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House Democrats demand accountability for Republican election lies

Pa. Senate passes bill with Cruz language to address 'Air Bridge' issue

(Jun 21, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 21 – The state Senate today passed a bill (S.B. 446) that includes language identical to an amendment by Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., designed to address the "Air Bridge" issue. "Both the House and Senate have now passed bills containing my language to address the Air Bridge problem. Now we just need to have one bill pass both the House and Senate. After these two votes, I am optimistic we can get this reform to the governor's desk and signed into law," Cruz said. On June 7, the House of Representatives passed a bill ( H.B. 119 ) that includes Cruz's amendment. Cruz’s proposal would ban the owners, administrators and employees of recovery houses from requiring residents to sign over their public assistance benefits. It would also ensure that all drug and alcohol recovery houses throughout Pennsylvania not in compliance with federal, state or local law be referred to the appropriate agency for further investigation. "My amendment is important in making sure that the Air Bridge issue is resolved," Cruz said. "Families sent their relatives from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia to get treatment for drug addiction, but quality treatment options were not provided. Instead, they were prisoners of unregulated recovery homes that stole their money, food stamps and other government assistance in return for their stay. This is a big step to resolving the issue, but we can do more." Air Bridge is a network Read more

 

Neilson receives award for his advocacy on Real ID enforcement in Pa. (with video)

(Jun 21, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 21 – State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Phila., today was awarded for his efforts on moving Pennsylvania towards enforcement of the federal Real ID Act requirements. The award comes as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, this week granted Pennsylvania a Real ID enforcement extension through Oct. 10, 2017, which means Pennsylvanians will not face access issues when entering federal facilities through that date. Neilson said PennDOT estimates Real ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification cards will be available at the customer’s option in 2019. This will allow ample time for people who want a Real ID product to obtain one before the final DHS effective date of Oct. 1, 2020. “The General Assembly made real strides in May to get Pennsylvania in compliance with the federal law and as a result, the Department of Homeland Security granted us with yet another extension to work towards that compliance,” Neilson said. “I am proud to receive the Recognition Award for Homeland Security Leadership and Public Engagement and to have been part of the movement to assure Pennsylvanians would not need to get passports to board a plane or to have access to federal facilities.” Neilson said he had been working since the 2015-2016 session to get legislation passed that would repeal the 2012 state law and require the Department of Transportation and other state agencies to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act. Read more

 

Bizzarro: Overhaul of Pa. animal abuse laws on verge of becoming law

(Jun 20, 2017)

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro reports that the Senate has passed H.B. 1238, a sweeping overhaul of Pennsylvania’s animal abuse laws. “I join the governor in looking forward to his signing the measure into law," Bizzarro said. Read more

 

Severance tax would make PA's fiscal challenges - and your property tax burden - easier

(Jun 20, 2017)

Pennsylvania's stubborn fiscal problems would look a lot less challenging if we had $1.6 billion more for our schools, communities and residents. That's how much revenue Pennsylvania has given up in the past 6 years by refusing to collect a severance tax from natural gas drillers. Last year, the state generated just $173 million with its inadequate impact fee -- more than $14 million less than the previous year. At the same time, the value of the natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania rose by 7%. Natural gas production continues to rise in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, because we refuse to levy a severance tax on gas, so do the household property taxes we increasingly rely on to support our schools and community services. Rising property taxes threaten the homes of many senior citizens on fixed incomes and the financial security of many working families. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax on natural gas. This failure isn't just a missed opportunity, it's a dereliction of duty. A group of powerful legislators beholden to corporate special interests continues to block the commonsense severance tax that most Pennsylvanians support. They insist on governing based on what's best for the drillers and wealthy gas corporations. House Democrats believe we should be governing on behalf of what's best for you, your kids' Read more

 

Wheatley resolution calling for examination of tax system unanimously adopted by House

(Jun 19, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 19 – The House today unanimously adopted H.R. 327 , a resolution by state Rep. Jake Wheatley calling for creation of a select subcommittee to thoroughly examine Pennsylvania’s tax collection system and suggest improvements. Wheatley, D-Allegheny, previously gained approval for the measure from the House Finance Committee, where he serves as Democratic chairman. As envisioned by Wheatley, the Select Subcommittee on Tax Modernization and Reform would be tasked with making a thorough review of the process, rates and methods by which the commonwealth collects revenue – and the collective impact on taxpayers. “I am pleased that this resolution garnered bipartisan support in the full House, just as it did earlier in the Finance Committee,” Wheatley said. “This subcommittee will perform important work, giving us ideas on how we can modernize our tax collection system and methods to ensure that government services are sustained at needed levels.” Wheatley said he wants the subcommittee to delve into deeper issues than just taxing and spending, and look into the realms of what the commonwealth is seeking to create or achieve in its budgeting process. A review of Pennsylvania’s various revenue-generating mechanisms – including whether they are sustainable and in need of changes – should be central to the subcommittee’s work, said Wheatley. Read more

 

Severance tax is a step toward a smarter, better budget

(Jun 19, 2017)

Pennsylvania faces a serious and growing budget deficit as talks get underway on the 2017-18 state budget. We can't continue to rely solely on temporary revenue sources, more borrowing from critical programs, or accounting gimmicks to balance our budgets. And we can't keep cutting from our schools, our economy and public health and safety -- all these things are important to the future of our state and our residents and their families. What we can and should do to begin closing the deficit and moving our state forward is taking a better approach to the budget. House Democrats want a responsible approach that includes making government more efficient, closing loopholes that increase the burden on the middle class, and having everyone, including corporations and the wealthy, pay their fair share. The best way to address a stubborn and lingering deficit problem is with predictable, sustainable revenues that grow with the economy. One option Republican budgets have ignored for years is a natural gas severance tax. A severance tax would provide sustainable, predictable revenue that grows as the industry grows. The impact fee Republicans prefer helps host communities, but it continues to shrink as natural gas production and profits expand. The burden on middle class taxpayers should go down as revenues and profits for gas drillers go up. Here in Pennsylvania, we have it backwards. A Read more

 

More jobs doesn't mean we have to give up our health or safety

(Jun 16, 2017)

A state budget bill (House Bill 218) House Republicans wrote and passed in April puts public health and safety at risk in Pennsylvania. The partisan plan was written and passed with no input or support from House Democrats or the governor. Under the House Republican budget bill, there would be 600 fewer inspections of public water systems -- water systems that provide clean drinking water to more than 80% of Pennsylvania residents. The House Republican budget bill would reduce the number of underground mine inspectors in Pennsylvania -- the people who ensure the safety of our coal miners and the mines they work in. The DEP staff cuts forced by the House Republican budget would also slow down the permit review process. That's bad for job growth, businesses and economic development in Pennsylvania. DEP has been forced to reduce its staff by more than 750 under Republican budgets. Those reductions have made it nearly impossible for the state to adequately monitor and protect the air you breathe and the water you drink. Last year, the EPA warned Pennsylvania that further cuts in staff could lead to the federal government taking over responsibility for these programs. That loss of authority would include a loss of federal funds for Pennsylvania. Republican attempts to shrink DEP have had an impact on businesses and the economy that's opposite to the one Republicans say they intend. Read more

 

Trumpcare is a job killer

(Jun 15, 2017)

Concern over attempts by Republicans in Washington to dismantle the Affordable Care Act is about much more than just millions of people losing health coverage -- although that's certainly bad enough. There's also tremendous worry about the impact repealing the ACA will have on the economy -- nationally and in the states. A new report released this week says more than 1 million jobs could disappear across the nation over the next 10 years as the result of a repeal. Pennsylvania stands to lose nearly 85,000 jobs. The study, by The Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare-focused foundation, and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, concludes that Republicans' American Health Care Act -- Trumpcare -- would cause every state in America to suffer an economic downturn. States like Pennsylvania that expanded Medicaid so more residents had access to affordable health coverage would suffer the worst, the study says. As healthcare coverage losses mount in 2020 and beyond under the Republican House-passed plan, job losses and economic decline would get worse. If the plan to dismantle the ACA passed by Republicans in the U.S. House in May were to take effect in its current form, gross state products would fall by $93 billion and business output in the states would decline by $141 billion. Pennsylvania would lose 84,900 jobs by 2026, including 52,500 healthcare jobs. Read more

 

Bill to address 'stop and go' alcohol nuisance issue advances to full House

(Jun 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 13 – A bill introduced by three Philadelphia state representatives to address the issue of "stop and go" nuisance alcohol-selling businesses today advanced out of the Liquor Control Committee to the full House of Representatives. House Bill 1547 was introduced by state Reps. Jordan Harris and Donna Bullock, both D-Phila.; and Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware. The bill would allow the state Liquor Control Board to designate saturated nuisance market areas, where violations would be subject to enhanced penalties, fines and suspensions, and allow the board to remove licenses from those areas. Harris said, "While the majority of business owners who sell alcohol are responsible business owners, there are those who have been able to operate using business practices that are not in the best interests of the communities that they provide service to; understanding that, we have created legislation that will provide greater state and municipal oversight of those businesses who have skirted the rule of law and created nuisances in our communities that in many cases have altered the quality of life for those residents who live in the areas these businesses serve." Bullock said: "A key part of this bill is allowing for more coordination between the state and local communities to regulate these nuisance businesses. Under this bill, the Liquor Control Board would be given the authority to look at the number of citations, police Read more

 

Matzie bill would allow voting by mail in Pennsylvania

(Jun 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 13 – Seeking to increase voter participation, cut election costs and reduce voter fraud, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, today introduced H.B. 1546, which would permit voting by mail. Matzie said his bill was one of several proposed bills to bring Pennsylvania’s voting system into the 21 st century. Under Matzie’s legislation, any eligible Pennsylvania voter would have the option of casting their ballot by mail. “As elected representatives in state government, I believe it is our duty to find ways to make voting for our constituents easier, more accessible and more secure,” Matzie said. “One of those ways, as other states have shown, is to allow any eligible voter to cast their ballot for any and every election by mail.” Matzie said the ability to vote is the most basic tenet of U.S. democracy – and access methods should change with the times to enable participation by the maximum number of eligible voters “Currently, 22 states have provisions allowing certain elections to be conducted entirely by mail, and three of those states – Oregon, Washington and Colorado – hold all elections entirely by mail. California will begin holding all-mail elections in 2018,” Matzie said. Matzie’s bill directs the Department of State and the commonwealth’s county election boards to establish a vote-by-mail system in Pennsylvania. Voters would only have to request a mail-in Read more

 

DeLuca highlights voting modernization bills

(Jun 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 13 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, joined a number of state representatives and senators to offer a series of bills to update and modernize Pennsylvania’s voting rules. DeLuca featured H.B. 945 , which would create a process to allow same-day voter registration and H.B. 946 which would create an early voting window. “During the May primary election, only about 17 percent of all eligible Allegheny County voters found the time to go to the polls,” DeLuca said. “Our democracy only works when we, the people, vote. “The District of Columbia and 13 states now have same-day registration. The opportunity to register on Election Day can raise voter participation dramatically. Those states and Washington, D.C. had a voter participation rate of 68.8 percent in 2012, more than 10 percent higher than states without that option. “More than two thirds of the states also have an early-voting window. My bill would permit early voting from 15 days before the election through the day before Election Day. More than 30 percent of all the votes in the last two presidential elections were cast during early voting periods,” DeLuca said. Both bills are currently awaiting further consideration in the House State Government Committee. Other bills highlighted by others at the media event aimed at improving voter turnout are focused on automatic voter registration, no-excuses absentee voting and providing paid time Read more

 

Solomon, Bernstine encourage workforce opportunities for Pa. youth

(Jun 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 13 – State Reps. Jared Solomon, D-Phila., and Aaron Bernstine, R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence, introduced legislation that would help provide opportunities for Pennsylvania’s youth to get a jumpstart in Pennsylvania’s competitive workforce. “Providing our young people with a quality education is a priority for me, and I would like to see them have a chance to get real-world workforce experience while they are still in school,” Solomon said. “This program would help our students obtain a better idea of what path they would like to pursue after high school, whether it’s college or other secondary education or perhaps remain with the company where they received workforce experience.” House Bill 1522 would establish a pilot grant program that would provide incentives to schools and local businesses to collaborate in providing work-based learning opportunities, apprenticeships, and jobs for high school students during the school year, the summer and after the student graduates. In addition, the bill would encourage a dynamic relationship between schools and businesses to create curricula that bring real-life experiences into the classroom that prepare students for life after high school. Solomon said while Pennsylvania offers job training programs and partnerships for adults, there are no prospects for high school students. “By offering our young people with these opportunities, it would benefit them along Read more

 

Federal Medicaid cuts threaten addiction treatment in PA

(Jun 12, 2017)

Last session legislators in the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a number of bipartisan measures to address the growing heroin addiction crisis in Pennsylvania. Now, Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate are poised to wipe all that progress away with huge cuts to #Medicaid. Those cuts would endanger addiction treatment, which many Pennsylvanians receive under health care supported by Medicaid. For some patients, medications that help them overcome addiction cost as much as $1,000 a month or more. Without their medication, these patients will likely relapse into heroin and other drug addiction. What's worse, if #Medicaid cuts of the size Republicans are pushing in their Trumpcare bill become a reality, many doctors believe more people will die from overdoses, and Hepatitis C and HIV infections will rise because of dirty needles. Slashing Medicaid so that private insurance companies and the wealthy can get even richer will make what is already a public health crisis in Pennsylvania and other states even worse. More than 124,000 Pennsylvanians who are trying to beat drug or alcohol addictions depend on Medicaid to help them afford their medications. The Republican Trumpcare bill, which has already passed the U.S. House and could soon be voted on in the Senate, would cut Medicaid funds for the states by $800 billion over the next decade. Nine House Republicans from Pennsylvania voted for Read more

 

Pashinski introduces legislation aimed at helping grandfamilies

(Jun 12, 2017)

Citing a growing need due to Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at helping grandfamilies who take temporary custody of young relatives.“I’ve been working on this legislation for several years, but with families being broken apart by the opioid epidemic, it’s necessary now more than ever to help grandparents and other family members who are caring for grandchildren or nieces and nephews,” Pashinski said. “It’s easy to overlook, but grandfamilies often encounter unique legal problems where the law is unclear, such as making medical decisions or enrolling a child in school.” Read more

 

Trumpcare would be devastating for older Pennsylvanians

(Jun 09, 2017)

If at first you don't succeed, rig the game. Apparently, that's the Congressional Republican strategy on ending health coverage for 23 million Americans. While everyone was distracted by the growing Trump-Russia scandal this week, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell invoked a special rule that allows the Senate to fast-track the healthcare repeal bill the House already passed and vote on it without committee debate or hearings. So-called Republican "moderates" (seemingly an oxymoron) in the Senate who originally opposed the House bill now seem to be falling in line, and Trumpcare could pass the Senate before July 4. By stacking the deck in favor of insurance companies and the wealthy, Trumpcare poses a great danger to thousands of older Pennsylvanians. Trumpcare raises costs and imposes a crushing age tax on older Pennsylvanians right when they need the money the most ? just before retirement. Trumpcare allows insurance companies to increase premiums for older Americans as high as they like -- draining the savings of older Pennsylvanians and forcing them to retire in poverty. The Congressional Budget Office estimated some older Pennsylvanians could see their premiums rise by 800 percent under Trumpcare. Trumpcare also unravels protections in the Affordable Care Act that older Pennsylvanians need. The ACA requires insurance companies to cover essential health benefits such as mental Read more

 

Krueger-Braneky urges action to add Pa. into U.S. Climate Alliance

(Jun 08, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, introduced a resolution today urging action to lead Pennsylvania into the U.S. Climate Alliance in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Members of the U.S. Climate Alliance are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the goals of the federal Clean Power Plan. “President Trump put the future of our communities, commonwealth, country and planet at risk when he decided to not honor the United States’ commitment to fighting climate change and withdraw from the Paris Agreement,” Krueger-Braneky said. “It is now up to local and state governments to step up to slow and mitigate the consequences of climate change, which include rising sea levels, more intense weather events and increased risk of draught and famine.” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has come forward in support of upholding the alliance. “Pittsburgh is the example of why the Paris Agreement is good for economic development: such work is good for business too,” he said. “We’ve rebuilt our economy on the future and our people, not the past.” In response to the United States’ withdrawal, the U.S. Climate Alliance was formed by the states of California, New York, and Washington to uphold the Paris Agreement. Members of the Climate Alliance include Connecticut, Delaware, Read more

 

Bizzarro: Senate Bill 1 offers progress on reforming public pensions

(Jun 08, 2017)

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro reports that Senate Bill 1 is a modest but significant step toward fiscal solvency in Pennsylvania’s public pension plans. “The legislation represents a significant, bipartisan compromise, supported by the governor, and worthy of support,” Bizzarro said. Read more

 

Kinsey condemns gambling expansion bill

(Jun 07, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 7 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., today voted against legislation that would dramatically expand gambling in Pennsylvania. Kinsey said the expansion would not only saturate the gambling market at the expense of the Pennsylvania Lottery and the senior citizens programs it supports, it would further threaten the safety and quality of life of residents in the neighborhoods he serves and throughout Philadelphia. House Bill 271 includes authorizing up to 30,000 locations for video gaming terminals at licensed liquor retailers and establishments by the end of 2018 and 40,000 by 2020, as well as gambling tablets or “iGaming” at Pennsylvania’s six international airports, including Philadelphia. Kinsey said the "stop and go" liquor businesses that have been such a problem in Philadelphia would be eligible and that there is no distribution formula for ensuring that Philadelphia neighborhoods are not saddled with the majority of machines. “Communities in Philadelphia are sick and tired of being targeted by businesses from outside the commonwealth that come to our communities to deteriorate them,” Kinsey said. “I’m opposed to this legislation because in addition to deteriorating our communities, this legislation will damage the property tax relief seniors need to stay in their homes, programs that help senior citizens afford prescriptions and transportation services across the commonwealth, Read more

 

McCarter, Sturla seek to amend the way cyber charter schools are funded

(Jun 07, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 7 – At a Capitol news conference today, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, and House Democratic Policy Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, called attention to legislation that would amend the Public School Code to change the way cyber charter schools are funded. Their bill — H.B. 1206 — seeks to cap the amount of funding unaffiliated cyber charter schools receive for students who live in an area in which the school district or an intermediate unit operates its own cyber charter school. Under their proposal, unaffiliated cyber charter schools would receive either the per-student funding amount of the school district cyber school program or the intermediate unit cyber school program, whichever figure is higher. “The actual cost of cyber charter education has dropped dramatically in the 20 years since Pennsylvania’s charter school legislation was passed, whereas our reimbursement formula for cyber charters, which is still based on the cost of a brick-and-mortar education, has not, and the Pennsylvania taxpayer has shouldered the burden,” McCarter said. Sturla added: “I want all Pennsylvania kids to have access to exceptional educational opportunities and to do that, we need to have fair, reasonable and accountable reimbursement practices in place. The proposal by Representative McCarter and myself is a fair and reasonable approach that makes sure cyber charters aren’t receiving more than what it Read more

 

Warren, Levine, advocates spotlight bill to help schools, parents communicate over eating disorders (w/Video)

(Jun 06, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 6 – State Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks, Pennsylvania Physician General Rachel Levine and members of the National Eating Disorders Association spotlighted Warren’s bill to bring awareness to eating disorders during a Capitol news conference today. House Bill 531, which has received bipartisan support, would require schools to annually provide information regarding eating disorders to parents with children in grades 5 through 12. Its companion in the Senate, S.B. 730, was introduced by state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, and also has bipartisan support. Additionally, both bills would create guidelines for local school boards to pursue the optional development of an eating-disorder screening program, specify training requirements for personnel and volunteers, and provide the framework for parental notification procedures in the event of a positive indication of an eating disorder. “People, especially children, who struggle with eating disorders, need to seek, or be provided with, professional help,” Warren said. “The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.” “Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are serious conditions that can lead to significant, even life threatening, medical complications,” Levine said. “Treatment involves a multi-disciplinary team, and the Read more

 

Pa. Senate passes bill with Cruz language to address 'Air Bridge' issue
Jun 21, 2017

Neilson receives award for his advocacy on Real ID enforcement in Pa. (with video)
Jun 21, 2017

Bizzarro: Overhaul of Pa. animal abuse laws on verge of becoming law
Jun 20, 2017

Severance tax would make PA's fiscal challenges - and your property tax burden - easier
Jun 20, 2017

Wheatley resolution calling for examination of tax system unanimously adopted by House
Jun 19, 2017

Severance tax is a step toward a smarter, better budget
Jun 19, 2017

More jobs doesn't mean we have to give up our health or safety
Jun 16, 2017

Trumpcare is a job killer
Jun 15, 2017

Bill to address 'stop and go' alcohol nuisance issue advances to full House
Jun 13, 2017

Matzie bill would allow voting by mail in Pennsylvania
Jun 13, 2017

DeLuca highlights voting modernization bills
Jun 13, 2017

Solomon, Bernstine encourage workforce opportunities for Pa. youth
Jun 13, 2017

Federal Medicaid cuts threaten addiction treatment in PA
Jun 12, 2017

Pashinski introduces legislation aimed at helping grandfamilies
Jun 12, 2017

Trumpcare would be devastating for older Pennsylvanians
Jun 09, 2017

Krueger-Braneky urges action to add Pa. into U.S. Climate Alliance
Jun 08, 2017

Bizzarro: Senate Bill 1 offers progress on reforming public pensions
Jun 08, 2017

Kinsey condemns gambling expansion bill
Jun 07, 2017

McCarter, Sturla seek to amend the way cyber charter schools are funded
Jun 07, 2017

Warren, Levine, advocates spotlight bill to help schools, parents communicate over eating disorders (w/Video)
Jun 06, 2017