HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., was appointed by House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody to serve on the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Wholesale and Retail Privatization Commission. "Last year's law that changed alcohol sales in Pennsylvania, Act 39, also set up this commission to research and make recommendations about any further privatization of wine or liquor sales," Kinsey said. "I am very skeptical of any further privatization, especially at this time. The state store system provides more than 3,000 family-sustaining jobs, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue each year that we can count on at a time when the state has a massive deficit. And two different reports in recent years have said that selling off the state stores would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion in transition and stranded costs. "Alcohol is not hard to get in Pennsylvania. In fact, in Philadelphia, we have been working to address the issue of 'stop-and-go' convenience stores that take advantage of current laws to sell alcohol," Kinsey said. Kinsey and Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., recently hosted a public meeting in northwest Philadelphia on the "stop and go" issue with officials from the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. Kinsey said, "I will continue to look at this matter closely Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, has been appointed Democratic chairman of the House Ethics Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session, an eight-member body whose mission is ensuring House members and staff uphold high standards of conduct. Costa said the committee’s duties include investigating and dealing with alleged violations of House rules, and issuing advisory opinions at the request of House members or employees. The legislative code of ethics, the lobby disclosure act and developing new rules of ethical conduct also fall under its purview, Costa said, as does planning and conducting House ethics education courses – including updating and distributing member and staff handbooks on ethical conduct. “Being selected as the ranking Democrat on this important committee is an honor and a solemn obligation,” Costa said. “Of all the things applicable to holding a public service position while maintaining the public’s trust, none is more important that carrying out one’s duties in the highest ethical manner and making sure your actions are beyond reproach.” Costa said the House Ethics Committee is evenly split with four Democratic and four Republican members, and meets as needed to fulfill its statutory obligations and handle any matters brought before it. Other Democratic members of the committee are state Reps. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh; Steven Kinsey, Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – The state House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a revised Senate bill that will move Pennsylvania toward compliance with federal Real ID regulations to ensure that state residents don’t face difficulty using their IDs for air travel or visits to federal facilities. “I’m pleased that the legislature worked cooperatively on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to find a solution on this issue. No one wants to see our community members encounter problems trying to travel by plane or enter federal buildings for work or other reasons,” said Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks. “This bill will authorize the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to move forward in complying with the federal Real ID Act.” Pennsylvania had been given a deadline of June 6 to come into compliance with the federal Real ID Act, which set minimum standards for issuing identification cards. Otherwise, residents could be prohibited from using their state-issued identification to board a plane, starting in 2018, or enter certain federal buildings, starting this summer. A 2012 state law prohibited state agencies from complying with the federal Real ID law. The new bill, S.B. 133, repeals the 2012 state law and requires the Department of Transportation and other agencies to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act. PennDOT would be required to provide eligible applicants the option of receiving a standard driver license or photo Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, released the following statement today, after the General Assembly approved S.B. 133, which addresses issues relative to the federal Real ID law: “The General Assembly approved Senate Bill 133,” Schlossberg said. “As a result, it appears Pennsylvania will be able to fulfill its responsibilities under the federal Real ID law. This is good news for travelers and Pennsylvania residents who need to access federal facilities. "The bill, which the governor is expected to sign into law, will establish two tiers of identification: standard issue driver’s license/photo identification and Real ID-compliant drivers’ license/photo identification. Pennsylvania residents will be able to choose which they prefer. "While my preference would have been for a simple repeal of the 2012 legislation prohibiting Pennsylvania’s compliance with Real ID, I voted yes on this legislation because Pennsylvania cannot leave its citizens stranded at the airport or on the steps of military bases and federal courthouses. "I am concerned the two-tier approach is going to cause confusion and headache for people who do not realize their standard issue driver’s license is not Real ID compliant. When the Transportation Department made changes to the online processing for vehicle registration, requiring people to print their registration card rather than PennDOT mailing it, my Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – Seeking to raise awareness and become the faces of hunger, state Reps. Jake Wheatley and Ed Gainey, both D-Allegheny, plan to go without anything to eat or drink from sunrise until sunset for the entire month of June – and are issuing the same Hunger Challenge to their House and Senate colleagues. Wheatley and Gainey also plan to log the approximate cost of the daily sustenance they forego, then donate that amount to hunger relief organizations in their respective 19 th and 24 th legislative districts. “This sacrifice will allow us to experience some of the pains felt by those in our communities – and there are more of them than you think – who struggle with food insecurity,” Wheatley said. “Representative Gainey and I have decided to lend not just words, but our actions to bring attention to this problem.” Gainey said that in addition to being a great cause, issuing and participating in the legislative Hunger Challenge during the month of June coincides with the tough decision-making that accompanies shaping the state budget due June 30. “For those who think that we in Harrisburg too often make decisions that have little bearing on ourselves, this challenge presents an opportunity to show that we, as elected officials, are willing to personally experience and gain understanding of a problem,” Gainey said. “If your belly’s always full, you’ll never really understand Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, announced that the Senate Finance Committee voted today to advance his bill to establish the first-ever pediatric cancer research fund in Pennsylvania. House Bill 46, which passed the House in April, is now in position to be voted on by the full Senate and be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature should they pass it. The bill would establish a check-off box on Pennsylvania's state income tax form to allow taxpayers to designate an unlimited contribution for childhood cancer research through the establishment of the Pennsylvania Pediatric Cancer Research Fund. The donations, deducted from the taxpayers’ refunds, would go to a current list of four hospitals and institutions in Pennsylvania that are conducting childhood cancer research and designated by the secretary of the state Department of Health. Caltagirone said that he is confident that Pennsylvanians will have the option to check the box on their 2018 state income tax forms. “If this continues on course, I believe that Pennsylvania’s fight to find cures for childhood cancer will receive a tremendous shot in the arm,” he said. Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among those 1 to 14 in the United States. It is estimated that a child is diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer every two minutes, with an average of seven children dying every day across the United States. “It’s just Read more
HARRISBURG, May 24 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today unanimously 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
State Rep. Dan Miller is inviting 42nd Legislative District residents to his latest town hall meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, at the Mt. Lebanon Library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh. Read more
CENTRE COUNTY, May 23 – State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, received a 2017 Champions for Children award from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), in recognition of his hard work over the years to improve public policies and increase state investments that benefit the commonwealth’s children. The award was presented in conjunction with PPC’s 25 th Anniversary celebration at the state Capitol on Monday, in which nearly 60 policymakers and the governor were honored. “Representative Conklin understands how public policy can impact a child’s life, and his legislative career has focused on improving child well-being and making Pennsylvania a top state to raise a child and be a child,” said Joan L. Benso, PPC president and CEO. “We thank him for his commitment to Pennsylvania kids and look forward to continuing our partnership to advance policies and investments that will improve the lives of every child in Pennsylvania.” Conklin serves as Democratic chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee. “I am honored to receive this award, but the real champions are those who tirelessly advocate for policies and programs that help our children become productive and well-adjusted members of society,” Conklin said. “Working together, we can make a difference in the lives of many.” Read more
HARRISBURG, May 23 – A group of organizations joined state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., to advocate for patients suffering from sickle cell disease, discuss new health policy initiatives and ask for support for science and clinical research. "Sickle cell is a hereditary disease with a high prevalence among African-Americans and people of color,” Harris said. “The goal of this special month is to educate people about sickle cell and provide support to individuals and their families whose lives have been touched by the disease. It’s also an opportunity to support research activities that can lead to improved treatment and, one day, a cure.” Sickle cell anemia is a serious blood disorder that causes acute pain, severe anemia, infections and vascular blockages that can lead to widespread organ damage and death. It is a genetic disease, affecting 2 million Americans, most often African-Americans and Hispanics. Until the past few decades, most people with sickle cell disease did not live beyond young adulthood, but advances in treatment have improved and lengthened the lives of patients who have access to good medical care. “Children born with sickle cell are at a particularly high risk for complications, including stroke. Early detection and appropriate intervention is the key to treating sickle cell and minimizing its effects on patients,” Harris said. Harris explained that in 2015, Pennsylvania created a new budget line Read more
Philadelphia, May 23 – Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., announced today that she will host two events this week that will address environmental and neighborhood safety issues for residents of the 195 th District. The Emergency Community Meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 24 at Redeem Baptist Church. In response to recent incidents in the news within the Strawberry Mansion area involving a missing girl and an abduction of two young boys, the meeting will cover neighborhood and children safety. “These incidents happened within blocks and days of each other, and raises a lot of concern about whether our children know how to be safe in the neighborhood,” Bullock said. “We want to connect families with the necessary resources and information to keep our youth safe while they enjoy their local community.” From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 25, at the Fairmont Water Works, Bullock will provide an update and host a listening session on environmental justice. This session will be used as a platform for state leaders that include Patrick McDonnell, acting secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection, and Carl Jones, director of environmental justice, to hear directly from residents, concerning environmental issues. “With topics as important as this we must give our constituents the opportunity to have their voices heard and also for us as leaders to update them on the actions we are taking,” Read more
HARRISBURG, May 23 – A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday announced the introduction of a bill to require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in Pennsylvania. State Rep. Jamie Santora, R- Delaware, Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, and Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, authored H.B. 1400 . The legislation would require background checks for all firearm sales, excluding familial transfers. The bill would additionally allow someone to obtain a multiple-day background check for use at a licensed gun show in Pennsylvania. “While there is no single solution to the terrible problem of gun violence, there are measures that we can take to save lives. We can increase access and funding for mental health services and reporting; we can enforce the gun laws that we already have; and we can enact sensible legislation where there are gaps in our laws,” Dean said. “House Bill 1400 would close one of these dangerous gaps. Requiring universal background checks is common sense and is supported by 90 percent of Americans and 84 percent of gun owners. Background checks for all gun sales and transfers will save lives.” The lawmakers emphasized the broad community support for such a measure. “I’ve always said I’d support reasonable legislation for firearm ownership. I believe that, for the safety of our community, anyone who wishes to purchase a firearm should be required to submit to a background check. It is not Read more
A bill co-sponsored by state Reps. Tarah Toohil, D-Luzerne, and Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, that would make resources available for children born to mothers who are at high risk for maternal depression has been approved today by members of the House Children and Youth Committee and awaits a full House vote. Schlossberg said H.B.200 would help to ensure that infants and their mothers affected by postpartum depression have access to services that are currently in place in their community that provide support and referrals necessary for the healthy development of infants. “I am grateful to House committee chair people Representatives Scott Conklin and Kathy Watson for bringing this important legislation up for a vote in committee,” Schlossberg said. ‘It is wonderful to see the bipartisan support Representative Toolhil and I have received in making early intervention services easier for mothers. Strong and thriving babies need strong and thriving mothers.” Maternal depression, also known as postpartum depression, is a type of clinical depression which can affect up to 80 percent of new mothers in a mild, short-term form. More intense symptoms which can last up to a year affects about 10-20 percent of new mothers. Yet, only 15 percent of women seek treatment for postpartum depression. "All too often, a woman is unable or unwilling to seek the services that she needs in order to treat postpartum depression, for both herself and her Read more
HARRISBURG, May 23 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, said a campaign contribution by Consol Energy to state Sen. Joseph Scarnati and the introduction two weeks later of legislation specifically targeted to benefit Consol creates the appearance of impropriety. According to Vitali, on March 29, Consol Energy Inc. PAC made a $5,000 campaign contribution to Scarnati, R-Jefferson. Scarnati introduced S.B. 624 on April 13. Senate Bill 624, according to Vitali, would reduce protections afforded to streams where coal companies seek to conduct longwall mining operations underneath them. The bill was voted from the Senate Environmental Resource and Energy Committee on Monday along party lines. Senate Bill 624 would affect a pending case before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB Docket No. 2014-072-B) relating to Consol’s mining activity in and near Greene County’s Ryerson Station State Park. The case was brought three years ago by the Center for Coalfield Justice and Pennsylvania Sierra Club. A hearing was held in August 2016, and a decision from the state Environmental Hearing Board is expected soon. Senate Bill 624 has a retroactive effect and would directly affect this case. According to Vitali, Scarnati’s chief counsel, Drew Crompton, acknowledged that the bill is a response to the pending Consol case. “This legislation is coming on the cusp of a decision. It blatantly undermines the expertise of the Read more
To thank and honor Vietnam War-era veterans, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro and the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey are serving as hosts of a commemorative pin ceremony at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, at the Millcreek American Legion Post 773, 4109 W. 12th St. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 22 – The House Gaming Oversight Committee today voted out a bill ( H.B. 1162 ) introduced by state Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., that would provide an additional $1.5 to $2 million per year for senior programs. "My bill would redirect unclaimed gambling winnings to the Lottery Fund to be used for programs for older Pennsylvanians, such as the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. Currently, after five years, unclaimed winnings are sent to the Department of the Treasury as unclaimed property. Under my proposal, people would have up to two years to claim their winnings before waiving rights to them and having those winnings transferred to the state Lottery Fund," Cephas said. "Based on current numbers, my bill is estimated to generate between $1.5 and $2 million per year." Cephas' bill now goes to the full House of Representatives. Cephas represents the 192nd Legislative District in west Philadelphia, which is home to more than 60,000 residents from the Wynnefield, Overbrook Farms, Morris Park, Overbrook Park, Overbrook, Haddington, Hestonville and Carroll Park areas. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, May 22 – The House Democratic Policy Committee today held a public hearing in the state Capitol to discuss a potential Marcellus Shale severance tax. State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster and Policy Committee Chairman, chaired the hearing. “It’s important that we implement a fair and reasonable severance tax that reflects what other states with natural resources also impose. I believe they can add a great economic benefit to the state, but that must be done while protecting our resources and quality of life,” Sturla said. “Prices and impact fee revenues are low now because pipelines are not yet in place to export, but when that occurs over the next year or two, we should have a mechanism in place to capture revenue on our natural resources leaving the state.” Testifiers from state agencies included: Patrick McDonnell, acting secretary, Pa. Department of Environmental Protection; Dennis Davin, secretary, Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development; Gladys Brown, chairman, Pa. Public Utility Commission; and Matthew Knittel, director, Independent Fiscal Office The committee also heard testimony from the shale and environmental industries including: Jim Welty, vice president of government affairs, Marcellus Shale Coalition; Todd Stager, associate vice president, Pennoni; Kevin Sunday, director of government affairs, Pa. Chamber of Business and Industry; Rob Altenburg, director, PennFuture Energy Center; and Thomas Read more
HARRISBURG, May 22 – State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Phila., said today he is disappointed in the 140-54 vote in the House of Representatives on a bill originally meant to put Pennsylvania in compliance with the Real ID Act by the June 6 deadline that was granted by the Department of Homeland Security. Senate Bill 133 was amended earlier this month by the House State Government Committee and would create a two-tiered system, which would issue residents a standard-use driver’s license/photo ID card unless they request a Real ID-compliant card and pay the additional, and yet undetermined, fee. The legislation as written would also force those seeking a Real ID-compliant card to cover the cost of the enhanced security efforts. Neilson said the bill does nothing to move Pennsylvania into full compliance. “This bill in its current form creates even more potential hurdles in meeting the June 6 deadline,” Neilson said. “Governor Wolf and his administration had indicated that this bill will not do enough to ensure Pennsylvania is up to par with federal law and I fully agree with him. It’s unfortunate that the bill did not come to the House as it was written.” Neilson said he has been a strong advocate for repealing the Real ID Act. He sponsored legislation last session and H.B. 150 this session that would put Pennsylvania in compliance with the federal law. “Repercussions from the noncompliance legislation would potentially Read more
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, thanked House legislators for supporting and ultimately passing his H.B. 790, legislation that would establish the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act to regulate plants deemed harmful to agriculture. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 22 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., issued the following statement in response to the adoption of H.R. 116, a resolution recognizing the milestones, achievements and legacy of Dr. Edith Mitchell of Philadelphia: "Dr. Mitchell has spent her career excelling as a physician, researcher, educator and member of the United States Air Force. Not only has she helped advance the field of oncology, she has dedicated herself to helping underserved communities access quality care and advocating for African-American physicians as a member, and now president, of the National Medical Association, the nation’s largest and oldest organization representing African-American physicians and their patients. "As the son of a proud and long-time NMA member, the late Dr. Maurice F. Rabb Jr., I have a deep appreciation for Dr. Mitchell’s career and service. My father, after whom the NMA’s Rabb-Venable Award for Outstanding Research in Ophthalmology was partially named, was a pioneering ophthalmologist, researcher and educator in his field, himself the son and namesake of a family practitioner, Kentucky's first black anesthesiologist and NMA member, Dr. Maurice F. Rabb Sr. "He was in the first class of African-Americans to desegregate and graduate from the University of Louisville and University of Louisville Medical School, and would be appreciative of Dr. Mitchell’s commitment to supporting and increasing the number of medical Read more
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