State Reps. Marc Gergely and Bill Kortz (both D-Allegheny), voted today for an amendment to House Bill 504 that aims to significantly lower property taxes for residents across Pennsylvania. Read more
ABINGTON, May 12 – State Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on education funding from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 27 in the Abington School District Administration Building, 970 Highland Ave. The hearing will examine Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget, which includes increased early-education funding, property tax reductions and funds to offset recent cuts to Pennsylvania schools. Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, will co-chair the hearing, which will feature testimony by local school districts, advocates for education investments and the Wolf administration. The current agenda is as follows: 10 a.m. Welcome and opening remarks 10:10 a.m. Sarah Galbally, deputy secretary for Office of Policy and Planning, Office of the Governor 10:30 a.m. Panel One: Dr. Amy Sichel, superintendent, Abington School District Dr. Deborah Wheeler, superintendent, Upper Dublin School District Frank Gallagher, superintendent, Souderton School District An Abington school director 11:10 a.m. Panel Two: Cecilia Bradbury, special education teacher, Philadelphia School District Lawrence Feinberg, circuit rider, Campaign for Fair Education Funding Donna Cooper, executive director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth 11:50 a.m. Closing Remarks The event is open to the public. Read more
Rep. Tina Davis voted for a proposal to provide property tax relief to long-suffering homeowners so the issue remains in the legislative spotlight during upcoming budget negotiations. The Bucks County Democrat says the proposal isn’t the final bill, but the vote ensures that the issue will not be pushed aside as budget deliberations proceed.
PHILADELPHIA, May 12 – Seeking to end Pennsylvania’s status as one of only two states that fail to tax state lottery winnings, state Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood, D-Phila., plans to introduce bills to close that loophole and start generating millions of dollars in new revenue. Youngblood’s two-bill package will mirror H.B. 1969 and H.B. 1970 from last legislative session, with the former removing the State Lottery Law tax exemption for winnings and the latter striking the exemption from the state Tax Reform Code. California is the only other state that doesn’t tax its state lottery winnings, said Youngblood, noting that Pennsylvania’s 3.07 percent personal income tax already applies to winnings from casino gambling, pari-mutuel thoroughbred horse racing and harness horse racing, games of chance and bingo. “These proposals have the potential to raise significant revenue for the commonwealth, without negatively impacting consumers, the poor, small businesses, working families or anyone relying on a fixed income,” Youngblood said. “Plus, my initiatives would end a double standard, whereby all gambling proceeds are subject to the state personal income tax except those doled out by the Pennsylvania lottery.” Youngblood, who serves as secretary of the House Democratic Caucus and has launched a legislative agenda called People 1st, said obtaining needed state revenue by closing loopholes fits Read more
HARRISBURG, May 12 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, will introduce legislation to carry out Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed changes to the state school code. "After four years of cuts and underfunding of K-12 and higher education, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly elected Governor Wolf to put us back on the right track in education. I'm proud to work with the governor and House leadership to introduce this blueprint of necessary changes to the school code to help our kids," Roebuck said. Wolf has proposed a $400 million increase in the basic education subsidy to K-12 schools -- the largest in Pennsylvania history – to restore Accountability Block Grant and Educational Assistance Program funds cut under the Corbett administration. Under this plan, school districts would receive reimbursement for about 10 percent of their mandatory charter school tuition payments. Also, more resources would be made available to help close the funding gap that resulted from cuts in the basic education subsidy dating to the 2010-11 school year. Roebuck said House Democrats' main budget bill will also include Wolf's proposed $100 million increase in the Special Education Subsidy to further Pennsylvania’s transition to the formula enacted in 2014, "which was made possible through the hard work of the bipartisan legislative Special Education Funding Commission. My bill would Read more
HARRISBURG, May 12 – Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, today introduced the Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act, an essential component of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2015-16 budget. “I am honored to push forward the governor’s proposal to reinvest in education,” Davidson said. “This is the vehicle to make that happen and I implore my fellow legislators to support it for the children of our commonwealth.” Davidson’s H.B. 1142 would impose a tax on the extraction of natural gas within the state to raise needed revenue for our state’s public education system. “The previous administration cut education funding by $1 billion,” Davidson said. “We need to reverse these cuts and properly fund education, without further burdening homeowners with higher property taxes.” The tax proposed in the Education Reinvestment Act is modeled after the severance tax in West Virginia, which has also seen a boom in production from unconventional drilling over the last decade. The severance tax would impose a rate of 5 percent on the market value of gas extracted in Pennsylvania (with a floor of $2.97), along with an additional 4.7 cents per cubic foot extracted. Davidson noted that Pennsylvania currently ranks 45th in the nation in percentage of state-provided funding for public education. “With Pennsylvania sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, it is up to us to use Read more
State Rep. Mike Driscoll, D-Phila., welcomed the St. Hubert Catholic High School For Girls cheerleading team to the state Capitol Monday and presented them with an official citation from the state House of Representatives. Read more
State Rep. Gerald Mullery announced that West Hazleton has received a $35,000 state grant to help the borough, which exited the state’s program for financially distressed communities last year, obtain guidance to prepare its budget and to maintain financial stability. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 12 – State Rep. Daniel McNeill, D-Lehigh, yesterday honored Whitehall High School football star Saquon Barkley on the floor of the state House of Representatives. McNeill presented Barkley with a citation for his outstanding athletic achievements on the gridiron for Whitehall. “It was my privilege to honor Saquon Barkley for his continuing commitment to excellence,” McNeill said. “He has truly become an invaluable member of his school, his community and this commonwealth.” Barkley won the 2014 Mr. Pennsylvania Football award, the 2015 Sammy Balliet Memorial Best of the Best award, and was recently inducted into the Lehigh Valley Sports Hall of Fame. He received a full scholarship and will continue his football career at Penn State. Attention editor: A high resolution photo of Rep. McNeill, Gov. Tom Wolf and Saquon Barkley is available by clicking here . ### Read more
HARRISBURG, May 12 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House Finance Committee has unanimously approved his bill that would close a sales tax loophole for Pennsylvania municipalities. Specifically, H.B. 437 would exempt local municipalities from paying sales tax on certain components necessary for traffic signal installation. "A narrow interpretation of the law is causing a loophole," Caltagirone said. "It has come to my attention that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has been taxing the sale of poles and mast arms used in traffic signal construction, despite a tax code provision to the contrary." Caltagirone added the revenue department’s current interpretation only exempts the light assembly, which is the part that holds the red, yellow and green lights. The poles and mast arms are not exempt. "We aren't talking about a few bolts and screws, and we aren't talking about pocket change," Caltagirone said. "Traffic signal installations are big projects for local municipalities that aren't cheap – and most of them don't have deep pockets right now." Caltagirone said his legislation would clear up inconsistent and unfair interpretations of the tax code by the department. Under the tax code, when items like traffic signals are to be transferred to a government entity, they are exempt from taxation. "I want to make certain that citizens and local municipalities are Read more
HARRISBURG, May 12 – The House Professional Licensure Committee today voted unanimously to move a bill requiring state registration for pharmacy technicians out of the committee for further consideration by the full House of Representatives. House Bill 854, introduced by state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, would require pharmacy technicians to hold a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a police background check and complete a board-approved training program before registering with the state. Currently, pharmacy technicians require no formal training and must only be supervised by a licensed pharmacist in order to assist in filling prescriptions. "This is a safety issue," DeLuca said. "We need to be able to guarantee that the people filling our prescriptions and handling dangerous and even addictive drugs on a daily basis are uniformly registered with the commonwealth. Requiring a base level of education, training and background checks will be a positive step in maintaining the safety of the prescription process." Currently, more than 30 states require the registration of pharmacy technicians, including the neighboring states of Maryland and New Jersey. ### Read more
State Reps. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, and Brian Sims, D-Phila., are reintroducing equal-pay legislation as part of the bipartisan "Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health" unveiled by the legislature's Women’s Health Caucus. H.B. 1160 would narrow the definition of determining factors for pay to education, training or experience, while also lifting the veil of pay secrecy and creating protections that permit employees to inquire about salaries without fear of termination. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 11 – State Reps. Brian Sims, D-Phila., and Tina Davis, D-Bucks, will reintroduce equal-pay legislation as part of the bipartisan "Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health" unveiled today by the legislature's Women’s Health Caucus. Sims said, "Moms deserve more than Mother's Day flowers or cards. One thing mothers and all Pennsylvania women desperately need is for the legislature to close the holes in the equal pay law so it actually gets the job done for working women and their families. Wage inequality is not only a detriment to working women, but to families as well. When employers underpay equally qualified female employees, they shortchange our wives, our mothers and our daughters, to the detriment of all.” Sims and Davis will introduce the bill as H.B. 1160. A companion bill in the Senate has been introduced as S.B. 303 . The bills would narrow the definition of determining factors for pay to education, training or experience, while also lifting the veil of pay secrecy and creating protections that permit employees to inquire about salaries without fear of termination. Current law allows for "any factor other than sex" to be a legitimate justification for disparities in pay. Davis said, "Pennsylvania has had an equal-pay law for more than 50 years, but women are still paid on average 54 to 83 cents for every dollar a man makes, depending on which county they live in. Clearly we Read more
HARRISBURG, May 11 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery introduced a bill today that would prohibit the use of both tobacco- and nicotine-based products in all Pennsylvania schools. “My legislation can serve as a deterrent and help prevent our young people from becoming hooked on tobacco and nicotine and starting a costly, destructive habit,” said Mullery, D-Newport Township. Mullery said the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ 2013 report demonstrates the need for his legislation. According to the report, 17 percent of American high school students smoke, and 90 percent of adult smokers started the habit as teenagers. The report also found that one in three kids becomes regular, daily smokers after trying a cigarette. Mullery added that many of the nicotine products available today are colorful and attractive to young people. He said some of these products look, smell and taste like mints, gum and other candy. Mullery said violations of his legislation (H.B. 1189) would result in a summary offense. The bill is expected to be referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 11 – As part of a comprehensive package aimed at improving women’s health, state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, today said she introduced a bill requiring employers to provide private, sanitary space for nursing mothers to pump breast milk. Daley said H.B. 1100, part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health and co-sponsored by state Rep. David Parker, R-Monroe, would add the commonwealth to approximately two dozen states that have laws requiring workplace accommodations for nursing women. Daley said current federal law requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for female employees to pump milk – but only for up to one year after the birth of a child. She also said the federal law inexplicably does not apply to salaried employees. “Our legislation would fix two main loopholes in federal law,” Daley said. “First, it would apply to all employees, including those who are exempt from federal overtime provisions, such as salaried or management employees. Second, this bill would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space for mothers to pump milk beyond one year after birth. “I am delighted to work with my colleague Representative David Parker on this important legislation.” Daley noted this legislation would mirror federal law by exempting small employers from these requirements if they would present an undue hardship to the employer. She said an added economic benefit Read more
Citing the need to give students technical skills required for many of today’s jobs, Rep. Marc Gergely, D-Allegheny, today introduced H.B. 1145, which would provide $15 million to support employers, higher education institutions and labor organizations in establishing public-private training partnerships. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 11 – A resolution authored by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, marks this week as “National Nursing Home Week” in Pennsylvania. Donatucci’s H.R. 262 recently was unanimously adopted by the state House.
HARRISBURG, May 11 – Members of the legislature's Women’s Health Caucus today unveiled their "Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health" for the new session at a Capitol news conference. The caucus is co-chaired by Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and Frank Farry, R-Bucks; and Sens. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, and Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks. Frankel said, "We need to do more than honor women with words and Mother's Day cards – our bipartisan caucus is putting forth a package of legislation that would make specific progress for Pennsylvania women in areas such as family-friendly working conditions, economic fairness, ensuring healthy lives and help for victims of domestic violence." Farry said, "Women’s health is an important issue and we in the General Assembly take it seriously, including the health of our female veterans and active duty military personnel. In Pennsylvania alone, there are nearly 80,000 women veterans. While the proportion of women veterans to male veterans continues to increase, the unique health needs of women can be overlooked in providing services to a large, and predominantly male, veteran population. This comprehensive package of bills will go a long way in ensuring all Pennsylvania women, including our veterans, have health care options to meet their needs." Schwank said, "Women and families play a pivotal role in the overall health of our communities and the Read more
HARRISBURG, May 8 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, has introduced H.B. 1172, which would give the state Insurance Commissioner the authority to provide additional patient protection for consumers who are impacted by the Highmark-UPMC dispute. The bill would give the state the authority to ensure subscribers receive the protections the consent decrees promised during the continuing battle between the two insurance and medical giants. "These two giants agreed to terms which were designed to protect current, vulnerable subscribers when their in-network agreement between the providers expired in 2014." DeLuca said. Unfortunately, both sides have continued to look for ways to leave subscribers in limbo. Those subscribers were promised protection through 2019. Subscribers who are currently enrolled in the Medicare Advantage product are at risk after January 2016 since UPMC does not plan to offer in-network access to Highmark's Medicare Advantage cardholders. "It is clear that the legislature must act to protect these people, and we must have solid protections in place before our seniors begin reapplying for Medicare Advantage coverage in the fall open enrollment period." The DeLuca bill would give the Pennsylvania Insurance Department expanded oversight over medical integrated delivery service groups which service the Greater Pittsburgh area. The bill is expected to be assigned to the House Insurance Committee for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 7 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, reminded veterans that the Persian Gulf Bonus Program is due to expire this summer. To qualify for the bonus, veterans must have served on active duty in the first Persian Gulf War, known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The deadline to apply is Aug. 31. "This is a program I co-sponsored and voted for back in 2006 because I believed it was important to recognize those military men and women who sacrificed for us," Petrarca said. "Until then, Pennsylvania hadn't had a war bonus program to recognize those serving in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Now the program is coming to a close and I want to make sure everyone who qualifies knows about this program and applies." The program pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For those whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in the operations, an additional $5,000 is available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war also may be eligible for an additional $5,000. Petrarca also said that Pennsylvania’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is asking veterans who might have previously been denied the bonus to reapply. New applications are required to reopen a claim. To qualify, the service member must have: Served with the U.S. Armed Forces, a reserve component of the U.S. Read more
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