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Wheatley calls for realistic action from House Finance Committee

(Apr 25, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 25 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, said he is becoming increasingly frustrated by the Republican majority’s double standard when it comes to legislation that will have a dramatic effect on Pennsylvania’s budget and financial outlook. Wheatley, who is Democratic chairman of the House Finance Committee, said committee members today were forced to vote on a package of tax-related bills introduced by House Republicans that would add $137.5 million to Pennsylvania’s spending, or budget deficit, without offering a way to pay for it. “The majority party continues to introduce and pass out of the Finance Committee legislation that would increase Pennsylvania’s already massive budget deficit and not offer the way to pay for it,” Wheatley said. “When we give away money to one sector, we are cutting money in our budget.” Wheatley said while the GOP bills have the laudable goal of leveling the playing field for mom and pop shops and small businesses, the methods used by House Republicans at the committee level are disingenuous and not in the best interest of taxpayers. “I commend the work and the effort toward helping our small businesses succeed and our economy thrive, for it is a shared goal of House Democrats,” Wheatley said. “I was even pleased to hear the Republican sponsor of this package admit that big business has a more favorable tax environment Read more

 

Legislation would reduce penalty for forgetting hunting license

(Apr 25, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 25 – Hunters who forget their license when they go into the woods would face a reduced penalty under legislation introduced by state Rep. Gerald Mullery. “While it is important for hunters to have their license on them while in the woods, sometimes human nature gets the best of them and they just forget and leave it either at home or in their vehicle,” said Mullery, D-Luzerne. “My legislation would make the punishment less harsh for forgetfulness, which occasionally happens to people.” House Bill 1291 would reduce to $50 the penalty for people who have a hunting license but simply forget to bring it with them. Currently, state law treats hunting without buying a license and hunting but forgetting to bring a license as the same, with a fine of no less than $250 and no more than $500. “Hunting illegally without first purchasing a license is quite different than an individual forgetting to carry a valid license with them into the field. Although forgetting one’s license may be negligent, it is far different than knowingly and willfully breaking the law by engaging in illegal hunting and therefore should be treated differently,” Mullery said. The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Trappers Association have supported Mullery’s introduction of the measure in past legislative sessions. The bill is expected to be referred to the House Game and Fisheries Committee, of which Mullery is a Read more

 

Liquor sales in PA should be about consumer convenience and small businesses, not big profits for a few huge corporations

(Apr 24, 2017)

Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are scheduled to move several liquor privatization bills this week. They all have one thing in common: Pennsylvania consumers aren't demanding any of them and the Pennsylvania Senate is unlikely to consider them. Consumers are happy with the modernization and convenience changes made last year to Pennsylvania's liquor laws -- there is no widespread public support for comprehensive privatization for privatization's sake. There are only a few groups pushing to rush forward with more liquor changes so soon after last year's consumer-friendly improvements -- the chain grocery stores; big-box retailers and mega-wholesalers that want to corner the market at the expense of consumers and small, family-owned businesses; and the newspaper publishers who want to reap millions of dollars in advertising sales. By pushing expanded alcohol sales, the state risks jeopardizing public safety in many counties and municipalities, reducing revenues for the Pennsylvania budget, and killing thousands of family-sustaining jobs in every community in the state. Creating thousands more wine and liquor retailers will saturate the market in many counties and municipalities. Access to a wide variety of wine and liquor selections in well-lit, clean and safe state stores will be replaced by a limited choice of major-brand items relegated to one or two aisles in chain grocery stores and Read more

 

Rep. Bizzarro named 2017 Humane Legislator of the Year

(Apr 24, 2017)

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro was honored with the Humane Legislator of the Year award by The Humane Society of the United States. Read more

 

Burns rallies support for PHEAA scholarships for volunteers while participating in Cambria County Fire School

(Apr 24, 2017)

PATTON, April 24 – The Volunteer Recruitment Service Scholarship Act proposed by state Rep. Frank Burns to help boost sagging membership in the unpaid emergency services field took center stage during a noon news conference yesterday at the Cambria County Fire School. Before suiting up to engage in scheduled afternoon training sessions with firefighters, Burns, D-Cambria, outlined the merits of his H.B. 48 , which would provide state scholarships to fire company, ambulance service and rescue squad volunteers. Burns said he drafted the bill with a two-fold mission: as a means to allow emergency services to attract and retain volunteers, and as a way to help young people defray the cost of higher education while introducing them to important community service. “We are all aware of the serious manpower shortages facing, in particular, the volunteer fire departments that have served our communities so well for so long,” Burns said. “The situation is reaching crisis proportions, and I believe that offering Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency scholarships to volunteers is one way to think outside the box to solve this problem.” Under Burns’ bill, recipients would be required to be a member of a volunteer organization for at least six months and maintain active volunteer status, have graduated from high school or have received a high school equivalency diploma. They would also have to enroll in a degree-producing curriculum Read more

 

Hill-Evans charter school bill would protect students, taxpayers

(Apr 21, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 21 – State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans has introduced legislation that would offer additional protections for students and taxpayers in the event of a charter school’s closure. Under House Bill 1249 , a charter school that has been notified that its charter will not be renewed or will be terminated may not continue to enroll new students unless the charter school has filed an appeal. If the school’s appeal is denied by the state Charter School Appeal Board, the charter school would have to immediately stop enrolling new students. “In York, we know how difficult the closure of a charter school can be. We shouldn’t allow charter schools to continue enrolling students if they know they are going to close,” Hill-Evans said. “It’s unfair to those children and unnecessarily disruptive to their education.” Making this change would also alleviate concerns about charter schools that are anticipating closure enrolling more students in order to artificially inflate any payments based on enrollment when a school closes its doors. The bill only applies if a charter school hasn’t appealed a non-renewal or termination decision or if that appeal has been denied, Hill-Evans said. H.B. 1249 has been referred to the House Education Committee. Hill-Evans initially offered the bill as an amendment to the Republican-backed House Bill 97 – legislation she said that falls short of providing much-needed reform Read more

 

Dawkins introduces bill to eliminate state government language barriers

(Apr 19, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 19 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., introduced a bill to require state departments and agencies, elected row offices, and the General Assembly to craft language access plans to better serve Pennsylvania residents with a limited ability to speak or write in English. House Bill 1241 would require these language access plans to identify all languages spoken by at least 3 percent of the population they serve, and provide vital documents and informational materials in those languages. It also requires that oral, in-person interpretive services be provided in languages encountered at least weekly. “All Pennsylvanians should have equal access to their government,” Dawkins said. “Our departments and agencies cannot fulfill their missions if there are 500,000 people in the state they can’t communicate with. This is a matter of protecting our residents’ health, rights and well-being.” The bill would require state agencies to submit their language access plans to the secretary of administration, who would provide central coordination and technical assistance. The secretary also would make these plans available online for the public to review. In addition to entities under the authority of the governor, the attorney general, auditor general and treasurer as well as the state House and Senate would be required to publish and implement language access plans under the bill. “As the population of non-English Read more

 

Pa. charter school reform bills' goal: Treat all public schools equally

(Apr 19, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 19 – House Democrats today unveiled a package of eight charter school reform bills designed to treat all Pennsylvania public schools – both traditional and charter – and their students equally under law. "I am hopeful we can pull together bipartisan support for these bills that improve efficiencies and accountability, which means that there will be more money available for education. Providing high-quality education to all Pennsylvania students should be the ultimate goal of our educational system," said Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee. Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, has introduced a bill ( H.B. 1199 ) that would end conflicts of interest in tax-funded payments for charter school leases. "The auditor general's office has identified millions of dollars in questionable charter school leases. We need to prevent these conflicts of interest up front, and we need to recover taxpayers' money to benefit students when there has been an inappropriate payment for one of these leases. Every dollar that goes to an inappropriate lease is a dollar that doesn't go to educate our kids," Roebuck said. Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, introduced a bill ( H.B. 1198 ) that would bring charter schools in line with school districts by imposing limits on the surpluses that charter schools may accumulate. "My legislation Read more

 

Snyder readying bill to safeguard gas well impact payments

(Apr 19, 2017)

Rep. Pam Snyder is drafting legislation that would clarify fees from low-producing natural gas wells and ensure fuller payments to communities and programs. Read more

 

House approves Snyder bill on minors’ health services

(Apr 18, 2017)

State Rep. Pam Snyder reports that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed her legislation that would eliminate confusion over when a minor’s consent is needed for mental health examinations and other health services. Read more

 

Time to do the right thing for unemployed workers

(Apr 18, 2017)

It's time to end the six-months' worth of suffering tens of thousands of Pennsylvania individuals and families have endured because Republican leaders in the state Senate refused to do their jobs back in October. The state was forced to close three unemployment call centers and furlough 500 workers in December after Senate Republicans refused to vote on a bill to keep the centers open and upgrade technology and services. Since then, unemployed workers in Pennsylvania have had to deal with endless busy signals, dropped calls, hours spent on hold, and sometimes weeks and even months waiting for benefits. Workers like Anita Salvato, whose experience was detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lost her job at a Philadelphia hospital in February and waited eight weeks to get her first unemployment check, even though there was no opposition from her former employer. "I’m usually self-sufficient. It is scaring the hell out of me. I’m so afraid. I’m so frightened," she says. No Pennsylvania worker, or business for that matter, that pays taxes into the unemployment system should have to deal with that level of frustration when it comes time to use the system. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on legislation that would provide temporary funding to rehire some of the furloughed workers and restore some of the services lost last year. The Senate passed a version of the bill in Read more

 

McCarter to propose bill to hold charter educators to same evaluation standards as others

(Apr 17, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 17 – State Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, will soon introduce legislation to include charter schools in the teacher evaluation system used for all other public school educators. Pennsylvania adopted a system of educator evaluation in 2011 that requires the combination of a structured observation system and various pieces of student performance data be used to calculate ratings for teachers, principals and other professional staff members. However, charter schools are currently not required to use the system. “We want effective, high-quality teaching for all of our students, regardless of what type of school they attend. So why wouldn’t we evaluate teachers in the same way at all schools?” McCarter said. “This bill will ensure that we’re using the same system to assess the instruction all of our public school students are receiving on a daily basis.” The legislation would require that charter schools and cyber charter schools use the same evaluation system as other public schools starting in the 2018-19 school year. McCarter said charter schools and traditional public schools should be treated equally under law since both receive tax dollars and both are considered public schools under Pennsylvania law. Read more

 

Say no to a Trump budget that harms Pennsylvanians

(Apr 17, 2017)

The federal budget Donald Trump has proposed would do severe damage not just to the Pennsylvania budget -- which is already facing a potential shortfall of several billion dollars by the end of the next fiscal year -- but the financial security, health and lives of hundreds of thousands of state residents. Just one example: Trump's budget would eliminate federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which annually helps nearly 350,000 Pennsylvania households keep their home heated during the winter. Pennsylvania could lose $185 million or more in heating assistance under the Trump proposal, an amount the state could not afford to make up in its already stressed budget. The LIHEAP cuts are just the tip of the iceberg -- during the past several weeks state officials have learned other Trump cuts could: jeopardize meal programs for senior citizens; eliminate millions of dollars the state relies on to incarcerate undocumented foreign criminals; cut Homeland Security funding for counties in Pennsylvania by nearly $10 million; restrict federal funding that helps pay for senior centers, parks, sewer improvements and fire-fighting equipment; discontinue a program that helps small- and medium-size manufacturers in Pennsylvania, leading to a loss of more than 10,000 jobs -- mostly in manufacturing and technology; cut transportation services impacting statewide, regional and local commuters and businesses; remove Read more

 

Donatucci to introduce new charter school reform bill

(Apr 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 13 – Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, is set to introduce legislation that would provide savings for both state and local taxpayers. Donatucci called for support of her reform bill that would provide a clear process for school administrators to follow when closing a school building due to financial, enrollment, charter revocation under the state charter school law or other applicable reasons. Under current state law, there are no procedures in place to guide administrators who are in the process of closing a school. “The closing of a traditional or charter school can generate chaos for any local community and force area parents into a frustrated scramble for alternatives,” Donatucci said. The bill, H.B. 1204, would require administrators to provide ample notification of a school closing to parents, the community and the state, and set forth a clear procedure for reporting and transitioning students to other facilities and programs. This legislation would also protect students, parents, taxpayers and communities, and provide guidance and assistance to administrators at all types of public schools in Pennsylvania -- including traditional neighborhood, brick-and-mortar charter, and cyber-charter schools. Donatucci said that with enactment of her bill, the state also would have the opportunity to develop a database for those unused or underutilized school facilities in Pennsylvania to ensure Read more

 

Matzie bill would help secure sensitive online data used by state

(Apr 13, 2017)

State Rep. Rob Matzie is reintroducing his Protecting Commonwealth Data legislation that would require state employees conducting state business to use encryption to protect personal, online information from being viewed or modified by a third party. Read more

 

Briggs announces internet privacy legislation to restore repealed protections

(Apr 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 13 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, announced today a proposal to protect Pennsylvanian’s online privacy by restoring part of the privacy protections recently stripped by congress and President Donald Trump. Briggs’ legislation is part of a package of commonsense privacy and consumer protection bills designed by House Democrats to mirror the recently repealed Federal Communications Commission internet privacy protection rules. “Republicans in Washington recently voted to sell your private information to the highest bidder and it’s up to Pennsylvania to restore those protections,” Briggs said. “My proposal, and others proposed by my colleagues, would prevent big companies from exploiting your personal information and online activity for private profit while requiring them to notify you should a breach occur.” Briggs’ proposal would require internet service providers and telecommunications companies to notify their customers when a data breach of customer personal data occurs and to establish, implement and maintain safeguards reasonably designed to ensure the security of personal data of its customers. “Online users have a right to know when their sensitive information has been compromised. This bill helps to fix Washington’s failure to protect consumers by holding service providers accountable for securing sensitive data and requiring them to notify you in a timely manner if Read more

 

Best interests of working Americans being put on hold

(Apr 12, 2017)

During his campaign, Donald Trump talked a lot about standing up for hardworking Americans and putting corporations on notice. But as president, his actions have signaled the exact opposite. Every year, financial advisors cheat investors out of about $17 billion by pushing products whose sales generate bonuses, commissions and prizes for the financial advisor, but significantly higher costs and fees for the consumer. A new consumer protection rule known as the "fiduciary rule" proposed by President Obama would require financial advisors to act in the best interests of their customers, not themselves or their investment firm. Under the rule, working people and middle class Americans could trust that their financial advisor was working to help them and their family save for a secure retirement, not to line their own pockets. And, ethical financial advisors wouldn't have to compete on an uneven playing field with unscrupulous financial advisors more interested in making a quick buck than helping their customers. The fiduciary rule was supposed to take effect this week. But Trump has delayed the rule for 60 days, and has indicated he may kill it altogether. Saving for retirement is difficult. Nearly one-third of American workers have no retirement savings at all. Most corporations have stopped helping the hard-working employees who make them successful by ending pension plans and opting instead for bigger Read more

 

Rabb's proposed VOTE Act would make voting much easier in Pa.

(Apr 11, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA, April 11 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., will introduce a bill to make it much easier to vote in Pennsylvania. "With the April 17 deadline to register to vote in the Pennsylvania primary just days away, I'm encouraging everyone who qualifies to make sure they register. You can even register online at votespa.com . And I'm also looking ahead to ways the legislature can make it easier to use your constitutional right to vote. Many of these are things that other states already allow, and Pennsylvanians deserve the same ease of voting," Rabb said. "Our commonwealth is only as strong as the democracy we bolster through our state laws. In an era of record low turnout and deep public cynicism, it's more important than ever to create new avenues of expression and engagement for citizens and to expand and empower our electorate toward liberty and justice for all." Rabb's proposed Voting Opportunities Toward Empowerment (VOTE) Act would: Provide for no-excuse-needed absentee voting and create the option for a permanent absentee voter status for those who are disabled or otherwise unable to travel to the polls. Establish early voting beginning 15 days before Election Day and ending at 6 p.m. on the Sunday before the election. Voting sites would be open at or after 7 a.m. and close by 8 p.m. each day, with at least 10 hours for voting each weekday and at least eight hours for voting on each Saturday and Sunday. Read more

 

The War on Democracy

(Apr 11, 2017)

Republicans and their corporate friends have been writing the playbook for the war on Democracy for years. Going "nuclear" and changing decades of rules and tradition in the U.S. Senate in order to confirm conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is just the latest example of their efforts to thwart the will of working people in favor of corporate interests and the wealthy. But while the marching orders -- and this latest battle -- are coming out of Washington, Republicans are playing the real game in the states, with endless efforts like voter suppression through strict ID laws, partisan gerrymandering, and legislation to reduce the power of elected Democratic officials. In Pennsylvania, the majority party in the legislature has turned to all of these tactics and more. Their efforts to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians through a strict voter ID law were declared unconstitutional. Undeterred, they continue to move various legislative proposals to weaken the governor's ability to manage the state workforce, direct economic development and other state funding, appoint boards and commissions, and otherwise interfere with powers and duties clearly reserved in the state constitution for the executive and judicial branches of government. Last week's vote in the state House to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences that have proven ineffective and were previously ruled unconstitutional is a Read more

 

Roebuck bill would end conflicts of interest in charter school lease payments, recover money for educating kids

(Apr 10, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 10 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would end conflicts of interest in tax-funded payments for charter school leases. "To ensure financial accountability for all public schools and protect Pennsylvania taxpayers, I will introduce legislation that would ban anyone who serves as a school director, founder, member of a board of trustees or administrator of any public school entity -- including a school district, charter school or cyber charter school -- from receiving reimbursements on lease payments for buildings or facilities used for charter school. The ban would also include executives or employees of charter school management companies," Roebuck said. "We need to prevent these conflicts of interest up front and also recover taxpayers' money to benefit students when there has been an inappropriate payment for one of these leases," Roebuck said. "Every dollar that goes to an inappropriate lease is a dollar that doesn't go to educate our kids." Roebuck said charter schools and traditional public schools should be treated equally under law since both receive tax dollars and both are considered public schools under Pennsylvania law. This legislation was first introduced last session in response to concerns raised about lease overpayments to charter schools. Since December 2012, the Office of the Auditor General has found Read more

 

Wheatley calls for realistic action from House Finance Committee
Apr 25, 2017

Legislation would reduce penalty for forgetting hunting license
Apr 25, 2017

Liquor sales in PA should be about consumer convenience and small businesses, not big profits for a few huge corporations
Apr 24, 2017

Rep. Bizzarro named 2017 Humane Legislator of the Year
Apr 24, 2017

Burns rallies support for PHEAA scholarships for volunteers while participating in Cambria County Fire School
Apr 24, 2017

Hill-Evans charter school bill would protect students, taxpayers
Apr 21, 2017

Dawkins introduces bill to eliminate state government language barriers
Apr 19, 2017

Pa. charter school reform bills' goal: Treat all public schools equally
Apr 19, 2017

Snyder readying bill to safeguard gas well impact payments
Apr 19, 2017

House approves Snyder bill on minors’ health services
Apr 18, 2017

Time to do the right thing for unemployed workers
Apr 18, 2017

McCarter to propose bill to hold charter educators to same evaluation standards as others
Apr 17, 2017

Say no to a Trump budget that harms Pennsylvanians
Apr 17, 2017

Donatucci to introduce new charter school reform bill
Apr 13, 2017

Matzie bill would help secure sensitive online data used by state
Apr 13, 2017

Briggs announces internet privacy legislation to restore repealed protections
Apr 13, 2017

Best interests of working Americans being put on hold
Apr 12, 2017

Rabb's proposed VOTE Act would make voting much easier in Pa.
Apr 11, 2017

The War on Democracy
Apr 11, 2017

Roebuck bill would end conflicts of interest in charter school lease payments, recover money for educating kids
Apr 10, 2017