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
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
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
Rep. Pam Snyder and the Greene County Commissioners are teaming up to sponsor a free community shredding event on Saturday, May 9, for the safe disposal of unwanted, confidential documents. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Greene County Fairgrounds.
HARRISBURG, May 6 – State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, will participate in community town hall meeting about riots and race at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, May 9 at Beulah Baptist Church, 100 Livingston Street, Steelton. Kim will serve as a panelist and will help facilitate the conversation among the adults and youth in attendance. “Too often we just talk to our youth without allowing them to express themselves and their feelings,” Kim said. “This forum will give area youth a voice to discuss very important issues surrounding race and the recent riots in Baltimore.” Beulah Baptist Church Pastor Phillip T. Deal said the purpose of the event is “to increase the awareness that clergy and churches are committed to promoting peace, protecting life and ensuring justice is integral to our faith and community.” Kim will be joined on the panel by Cornelius Johnson, Susquehanna Township Health Officer; James Carter, a community activist; and Lawrence Claiborne, a youth worker. Four youths will also serve as panelists. For more information contact Rep. Kim’s Capitol office at 717-783-9342. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, May 7 – State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, announced that she is hosting an ex-offender resource town hall meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 14 at the Hamilton Health Center, 110 S. 17 th St . Kim said that Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel will be the keynote speaker at the event, which aims to help ex-offenders make the most of their lives. "I hope my town hall will provide ex-offenders with tools to expand their opportunities and help reduce the recidivism rate in the commonwealth,” Kim said. The town hall will include: An update on legislation to expunge past “non-violent” charges. A question-and-answer session with a panel of leaders helping ex-offenders. Vendors with job resource information. For more information contact Kim’s Steelton office at 717-986-1673. ### Read more
PHILADELPHIA, May 7 – State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., will host the 190 th Legislative District Image Awards from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at the Christian Stronghold Church 4701 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia. The theme of this year’s awards ceremony is “Women working together for change.” “I am proud to have this opportunity to honor local women for their efforts in our community every day,” Brown said. “Too many times, the real heroes who are fighting every day to make our neighborhoods a better place get overlooked when it is time to say, 'Thank you!'” The Mission Statement for the awards is “To recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of African American Women living in the 190 th Legislative District located in West and parts of North Philadelphia.” Approximately 190 local women who have been active in the community were nominated and will receive certificates acknowledging their contributions to the city. This year’s honorees come from all walks of life and careers, from pastors and educators to municipal workers and community volunteers. The winners are cited under various categories; among them are: integrity, strength, wisdom, courage and humanity. ### Read more
UPPER DARBY – Area veterans will have the opportunity to learn more about benefits and services available to them at a free veterans fair hosted by state Rep. Margo Davidson. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, June 18 at the East Lansdowne Borough Hall, 155 Lexington Ave., East Lansdowne. Davidson said the offerings include real estate tax exemptions for veterans with disabilities, emergency financial assistance for veterans and their families, a tuition gratuity for veterans and their family members seeking higher education, bonus programs for veterans of the first Persian Gulf War, and more. More details to come. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, May 6 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, said he has introduced legislation that would allow retirees from federal civil service who do not receive Social Security to qualify for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. Schweyer said he authored the legislation following a conversation with a constituent. “Many retirees of federal service do not receive Social Security benefits. Instead, they paid more into their retirement plan,” Schweyer said. “Because of this, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. “Every senior in Pennsylvania deserves to receive as much assistance as they can following their years of dedicated service to the federal government.” House Bill 1162 would add federal civil service retirees to the list of people who can deduct 50 percent of their income in order to become eligible for this rebate program. Schweyer said this bill would provide the same measure of fairness to this group of retirees that has been given to retirees of the railroad industry. While both groups of retirees are not eligible for Social Security, railroad retirees are able to determine eligibility for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. Read more
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, said today that the state House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that would update Pennsylvania’s domestic relations law as it pertains to support and custody of children conceived by rape or incest.
Current state law makes terminating a rapist's parental rights complicated and could result in a rapist retaining custody of the child. If a victim is able to convince a court to terminate parental rights, the perpetrator also is relieved of his duty to financially support the child.
HARRISBURG, May 6 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, has announced he will be introducing a bill which would prohibit public employees from campaign activities while using sick time. The bill would make it a misdemeanor for a public employee to campaign, canvass or plan election or political fundraising events while using sick time granted by their employer. Other activities which would be prohibited include circulating nomination petitions or papers and participating in an organized telephone campaign in an effort to influence the outcome of an election. "I want to ensure that sick time, including time taken under the Family Medical Leave Act, is used for its intended purpose," DeLuca said. "This bill is a common-sense approach to ensure that our public employees are not abusing the sick time they have earned for non-medical purposes. "This bill would also give the taxpayers, whose money pays these employees, extra assurances that their tax dollars are going toward a public benefit, not a candidate." Employees found guilty of violating this ban could face fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison. DeLuca will be introducing the bill shortly and it is expected to be assigned to a committee for further consideration. ### Read more
Legislation amended by state Rep. Neal P. Goodman to ensure benefits veterans receive from Pennsylvania do not disqualify them from participating in the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program today passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Read more
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