HARRISBURG, Feb. 11 – Pennsylvania state legislators are making a bid to assist hundreds of workers idled by Allegheny Technologies Inc.’s six-month lockout who are about to see their unemployment benefits expire. Reps. Frank Dermody and Joe Petrarca this week teamed up to introduce a bill that would provide financial help to workers who were locked out of their jobs and have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. "Workers and their families are in severe financial distress after being locked out of their jobs for half a year," Dermody said. “These workers helped make ATI what it is today. They take pride in the work they do and they want to get back to doing it. Until that happens, we need to help them weather the crisis.” The bill (H.B. 1857) introduced by Dermody and Petrarca would provide temporary unemployment benefits to any Pennsylvania workers who see regular unemployment benefits expire after being locked out of their jobs. Only unemployed workers affected by a lockout would be eligible and the state Department of Labor and Industry reports the locked-out ATI employees are the only ones in Pennsylvania currently affected. “Hundreds of people would rather be working, but instead they are about to lose unemployment benefits through no fault of their own,” Petrarca said. “Their families are suffering along with them, as well as all the local businesses that depend on the daily spending generated by Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously adopted a measure authored by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, recognizing March 2016 as “National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. “Experts suggest up to 60 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented if people age 50 and older were regularly screened and appropriately treated for this disease,” Donatucci said. “As uncomfortable as some people may be discussing colorectal cancer, it’s important to raise awareness about the illness so that people don’t live in fear.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, killing 49,700 Americans in 2015. Donatucci noted she understands the devastating toll the disease can have on families if left undetected. “I lost my father to colon cancer in 1998,” Donatucci said. “I want to make sure other families don’t have to go through what my family and I did, especially so many cases of this disease are preventable.” Donatucci’s H.R. 709 noted colorectal cancer often begins as a polyp, which is a growth that forms on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. In addition to polyps, risk factors for colorectal cancer can include age, family history, certain genetic mutations, excessive alcohol use, obesity, Read more
HARRISBURG, March 17 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, today released the following statement after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed H.B. 1801, which he said would help wrap up the long-overdue 2015-16 state budget: “Until we can come up with a compromise budget that mathematically works and addresses the real fiscal issues we face in Pennsylvania, this plan is the only option. Time is not on our side. I don’t want to see our schools close, and I don’t want to see massive layoffs. I don’t want to see our nonprofits fold, and I don’t want to see Pennsylvanians denied the crucial services they need. I don’t want the divisiveness of this impasse to loom over this great commonwealth and the people we serve. “This is no way to govern or lead, but it’s the unfortunate reality of the situation we’re in, given the lack of ability to compromise, and lack of political will to address the real issues at hand. We are over nine months into the fiscal year, and we need to make sure our schools are not disrupted by the mass dysfunction in Harrisburg. We have many challenges ahead of us and we cannot overcome them without bipartisan support. “Choosing to support this budget proposal wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe that we as a legislative body, and especially its leaders, should have done better because Pennsylvanians deserve better. But at the end of the day, this job requires you Read more
HARRISBURG, March 17 – State Reps. Stephen Kinsey and Joanna McClinton, D-Phila, plan to introduce a resolution recognizing and honoring Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Kinsey said Tuesday, March 22 is the AKA legislative day at the Pennsylvania state Capitol. “I am looking forward to honoring these women before the legislature for their dedication and commitment to improve social and economic conditions through community service programs,” Kinsey said. “The sorority works with communities on such initiatives as progressive programs relating to education, family, health and business.” The sorority was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. by a group of 20 students, led by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle. Now the organization has a membership of approximately 283,000 members. The distinguished women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. have never wavered from doing the supreme service for all of humanity. “The sorority joined in the battles for racial equality through education since its inception,” McClinton said. “They continue to use their strength in numbers to fight for opportunities for those in need, both in America and around the globe.” McClinton said the organization has more than a dozen chapters and 1,000 members in Pennsylvania. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 17 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, supported legislation this week that would end the nine-month budget standoff and help ensure community organizations and schools do not have to close their doors. The House passed a supplemental budget bill and several budget-related bills Wednesday evening, including bills to fund Penn State, which included its agricultural and cooperative extension services, and the University of Pittsburgh, and were sent to the governor. "It was important for me to support these proposals, that while not perfect, would help bring an end to the uncertainty of whether our communities' most vulnerable residents will continue to receive needed services. Families will receive financial assistance to help send their students to college, students will be able to attend school without threat of closure before the end of the school year, and seniors will continue to have access to state programs," Petrarca said. "Also, important to me is that this budget would not require any new state taxes." The governor signed a scaled-down budget bill in December, which authorized the flow of emergency funding to schools, counties and human service providers, but it was not a complete budget and left many areas and services unfunded. "I am hopeful that Wednesday's votes will bring an end to Pennsylvania's budget impasse so that we can wholly concentrate on crafting a budget Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer praised today’s House passage of legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The House passed an amended version of S.B. 3, which originally passed the Senate in May 2015. The amended bill would require a prescribing doctor to be registered with the Department of Health before they would be authorized to prescribe the use of cannabis for the following conditions: intractable seizures, cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntingdon's disease, Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, autism and neuropathic pain for which traditional therapies are contraindicated as well as other neuropathies and certain spinal cord injuries. The main amendment of the bill was the result of a bipartisan task force, of which Schweyer was the only Lehigh Valley member, which worked together for months to craft a bill that would be acceptable to a majority of legislators. "It’s a great day in Pennsylvania and while it took a long time, we are closer than ever to finally seeing the legalization of medical marijuana," Schweyer said. "I’m proud to have been a part of a working group of legislators from both sides of the aisle who put politics aside and placed the health and well-being of people at the forefront. "There is a real need for this critical treatment Read more
‘Luzerne County school districts need funding to properly finish school year’ HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery today voted in favor of a GOP spending plan to wrap up the long-overdue 2015-16 state budget. Mullery said the spending plan increases spending by 3 percent overall, and provides an additional $200 million more to public schools. Citing looming threats from school officials in his district who say they may have to close schools before the end of the year, Mullery said students can no longer be the victims of political gridlock in Harrisburg. "Today, I set aside party politics and voted for a budget. Although not perfect, this budget is a compromise that will increase funding to our schools and does not raise taxes," Mullery said. "Hopefully, this budget will bring an end to the nine-month struggle our schools and community organizations have endured. "It is time to begin the work on next year’s budget and make certain we do not make the same mistakes." Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, today joined House and Senate Democrats and Republicans at the state Capitol to rally support for redistricting reform legislation. The bipartisan and bicameral redistricting reform group and its legislation has seven core principles: Assign redistricting authority to an independent citizens commission; reform both congressional and legislative redistricting; prohibit districts from being drawn to favor or discriminate against a political party or candidate; use statistically sound methodology when setting district boundaries; ensure transparency in the process with meaningful opportunities for active public participation; make all districts as equal in population as possible with a minimum range of deviation; and respect political subdivisions and communities of interest. "The political representation currently in Pennsylvania has made the commonwealth a national example of gerrymandering at its worst," Daley said. "Redistricting should result in a fair map, putting aside partisan interests and protecting the interests of the voters." Daley added that as a member of the redistricting reform group, she has authored legislation ( H.B. 878 ) that would create more openness and fairness in the redistricting process. "My legislation would require a commission to consider plans drawn by Pennsylvania residents, hold public meetings on those plans, and establish a website to share the Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today approved legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, supported S.B. 3 and helped steer the measure through the House during three days of debate before the final vote. This was the first time the House passed such a bill despite the Senate overwhelmingly approving similar proposals in the past two legislative sessions. The House-amended version of the bill would strictly regulate the use of medical marijuana. Petrarca was part of a bipartisan task force that met last summer and fall to craft an effective medical marijuana bill that could be supported by a House majority. The legislation passed today contains changes suggested by that task force. "The task force debated the issue and looked at what was done in other states," said Petrarca, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "We saw things that worked and things that didn't work. We looked at medical marijuana as a tool for doctors to help people. "Parents want to help their children, and doctors want to help their patients, and medical marijuana can do that. I'm pleased we were able to draft legislation that would give Pennsylvanians another option in palliative care -- one that doesn't result in overdose and death -- while at the same time tailoring its use to ensure it is used only for specific Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16– State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., along with many of his colleagues paid tribute to the late Rep. John Myers in the House chamber today. Kinsey previously worked as chief of staff for Myers. “It was a humbling experience to honor such an admired and respected man who served admirably in this esteemed body for 17 years," Kinsey said. "It was important to ensure that Representative Myers' contributions to his community, to his people, be inscribed in the history of the Hall of the House." Myers was born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He attended local schools, including Germantown High School, and then entered the U.S. Navy, serving his country in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. Myers was re-elected to eight consecutive House terms. “He was the kind of man who didn’t back down; he tackled many crucial issues – issues that focused on gun safety, crime, the rights of people, public safety, health, economic development,” Kinsey said. During Myers’ terms in the House, he served on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the Liquor Control Committee. He served as a subcommittee chairman on both the Appropriations Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee, working his way up to become the Democratic chairman of the Health Committee. Retiring from the House of Representatives in 2012, Myers focused his attention to community concerns, Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, issued the following statement regarding his vote for legislation which passed the House Wednesday that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. "The statistics show that there are nationally about 40,000 overdose deaths a year from aspirin, 100,000 related to alcohol and about 48,000 from prescription drugs, but there are zero overdose deaths from marijuana. That’s not 5, not 100, not 1,000 overdose deaths from marijuana, but zero," Flynn said. According to Flynn, states that have legalized medical marijuana have shown a decrease of nearly 25 percent in annual prescription drug overdose deaths. "I’ve seen the children and their families who are experiencing daily seizures and other medical conditions, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the elderly with cancer who need this to help relieve their pain. "Legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is a commonsense answer and we need to pass it now, so we can help all of those who are suffering in their daily lives. "This is an important step forward for Pennsylvania and I was proud to cast my vote for the bill," Flynn said. The legislation (S.B. 3) returns to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments. Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated his strong support for the issue. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, today announced the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously approved her resolution designating March 9, 2016 as “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day” in Pennsylvania. Donatucci’s H.R. 708 explained registered dietitian nutritionists are food and nutrition experts who use nutrition to find solutions for healthy living. To be considered a registered dietitian nutritionist, a person must complete an accredited supervised practice program, pass a national examination and complete continuing professional educational requirements to earn their credential. Many of these professionals work in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, the food industry and other entities. “Experts say maintaining a healthy diet is key in preventing illness and boosting overall wellness,” Donatucci said. “The work being done by our registered dietitian nutritionists is so important in improving public health and educating communities about how to be healthy. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their support of this measure honoring these vital professionals.” Approximately 3,700 residents of the commonwealth are members of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year, the academy’s theme for “National Nutrition Month” is Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Ed Gainey praised today’s House passage of legislation ( S.B. 3 ) that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. “It’s about time that we help Pennsylvania families who have been asking for this bill for several years. While some people in Harrisburg sought to delay the legislation, family advocates continued to watch their loved ones suffer from debilitating illnesses, all the while encouraging passage of the bill,” said Gainey, D-Allegheny. “We need to listen to them and medical professionals who support medical marijuana and we need to give it a chance. “The drug policies we have in place just don’t work. They haven’t worked for 30 years. If a doctor can prescribe opioids that are highly addictive and have led to many deaths, why can’t we make sure that medical marijuana can help families who are experiencing pain and suffering? There are no overdose deaths related to marijuana.” Gainey served on a bipartisan House task force that studied the issue throughout the summer and fall and recommended changes to the bill. Several amendments were added to the bill including one by Gainey to ensure diversity among medical marijuana businesses to include veteran, minority and women participants. The Pittsburgh lawmaker said this week’s House action is a big step in the process of medical marijuana becoming law because it’s the first time the House passed Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, today applauded the approval of a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed S.B. 3 , which would allow patients with serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and glaucoma, to use the drug. “Today’s vote has been a long time coming for so many people, especially in our area,” Bizzarro said. “It’s been heartbreaking to watch parents beg for relief for their children dealing with debilitating diseases, and hear patients tell alarming stories about having to suffer from chronic pain. Patients and doctors should be able to choose the course of treatment that is right for them, including medical marijuana. I am proud to support this measure and hope it will become law soon.” Under the bill, medical marijuana would only be permitted to be used as a pill; oil; liquid; tincture; topical form, such as a gel, cream, or ointment; or through vaporization or nebulization. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, in addition to the District of Columbia. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration of House amendments. Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated if medical marijuana legislation reaches his desk, he will sign it. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 14 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery today introduced legislation that would prohibit individuals and organizations from using drones to interfere with lawful hunting, fishing, and boating activities. House Bill 1896 would make operating a drone a punishable offense when it intrudes on a person who is partaking in outdoor sportsmen activities. It also would make it a punishable offense to use a drone that interferes with someone engaging in the lawful taking of wildlife or other permitted activities. Mullery said while some drone operators claim they are operating them to spot illegal activities, many times, they are disrupting a law-abiding citizen’s leisure time, whether they are hunting, fishing, or boating. "The reality is that operating drones in this matter is becoming an overwhelming nuisance," said Mullery, D-Newport Township. "Many of these folks enjoying the great outdoors of Pennsylvania are doing so legally and they shouldn’t be disturbed by someone using a drone who thinks there may be illegal activity going on." Mullery added several states have already enacted laws making it an offense to use a drone to interfere with hunting and fishing activities. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 14 – State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, joined a rally and news conference at the state Capitol today to demonstrate public support of efforts to get child sex abuse statute of limitations bills moved to the full House for a vote. “First it was Boston, then Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and the pattern repeats itself in Altoona-Johnstown. The only way this ends is if we make it loud and clear to child rapists and those who harbor them, that they can no longer hide,” said state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, who led the event. “To my colleagues in this building, I beg you to stand with me and pass our bills. Let’s get this done.” At the rally, Rozzi was accompanied by Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, public officials, sexual abuse survivors and advocacy organizations, including the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. “Sexually abusing a child essentially kills all of the childhood foundations necessary to grow into a happy adult with trust, feeling loved, security and respect for authority figures,” Kane said. “This is a life sentence for the child. If an abuser is allowed to destroy the childhood of a boy or girl, why then do we allow the criminal to escape a lifetime of accountability for his crimes?” “As a society, we have a moral obligation to do more to protect children from predators,” DePasquale said. “We must do everything possible to Read more
SCRANTON, March 14 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, will host the monthly veterans support program from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 23 at his office. A representative from the American Legion Service Office Outreach program is in Flynn's office -- Jay's Commons, 409 N. Main Ave. -- on the fourth Wednesday of every month to provide information on services available to veterans and their families. The American Legion representatives are available to discuss pensions and other compensation, education, health care and death benefits. Legion membership is not required to take advantage of the help, but anyone interested in speaking to the advisers is recommended to schedule an appointment through Flynn’s office at 570-342-4348. Flynn also reminds veterans that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a law that restores an exemption from the state’s Earned Income Tax for active-duty military service members. Act 6 of 2016 exempts military personnel from the EIT on military pay, regardless of where it is earned. An oversight caused the exemption to lapse, creating unwarranted repercussions for active-duty military service members, including National Guard members who may be called up at a moment’s notice to assist with natural disasters, such as this winter’s blizzard. Read more
In an effort to build on recent changes to Pennsylvania’s criminal-expungement laws, state Rep. Jordan Harris has partnered with Rep. Sheryl DeLozier, R-Cumberland, on a bill to help low-level, nonviolent criminal records earn a clean slate upon rehabilitation.
The bill, which has yet to be formally introduced, would allow certain records to be automatically sealed, saving petitioners extra work and taxpayer dollars.
HARRISBURG, March 7 – State Reps. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., Curtis Thomas, D-Phila., and Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, plan to honor the 75 th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen by introducing a resolution in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Kinsey said the groundbreaking group of African-American military pilots honorably served in World War II. “Regardless of race, creed or color they were given an opportunity and they accomplished their mission,” Kinsey said. “Their service is part of a legacy for Pennsylvania and for the United States, and we want to pay tribute to their history.” On March 22, 1941, with the threat of involvement in the global war looming, the U.S. Army Air Corps 99 th Pursuit Squadron was activated, becoming the first African-American fighter squadron. This group began at a segregated air base named Motion Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. Kinsey said these elite military pilots became known as the first Tuskegee Airmen. “During World War II about 1,000 men participated and 66 were lost in the line of duty, which was one of the lowest loss records of any escort fighter group,” Thomas said. “This resolution holds a special place in my heart because my father was part of this contingency and I am so very proud of his service.” At the time of the Tuskegee Airmen’s service, the U.S. military was racially segregated and African-Americans were subjected to Jim Crow laws that Read more
HARRISBURG, March 7 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody praised Gov. Tom Wolf for acting today to raise the wages of the lowest-paid workers performing jobs for the state. "Governor Wolf's executive order affects a limited number of Pennsylvanians but it’s a clear call to action," Dermody said. "It’s time for the legislature to work together and increase the minimum wage for more than a million other Pennsylvania workers who need and deserve a raise. "House Democrats enthusiastically support the governor's action and once again call on Republican leaders to move bills introduced by Rep Patty Kim ( H.B. 250 ) and other legislators to raise the minimum wage for workers statewide,” he said. Pennsylvania has not adjusted its minimum wage in almost 10 years and every adjacent state requires a minimum wage above Pennsylvania's rate of $7.25. “Our workers need a raise,” Dermody said. "These other states clearly are not losing jobs to Pennsylvania, nor are they underperforming Pennsylvania economically. “The data and years of research show that a fair increase in the minimum wage would help full-time working adults to afford modest housing and other necessities without damaging Pennsylvania businesses or the economy." The Democratic leader noted that a statewide boost in the minimum wage would immediately help more than 1 million workers and contribute to closing the state’s $2 Read more
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