For those of you concerned about our state’s compliance with federal REAL ID requirements, I wanted to share some good news. T he U.S. Department of Homeland Security has again extended Pennsylvania’s REAL ID enforcement “grace period” through October 10, 2018, as commonwealth officials work toward implementing the REAL ID requirements. This extension means that Pennsylvania residents will not face access issues when entering federal facilities or boarding commercial aircraft through that date. PennDOT anticipates that REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses will be available at the customer’s option in March 2019. Customers are encouraged to begin gathering the required documentation as soon as possible, giving them ample time to prepare. More information about what documents will be required is available on PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website. More information about REAL ID, including frequently asked questions , can be found at www.dmv.pa.gov For more information about Real ID, click here for the latest update. Read more
HARRISBURG, Oct. 5 – Members of the Philadelphia Delegation in the state House of Representatives continue to push for commonsense ways to balance Pennsylvania's overdue budget. "The main spending bill was passed on June 30, on a bipartisan basis, and it became law on July 10. Democrats have offered commonsense, popular ways to pay for that budget. Unfortunately, House Republican leaders have kept the people's representatives from voting on these commonsense proposals," said delegation chair Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware. Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., vice chair of the delegation, said, "On Wednesday nearly all House Republicans voted to block consideration of a natural gas extraction tax, also known as a severance tax, even though every other major natural-gas state already has one. About 75 percent of the proposed tax would be paid by out-of-state customers, just as Pennsylvanians already pay it to other states on natural gas that's sent here." Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., said, "There are commonsense solutions out there already – the natural-gas extraction tax, closing corporate tax loopholes and raising the minimum wage. Higher pay earned by workers would mean more revenues for the state -- without the need for a tax increase. And it would mean less money spent in the state and communities for assistance programs. That's a win-win!" Rep. Mike O'Brien, D-Phila., Read more
Pennsylvania Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman and Deputy PennDOT Secretary Kurt Myers warned consumers to be on the lookout for flood-damaged cars being sold as undamaged new or used vehicles and offered tips on how to spot a vehicle that has flood damage. The officials also alerted consumers that flood-damaged vehicles can legally be sold as long as they are titled as such, but owners of these vehicles will likely get lower payments on insurance claims than for non-flood damaged vehicles. The two officials suggested checking for the following to determine if a vehicle is flood-damaged: Water stains, mold, mud or sand under the carpets, seats, floor mats, inside roof cloth and under the dashboard. Rusty metal inside the car. The inside of a car does not usually rust. Musty odors in the trunk and in the passenger compartment (especially when running the A/C or heat). Fog or moisture inside interior and exterior lights and excessive fogging of windows and condensation on windows. Mud or grit in the spare tire compartment and under the hood. When checking under the hood, be sure to look under wires, boxes and in hidden areas. Brittle wires under the dashboard, speakers and hood. Oxidation under the hood. Oxidation on metal can look like white powder or it could even be small holes called pitting. Consumers should have any used vehicles or vehicles they may have concerns about checked by a reputable mechanic or Read more
What is REAL ID? Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting, for official purposes, licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. What is Pennsylvania doing about REAL ID? On May 26, 2017, Governor Wolf signed Act 3 of 2017 (SB133) into law, which did the following: Repeals Act 38 of 2012, which prohibited any state agency from complying with REAL ID. Creates a an Opt-in system, where Pennsylvanians can choose to get a standard-issued driver’s license or photo ID that DOES NOT comply with REAL ID, or a new driver’s license or photo ID that DOES comply with REAL ID. Prohibits the Commonwealth from mandating REAL ID for any reason. With the enactment of Act 3 of 2017, the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is currently in the process of working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement REAL ID. How will REAL ID affect me? A standard-issued PA driver’s license and photo ID does not currently comply with REAL ID. As a result of Act 3 of 2017, PennDOT applied for an extension for compliance until October 2020. DHS has recently granted Pennsylvania and six other states a grace period through July 10, 2017. Meaning, a PA driver’s license or photo ID WILL BE accepted to access Federal facilities, military installations Read more
The Pennsylvania House and Senate have passed that will make sure all Pennsylvanians can enter federal buildings and board planes for business or vacation in accordance with federal identification requirements, also known as REAL ID. The federal government enacted Real ID in 2005 as a result of a 9/11 Commission recommendation for a national set of standards to follow where identification is concerned. Pennsylvania had been given a deadline of June 6 to adhere to the federal Real ID Act. 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. The bill passed by the General Assembly accepts the federal guidelines and requires the Department of Transportation and other agencies to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act . The Department of Homeland Security is granting extensions to states that are working in earnest to meet the set of standards for IDs. Our action and the governor's signature will likely trigger an extension for Pennsylvania until the year 2020. More details about PennDOT's implementation of the program and when Pennsylvanians can expect to be able to obtain Real ID will be available in the future. In the meantime, follow this link for answers to frenquently asked questions about REAL ID from the federal Department of Homeland Security. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 21 – House Urban Affairs Committee Democratic Chairman Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., said the committee unanimously approved the following measures today, sending them to the full House of Representatives for a vote: House Bill 758 would establish a mixed-use incentive program. It is designed to provide tax abatement incentives to developers and property owners in order to encourage new construction in deteriorated areas of depressed communities and improvements to certain deteriorated commercial, commercial and industrial property. A primary focus of the legislation is to encourage mixed-use development. Such development would include projects that incorporate residential, commercial, industrial, cultural or institutional uses. "This bill would set the guidelines for a plan that stands to have a real impact on economic development," O’Brien said. "Bringing blighted properties down and pulling the values of homes and businesses up is a direction we need to keep moving in, especially in my district and all of Philadelphia." House Bill 595 would assign the Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to investigate and mediate complaints that occur in condos, cooperatives and planned communities. O’Brien said the bill would help assure that all residents living in these communities get a fair opportunity to have their complaint heard and find a reasonable solution. Under the Read more
The House Appropriations Committee concluded on Thursday, March 9 three weeks of public hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed 2017-18 budget. Below are the links to watch each hearing in full. Tuesday, February 21, 2017 Independent Fiscal Office/Economic & Revenue Outlook Department of Revenue (including Lottery) Department of State Wednesday, February 22, 2017 Public School Employees' and State Employees' Retirement Systems Department of Labor & Industry Department of Transportation Thursday, February 23, 2017 Treasury Auditor General State System of Higher Education Attorney General Monday, February 27, 2017 Department of Environmental Protection Department of Conservation & Natural Resources Department of Aging Tuesday, February 28, 2017 Judiciary Department of Corrections/Board of Probation & Parole Department of Health/Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs Wednesday, March 1, 2017 Department of Agriculture Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology (video begins after very brief PHEAA hearing) Public Utility Commission Department of General Services Thursday, March 2, 2017 Liquor Control Board Department of Community & Economic Development Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Monday, March 6, 2017 Department of Education (part 1) Department of Education (part 2) Read more
Hearings began Tuesday for Gov. Wolf's budget proposal. Read more
HARRISBURG, Jan. 5 – State Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., will serve as Democratic chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session. He is the first chairman from the 175th Legislative District in more than 30 years. "I will be working to advance legislation to help Philadelphia and Pennsylvania's other cities. I appreciate the Democratic leadership entrusting me with this important position," O'Brien said. The Urban Affairs Committee oversees bills pertaining to the general governance of Pennsylvania’s cities and most-populated counties, and the operations of housing and redevelopment agencies, municipal authorities -- and common-interest ownership communities such as condominiums, real estate cooperatives and planned communities. Additionally, the committee handles legislation related to manufactured housing and economic and community development. The committee has a long history of working to develop measures to eradicate blight and stimulate the commercial and residential revitalization of the state’s older communities. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, Jan. 3 – State Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., was sworn in today for a new term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. "We made real progress on some issues in the 2015-16 session. Working with Governor Tom Wolf, we increased state support for schools, we passed new laws to address the state's opioid and heroin addiction crisis, we legalized medical marijuana, and we made beer and wine sales more convenient for consumers, while preserving jobs and public safety and increasing funding for the state budget. At the same time, several priorities important to working families in Pennsylvania remain unaddressed. House Democrats hope the Republican majorities in Harrisburg will work with us this session on commonsense initiatives," O'Brien said. O'Brien said his priorities for the 2017-18 legislative session include: Raising the state's minimum wage, which would benefit more than a million working Pennsylvanians -- along with small businesses and local economies. Passing workplace policies that help families -- like paid leave, equal pay for women who do the same work as men, and more support for early education and affordable child care. "And I will continue to advocate for women’s health and a woman’s right to make her own private medical decisions," he said. Easing growing concerns about retirement security by helping all workers gain access to safe, automatic and portable ways to save for Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 6 – State Rep. Michael O’Brien today announced that a $525,000 state grant has been awarded to the South Street Headhouse District to assist with the construction and renovation of driving lanes and sidewalks.
The South Street Headhouse District will use the grant to widen the walking paths in the area. Driving lanes also will be narrowed to calm traffic and enhance pedestrian safety.
Families can connect online with reliable, high-quality early learning programs at www.findchildcare.pa.gov . Over 500,000 children in Pennsylvania need some form of child care, and families can use the site to learn more about the program their child is attending and search for other programs. The improved site offers a simple zip code search as well as more detailed filters to focus on certifications and hours of operation. Families also can search a variety of early learning programs, including: Evidence-based, home-visiting family support programs for pregnant moms and young children; Child care, including quality Keystone STARS-rated programs, for services for birth- to school-age children; Early Intervention services for children with disabilities or delays; Head Start; and Pre-kindergarten programs such as Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts. More information is available at www.findchildcare.pa.gov . Read more
Home heating assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is now open. LIHEAP provides grants to eligible individuals and families to help them with their winter heating bills. Funded by the federal government, eligibility is based on family income. Applicants do not have to be on welfare to receive this help, nor will any lien be placed on a person's property if he or she receives this assistance. Winter always comes with increased costs in the form of heating bills, and for some families who live on an extremely tight budget the extra bill can be too much to handle. I you or anyone you know struggles with home heating costs each winter, please look into LIHEAP and contact my office with questions or for help applying. LIHEAP offers two types of assistance: cash grants for help with home heating bills and crisis grants for emergency situations such as a broken furnace or unexpected fuel shortage. Eligibility is based on household size and income: Household Size Maximum Income 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 $17,820 $24,030 $30,240 $36,450 $42,660 $48,870 $55,095 For each additional family member over seven, the maximum income limit increases by $6,240. Visit www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/heatingassistanceliheap/ for more information. Read more
HARRISBURG, Sept. 27 – The state Capitol will be lit teal next week following the House adoption of a resolution sponsored by state Rep. Mike O'Brien, D-Phila., which recognizes Friday, Oct. 7 as Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day in Pennsylvania. Trigeminal Neuralgia is a disease characterized by episodes of intense pain in the face originating from the trigeminal nerve. O'Brien is among the one in 20,000 people who suffer from the disease, though the incidence of it may be higher due to misdiagnosis. Because of its intense pain, characterized as the most excruciating pain known, it is sometimes referred to as the "suicide disease." O'Brien said he introduced the resolution ( H.R. 1024 ) to highlight illnesses that are debilitating for many people but are not as widely known to the public. In addition to his personal experience, he noted there is a higher incidence of the disease among women. As a member of the legislature's Women's Health Caucus, he said he seeks to sponsor bills and measures that highlight the need for better health care and health choices for women. "The reasons people suffer from Trigeminal Neuralgia are not fully understood, and the higher incidences among women are still being studied," O'Brien said. "By raising awareness as a public body we can help raise hope that better diagnosis and treatment options can be found." The message is beginning to take hold in Read more
The House adopted a resolution sponsored by Pa. state Rep. Mike O'Brien making October 7, 2016 Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day in Pennsylvania, when the Capitol will be lit teal in observation. O'Brien hopes that by raising awareness as a public body, they can help raise hope that better diagnosis and treatment options can be found for what is often called the "suicide disease." Read more
The PA Insurance Department is urging consumers, especially seniors, to take their time to understand annuities in order to protect retirement income. "The Do’s and Don’ts of Annuities” is a good resource for understanding this product. Read more
HARRISBURG, July 12 – Philadelphia’s fire paramedics who are injured on the job would be afforded the same compensation protections offered to city firefighters under legislation suggested by state Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., and passed by the House today. The legislation (H.B. 2148) is similar to a bill O’Brien introduced (H.B. 194) last year. The bill would add fire paramedics to those would are eligible for benefits under Pennsylvania’s Heart and Lung Act, which provides extra protections to emergency workers who are injured in the line of duty. O’Brien said the impetus for his legislation stemmed from the way the City of Philadelphia has been unfairly treating its fire paramedics, intentionally excluding them from being able to claim benefits under the Heart and Lung Act, despite courts weighing in on the issue. He said a 2011 Commonwealth Court opinion said that fire paramedics were a key part of firefighting operations, specifically that they work and train with firefighters, respond to emergency situations with firefighters, receive the same or similar training and that their jobs are equally dangerous. However, since that court opinion is not cemented by state law, Philadelphia has used the situation to deny fire paramedics Heart and Lung benefits when they are injured while performing their duties. "Excluding fire paramedics from the definition of firefighters is equivalent to excluding the Read more
Pa. state Rep. Mike O’Brien speaks on the House floor during a Republican attempt to change Pennsylvania’s abortion laws through swift action, avoiding the deliberative process needed for such a major piece of legislation. Read more
Pa. state Rep. Mike O'Brien talks with Secretary Randy Albright from the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget about Governor Tom Wolf's budget plan. With students burdened with crushing debt and seniors not getting the services they need, O'Brien asks: how does government serve us at the end of the day? Read more
OPINION/EDITORIAL March 7, 2016 State should help college graduates ease debt with tax credits Higher education officials from across Pennsylvania recently testified before the House Appropriations Committee, of which I am Democratic vice chairman, about their costs for educating students and the need for lawmakers to improve state support for our state-system and state-related universities and community colleges. State funding for higher education is back at 1990s levels. When the State System of Higher Education was formed in 1983, the funding breakdown for universities was about 75 percent state money, 25 percent student tuition and fees. Now, it’s the exact reverse. Coupled with the national trend of rising college costs, this disinvestment in higher education on the state level has forced student debt to an all-time high. Surpassing credit card debt, student loans are the second-largest form of consumer debt in the nation, trailing only mortgages. Our students are graduating college and pursuing careers while attempting to manage hefty loan payments. Those who are lucky to find a good-paying job are still paying more toward student loans than the generations before them. Many are putting off having families or buying their first home because their student debt is too great. I would like to see this upward-moving generation experience the American dream. To aid in that, I have introduced legislation ( H.B. 607 ) that would provide a tax credit for Read more
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