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House Democrats demand accountability for Republican election lies

Sturla to unveil water fee bill to generate $245 million for state at Capitol News Conference Monday at 10:30 a.m.

(Jun 01, 2016)

HARRISBURG, June 1 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, announced today that he will host a news conference to discuss his House Bill 2114 that could generate $245 million annually from a water resource fee for major water withdrawals in Pennsylvania. Weather permitting, the event will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, June 6 on the front steps of the Main Capitol Building . In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held in the Main Capitol Rotunda. Over 5.9 billion gallons of water are reported as used every day in the Commonwealth. Under the state constitution, Pennsylvanians own this water that is currently being used free of charge. Sturla’s legislation would use this revenue to fund state water-related programs, major watersheds, and an optional $3 billion Growing Greener bond. Cosponsors and stakeholders that helped to craft the legislation will attend. Media coverage is invited and encouraged. Read more

 

Productive budget discussions must include realistic proposals

(May 27, 2016)

House Democrats are eager to continue positive and productive discussions with Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans in an effort to reach agreement on a 2016-17 budget that is truly balanced, fixes the deficit, supports human services and invests in education at all levels. But to continue to be productive, we must be realistic. Unfortunately, a group of Republican legislators this week broke from reality to put forward a report that is rife with untruths and inaccuracies. Taking discussions two steps back, these Republicans continue to mislead the public that Pennsylvania can pass budgets using short-term revenues, lapsed funds, phantom savings, improper cuts and other gimmicks. The so-called $3 billion in savings they allegedly found “under Pennsylvania’s couch cushions” is nonexistent. Most of the savings identified in the report are already accounted for in the proposed 2016-17 budget, and are necessary to meet the natural increase in the costs of maintaining current services and paying ongoing bills. Other savings identified in the report are wildly overstated or don't exist at all, such as $100 million (?!) in technology savings within CHIP, or $600 million in savings from pension reform that hasn't passed yet and that won't provide immediate budget savings anyway. Their large “savings” figure also includes an additional $1 billion cut from human services. This would further devastate state and local programs for senior Read more

 

DeLissio appointed to new Pa. Long-Term Care Council

(May 26, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 26 -- State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., has been appointed to serve on the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council within the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. The Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council was established by Act 64 of 2015 to replace the Intra-Governmental Council of Long-Term Care, created in 1988. This Long-Term Care Council will broaden the previous scope and address topics ranging from facility based care to home and community-based services. "I am pleased to play a role on this new council," DeLissio said. "Our state ranks fourth in the country with the percentage of citizens 65 or older and citizens 85 or older are the most rapidly growing segment of seniors in the commonwealth. Our current system is difficult for consumers and caregivers to navigate and one of my goals as a member of the council will be to ensure that the continuum of housing and services is as seamless as possible." The council will consist of 35 members, and focus on six different areas of concentration: regulatory review and access to quality care; community access and public education; long-term care service models and delivery; work force; housing; and behavioral health issues of seniors 60 or older. When the law was under consideration in the House last year, DeLissio amended it to ensure consumers and caregivers were adequately represented on the council so the state could benefit from their first-hand Read more

 

Browne and Schlossberg applaud passage of rear-facing car seat bill

(May 23, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 23 – State Senator Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, and Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, today applauded House passage of S.B. 1152, which would require infants younger than 2 to be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat while in a vehicle. Browne’s S.B. 1152, which is identical to legislation Schlossberg previously introduced in the House, is now on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf for signature into law. Read more

 

Legislature must fix the deficit so that we can focus on education

(May 20, 2016)

This week Gov. Tom Wolf rightfully vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that continues to focus on school cuts rather than educational investment. Five years ago Republicans supported Gov. Tom Corbett’s $1 billion cut to K-12 schools. Those cuts created chaos in classrooms statewide. At the same time, Republicans pushed a new teacher evaluation system that is proving to have problems similar to the now-delayed Keystone Exams . Pennsylvania's first priority should be investing in its schools and hiring more teachers, not shortchanging kids by laying off their most experienced and dedicated teachers. It’s time to move forward, and time for Republicans and Democrats to come together on a state budget that puts a greater focus on educational investment from pre-school through college. Speaking of college, a new study shows public universities in Pennsylvania have been losing state funding at twice the rate of schools in other states. The Corbett cuts of 2011 contributed to that distinction and caused a loss of funding for various Pennsylvania universities of between 18 to 22 percent. As a result, the average tuition debt of college graduates in Pennsylvania is $33,264. Only graduates in New Hampshire face higher debt. High tuition rates and high student debt is hurting both access to education and Pennsylvania's workforce and businesses. The modest 5 percent increase in the 2015-16 budget still leaves state funding for most public universities in Read more

 

Bipartisan brain health/mental health checkup legislation introduced by Miller

(May 13, 2016)

On the heels of the fifth student suicide in the past six years in a nearby school district, state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, has introduced legislation that would require a mental health – or brain health – check-up that would at minimum include a depression screening for each student in Pennsylvania by age 14. "We know that many people who develop a mental health issue go untreated, and this lack of treatment can have lifelong repercussions," Miller said. "Knowing this, we need to recognize that mental health is arguably even more important than physical health and we need to improve our early diagnosis capabilities to get those who need treatment the help they need to improve their quality of life." Read more

 

If we want a better Pennsylvania, we need a budget that will fund it

(May 06, 2016)

The House began legislative action on the 2016-17 state budget this week by positioning a bill to serve as the placeholder for the final negotiated plan. Pennsylvania still faces a significant fiscal crisis, and Democratic and Republican legislators need to begin working with the governor RIGHT NOW to fix it. This year, Republicans acknowledge that the budget deficit is real, and the number is big. Because the 2015-16 budget was another status-quo effort, the negative impact of the structural deficit remains. The Independent Fiscal Office's revenue estimates this week were a reminder that Pennsylvania cannot balance the budget with another round of one-time revenues and accounting gimmicks. Compounding the problem is the fact that Pennsylvania's huge structural budget deficit makes it impossible to pay the bills we already owe. There's nothing left over to restore funding for education, public safety and other important investments Pennsylvanians want lawmakers to make. Additionally, if we don’t work to fix the deficit and invest in what matters, credit rating agencies will continue to downgrade Pennsylvania's bond status. Much in the same way that the five-year disinvestment in schools forced local property tax increases statewide, credit agency downgrades will significantly increase borrowing costs for critical school and infrastructure projects – another BACKDOOR TAX INCREASE on Pennsylvania citizens. No one wants a repeat of last Read more

 

Mullery introduces legislation aimed at helping to reform Harrisburg

(May 02, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 2 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, introduced legislation that would help fix a broken Harrisburg by eliminating one of the perks given to elected officials and make members of the General Assembly more accountable. House Bill 2027 would require all legislators to contribute more towards the costs of their health insurance coverage. Under his legislation, each member of the General Assembly would be required to pay 10 percent of the annual premium for their health care starting January 1, 2017. Currently, members contribute 1 percent of their annual salary toward their health care coverage. "The time is long overdue for lawmakers in this commonwealth to pay a fair share of their own health care cost," Mullery said. "The savings gained could be used to invest in vital Pennsylvania programs." Mullery also introduced H.B. 2024, which would eliminate the automatic cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for members of the General Assembly, judges, and various elected and appointed positions of the executive branch, including the governor and lieutenant governor. Mullery said state legislators already make a base salary that is one of the highest in the nation. "Eliminating automatic pay raises is an important step in helping restore the public's trust in their elected leaders," Mullery said. Read more

 

This version of Harrisburg should be the rule, not the exception

(Apr 15, 2016)

Before adjourning for the spring primary, Pennsylvania's General Assembly showed this week how it can and should work in a bipartisan way to protect and assist Pennsylvanians, and advance the priorities of the public. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to create a legal medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania. The new medical marijuana law will bring relief to thousands of Pennsylvania patients who need a more effective and less addictive way to manage the symptoms of serious health problems such as seizures, cancer, post-traumatic stress and more. Earlier in the week, the House also passed legislation reforming the state's statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases involving child sex abuse. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting criminal cases of child sex abuse, and allow child victims of sex abuse to bring civil cases up to the age of 50. While final passage of both bills in the House -- and the governor's pending signature in the case of medical marijuana -- was good news, it also ironically demonstrated how broken and ineffective the General Assembly has been in the past 16 months on many other issues and priorities important to the public. Pennsylvania did not have a final 2015-16 budget in place until March, and the legislature has made zero progress on issues such as raising the minimum wage, property tax relief, full funding for Read more

 

Sturla lauds House approval of medical marijuana

(Apr 13, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 13 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, voted today to legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. “I was proud to vote for this legislation that will help to alleviate suffering for so many Pennsylvanians. We’ve seen so many stories of how medical marijuana will help patients with severe medical conditions and it is past time we give them a new option under the direct care of their doctor,” Sturla explained. Patients with serious medical conditions, a total of 17 qualified diagnosed conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder would be permitted to use medical marijuana under authorization from their physician. Under the bill, the commonwealth would license up to 25 growers and as many as 50 dispensaries. Each dispensary would be authorized to operate three locations. Medical marijuana would be dispensed as a pill, oil, topical form or in a form appropriate for vaporization or nebulization. The legislation would impose a 5 percent tax on gross receipts that a grower or processor gets from the sale of medical marijuana to another grower or processor. The taxes would establish the Medical Marijuana Program Fund. The Pennsylvania Department of Health would use 40 percent of the money for operations and outreach; 30 percent would be used for medical treatment research; 15 percent would go to help medical marijuana patients and caregivers with the costs of background checks or Read more

 

Clean slate legislation would give people a second chance

(Apr 13, 2016)

State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., today joined a bipartisan group of legislators including Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, and Sens. Scott Wagner, R-York, and Anthony Williams, D-Phila., district attorneys, and advocates to introduce first-of-its-kind clean slate legislation that would allow automatic sealing of criminal records in certain cases in Pennsylvania. Read more

 

Bizzarro introduces bill banning payment for serving on boards

(Apr 11, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 11 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, has introduced legislation that would remove perceived conflicts of interest for public officials and employees serving on corporate or non-profit boards outside of government service. Bizzarro's H.B. 1981 would prohibit public officials and employees from receiving any salary or compensation for serving on a corporate or non-profit board. However, the public official or employee still would be permitted to receive reimbursement for actual expenses that are provided to other board members. "Pennsylvanians whose taxes pay the salaries and other compensation of elected officials and public employees expect those individuals to be responsive to their needs, not to special interests or other private groups," Bizzarro said. "Unfortunately, the growing influence of money in our elections and government has made the wealthiest voices the loudest and the ones with the most influence and access to government officials in Harrisburg. "We, as public servants, have an obligation to our constituents to ensure that we are just as responsive to the needs of Pennsylvanians and their families, as we are to a corporation or special interest group." The bill is introduced as part of a legislative reform package being offered by House Democrats to improve transparency in government and reassure the public that the public officials they elect, and the people they employ, are working in the best Read more

 

Davis: Fixing Harrisburg means ending gifts

(Apr 08, 2016)

Rep. Tina Davis reports that she has introduced legislation that would prohibit public officials and candidates in Pennsylvania from accepting any gift valued at more than $25. “People want reform – I want reform – but the fact is that true reform requires eliminating the gifts special interests lavish on government officials.” Read more

 

DeLuca bills would require public officials, employees to disclose amount of outside pay and limit legislators' outside pay

(Apr 08, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 8 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, has introduced two bills designed to help restore Pennsylvanians' faith in their state government by requiring legislators to disclose any income received from outside employment and its amount. Current state law only requires elected officials and public employees to disclose the source of any income they've earned from jobs outside of their government position. H.B. 567 also would require them to list the amount earned from the outside work. House Bill 566 would limit all outside pay for state legislators to 35 percent of the base legislative salary. "There is the perception that Harrisburg is broken because it's too indebted to powerful and influential special interests. I believe we contribute to cynicism from Pennsylvania residents when we do not require outside income to be reported," DeLuca said. "The comprehensive financial disclosure and limits of outside income put forth in my bills will help public officials, employees and legislators avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest, while at the same time reassure the public that we are working for them, not the special interests.” DeLuca's income disclosure bill is modeled after a Hawaii law that requires public employees and officials to report a range for each outside source of income. Those ranges would be: $1,000 - $74,999; $75,000 - $99,999; $100,000 - $149,999; $150,000 - Read more

 

HARRISBURG IS BROKEN; Progress on the public's priorities hinges on fixing it

(Apr 08, 2016)

On Thursday, Gov. Wolf signed executive orders that will protect state employees under his jurisdiction, as well as employees of contractors doing business with the state, from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity. New laws in North Carolina and Mississippi that expressly permit businesses and other groups to discriminate against LGBT residents are causing great controversy and have had serious economic repercussions in those states. What many people don't realize is that in Pennsylvania it is already legal for an employer to fire an employee based on his spouse, or a business to deny service or accommodations to someone because of her sexual orientation. That's something some legislators have been trying to fix for years, most recently with H.B. 1510 . But that legislation, which a strong majority of Pennsylvanians support, has gone nowhere in the legislature. Similarly, a few weeks ago Gov. Wolf signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for hundreds of state workers because legislation to give all low-wage earners in Pennsylvania -- and the state's economy -- a much-needed boost (H.B. 250 ) has languished in the legislature without a vote. In addition to a fair wage for all workers and equal treatment under the law for all Pennsylvanians, a significant majority of Pennsylvanians also want quality schools for all kids, higher education that students and families can afford, budgets that are balanced Read more

 

Krueger-Braneky bill would limit lobbyist influence on campaigns

(Apr 07, 2016)

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, today announced plans to introduce a bill that will more clearly separate lobbying and campaign activities. Read more

 

DeLissio bill would improve transparency and accountability on money spent in elections

(Apr 07, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 7 – Concerned about the influence that special interests and advocacy groups have on elections, state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., plans to introduce a bill that would require disclosure of expenditures for political communications. "Everyone has the right to make their voices heard, but with the proliferation of political and issue advertising in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, it's difficult to know who is behind the advertising," DeLissio said. "My legislation would not restrict those voices, but help level the playing field by improving transparency and accountability regarding the money spent to influence elections." DeLissio’s bill would require individuals, advocacy groups and special interests engaging in organized political communication to register with the Department of State and file regular disclosure reports. "This would be similar to the reports that candidates and political parties are already required to file during election cycles. The reports would list the names of people and entities that contribute to the sponsors of the advertising," she said. Under the bill, any advertisement or message that refers to a candidate or elected official would be considered "political communication," and if the message or advertisement was made within 60 days of an election, it automatically would be considered political communication, Read more

 

Bizzarro bill to curb animal cruelty passes Pa. House

(Apr 05, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 5 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved legislation proposed by state Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, designed to cut down on and prevent animal cruelty throughout the commonwealth. "Today’s passage of H.B. 869 sends a clear message that we won’t tolerate animal abuse in Pennsylvania," Bizzarro said. "We’ve all heard the horrific stories of animals being left for dead in homes where they’re not properly cared for. My legislation would help ensure these animals find the loving homes they deserve." Under Bizzarro’s bill, anyone convicted of animal abuse with a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, or a felony, would be required to forfeit their animals to shelters or other organizations dedicated to preventing animal cruelty. It also would permit the court considering an animal abuse case to order a person convicted of summary offenses or a third-degree misdemeanor to forfeit their animals to shelters. Bizzarro added that besides alleviating stress to the animals, the bill would help cut costs throughout communities. "Unfortunately, there are many animal abusers who are repeat offenders," Bizzarro said. "Not only are these offenders repeatedly bringing harm to our animals, but they also cost us money in further seizures and law enforcement checks. This legislation, sponsored in a bipartisan fashion, not only makes for sound fiscal policy, but it’s morally the Read more

 

Legislators urge approval of drilling regulations

(Mar 31, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 31 – A group of nearly 20 state House members led by state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today sent a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission urging approval of regulations that would make gas drilling safer in Pennsylvania. IRRC, the agency created to review commonwealth agency regulations to ensure they are in the public interest, is scheduled to consider the regulations at its April 21 hearing. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said the regulations would enhance public resource protections, including those for state parks and forests, playgrounds, schools and public water supplies; provide for pre-drilling review of potential abandoned and operating wells; require water supply restoration standards for operators who degrade a water supply; and enhanced spill reporting and clean-up requirements. The Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites regulations were promulgated in accordance with Act 13 of 2012, and have not been updated since 2001, so modernizing them is critical to ensure protection of Pennsylvania’s environment, the group’s letter states. The drilling industry opposes the regulations and on March 24, the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association filed a suit in Commonwealth Court challenging them. The House and Senate can stop the regulations by passing a concurrent resolution disapproving them, which must be signed by Read more

 

Krueger-Braneky: Fiscal code veto a win for environment and clean air

(Mar 24, 2016)

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, released the following statement on Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to veto the fiscal code bill: “This entire budget process has been a disappointment. From the lackadaisical attitude of the Republican leadership and their refusal to compromise, to the Speaker of the House adjourning session in December when we were poised to end this impasse, it has been a sobering look at how partisan Harrisburg has become. Read more

 

Sturla to unveil water fee bill to generate $245 million for state at Capitol News Conference Monday at 10:30 a.m.
Jun 01, 2016

Productive budget discussions must include realistic proposals
May 27, 2016

DeLissio appointed to new Pa. Long-Term Care Council
May 26, 2016

Browne and Schlossberg applaud passage of rear-facing car seat bill
May 23, 2016

Legislature must fix the deficit so that we can focus on education
May 20, 2016

Bipartisan brain health/mental health checkup legislation introduced by Miller
May 13, 2016

If we want a better Pennsylvania, we need a budget that will fund it
May 06, 2016

Mullery introduces legislation aimed at helping to reform Harrisburg
May 02, 2016

This version of Harrisburg should be the rule, not the exception
Apr 15, 2016

Sturla lauds House approval of medical marijuana
Apr 13, 2016

Clean slate legislation would give people a second chance
Apr 13, 2016

Bizzarro introduces bill banning payment for serving on boards
Apr 11, 2016

Davis: Fixing Harrisburg means ending gifts
Apr 08, 2016

DeLuca bills would require public officials, employees to disclose amount of outside pay and limit legislators' outside pay
Apr 08, 2016

HARRISBURG IS BROKEN; Progress on the public's priorities hinges on fixing it
Apr 08, 2016

Krueger-Braneky bill would limit lobbyist influence on campaigns
Apr 07, 2016

DeLissio bill would improve transparency and accountability on money spent in elections
Apr 07, 2016

Bizzarro bill to curb animal cruelty passes Pa. House
Apr 05, 2016

Legislators urge approval of drilling regulations
Mar 31, 2016

Krueger-Braneky: Fiscal code veto a win for environment and clean air
Mar 24, 2016