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14 hearings were pretense for voter suppression laws

Pennsylvania in free-fall: What another GOP gimmick budget would look like

(Sep 01, 2017)

This week, a group of House Republicans met in Harrisburg in private to try to sell their colleagues on a plan that provides no stable, dependable revenues for the $32 billion budget their leaders and many of them voted for in June, but calls for raiding and transferring money from other state accounts. As with other gimmick budgets offered by Republicans in the past, the numbers don't add up -- they cannot close a $2.3 billion budget gap with spare change they claim they've found under the couch cushions. If this group of Republicans refuses to act responsibly when they get back to Harrisburg, the budget will have to be brought into balance by cutting spending that doesn't involve federal programs or other mandated services. Those cuts won't be in areas Republicans like to call "waste, fraud and abuse." We're talking about schools, universities, health programs and public safety. Here are just some of the discouraging examples of what across-the-board cuts to non-mandatory spending could look like: State-related universities like Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln don't get funded. Expect higher tuition increases and support for Pennsylvania farmers through veterinary research and the state's Ag Extension program to disappear. Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to elementary and high school classrooms turn back the clock and return us to the Tom Corbett-Republican school funding Read more

 

Dawkins to introduce legislation requiring PTSD testing for law enforcement

(Aug 29, 2017)

HARRISBURG, Aug. 29 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., today said he is currently seeking co-sponsors for his legislation that would assist with maintaining the mental health of law enforcement officers in the commonwealth. The legislation would require police officers to undergo Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder evaluations every other year and within 30 days of an incident in which lethal force is used. “Being in law enforcement is a very demanding and stressful job. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to keep our families and communities safe,” Dawkins said. “That demand can certainly take a toll on a police officer mentally and with dangerous consequences.” Dawkins noted there are numerous incidents that can cause PTSD in police officers, such as hostage situations, dangerous drug busts, fatal crashes, and other cases that involve serious injury or death to the people involved in the incident. Other stressful situations that could trigger PTSD include working long hours, handling people’s attitudes, waiting for the next call and not knowing how the situation will play out, and even politics within the police department. “While many of these factors seem to be a part of the job, the repeated exposure can be unhealthy for a police officer,” Dawkins said. “Many times, they suffer in silence and rein in their own emotions to serve the community. “By requiring our law enforcement Read more

 

Frankel, Wheatley, colleagues, faith leaders call for action on Pa. hate-crimes legislation

(Aug 21, 2017)

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 21 – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, colleagues and faith leaders held a news conference today at Freedom Corner to discuss the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., domestic terror attack and to call for action on hate-crimes legislation in Pennsylvania ( H.B. 505 / S.B. 96 ). "The hatred and ugliness displayed by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, which culminated in murder, has been followed by a lack of leadership from the White House. So it is more important than ever that state and local leaders and all people of good will do what we can. In Pennsylvania, one of the the most important things we can do is to restore several protections that were only struck from our hate-crimes law on a technicality," Frankel said. "These protections were added in 2002 on a bipartisan basis and were struck from the hate-crime law by the state Supreme Court in 2008 not on the merits, but only because of the state Constitution's single-subject rule for bills. The state House and Senate should vote on legislation that would restore the inclusion of actual or perceived ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, and gender or gender identity. The law currently covers hate crimes committed because of the victim's race, color, religion or national origin." State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, said, "It's fitting that we are at Freedom Corner today, since this has been a Read more

 

Future Pa. jobs depend on adjustments to automation, retail losses

(Aug 14, 2017)

HARRISBURG, Aug. 14 – To plan for Pennsylvania’s future economy, state Rep. Mike Schlossberg said comprehensive studies should be undertaken to look at the effects of robots and automation and the collapse of retail jobs. “We owe it to Pennsylvania’s workers to help them secure good jobs. Pennsylvania has a proud history of manufacturing with jobs that provide family-sustaining wages. How those jobs change and what opportunities exist in manufacturing will determine the security of so many Pennsylvanians,” said Schlossberg, D-Lehigh. The lawmaker said the economy has undergone seismic shifts and evidence points to those shifts continuing for the foreseeable future. “We need to better understand how these shifts affect Pennsylvania. To plan for the future, we need to understand what jobs currently anchoring communities will not exist, what new skills workers will need to compete in the changing economy, the demand for services and how tax revenue will change,” he said. Every day, emerging technologies are seeking to improve people’s lives. For the most part, these technologies are attempting to make tasks more efficient and convenient. Yet, these technologies often come at a price, creating special challenges to workers vulnerable to job displacement. Some scholars are predicting a massive labor reorganization, similar to what the world experienced during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Some researchers Read more

 

Rabb to introduce bill to create more transparent and accountable Pa. budget process

(Aug 07, 2017)

HARRISBURG, Aug. 7 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., announced he will introduce legislation that would require the leaders of Pennsylvania’s executive and legislative branches to hold daily public hearings on the state budget whenever there is a budget impasse. The bill would require executive and legislative leaders to hold public hearings if comprehensive spending and revenue bills for the upcoming fiscal year have not been introduced by June 19. These leaders include the governor, state treasurer, secretary of revenue, auditor general, Independent Fiscal Office director, and majority and minority leadership for both the House and Senate. These individuals would be required to participate in hearings until such legislation is introduced. “It’s been six weeks after the House overwhelmingly passed a spending plan, and we still don’t know how we are going to pay for it,” Rabb said. “On Friday, our state treasurer had to extend to the Commonwealth a $750 million line of credit to prevent us from running out of money. We are only in the second month of the fiscal year and our schools and county agencies are already at risk of experiencing funding shortfalls. This is not responsible budgeting and it certainly is not how to run a government.” Rabb said he wants Pennsylvanians to see democracy in action and require all relevant parties work together to meet the needs of the Commonwealth. Hearings would be required to last at Read more

 

Boyle to re-introduce legislation to prevent future Pa. budget delays

(Jul 31, 2017)

HARRISBURG, July 31 – As Pennsylvania deals with yet another frustrating budget impasse, state Rep. Kevin Boyle is looking forward, seeking ways to prevent the commonwealth from finding itself in a similar situation in the very near future. Boyle, D-Phila./Montgomery, plans on re-introducing a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, requiring the General Assembly to stay in session until a state budget is adopted by both the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as signed into law by the governor. “As legislators, we owe it to our constituents to conduct the people's business without needless delays and to concentrate on passing a responsible, complete, and balanced budget for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians,” Boyle said. For this legislation to be added to the state Constitution, the bill would have to be voted and passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and then go to Pennsylvania voters in the form of a ballot question. “We are only one year removed from the historical 2015-2016 budget stalemate that lasted nearly nine months from July 2015 to March 2016,” Boyle said. “It appears the General Assembly hasn’t learned its lesson.” Boyle said it’s been weeks since the start of the fiscal year and Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai has continued pushing for irresponsible funding schemes, which, in turn, has prevented the rest of the representatives from formulating a feasible Read more

 

Rabb introduces first-of-its-kind legislation to reverse school-to-prison pipeline in Pennsylvania

(Jul 27, 2017)

HARRISBURG, July 27 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., said he introduced legislation to create a charitable trust that would help Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable youth from becoming innocent casualties of mass incarceration. “Our most neglected young people continue to be devastated by the school-to-prison pipeline at alarming rates. There are more than 81,000 Pennsylvania children with a parent in a prison,” Rabb said. “That absence, which some psychologists have compared to the death of a parent, through the formative years can have many harmful effects on a child.” House Bill 1674 proposes the creation of the First Chance Trust Fund to provide support services and scholarship opportunities to young people from neighborhoods with the highest rates of incarceration across the state. The trust would not require the use of taxpayer dollars. Instead, it would be funded by a 1 percent surcharge on all vendors that have a contract with the Department of Corrections exceeding $5 million and by private, tax-deductible donations. Other state agencies also would have the option to include such a provision in their contracts. “Studies have consistently shown that investing in educational opportunities can significantly reduce the potential for future incarceration. We need to make these investments, especially within our most disadvantaged communities,” he said. Corrections anticipates it would generate $500,000 to $1 million Read more

 

Bipartisan effort to enact Homeless Bill of Rights in Pennsylvania

(Jul 25, 2017)

HARRISBURG, July 25 – State Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., and Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery/Phila., announced they introduced legislation to enact a “Homeless Bill of Rights” to protect fundamental civil and human rights of homeless people. “Homelessness continues to be an issue in many communities across the Commonwealth. Local codes that outlaw loitering, vagrancy, sitting or lying on the sidewalk, begging, eating in public, and other behaviors disproportionately affect homeless people,” Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald said House Bill 1664 would protect the homeless population’s rights to move freely in public spaces, and receive equal treatment by all government agencies, employers and health care providers. The legislation would also shield their right to vote and the confidentiality of personal records and information. “Homelessness involves not only individuals but entire families. On any given day, over 15,000 Pennsylvanians are known to be homeless. During one school year, our education system serves approximately 13,000 homeless children,” she added. Murt emphasized there are key rights the homeless population needs to have protected. The Homeless Bill of Rights would establish that no person should suffer unnecessarily, be denied basic rights or be subject to unfair discrimination based on their homeless status. “As the burdens of joblessness grow and the pressures on public resources increase, we have Read more

 

Bizzarro: Saturday House session amounts to total eclipse of reason

(Jul 22, 2017)

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro said Saturday’s House session, purportedly called to consider a 21-day-late revenue package for the new state budget, amounted to a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. “Perhaps Saturday’s debacle will move House Republicans to start working with others,” Bizzarro said. Read more

 

DeLissio urges vote on shale tax

(Jul 14, 2017)

HARRISBURG, July 14 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., joined her colleagues from both sides of the aisle to push for a reasonable measure to help bring in sustainable revenue for Pennsylvania – a severance tax on the extraction of Marcellus Shale resources. DeLissio signed a letter to House Speaker Mike Turzai urging him to bring to a vote a fair tax on Marcellus Shale. She also supported a discharge resolution calling on the House to bring up H.B. 113, a severance tax measure sponsored by Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery. “With Pennsylvania’s credit ratings at risk, we cannot continue to borrow our way out of this fiscal crisis or to continue to use one-time transfers as we have for the past two administrations that I have been in office,” DeLissio said. “A fair severance tax is supported by an overwhelming number of Pennsylvania residents, and it would help us generate the recurring revenue that we desperately need.” DeLissio is a co-prime sponsor with colleague Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, of H.B. 1401 , which would create a 3.2 percent severance tax on unconventional natural gas extraction, in addition to the existing impact fee. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that does not impose a severance, or drilling, tax. Support for a severance tax is growing on both sides of the aisle. House Bill 1401 has bipartisan co-sponsors, DeLissio said, and Republicans and Democrats signed the letter Read more

 

Snyder launching two-pronged campaign to improve broadband internet service

(Jul 13, 2017)

Rep. Pam Snyder is launching a two-pronged effort to expand availability of high-speed internet service with an appeal to Microsoft to include Pennsylvania in its broadband expansion effort and a four-bill legislative package. Read more

 

Wheatley calls on House GOP leaders to return to work and complete budget

(Jul 12, 2017)

Rep. Jake Wheatley requests that the Republican leaders of the state House of Representatives return to Harrisburg and complete work on the overdue 2017-18 state budget. “I am requesting that the speaker of the House call the House back into session and keep working until we successfully vote on a revenue package that pays all of the bills of the commonwealth,” said Wheatley, Democratic chairman of the House Finance Committee. Read more

 

PA Republicans follow Washington's lead on Medicaid

(Jul 11, 2017)

Republicans in the General Assembly are using the budget process to attack Medicaid patients in Pennsylvania. While Gov. Wolf, Democrats and others in the state are scrambling to find a way to protect patients should the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act by Trump and Republicans in Washington succeed, Republicans in Pennsylvania are joining in that attack on tens of thousands of our residents. Republicans want to put families through more red tape to keep the health coverage that allows them to continue working and supporting their families. Administering the requirements proposed by Republicans will chew up already scarce state dollars we should be using for healthcare services. Increasing the cost burden for Medicaid patients will cause many of them to lose coverage because they can't afford it. That means higher rates of uninsured, more frequent chronic healthcare problems and more costly emergency room care that is expensive for hospitals and taxpayers. Higher premiums will punish many workers who work full time but don't make much money. It forces their families to choose between getting the health care they need, paying the rent or buying groceries. Requiring Medicaid patients to "lock-in" their plans adds another layer of bureaucracy and administrative costs that's a waste of money -- only 1% of patients switched their plans within the last year. Republicans have ignored proposals to save significant amounts of state money by Read more

 

Longietti bill to help a million people combat rare diseases signed by governor

(Jul 07, 2017)

Harrisburg, July 7 – A bill aimed at helping 1.2 million Pennsylvanians suffering from a rare disease is now law. House Bill 239, sponsored by Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, and Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-Montgomery, was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf today, which will create the Rare Disease Advisory Council. “It’s startling to hear about the thousands of rare diseases that are out there that many don’t even know about and go untreated,” Longietti said. “This council will help improve the lives of those suffering from a rare disease, which, in the end, is the most important feature." The Rare Disease Council will act as a partnership between patients and their families, medical providers, insurance groups and other agencies to support the needs of those dealing with these illnesses. In addition to health care professionals and industry and scientific representatives, the council will include both individuals suffering from a rare disease and parents of children with a rare disease. The council will be tasked with: Researching and determining the most appropriate method to collect rare disease data Identifying priorities relating to quality and cost effectiveness of access to treatment and other services Developing policy recommendations Creating strategies to raise public awareness Preparing and delivering a preliminary and comprehensive report of its findings "Recently, I heard from a constituent Read more

 

Better wages for a better budget

(Jul 05, 2017)

More and more Pennsylvanians are realizing the benefits to workers, businesses and the PA budget of a wage increase for workers. A Pittsburgh City Council member will introduce a resolution this week urging the legislature to pass House Democratic legislation to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to $15 per hour by 2024. The bill, like other proposals by House Democrats to help you and your family in recent years, has been stuck in a Republican-led committee since its introduction. Pennsylvania is surrounded by neighboring states that have all raised wages for workers. We have parents in Pennsylvania working full-time jobs who cannot afford housing, who cannot afford child care, and who struggle to put food on the table. Our state and our workers and their families are falling behind without a living wage. Our insufficient minimum wage is hurting our state and local budgets, too, as our economy and revenue collections suffer. An increase in the minimum wage would directly and indirectly boost the earnings of more than 1.2 million Pennsylvanians -- nearly one out of every four working people. Total wages in Pennsylvania would increase by $2 billion and new spending by working people and their families would create 6,000 jobs. Higher earnings for workers means more revenues for the state -- without the need for a tax increase. And, it means less money spent in the state and communities Read more

 

Frankel: Pa. needs to know impact of health-care repeal; urges Senate to include his amendment

(Jun 30, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 30 – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, was disappointed that House Republicans voted down an amendment he offered Thursday to require a proposed new independent state Medicaid director's office to issue a report on how the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would affect Pennsylvanians. "I’m amazed that House Republicans refused to include my common-sense amendment, but I hope the Senate will be wiser and agree that this study should be an essential duty for the proposed office," Frankel said. "I have not decided whether I can support this bill even if my language is added because the bill greatly limits the role of the governor, who is accountable to voters statewide, in making decisions about Medicaid in Pennsylvania." The Republican-controlled House is moving H.B. 1354, which would create the new Office of the Independent Medical Assistance Director to oversee the state's Medicaid program. On Thursday, the House defeated along party lines Frankel’s amendment, which would have required the new director to issue a report within 60 days of his or her confirmation about the impact of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act on Pennsylvania and its residents. "We know that more than 700,000 Pennsylvanians have gained Medicaid coverage thanks to its expansion under the Affordable Care Act," Frankel said. "We have to know the impact of a repeal, especially if it cuts Read more

 

Longietti bill to create Rare Disease Advisory Council awaits governor’s signature

(Jun 29, 2017)

HARRISBURG, June 29 -- A bill that would create the Rare Disease Advisory Council and task it with specific duties now awaits the governor's signature. House Bill 239 , sponsored by Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer and Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-Montgomery, unanimously cleared the House today after being amended in the Senate. A rare disease is defined as a disease affecting 200,000 or fewer people in the United States. "One in 10 Americans live with a rare disease," Longietti said. “While we are familiar with some rare diseases, such as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, Crohn's disease and Cystic Fibrosis, many of the over 7,000 rare diseases are largely unknown by the public. Worse yet, on average it takes over eight years to diagnose a rare disease and there are FDA-approved treatments for only 5 percent of rare diseases.” Once signed, the legislation will establish the Rare Disease Council, which will act as a partnership between patients and their families, medical providers, insurance groups and other agencies to support the needs of those dealing with these illnesses. In addition to health care professionals and industry and scientific representatives, the council will include both individuals suffering from a rare disease and parents of children with a rare disease. The council would be tasked with researching and determining the most appropriate method to collect rare disease data; researching and identifying priorities relating to Read more

 

Republican budget ignores heroin crisis

(Jun 29, 2017)

The current version of the House Republican budget ignores the heroin crisis and threatens the ability of many Pennsylvania counties to provide mental health services. State cuts would reduce services for mental health patients in counties that already were forced to eliminate services during the last round of Republican budget cuts. Reducing or eliminating support for people with developmental disabilities will leave many families with stark and painful choices. They'll be forced to care for their loved ones at home on their own, or place them in an institution. The cuts would further impact nearly every family in the state by interfering with Pennsylvania's ability to address the growing heroin abuse and addiction crisis. A recent report shows that hospital admissions for heroin and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2010 in Pennsylvania. This growing crisis is having a devastating impact on families, communities and taxpayers. The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council estimates heroin-related hospital admissions alone cost $27 million last year. The cuts in the Republican budget would deny treatment to 1,200 people not eligible for Medicaid. That many people losing access to treatment creates additional public safety and healthcare costs that Pennsylvania cannot afford to bear. Counties and healthcare providers in Pennsylvania have excelled at doing more with less -- Read more

 

Republican choices limit families' financial security and children's future

(Jun 28, 2017)

The House Republican budget bill (H.B. 218) could drive waiting lists for quality child care in Pennsylvania to their highest levels in history. The Republican budget cuts childcare assistance and services support by nearly $70 million. This would eliminate childcare services for 10,000 PA children and increase waiting lists by almost 20,000. House Bill 218 also denies more funding for home visiting programs that evidence shows keeps many new moms and their babies healthy. The governor's proposed budget would help provide quality childcare options for the parents of an additional 1,800 children. This support would allow parents to work while their children receive reliable, safe care. The governor's proposed budget also supports home visiting services for 1,700 families. House Democrats support these important investments in our state's future. The days of middle class families being able to get by with only one parent working are long gone. The vast majority of families require two incomes to make ends meet. The absence of safe, reliable childcare options threatens the job stability and financial security of many parents. Without a strong commitment to child care and pre-K from the state, thousands of middle class parents cannot afford quality care for their children. They risk losing the income their family needs, and their kids miss out on the opportunities and Read more

 

Trumpcare is not healthcare "reform;" it's a tax cut for the wealthy

(Jun 26, 2017)

The Senate Trumpcare bill confirms our worst fears. It's as bad as or worse than the House version that passed in May. It's a collection of the worst ideas -- disguised as "healthcare reform" -- in American history. It dramatically cuts funding for Medicaid to the states. It will force Pennsylvania to choose between keeping people healthy and cutting support for schools and other core services. It shuts down Medicaid expansion and will take health insurance away from 700,000 people in Pennsylvania who just recently were able to get it. It gives millions in tax breaks to the wealthy -- and to insurance and medical device companies. It will make coverage unaffordable for thousands of Pennsylvanians and drive up uninsured rates and expensive emergency room care. It will take health insurance away from people with pre-existing conditions and flood the market with expensive policies that don't cover basic services. And, it will eliminate 85,000 jobs in Pennsylvania over the next 10 years and cost our state's economy more than $4.5 billion dollars. Fundamentally, Trumpcare is not about protecting health insurance markets, expanding coverage, or reducing healthcare costs. It’s not really a healthcare bill at all. It’s a tax cut for the wealthy paid for by cutting health insurance for the middle class. It shows Republicans in Washington are Read more

 

Pennsylvania in free-fall: What another GOP gimmick budget would look like
Sep 01, 2017

Dawkins to introduce legislation requiring PTSD testing for law enforcement
Aug 29, 2017

Frankel, Wheatley, colleagues, faith leaders call for action on Pa. hate-crimes legislation
Aug 21, 2017

Future Pa. jobs depend on adjustments to automation, retail losses
Aug 14, 2017

Rabb to introduce bill to create more transparent and accountable Pa. budget process
Aug 07, 2017

Boyle to re-introduce legislation to prevent future Pa. budget delays
Jul 31, 2017

Rabb introduces first-of-its-kind legislation to reverse school-to-prison pipeline in Pennsylvania
Jul 27, 2017

Bipartisan effort to enact Homeless Bill of Rights in Pennsylvania
Jul 25, 2017

Bizzarro: Saturday House session amounts to total eclipse of reason
Jul 22, 2017

DeLissio urges vote on shale tax
Jul 14, 2017

Snyder launching two-pronged campaign to improve broadband internet service
Jul 13, 2017

Wheatley calls on House GOP leaders to return to work and complete budget
Jul 12, 2017

PA Republicans follow Washington's lead on Medicaid
Jul 11, 2017

Longietti bill to help a million people combat rare diseases signed by governor
Jul 07, 2017

Better wages for a better budget
Jul 05, 2017

Frankel: Pa. needs to know impact of health-care repeal; urges Senate to include his amendment
Jun 30, 2017

Longietti bill to create Rare Disease Advisory Council awaits governor’s signature
Jun 29, 2017

Republican budget ignores heroin crisis
Jun 29, 2017

Republican choices limit families' financial security and children's future
Jun 28, 2017

Trumpcare is not healthcare "reform;" it's a tax cut for the wealthy
Jun 26, 2017