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House Democrats demand accountability for Republican election lies

Time to act on a minimum wage increase in PA

(Jun 06, 2017)

Time to act on a minimum wage increase in PA States and cities across the United States continue to increase minimum wages for workers, including every state that borders Pennsylvania. Every worker should be able to expect a fair day's pay for a hard day's work. No full-time worker should live in poverty. No working family should be forced to depend on public assistance to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Rep. Patti Kim has is proposing legislation that would give workers in Pennsylvania a measure of dignity and ensure they can support their families by increasing the state's minimum wage, in increments, to $15 per hour by 2024. In addition, the legislation would boost the minimum wage each year after that based on the annual cost-of-living adjustment. A minimum wage increase would help boost earnings for millions of working people in Pennsylvanian. Women earning the minimum wage outnumber men earning the minimum wage by 2 to 1 in Pennsylvania. In many households, these women work full-time, are raising children, and are the primary breadwinner for the family. So raising the minimum wage is not just a worker issue, it is a women's issue. And, raising the minimum wage an economic issue. More small business owners are rejecting the message of special interest groups that claim to represent them and are supporting a minimum wage increase as state Read more


Legislators, hunger-fight leaders push Pa. 'lunch shaming' ban

(Jun 05, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 5 – State legislators and leaders in the fight against hunger spoke at a Capitol news conference today about bipartisan legislation that would stop "lunch shaming" in Pennsylvania schools. The term includes a wide variety of practices by a school to embarrass a child whose family is behind on their lunch payments, such as: ordering cafeteria workers to throw away the hot lunches of children who owe money – "yes, this actually happens!" said state Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., the lead sponsor of the House bill to ban lunch shaming ( H.B. 1403 ); making the children work to pay off the debt; and publicly stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes a meal debt by, for example, requiring that the child wear a wristband or hand stamp. "These things often result in children being humiliated and embarrassed in front of their peers. These things often result in tears. Of course we all want parents to stay current on their children's lunch accounts, but publicly shaming the child to collect that debt is shocking and completely unacceptable. And we need to help parents to apply if their kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunches," Bullock said. "Lunch shaming is counterproductive. It is cruel. And it only hurts a child's ability to learn. Under my bill, based on a recently enacted New Mexico law, these practices would be banned and schools would be required to direct Read more


Restore the partnership between the counties and Harrisburg

(Jun 05, 2017)

The House Republican budget bill (H.B. 218) would cut or eliminate tens of millions of dollars in state support for county justice, corrections and healthcare services. In many of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, the loss of these funds could cripple county budgets already devastated by deep cuts in previous Republican spending plans. Because of those previous cuts and the 2015-16 budget impasse, most counties have already drawn down on their reserves and lost millions in interest as a result; 30 percent of counties have had to borrow just to keep required programs and services operating. Few counties are in a position to survive the deep cuts in the latest Republican budget bill. So although H.B. 218 is touted by House Republicans as a “no tax increase” state budget, in reality, its lack of adequate support for counties will place additional pressures on local budgets and additional burdens on local taxpayers. The Republican budget bill completely eliminates nearly $60 million in state support for things like sentencing, juvenile and adult probation, court staffing, drug and alcohol treatment, and county and community support services. As well as eliminating these funds, the Republican budget also reduces support for other health, safety and wellness services for counties by more than $17 million. Services negatively impacted by these cuts include mental and behavioral health, homeless assistance, and other Read more


Let's build success for our youngest residents

(May 31, 2017)

This week, district attorneys, nurses and other children's advocates from across Pennsylvania were joined by a few Senate Republicans to call for more state investments in preventing child abuse and neglect. The senators should start by talking to their colleagues on the other side of the Capitol. A budget bill written and passed entirely by Republicans in the House of Representatives earlier this year severely underfunds important services for younger Pennsylvanians, including home visiting programs that have been shown to reduce child abuse and neglect. A $9 million increase for home-visiting services that Gov. Wolf and House Democrats have advocated for in Pennsylvania's 2017-18 budget was not included in the Republican version -- House Bill 218. Republicans also left out proposed increases to help give more working parents access to safe, affordable child care, and severely cut proposed investments for pre-K and Head Start. The D.A.s, senators and other officials at Tuesday's news conference agreed that programs like Nurse-Family Partnerships, Parents as Teachers, Healthy Families America and Early Head Start prevent child abuse and neglect and give more children access to a good education, health care and more. Investments in these and other programs aimed at giving kids a safe, healthy and successful start in life are also supported by Pennsylvania's police chiefs and sheriffs associations as a way to Read more


In Trump budget, your family's health is not a priority

(May 30, 2017)

You may recall that Presiden't Trump's "healthcare" proposal, as passed by the U.S. House earlier this month, is especially tough on Pennsylvanians . His new budget proposal doubles down on the hurt. Trump's budget proposal would devastate three of the linchpins of Pennsylvania's ability to keep our residents healthy: Medicaid, children's health insurance and the fight against chronic diseases. Trump's budget would cut Medicaid support by $600 billion over a decade -- after he promised to protect this healthcare program vital to seniors and people with disabilities during the campaign. His budget cuts come on top of more cuts proposed in his Trumpcare plan. If both the Trump budget and Trumpcare pass, states would lose more than $1 trillion in support for Medicaid. The only "flexibility" these cuts would provide to Pennsylvania and other states is the flexibility to decide which patients don't receive care or which other services are cut from the state budget instead. Trump's budget also cuts $6 billion from state children's health insurance programs. Pennsylvania would lose federal CHIP funding for thousands of children who qualify under PA's program but whose families earn too much to qualify under Trump's budget. Under the Trump budget, children's healthcare costs would skyrocket while wellness and healthcare services for tens of thousands Read more


Making sure REAL ID isn't a real hassle for you

(May 24, 2017)

You should be able to continue flying on domestic airlines and accessing federal buildings in the immediate future without interruption using your Pennsylvania driver's license or photo ID under legislation the General Assembly passed today and the governor said he will sign into law. The legislation repeals a law Pennsylvania passed in 2012 prohibiting the state from implementing the federal REAL ID Act. REAL ID, passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, sets minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and photo IDs. Pennsylvania and several other states refused to participate, arguing that Congress was overstepping its authority and issuing an unfunded mandate to the states. But last fall, the Department of Homeland Security said residents in states that did not follow the federal law would begin facing airline travel bans and other restrictions. The General Assembly had a deadline of June 6 to begin taking steps to implement REAL ID in Pennsylvania. Today's repeal of the 2012 state law begins that process. With today's state action, the federal Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue extensions that would allow PA residents to continue using their current driver's license to fly and access federal buildings until 2020. In the meantime, PennDOT will be working with the Department of Homeland Security to develop REAL ID-compliant PA Read more


Kinsey appointed to Pa. wine and liquor study commission

(May 24, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 24 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., was appointed by House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody to serve on the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Wholesale and Retail Privatization Commission. "Last year's law that changed alcohol sales in Pennsylvania, Act 39, also set up this commission to research and make recommendations about any further privatization of wine or liquor sales," Kinsey said. "I am very skeptical of any further privatization, especially at this time. The state store system provides more than 3,000 family-sustaining jobs, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue each year that we can count on at a time when the state has a massive deficit. And two different reports in recent years have said that selling off the state stores would cost taxpayers more than $1 billion in transition and stranded costs. "Alcohol is not hard to get in Pennsylvania. In fact, in Philadelphia, we have been working to address the issue of 'stop-and-go' convenience stores that take advantage of current laws to sell alcohol," Kinsey said. Kinsey and Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., recently hosted a public meeting in northwest Philadelphia on the "stop and go" issue with officials from the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. Kinsey said, "I will continue to look at this matter closely Read more


Warren: Legislature passes measure to comply with Real ID law

(May 24, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 24 – The state House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a revised Senate bill that will move Pennsylvania toward compliance with federal Real ID regulations to ensure that state residents don’t face difficulty using their IDs for air travel or visits to federal facilities. “I’m pleased that the legislature worked cooperatively on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to find a solution on this issue. No one wants to see our community members encounter problems trying to travel by plane or enter federal buildings for work or other reasons,” said Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks. “This bill will authorize the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to move forward in complying with the federal Real ID Act.” Pennsylvania had been given a deadline of June 6 to come into compliance with the federal Real ID Act, which set minimum standards for issuing identification cards. 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. A 2012 state law prohibited state agencies from complying with the federal Real ID law. The new bill, S.B. 133, repeals the 2012 state law and requires the Department of Transportation and other agencies to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act. PennDOT would be required to provide eligible applicants the option of receiving a standard driver license or photo Read more


Cephas bill to boost senior programs by up to $2 million per year advances to full House

(May 22, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 22 – The House Gaming Oversight Committee today voted out a bill ( H.B. 1162 ) introduced by state Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., that would provide an additional $1.5 to $2 million per year for senior programs. "My bill would redirect unclaimed gambling winnings to the Lottery Fund to be used for programs for older Pennsylvanians, such as the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. Currently, after five years, unclaimed winnings are sent to the Department of the Treasury as unclaimed property. Under my proposal, people would have up to two years to claim their winnings before waiving rights to them and having those winnings transferred to the state Lottery Fund," Cephas said. "Based on current numbers, my bill is estimated to generate between $1.5 and $2 million per year." Cephas' bill now goes to the full House of Representatives. Cephas represents the 192nd Legislative District in west Philadelphia, which is home to more than 60,000 residents from the Wynnefield, Overbrook Farms, Morris Park, Overbrook Park, Overbrook, Haddington, Hestonville and Carroll Park areas. ### Read more


Investing in tourism is investing in jobs and our communities

(May 19, 2017)

When your governing philosophy is "government is evil" and "public spending is waste," you often end up cutting off your nose to spite your face. The House Republican budget is a good example. We've seen a steady illustration how the knee-jerk, across-the-board cuts in House Bill 218 would hurt you and your family, stifle jobs and the economy, and make Pennsylvania's budget challenges even worse in the future. The latest example: tourism. Pennsylvania's tourism industry supports more than 310,000 jobs directly and close to half a million in total. Most of these businesses are small, family-owned operations that provide jobs in the community and encourage local economic growth. Unfortunately, the Republican budget slashes the governor's suggested investment of $10 million for tourism marketing in Pennsylvania to just $2.5 million. Every $1 invested in tourism marketing generates nearly $3.50 in state tax revenue, plus more in local revenues. So this is about more than just helping tourism-related businesses -- it's about being able to pay for our schools, public safety, highways and bridges, sewers and water lines, and other services that benefit every Pennsylvania community and family every day. Pennsylvania's competitors -- New York, Virginia and Washington D.C. just to name three -- are outspending us on tourism marketing by 5 to 1, 3 to 1, and 2.5 to 1 respectively. Less than a Read more


Schlossberg continues efforts to help sexual assault victims

(May 17, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 17 – In an effort to help protect the rights of victims of sexual assault, state Rep. Mike Schlossberg plans to introduce legislation related to challenges faced by victims of sexual assault. Read more


Frankel reintroduces Pa. Fairness Act with bipartisan support, urges Turzai to send it to a committee that will give fair hearing

(May 17, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 17 – State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, co-chairman of the legislature's LGBT Equality Caucus, will reintroduce his proposed Pennsylvania Fairness Act in the House, again with bipartisan support. The bill would include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in the types of discrimination banned statewide in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. Frankel is urging House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, to send the bill to a committee where it can get a fair hearing, not the State Government Committee chaired by anti-LGBT Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler. Frankel said, "Pennsylvania polls for the past eight years have shown consistent 70 percent support for providing our LGBT relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers with the same protections as the rest of us. Many Pennsylvanians are stunned when they find out state or federal law doesn't already protect LGBT people in in the workplace, in housing and public accommodations such as being able to eat in a restaurant or to get a hotel room like everyone else," Frankel said. "It's past time to fix this. More than 40 local governments across the state have decided to stop waiting on Harrisburg or Washington, but the legislature should do the right thing and provide these commonsense protections statewide. This would help us to compete for jobs and residents with all the other northeastern states, which already have these protections, and give us an Read more


More join the fight to close the gender pay gap

(May 17, 2017)

Earlier this year, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. Now, Philly is not alone. New York City's mayor has signed a similar law barring employers from asking job applicants about their wage history. The purpose of the law is to help close the gender pay gap. Employers routinely base salary offers and pay on previous wages. This hurts female candidates because they typically earn less than their male counterparts due to the existing wage gap. Questions about salary history -- and basing wages on that history -- perpetuate that gap. Pay discrepancies between women and men who do essentially the same work persist across income and industries. These discrepancy extend beyond regular pay to raises and bonuses, too. New York and other cities pursuing similar pay equity measures may face the same challenges that Philadelphia has -- corporations and special interests more concerned about shareholder profits and CEO bonuses than they are about fair wages for women and the families they are trying to support. Philadelphia's legislation has been challenged in court by the Chamber of Commerce with the support of several major corporations in the city. Cities and towns shouldn't have to take on the responsibility and expense of protecting fair wages and the income you and your family deserve -- and you Read more


Trumcare would hurt PA schools and the special needs children they educate

(May 15, 2017)

Trumpcare, now being considered by the U.S. Senate, could result in Pennsylvania schools losing hundreds of millions of dollars in special education funding. Trumpcare makes deep cuts to Medicaid, which helps pay for things like therapy equipment, teacher aides, and other health-related services that help students with physical and developmental disabilities do their schoolwork. Pennsylvania receives about $143 million a year for these services. Schools are required by federal law to provide these services; even if the federal money disappears, the services cannot, nor should they. That means the state and school districts will have to make up for these lost federal dollars. Which would mean higher state taxes and local property taxes -- or cuts in other programs for students and higher fees for parents. We hear Republicans complain endlessly about unfunded mandates at the state level. Now, congressional Republicans at the federal level are preparing to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in mandated costs to local schools and taxpayers. So much for consistency. And so much for any claim by Trump or congressional Republicans that they care about providing a quality education and a chance for academic success to all of our kids. Read more


Let's pass a budget that doesn't undercut farms and food safety for your family

(May 10, 2017)

A budget bill passed by House Republicans on April 4 could make it much harder for Pennsylvania to keep the food you eat safe and help our state's farmers flourish. Republicans passed the bill with zero input and zero votes from Democrats. A bipartisan Pennsylvania budget would recognize the importance of family farms and agriculture to our state's economy, and the state's obligation to keep the food that is served in our kitchens, restaurants and school cafeterias safe and healthy. The House Republican budget bill doesn't do any of that. Pennsylvania must find ways to reduce its deficit, but the arbitrary cuts in House Bill 218 to things as fundamental to Pennsylvania as farm preservation and production, agriculture jobs and food safety make little sense. The cuts in the Republican budget bill would restrict efforts to market Pennsylvania products through programs such as PA Preferred; jeopardize the state's farmland preservation program; and limit efforts to provide nutritious and healthy food to senior citizens and children through the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and State Food Purchase Program. Republicans also choose in House Bill 218 to cut support for efforts to improve local water quality and provide important education and training programs for farmers and other food producers. These programs boost farming, farm jobs and the agriculture industry in Pennsylvania while conserving and Read more


Galloway supports legislation to expand detox options

(May 09, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 9 – State Rep. John Galloway announced today that legislation he supported to help expand detoxification beds in health care and other facilities across the state unanimously passed the House of Representatives. Galloway co-sponsored H.B. 118, which would create the Emergency Drug and Alcohol Detoxification program, allowing the Department of Health to provide for detoxification beds in existing, licensed health care facilities and to establish new detoxification facilities. The department would give special priority review to those applying for licensure through the program. Under current law, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs licenses detoxification centers, while the Health Department licenses medical beds. “We have to do more to tackle the opioid epidemic gripping our communities. If someone is reaching out for help, we must make sure they can get it,” Galloway said. “By expanding the Health Department’s ability to establish detoxification beds, we’d increase the options those suffering from addiction have to help them move toward recovery.” The bill was forwarded to the Senate for consideration. Read more


Rep. DeLuca’s pharmacy technician bill passes House

(May 09, 2017)

HARRISBURG, May 9 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, announced that the House has passed his bill that would require state registration for pharmacy technicians. House Bill 454 would require pharmacy technicians to hold a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a police background check and complete a board-approved training program before registering with the state. Currently, pharmacy technicians require no formal training and must only be supervised by a licensed pharmacist in order to assist in filling prescriptions. "This is a safety issue," DeLuca said. "We need to be able to guarantee that the people filling our prescriptions and handling dangerous and even addictive drugs on a daily basis are uniformly registered with the commonwealth. Requiring a base level of education, training and background checks will be a positive step in maintaining the safety of the prescription process. “In the real world, pharmacy technicians are the workers who fill the vast majority of the prescriptions at local pharmacies. This bill would ensure a base level of competence we all expect from the people responsible for filling our prescriptions. Errors cost money and can also cost lives.” Currently, 45 states require the registration of pharmacy technicians, including the neighboring states of Maryland and New Jersey. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration. “I Read more


Republican budget puts people and families at risk

(May 09, 2017)

If one of the goals of House Republicans is to make life much more difficult for you and your family, the partisan budget bill they passed on April 4 is a great success. The Republican budget slashes state support for everything from safe child care and healthy parenting, to mental health and substance abuse treatment, to care and support for senior citizens and the homeless. No matter where you live or what your income is, chances are these cuts will impact you and your family at a very personal level and force you into some very difficult choices. Need to find quality care for your children? Republican cuts will eliminate support for childcare services for 10,000 children and increase the waiting list to 19,000 -- the highest in Pennsylvania's history. Many parents would have to choose between staying home and giving up income critical to supporting their family and going to work and potentially placing their children in an unstable or unsafe environment. The cuts would also threaten home-based visiting services that help more than 1,700 young mothers and their babies and toddlers stay healthy and safe. Do you have an aging parent or a son or daughter with a disability? The Republican budget cuts $6 million from home-based and community-based services, meaning your loved ones may no longer be able to receive care or assistance at home. And you may face the increased apprehension and cost of placing them in a nursing Read more


Getting our youngest Pennsylvanians off to a great start

(May 08, 2017)

Nearly 113,000 pre-school children in Pennsylvania who qualify for high-quality early education aren't receiving the benefits of Pre-K. Pennsylvania should consider that a failure since pre-K plays a crucial role for many children not just in K-12 success but in a successful career and life beyond school. Early education saves taxpayers money by reducing the need for remedial instruction, grade repetition and special education. It also increases graduation rates, college and technical school enrollment, and is even linked to better careers and higher incomes later in life. Yet nearly 70 percent of young children who should be receiving the benefits of a quality early education in Pennsylvania aren't because our state hasn't put a premium on it. That needs to change with this state budget. In November, House Democrats asked Gov. Tom Wolf to increase investments in Pre-K and Head Start in his 2017-18 budget proposal. He responded by including $75 million more for our young children. Unfortunately, House Republicans slashed that amount by $50 million when they passed their budget bill on April 4 -- a bill not one Democrat voted for. House Democrats proudly support early education because the results show that it works. It's a cost-effective way to improve learning and life for thousands of children in Pennsylvania and a way to avoid the more-expensive costs of dealing with the social problems that arise Read more


Coolbaugh hosts minimum wage hearing

(May 05, 2017)

How can Pennsylvania raise its minimum wage to something employees can survive on without shutting down small, non-corporate, independently owned businesses which don’t get the tax-break subsidies that corporations do?This was the question discussed at a Wednesday public hearing at the Pocono Mountain Public Library in Coolbaugh Township. Read more