s why I was proud to spearhead this important legislation that will Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – Touting his commitment to advancing legislation that benefits Pennsylvanians with intellectual and developmental disabilities, The Arc of Pennsylvania, an advocacy organization, has named state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, its 2019 “Representative of the Year.” The Arc of Pennsylvania , a branch of the largest nationwide advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, each year honors a legislator who demonstrates exceptional leadership in advancing legislation that benefits residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. On Tuesday, the organization’s annual legislative breakfast took place in Harrisburg. Miller was in attendance, and the organization presented him with an award that honors his designation as representative of the year. “Pennsylvania has a moral, legal, and fiscal responsibility to provide ladders of opportunities for all of its citizens,” Miller said. “Despite the progress of years passed we are simply failing to meet our obligation to our citizens with a disability, and we have a lot to do. I’d like to thank the Arc of Pennsylvania for the award, but more importantly for the work, advocacy, and partnership. Any progress I make stands on the shoulders of the countless advocates who came before me and I thank everyone for the opportunity to serve.” In a letter to the Allegheny Democrat, Sherri Landis, The Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – The House Health Committee today unanimously approved a bill that would bring much-needed transparency to the practices of middlemen companies hired to manage prescription drug benefit plans, according to the bill’s prime cosponsor, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny. Matzie said he introduced H.B. 941 with co-prime sponsor, state Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, to address mercenary practices by pharmacy benefit managers that threaten to destroy local pharmacies and injure consumers – particularly those in the state’s Medicaid program, where 90 percent of patients are served by managed care companies that contract with PBMs. “Pharmacy benefit managers are supposed to be working on behalf of consumers to lower drug costs,” said Matzie, who is co-chair of the state Community Pharmacy Caucus. “Instead, we’re finding that they’re overcharging patients and taxpayers millions and engaging in predatory pricing practices. “We’ve invested these middlemen companies with tremendous power. As rate-setters, they determine what drugs will be covered and how much pharmacies will be reimbursed. At the same time, we haven’t imposed much-needed oversight to ensure that they don’t abuse this power. The state’s consumers and small businesses are now paying the price. “For two years, I’ve been hearing from local pharmacies about how PBMs are slashing drug Read more
COATESVILLE, June 11 — State Reps. Dan Williams and Danielle Friel Otten, both D-Chester, announced that five schools within the Coatesville Area School District will share $400,000 in grant funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and its 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program. Schools within Williams’ legislative district that will receive these funds are Gordon Learning Center, South Brandywine Middle School and Scott Middle School; and schools awarded within Otten’s legislative district are Reeceville Elementary School and North Brandywine Middle School. According to Coatesville Area School District superintendent Cathy Taschner, the funds will go toward implementing before- and after-school programming. “The Coatesville Area School District is excited to be able to offer much needed before- and after-school programming for students through the 21st century learning grant,” Taschner said. “We want to thank our Chester County Intermediate Unit partners who have applied for this grant and included us in the process. We know that quality before- and after-school programming can improve academic performance, improve physical health, and provide a structured, safe environment for students. We look forward to the impact this grant will have on our students.” “This is a step in the right direction. All our Commonwealth’s businesses and citizens should be contributing to the costs required Read more
HARRISBURG, June 11 – The deadline to apply for a rebate on property taxes or rent paid in 2018 under the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended to Dec. 31, state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, announced today. “This extension is great news for the many eligible Pennsylvanians who benefit from this program,” Kortz said. “They include residents 65 and older; widows and widowers 50 and older; and people with disabilities 18 and older. It costs nothing to apply to the program, and my offices can help. Stop by to determine whether you’re eligible. We can also provide application forms and help you fill them out.” Kortz’s Dravosburg office is located at 751 Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd. and can be reached by calling 412-466-1940. His Pittsburgh office is located at 5101 Old Clairton Road and can be reached by calling 412-886-2870. Kortz added the program’s income eligibility limits are $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. For purposes of calculating income, half of Social Security is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, although supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. Kortz said that constituents seeking assistance must bring proof of local (county, borough and school) property taxes and proof of income, such as an IRS Form 1099. Residents can learn more about the program and download an application from the Read more
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