HARRISBURG, June 20 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., issued the following statement concerning President Trump’s immigration policies: “This administration’s immigration policy is shameful and disgraceful. There is no excuse for our nation to be willingly participating in such inhumane treatment of families who have come to our country seeking safety and asylum. “There has been pushback against this policy from both sides of the aisle. I am sure a bipartisan solution can certainly be found without cruelly tearing families apart. “I call the Trump administration to immediately terminate this policy, and for the reunification of all children and parents who have been separated thus far.” A resolution urging President Trump to reverse his zero tolerance family-separation immigration policy will be introduced in the state House in the upcoming days. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 20 – State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, issued the following statement on the passing of H.B. 2121, the General Fund bill that constitutes a state spending plan for fiscal year 2018-19: “I’m happy to announce that today the House of Representatives was successful in passing the general appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018-19. Both Democrats and Republicans were able and willing to work together to get this bill passed on time. It’s my hope that this is the new standard for all state budgets moving forward. “Most importantly, I’d like to note that this bill reflects a balanced budget with no tax increases, which is great news for our region and commonwealth residents as a whole. Even more so, it’s encouraging to see a state budget that includes a full-court press when it comes to continued funding for education and combatting the ongoing opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania. “With the allotted funding, we’ll see a 1.7 percent increase in basic education funding; a 1.4 percent increase in special education funding; and a remarkable 11 percent increase -- $25 million -- for early education funding. This is great news, as it reflects the commonwealth’s commitment to crafting the minds of our youth at a very young age. “While this budget isn’t perfect, it is a step in the right direction. It properly reflects the needs of the folks we represent and puts Pennsylvanians first, which is Read more
HARRISBURG, June 20 – Continuing investments in education, workforce development, roads and bridges, and fighting the opioid abuse epidemic today won a 'yes' vote from state Rep. Helen Tai, D-Bucks, when House lawmakers considered and passed the 2018-19 General Fund budget. “As with any compromise, there are pluses and minuses to the budget I considered on behalf of the people I represent,” Tai said. “Overall, the budget makes good on my commitment to building an economy that works for everyone, where the path to opportunity is clear and accessible. The budget makes continuing investments in basic, higher, and career and technical education, as well workforce development and job creation. It ensures the funding we need to continue to fix our roads and bridges and it recognizes that Pennsylvania, like many other states, is in the fight of its life to combat the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic plaguing our nation.” According to Tai, the 2018-19 General Fund budget represents a $718.9 million, or 2.2 percent, increase over last year. In addition to a $165 million increase for pre-k through 12 education, an additional $60 million will be available for school and community safety initiatives. Another $40 million will go toward Gov. Tom Wolf’s computer science, STEM and workforce initiative, also known as PA Smart. Pennsylvania state-system universities will see a 3.3 percent increase while community colleges and Read more
HARRISBURG, June 20 – State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, announced today that two low-income census tracts in the 38th Legislative District, which he represents, were approved by the U.S. Treasury Department as “Qualified Opportunity Zones.” The census tracts – both located in Glassport Borough – were nominated by Gov. Tom Wolf under a federal program that provides tax incentives to private investors for investing in low-income communities. “Private investment will revitalize these areas by funding development that will create job opportunities, better housing and expanded community resources,” Kortz said. “Hardworking residents of these communities deserve the promise of a better life for themselves and their families.” Under the program – which is administered by the Treasury under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – states may nominate a certain percentage of census tracts as Qualified Opportunity Zones. Private investors receive tax benefits for investing capital gains in these areas. Pennsylvania had 1,197 low-income census tracts eligible for Qualified Opportunity Zone status and was given the opportunity to nominate 25 percent, or 300 tracts. The nominations were announced in April and approved this month. An interactive map of the tracts is available here . Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution (H.R. 871) introduced by Rep. Stephen Kinsey and co-sponsored by Rep. Vanessa Brown, both D-Phila., which recognizes today as Juneteenth Independence Day in Pennsylvania. “Juneteenth celebrates the heritage, family and community spirit of African culture. We commemorate this day to the freedom of the millions of Africans who survived their harrowing journey, and to the continued education and achievement of African-Americans today,” Kinsey said. “It is also an opportunity for everyone – as individuals, as institutions – to recommit to liberty, justice and equality, so we can move our nation forward, providing opportunities and promoting success for all.” On June 19, 1865, troops under the command of Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and, in addition to announcing the end of the Civil War, issued General Order No. 3 proclaiming all slaves to be free, including absolute equality in personal rights. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, the news had not reached Texas and other southwestern states until this day. The celebration kick-started a 140-year-old “Juneteenth” tradition that today recognizes both the freedom of slaves and the endurance of African culture in North America. Juneteenth Independence Day is recognized as the Read more
State Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, is inviting everyone to her second annual Women’s Day Expo from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, at the Stroudsburg High School Cafeteria, 110 W. Main St. in Stroudsburg. “It is important for women of all ages to learn about the different state-related and other local programs available to them and their families,” Madden said. “I am encouraging women and men to visit the expo and find out how available programs may suit their needs.” Madden said that there are over 50 agencies and organizations participating, including Pinnacle Treatment Centers, Monroe County Transit Authority, PHEAA, the Lehigh Valley Health Network, East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Monroe County Women’s Commission. Those interested can contact Madden’s office at (570) 894-7905 or (570) 420-2850 for more information. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – Local registrars would gain the ability to issue death certificate copies after 90 days, eliminating the time-consuming process of obtaining them from the state, under an amendment inserted into a bill by state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton-Centre. Hanna’s amendment to H.B. 84 , which the House overwhelmingly approved Monday, would get rid of the cutoff date that forces families to go through the Pennsylvania Department of Health to obtain copies of death certificates. “For too long, grieving families and executors have to deal with a bureaucratic mess to get additional copies of death certificates after 90 days,” Hanna said. “I was proud that my amendment was adopted unanimously and we are on a path to common-sense changes in Harrisburg.” Currently, local registrars can issue death certificate copies within 90 days, a convenience for many that would be extended beyond 90 days under the Hanna amendment. Many have complained about the necessity of – and frustration with – getting additional copies from Harrisburg, Hanna said. “I am pleased that we are on the verge of making it more convenient and faster for everyone to obtain copies of death certificates, reducing what can become a major headache for families during a very trying time,” Hanna said. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., today voted in favor of H.B. 2060 , legislation that would strengthen the Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act and convictions of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence that require relinquishment of firearms by limiting the third-party safekeeping options available for firearms. “We’ve heard of far too many incidents of needless violence where perpetrators have used guns obtained from friends and family after a PFA order has been issued,” Dawkins said. “Prohibiting family and friends from taking weapons from the convicted individual and reducing the maximum time for relinquishment of firearms from 60 days to 48 hours are essential for victims of domestic violence when facing imminent threats from their abusers.” The legislation, voted out of the House Judiciary Committee today, is similar to Dawkins’ H.B. 2097 , which aims to create a statewide notification system to alert victims of domestic violence, the general public, and law enforcement agencies when a known domestic violence abuser attempts to purchase or transfer a gun at a licensed firearms dealer. “I’m glad to see more legislators who understand the importance of protecting victims of domestic violence by limiting their abuser’s ability to possess and procure firearms,” Dawkins said. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – On Monday, a House bill that would require the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to create a database to be used by beneficiaries in search of unclaimed life insurance benefits unanimously passed the House, state Rep. Mark Longietti announced. “The passing of this legislation is a significant benefit for family members of a decedent,” said Longietti, a co-sponsor of H.B. 152 . “The creation of a database that allows family members to see if their loved one had a life insurance policy or annuity contract in place will provide families with death benefits during their time of need.” Under the legislation, insurers would be required to maintain a valid email address with the state’s Insurance Department. The department then would be tasked with maintaining an electronic database of this information so that family members know how to reach a company to determine whether a life insurance policy or annuity contract is valid. Additionally, insurance companies are required to participate in the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service adopted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners , which provides a method for searching for life insurance policies and annuity contracts in effect. “I have had a number of families come to my office in hopes of tracking down a life insurance company to see if the policy they found at the home of decedent was valid. Other times, they’re simply trying to determine Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, and state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, co-chairs of the 140-member Early Childhood Education Caucus, today joined Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera at the Capitol to welcome children from Hansel and Gretel, a high-quality Keystone 4 child care center, to commemorate Early Childhood Action Day. Longietti, Rivera and other legislators participated in a block tower building competition to highlight the importance of continued state investments in high-quality child care. As part of the event, advocates distributed a recent poll of 602 Pennsylvania residents conducted by Magellan Strategies that demonstrated strong support for funding high-quality child care. Key findings from the poll show: Seventy-seven percent support and 55 percent strongly support increased funding for high-quality child care programs. Seventy-seven percent believe high-quality child care is very expensive and 82 percent believe the government needs to do more to make programs affordable for families. “We know that investing in our children early, when the infrastructure of their brains is being formed, is the best first step we can take to promote their lifelong success,” Longietti said. “We have to make sure these types of investments reach our most vulnerable populations, and that can only be accomplished by funding programs like Pre-K, child care, home visiting, and early intervention at a level that Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, today announced he will introduce legislation that would create a commission to review the potential adverse impacts of deactivating coal and nuclear electric plants before making decisions on whether to close those plants. Matzie, co-chairman of the House Nuclear Energy Caucus, said the proposed commission would make decisions on deactivations only after hearing from state and local government officials, affected employees, business owners and other stakeholders. “Over the last several years, we have witnessed the closing of a record number of Pennsylvania-based coal and nuclear electric plants,” Matzie said. “But no entity exists to examine the negative impacts ahead of time. These closings affect local economies, they affect electric reliability and they affect the environment. “What’s worse, there’s no requirement to give any sort of notice to the workers whose livelihoods are changed forever by the decision to close. We need to have a level of input and oversight. This legislation would provide employee protections such as minimum requirements for severance payments and the continuation of health care benefits. So it is not just industry focused, but worker focused as well.” Matzie said the proposed legislation also would require the owner of a coal fired plant to remediate the facility and the surrounding area in order to receive approval to Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – On Monday, H.B. 152 , which would assist beneficiaries in determining if a decedent had a life insurance policy in place, unanimously passed the House, according to state Rep. Tony DeLuca. “I’m happy to announce the passing of House Bill 152,” said DeLuca, D-Allegheny. “This is an important bill for consumer protection, and I’m glad to see that my previous legislation, House Bill 2434, was amended into this bill as a means of guaranteeing consumers are given the ample protection they deserve.” House Bill 2434 , which was amended into H.B. 152 by the state Senate, would establish criteria to ensure people have been reasonably informed about various policy features of an annuity before it is purchased; including surrender fees, investment advisory fees and tax penalties, among other consumer protections. If signed into law, DeLuca’s provision would update the suitability of annuity transactions of the Insurance Company Law and would prohibit an insurer from issuing an annuity recommendation to a consumer, unless there is a reasonable basis to believe that the annuity is in the best interest of the consumer. “Determining suitability would be based on the consumer’s information, including age, income, financial experience, risk tolerance and other factors,” DeLuca said. “Having this protection is of the utmost importance to our senior citizens, but this also provides all Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – The House Judiciary Committee today voted on several gun safety bills, including legislation authored by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila., which would deal with people with mental health issues and firearms. House Bill 273 would establish a voluntary "no firearm purchase list" that the Pennsylvania State Police would maintain. A person could request to be placed on the list for at least one year and up to five years. State police also would inform a person 20 days before his or her time ends on the list and provide a way for reenlistment should that person desire. “This bill is similar to legislation that created the existing voluntary gambling self-exclusion list. It would help people who are struggling with mental or physical health issues and who fear they may be a danger to themselves or others,” Donatucci said. “If my legislation could save at least one life, then it is truly worth it.” In addition to Donatucci’s bill, the following pieces of legislation were voted out of the committee and will now go to the full House of Representatives for a vote: H.B. 2060 – Would require a person to surrender his or her firearms 48 hours after being convicted of domestic violence. H.B. 2227 – Would prohibit someone who could be an extreme risk of causing harm to himself, herself or others from possessing firearms. H.B. 2275 – Would prosecute someone convicted of attempted rape, Read more
HARRISBURG, June 19 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., issued the following statement concerning sexual harassment studies mandated by two resolutions adopted by the state House of Representatives Monday: “I’m deeply troubled by the partisan gamesmanship disguised as progress that we witnessed in the House of Representatives yesterday. Hundreds of women are assaulted in Pennsylvania every day. It is time for action, not studies on sexual harassment. “As of today, 25 substantial pieces of legislation to protect women in Pennsylvania are being held hostage across House committees. One of them is mine, H.B. 2282 , to protect interns, who often become easy targets because of their age, low rank in office settings, and because they often lack knowledge about their employment rights. “Meanwhile, the Republican delegation advanced two GOP-authored resolutions: one to establish a 'Task Force on Harassment and Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace' and another to direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a taxpayer-funded study on harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace in state government and report the findings within 12 months. “I voted against these resolutions because a study isn’t going to empower victims or make those who witness harassment feel safe enough to report these incidents without fear of retaliation. A study isn’t going to make the reporting process easier or help victims understand Read more
HARRISBURG, June 18 – A bill that would mandate school security drills, H.B. 2215, introduced by state Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-Lackawanna, passed the House of Representatives and moves to the Senate for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 18 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, and fellow members of the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee heard testimony this morning from the director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athlete Association – the state’s governing body for high school athletics – and others to address concerns that private schools have an unfair advantage over public schools under the current state playoff system – particularly when it comes to high school basketball and football. A central topic: how to deal fairly and effectively with situations in which students transfer schools. PIAA rules prohibit student athletes from transferring for athletic reasons. While the rules are designed to prevent abuses of the system – such as when a student moves to a school to compete in playoffs and then moves back – Matzie noted that many students transfer for legitimate socio-economic, safety or family-related reasons. “Every case is different,” Matzie said. “We need to consider those circumstances.” PIAA recently tightened the rules to mandate that if a student transfers during the season, he or she must sit out 21 days before becoming eligible to complete in PIAA-sanctioned events. And if a student is eligible to participate in 50 percent of a season at one school, he or she would not be eligible to play that season at the transfer school. But problems persist. As one charter school representative Read more
HARRISBURG, June 18 – The House today unanimously passed legislation that would remove a significant obstacle preventing chiropractic students from completing their education in the commonwealth, according to state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, D-Allegheny. Currently, state law prohibits anyone without a license from engaging in chiropractic care. By creating an exception for students who practice under the direct supervision of a licensed chiropractor, Ravenstahl said S.B. 892 would allow students to obtain the hands-on experience they need to gain their credentials. “The commonwealth has long recognized the health benefits of chiropractic care,” said Ravenstahl, whose nearly identical H.B. 1737 was reported out of the House Professional Licensure Committee last September. “But the law forces chiropractic students to travel out of state to gain the vital clinical experience they need. It’s a huge roadblock and a major reason there are no chiropractic schools or programs here. “Lifting the practice restriction for students would spur the establishment of state chiropractic schools and increase the chances of students studying and remaining here to practice. Allowing the profession to grow and flourish will do the same for jobs and the state’s economy.” The bill, which is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association, now heads to the governor’s desk. Read more
SCRANTON, June 18 – Area veterans are invited to take part in the monthly support program next week at the office of state Rep. Marty Flynn. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 18 – State Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, announced today that five areas in the 1st Legislative District, which he represents, have been approved by the U.S. Treasury Department as Qualified Opportunity Zones. The Erie communities were nominated under a federal program that gives private investors tax incentives for investing capital gains in distressed, low-income communities. “I’m excited by the prospect of better jobs and housing opportunities that private investment can bring,” Harkins said. “Infusion of capital can stimulate the kind of development that will breathe new life into these low-income communities and open doors for the hardworking families living there.” Under the program – which is administered by the U.S. Treasury Department under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – states nominate a certain percentage of census tracts as Qualified Opportunity Zones. Private investors receive tax benefits for investing capital gains in these areas and adjacent tracts. Pennsylvania had 1,197 low-income census tracts eligible for Qualified Opportunity Zone status and was given the opportunity to nominate 25 percent, or 300 tracts. In April, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he had made the nominations after gathering input from various sources across the state and examining where areas of need intersected with investment opportunities. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 18 – State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, announced today that nine areas in the 35 th Legislative District he represents have been approved as “Qualified Opportunity Zones.” The areas – which include three in Clairton, three in McKeesport and three in Duquesne – were nominated under a federal program that attracts private investors to low-income communities through tax incentives. “I’m excited to see us move forward with this program,” Davis said. “Infusions of capital into these distressed areas could make a huge difference to residents in terms of jobs and housing opportunities. Our hardworking Pennsylvania families deserve the hope and promise that revitalization can bring.” Under the program – administered by the U.S. Treasury Department under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – states may nominate a certain percentage of census tracts as Qualified Opportunity Zones. Private investors receive tax benefits for investing capital gains in these areas and adjacent tracts. Pennsylvania was given the opportunity to designate 300 low-income community tracts as opportunity zones. In April, the governor announced that he had made the nominations after gathering input from individuals and organizations across the state, and examining where areas of need intersected with potential investment opportunities. Read more
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