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House Democratic leaders highlight coordinated misinformation and intimidation tactics to push back against public health protection

Vitali opposes proposed cuts to DEP in House Republican budget proposal

(Apr 04, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 4 – Citing concerns for public safety, state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, voiced his opposition to House Republicans’ $8.9 million cut to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in their proposed 2017-2018 budget, which passed the House by a vote of 114 to 84 today. “The gross underfunding of the DEP continues to put the public at risk,” Vitali said. “The DEP has already been warned by the federal government that it is not adequately staffed to enforce safe drinking water, air quality and pollution standards. Since 2002, state funding for the DEP has been cut by about 40 percent, leading to staff being reduced by 600 positions. These proposed cuts will only serve to further endanger the health and lives of the people of Pennsylvania.” Vitali says these cuts are particularly dangerous as the DEP struggles to meet its minimum enforcement obligations. According to a letter from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the DEP has failed to conduct the minimum number of sanitary surveys of water systems, has a severely understaffed Air Quality Monitoring Division and has failed to meet required inspection compliance rates among other issues caused by understaffing of the agency. Last March the U.S. Department of the Interior warned DEP that it had an insufficient number of Surface Mining Compliance Inspectors. DEP’s failure to inspect its Read more

 

Warren works to keep firearms out of the hands of suspected terrorists

(Apr 04, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 4 – State Rep. Perry S. Warren, D-Bucks, has introduced legislation that would keep suspected terrorists from buying or owning a firearm in Pennsylvania. House Bill 528 would require Pennsylvania State Police to determine whether someone is on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, which includes the no-fly list, before that person would be allowed to purchase a firearm or obtain one by transfer. Anyone denied would still have the right to appeal. Numerous polls, including some conducted after the 2016 terrorist attack on an Orlando nightclub, have shown that the vast majority support taking such steps to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists. Warren said the bill, which was originally introduced in 2015-16 by previous state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, is a commonsense measure that will help reduce senseless gun violence. “Someone who can’t board a plane because of suspected involvement in terrorism shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a firearm, either,” he said. The bill, which has co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Read more

 

‘Free’ tuition ads would be prohibited under Schlossberg bill

(Apr 03, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 3 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit public school entities from advertising “free” tuition or transportation and require them to disclose that instructional and transportation costs are paid for by tax dollars. Read more

 

Longietti bill to double amount employer may pay directly to surviving relative easily passes House

(Apr 03, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 3 – State Rep. Mark Longietti’s effort to increase from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount an employer may pay directly to a surviving relative from a deceased employee’s final paycheck unanimously passed the House today. House Bill 203 , sponsored by Longietti, D-Mercer, seeks to update a section of the state’s Estate Code for the first time in more than two decades. The measure, which passed the House as H.B. 1974 in the last legislative session, now again moves to the Senate. “Under current law, if a deceased person’s final paycheck exceeds $5,000, the surviving relative must initiate formal estate proceedings with the county Register of Wills and the Court of Common Pleas,” Longietti said. “This results in a delay in receiving needed funds – and the surviving relative incurs a significant cost.” Longietti said by way of comparison, current law allows a relative to withdraw up to $10,000 from a deceased person’s bank account to cover funeral expenses, so he is seeking to put the final paycheck at that same threshold. A local attorney brought the issue to Longietti’s attention after he encountered a growing number of situations where the final paycheck exceeded $5,000. In those instances, Longietti said, the check must be made payable to the estate, meaning the next of kin gets zero until after formal estate proceedings commence and wind their way through the court system. Read more

 

The lifelong impact of the gender wage gap

(Apr 03, 2017)

Tuesday, April 4 is Equal Pay Day -- the day that marks how far into this year full-time women had to work to earn what their male counterparts earned last year. A new study finds that in the U.S., women on average have to work 50 years to earn what men earn in 40 years for the same or similar work. A 20-year-old woman just starting full-time work today stands to lose nearly $420,000 over a 40-year career compared to her male counterpart -- that's more than $10,000 a year lost, simply because she's a woman. While her male counterpart can retire at age 60 after 40 years of work, she would have to work until age 70 -- beyond Social Security's full retirement age of 67 -- to close that gap. In Pennsylvania , the wage gap costs women $430,480 over a 40-year career compared to a man. A woman in Pennsylvania has to work until she is 71 years old just to earn what a man does by the time he is 60. Most middle-class families today depend on two incomes to meet household expenses, raise their kids and send them to college, and prepare for retirement. They depend on women's wages more than ever before -- but companies and businesses that refuse to pay women the same as men are cheating these working women and their families out of nearly half a million dollars over their career. Not only is that unfair and wrong -- it's economically short-sighted. Ending the wage gap would allow more families to realize Read more

 

Washington continues its war on families

(Mar 31, 2017)

It seems Republicans in Congress are engaged in an all-out war against the best interests of working men and women and their families. This week, they wrapped up votes to dismantle online privacy protections for Americans so that internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are free to store, share and sell you private online data -- including your financial data, health records and browsing history -- for profit without your knowledge or consent. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate moved one step closer to torpedoing efforts by many cities and state governments -- including Pennsylvania -- to create a safe and easy way for private-sector workers to save for retirement. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon have already approved plans that would enroll private-sector workers who don't have access to retirement plans at work into state-run IRAs that would move with them from job to job. Representatives Mike Hanna and Mike Driscoll have introduced a similar plan in Pennsylvania called the Keystone Retirement Savings Program . Workers could opt out, but otherwise, a small portion of their wages would automatically be deposited into a personal account managed by the Treasury -- similar to the state's 529 college savings plan. The plan would ease the cost and burden to businesses of providing access to retirement savings for their workers since employers would not contribute to the IRA accounts and the Read more

 

House Democrats look to protect online privacy of consumers

(Mar 31, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 31 -- House Democrats will seek ways to restore online privacy protections for Pennsylvania residents after Republicans in Congress voted to allow telecom companies and other internet service providers to sell and share customers' web browsing history without their consent. The mostly party-line vote by Congress does away with rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in October that required companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to get customers' explicit permission before storing, sharing or selling sensitive data like Social Security numbers, health information, children's information, even the tracking of a person’s whereabouts from minute to minute. The FCC rules also required internet service providers to inform consumers and law enforcement when a potential harmful data breach occurred. "Donald Trump ran a populist campaign but his vision for the FCC and protecting consumers' privacy is shaping up to be the exact opposite," Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said. "These big companies want to change the rules midstream and Congress just voted to let them do it. “Unless states like Pennsylvania take action, this powerful special interest will be allowed to exploit people's private information and personal browsing habits for its own profit. The consumers who our government is supposed to be working for will be left with no protection at all," he said. Dermody noted that Read more

 

Republicans in DC are selling your privacy to the highest bidder -- we need to protect you and your family

(Mar 30, 2017)

Republicans in Congress have passed legislation doing away with internet privacy protections the FCC put in place last year. The vote means internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T can collect, store and share your sensitive online data like Social Security numbers, health information or children's information without your consent. It also eliminates the rule that required internet service providers to inform you when a data breach occurs and your private information may be compromised. Internet service providers want to change the rules in the middle of the game, and Republicans in Congress just voted to let them. Government is supposed to work for and protect you and your family, not the big companies that want to exploit your personal information and online activity for private profit. The legislature needs to put the FCC protections Congress just eliminated into state law here in Pennsylvania so we can protect our consumers in light of Washington's failure. Internet Service Providers are your on-ramp to the information superhighway. This allows them to gain access to your personal information -- some of it very sensitive. You should be in the driver's seat -- and at the very least in the know -- when these companies use that information to make a profit. To protect you and your family, we should: Require internet service providers to notify you about what types of information they Read more

 

PA must step up to protect its residents

(Mar 28, 2017)

Now that Republicans are in charge in Washington, the federal government seems poised to roll back nearly every kind of financial, health and safety, and consumer protection Americans once enjoyed. The goal is to help corporations increase their profits and evade their responsibilities, no matter how much it costs you. Already, Trump and Republicans in Congress are moving to eliminate policies aimed at giving all Americans -- not just corporations -- a voice in the health of their environment and how federal lands are used. They are dismantling financial protections for consumers and eliminating the rules that have prevented the Wall Street banks from steering the country into another financial meltdown. And in the latest move, Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would give big telecom companies such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T access to your private data -- including your Social Security number -- so they can sell it to the highest bidder. With Washington quickly becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America, it will be increasingly important for states like Pennsylvania to step in to protect you and your family. This session, House Democrats will be asking Republicans in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to join us in putting you first with policies that: protect your opportunities, wages and benefits at work; protect your family's financial security and your retirement security; ensure your children have Read more

 

Rep. Frankel to host Policy hearing on Affordable Care Act/Medicaid Expansion Repeal Wednesday in Pittsburgh

(Mar 27, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 27 – State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Pittsburgh, announced today that he will host a House Democratic Policy Committee to discuss impacts of a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion. The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, QiT Center, 26 th Floor, Centre City Tower, 650 Smithfield St., Pittsburgh. The current hearing agenda is: 10 a.m. Welcome and opening remarks 10:10 a.m. Panel One: Leesa Allen , deputy secretary for Medical Assistance programs, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Dr. Loren Robinson , deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health Jessica Altman , chief of staff, Pennsylvania Insurance Department 11 a.m. Panel Two: Erika Fricke , health policy director, Allies for Children B.J. Leber , president and CEO, Adagio Health Susan Friedberg Kalson , CEO, Squirrel Hill Health Center Carmen Alexander , senior operations manager, New Voices Pittsburgh 11:50 a.m. Panel Three: Cassie Narkevic , health insurance enrollment counselor, Consumer Health Coalition Kristy Trautman , executive director, FISA Foundation AJ Harper , president, Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania 12:30 p.m. Panel Four: Christie Hudson, clinical social work/therapist Dr. Liz Cuevas , internist, AGH Internal Read more

 

'Deaths of despair' in economic stagnation and social immobility

(Mar 27, 2017)

In a decade increasingly dominated by Republican control of state legislatures, the very Americans they've promised to help the most have benefited the least. A new study from Princeton University shows a sharp rise in "deaths of despair" among middle-age working Americans. These skyrocketing rates of death from things like drugs, alcohol and suicide are unique in America -- they have occurred at the same time mortality rates have plunged among similar populations in other Western democracies. The Princeton study identifies a decades-long trend of economic stagnation and social immobility in the U.S. as an important factor. Wages stagnated or fell, benefits and pensions disappeared, and at the same time higher education and training became more necessary, both became less affordable and less accessible for many middle-class Americans. Working people without a college degree have experienced both real and perceived decreases in their economic and physical well-being. Real wages for working people without a college degree have fallen in the decades since the 1970s, while those people are far less likely to say they are in excellent or good health. “Traditional structures of social and economic support slowly weakened; no longer was it possible for a man to follow his father and grandfather into a manufacturing job, or to join the union,” the study authors write. Under Republican policies both in Read more

 

When you hear "right to work" -- ask "works for whom?"

(Mar 24, 2017)

Republican legislators in Pennsylvania are once again pursuing policies designed to reduce your wages while giving more power and influence to the corporations that pay the lowest wages and give Republicans the biggest contributions. Don't be lied to -- No one in Pennsylvania can be forced to join a union in order to get a job. This is federal law. Workers can't be forced to join a union if there is already one at the workplace, either. This is also federal law. And finally, workers cannot be forced to pay for union political activities in Pennsylvania -- even if they are union members. The only thing workers help pay for in union states like Pennsylvania -- without their written consent -- are the specific collective bargaining activities that directly benefit all of them. This is why Republicans are pushing so-called "right-to-work" laws so hard. These laws would allow workers who don't stand together with you to protect your pay and your job security to receive the same benefits you do. Republicans know that as these new laws shrink union funding and collective bargaining, even more power and influence will shift away from workers like you and toward the corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. "Right-to-Work" laws have nothing to do with creating new jobs or protecting yours. Workers in "right-to-work" states are NOT protected from being fired for any reason, or Read more

 

Fitzgerald/Kinsey host public meeting on 'Stop-and-Go' issues

(Mar 23, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA, March 23 – Philadelphia state Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and Stephen Kinsey today hosted a public meeting on the issues relating to stop-and-go establishments that sell alcohol and how they impact surrounding communities. "This is an opportunity to address this issue head on. Bringing everyone together under one roof allows concerns to be addressed and provides an avenue for all of us to be part of the solution," Fitzgerald said. "I remain committed to working with local and state agencies and organizations to reverse the negative trend of consequences associated with the nuisance establishments that are taking advantage of the state's liquor laws." In addition to discussing the effect of these stop-and-go establishments on a state level, the public meeting also addressed how these stores may disrupt local communities. "Overwhelmingly, this boils down to a public safety issue. The residents of northwest Philadelphia, south Philadelphia, northeast Philadelphia and the entire city deserve to live their lives without the problems caused by stop-and-go issues," Kinsey said. "I am encouraged by the actions taken today to ensure that we continue the conversation on how we can answer the public's call to provide them with the best quality of life as possible." Among the testifiers were Inspector Anthony L. Washington, Northwest Police Division commanding officer and personnel from Pennsylvania State Police Read more

 

Trumpcare -- a costly broken promise to Pennsylvanians and all Americans

(Mar 23, 2017)

Congress is scheduled to vote on the Republican healthcare repeal legislation on today. House Democrats join with the governor, local officials, doctors, hospital administrators, and tens of thousands of Pennsylvania residents to express our concern about the devastating impact a repeal would have in our state and on the health of our residents. Trumpcare will strip healthcare access for more than 1 million Pennsylvania residents and shift billions of dollars in costs to the state budget and our hospitals. The Medicaid cuts contained in the Trumpcare proposal could cost the state between $2.5 billion and $3 billion a year, kick more than a million people off of coverage and force the state legislature to make impossible decisions between paying for health care and funding schools, roads and bridges, clean air and water, and efforts to grow jobs and revitalize our communities and economy. The bill would sharply increase uncompensated care rates and expenses in Pennsylvania, costing hospitals billions and likely forcing some to close, particularly in rural and urban areas. Some of our more serious concerns about the Republican healthcare repeal legislation include: It allows insurance companies to charge older Pennsylvanians up to five times what they are allowed to charge younger Pennsylvanians for a policy. For many fixed-income senior citizens who would also lose the income-based premium assistance that is part of the Affordable Read more

 

Pa. House adopts Boyle resolution supporting Meals on Wheels as program faces federal cuts

(Mar 22, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Phila./Montgomery, is calling attention to the value of the Meals on Wheels program in Pennsylvania as the program faces proposed cuts in President Donald Trump's budget. The state House today adopted Boyle's H.R. 175 , designating March 22, 2017 as March for Meals Day in Pennsylvania. March for Meals is the annual campaign the Meals on Wheels Association of America sponsors to raise awareness of senior hunger. "Research indicates that 10.2 million seniors across the country, and nearly 320,000 seniors here in Pennsylvania, face the threat of hunger," Boyle said. "Now, more than ever, we must remind ourselves of the importance of Meals on Wheels, which could be headed for the budget chopping block in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration in defending cuts to the program made claims that Meals on Wheels is 'just not showing any results' and the program 'sounds great…but doesn’t work.'" "But the truth is – Meals on Wheels has shown some great results here in Pennsylvania, and across the country. In fact, according to a 2014 study conducted by the University of Illinois, programs like Meals on Wheels improve the quality of life for seniors. "According to the study, Meals on Wheels is showing results by offering an effective and vital nutritional and health program for seniors. And Meals on Wheels is showing results by helping to offset Read more

 

Democrats appeal to Congress to keep health care law

(Mar 22, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 22 – With a moment of reckoning fast approaching in Congress, several Democratic state lawmakers outlined the catastrophic effects a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have on Pennsylvania patients and families, people struggling with addiction to painkillers, and hospitals. House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said the reckless action contemplated by President Trump and congressional Republican leaders puts the entire nation at risk. “If they are successful, the fallout will be felt in every Pennsylvania town and city, in every hospital emergency room, in every doctor’s office,” Dermody said. “We just can’t afford for that to happen. It would devastate our Commonwealth and lead to disease and deaths that can and must be prevented.” Rep. Anthony DeLuca, the Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, noted the opposition of AARP and other groups representing older Americans. He said the stakes could not be higher. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act would send us back to a time when too many people couldn’t afford to buy health insurance, had no primary care physician, and all too often ended up in an emergency room with a medical crisis,” said DeLuca, D-Allegheny. “Emergency care is the most expensive kind of treatment and all of us end up paying for it when patients lack insurance.” Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Phila./Montgomery, emphasized the human impact of doing Read more

 

House panel advances Snyder bill on minors’ health services

(Mar 22, 2017)

State Rep. Pam Snyder reports that the House Human Services Committee has approved her legislation that would eliminate confusion over when a minor’s consent is needed for mental health examinations and other health services. Read more

 

Warren calls for toll tax credits for commuters, businesses

(Mar 21, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 21 – State Rep. Perry Warren introduced legislation today to establish a commuter and commerce toll tax credit program. House Bill 926, which is similar to a bill originally introduced in 2015-16 by former state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, would offer an annual state income tax credit of 50 percent of tolls paid, with a $500 cap per filer. Eligible tolls would include those on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and bridges across the Delaware River. Individuals, corporations and small businesses with tax liability would be eligible. “Many of our working families and local businesses use tolled routes frequently and would benefit from the relief this tax credit would bring,” Warren said. “Due to recent shifts in tolling rates and routes that remain un-tolled in Pennsylvania, commuters in the southeast wind up disproportionately paying for the rest of the state’s transportation infrastructure spending. This bill seeks to remedy that situation." The tax credit would also be extended to Pennsylvania residents and Pennsylvania-based companies that shoulder additional costs when accessing the toll bridges operated under the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Burlington County Bridge Commission. A U.S. Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Report found that Pennsylvania has the fourth most toll-road miles with 533, behind Read more

 

Income inequality is the result of intentional policy choices -- we can fix it

(Mar 21, 2017)

Wages for the vast majority of working Pennsylvanians have been stuck for decades. That's why even while people are working harder and their productivity is rising, they aren't feeling the recovery. Most working people feel like they are treading water, even while an ever-increasing share of economic growth goes to corporate profits and executive pay. This is a solvable problem. The solution to rising income inequality in Pennsylvania is wage growth for working people. Since income inequality is created in no small part by policies that allow labor standards, business practices and ideas of fairness to be manipulated in favor of corporations at the expense of their workers, we can rewrite the rules to bring some of that fairness and balance back in Pennsylvania. That's why House Democrats want to take a new way forward and put you and your family first. We can make wage growth a policy priority in Pennsylvania and, in doing so, boost jobs, our economy and you and your family's financial security. Boosting wages also helps government work better and more effectively for you. Policies that grow wages generate savings for government. Fewer dollars needed for safety-net and income-support programs make more revenues available for roads and bridges, good schools, clean air and water, and public health and safety. Raise the Minimum Wage - In 2015, the inflation-adjusted minimum wage was about 25 percent below Read more

 

Quality public schools help your children and your community thrive

(Mar 16, 2017)

Pennsylvania needs strong neighborhood public schools in every community. We have great schools in many areas of Pennsylvania, but in too many communities, schools don't get the resources they need to give every child an opportunity to succeed. Years of chronic underfunding have led to inequalities that negatively impact schools, students and families. Pennsylvania has the worst disparity in the United States between wealthy schools and poor schools. The careless cuts of the Corbett/Republican budgets in the first half of this decade accelerated the damage. At the same time our children were receiving less for their education, big corporations were getting bigger tax cuts to boost their profits and avoiding their fair share of the investments needed to build the workforce they rely on. Pennsylvania ranks 46 th in the nation in state share of support for its public schools. It is one of only 14 states with a regressive funding system -- meaning the fewest resources go to the poorest schools with the highest need. Last year, the General Assembly adopted a fair funding formula for basic education, but it only applies to new state funding -- only about 6 percent of total school spending. Unless you and your children live in a wealthy community, chances are they don't receive the same access to staff, resources and programs that kids in wealthier communities do -- and they will never catch up under Read more

 

Vitali opposes proposed cuts to DEP in House Republican budget proposal
Apr 04, 2017

Warren works to keep firearms out of the hands of suspected terrorists
Apr 04, 2017

‘Free’ tuition ads would be prohibited under Schlossberg bill
Apr 03, 2017

Longietti bill to double amount employer may pay directly to surviving relative easily passes House
Apr 03, 2017

The lifelong impact of the gender wage gap
Apr 03, 2017

Washington continues its war on families
Mar 31, 2017

House Democrats look to protect online privacy of consumers
Mar 31, 2017

Republicans in DC are selling your privacy to the highest bidder -- we need to protect you and your family
Mar 30, 2017

PA must step up to protect its residents
Mar 28, 2017

Rep. Frankel to host Policy hearing on Affordable Care Act/Medicaid Expansion Repeal Wednesday in Pittsburgh
Mar 27, 2017

'Deaths of despair' in economic stagnation and social immobility
Mar 27, 2017

When you hear "right to work" -- ask "works for whom?"
Mar 24, 2017

Fitzgerald/Kinsey host public meeting on 'Stop-and-Go' issues
Mar 23, 2017

Trumpcare -- a costly broken promise to Pennsylvanians and all Americans
Mar 23, 2017

Pa. House adopts Boyle resolution supporting Meals on Wheels as program faces federal cuts
Mar 22, 2017

Democrats appeal to Congress to keep health care law
Mar 22, 2017

House panel advances Snyder bill on minors’ health services
Mar 22, 2017

Warren calls for toll tax credits for commuters, businesses
Mar 21, 2017

Income inequality is the result of intentional policy choices -- we can fix it
Mar 21, 2017

Quality public schools help your children and your community thrive
Mar 16, 2017