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House Democrats fight to protect people’s health and access to care

Gov. Wolf signs Donatucci’s 911 privacy bill into law

(May 27, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 27 – Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law a measure authored by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, designed to better protect the identity of victims, witnesses and other people placing 911 calls. “This measure will help give peace of mind to anyone who may be hesitant to call 911 for fear of retribution,” Donatucci said. “The law now protects the privacy of victims and witnesses, in addition to the caller, so that private information that should not be available for public consumption is able to remain confidential.” Under H.B. 1310 , now Act 30 of 2016, in response to a request under the state’s Right-to-Know Law, a public safety access point is prohibited from releasing the name, telephone number and home address of victims, witnesses or people calling 911. The only case in which this information would be made available is if the 911 center or a court determines it is in the public’s best interest to have such information. The location of the incident would still be public information, unless the location is the home address of the caller, victim or witness, or the disclosure of the location would compromise the identity of the caller, victim or witness. The street block identifier, cross street or mile marker nearest the incident location would also still be made public. “My colleagues and I crafted the bill in such a way that it would still provide the public the opportunity to assess the 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

 

Committee reports out Petrarca's bill that would modernize the state's organ donation law

(May 17, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 17 – The House Judiciary Committee today reported out a bill introduced by state Rep. Joseph Petrarca that is designed to improve the state's outdated organ and tissue donation law. The bill would establish a comprehensive framework for public education on organ and tissue donations, clarify the methods for making such donations, streamline the process of working with law enforcement in deaths under investigation and update the law to reflect the best clinical practices to support donations for transplantation. The law would be known as the Donate Life PA Act. "Pennsylvania's Uniform Anatomical Gift Act was once a law that other states modeled for their own laws, but the law is becoming antiquated because it hasn't been updated since its enactment more than 20 years ago," Petrarca said. "Even in this day and age with all of the advances in medicine and technology, the number of people waiting for a transplant continues to grow. This measure will make more organs available for those in need." Public education would include providing information about organ and tissue donation to high schools, and medical and nursing schools. The bill also would reinforce the priority of transplantation in the law and affirm that anatomical donations must be initially referred to a federally designated organ procurement agency, so that donations are subject to regulatory oversight. Pennsylvania's current law was crafted in 1994 Read more

 

Donatucci’s 911 privacy bill awaits governor’s signature to become law

(May 17, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 17 – A measure authored by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, that would better protect the identity of victims, witnesses and other people placing 911 calls is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today unanimously voted to concur in Senate amendments of Donatucci’s H.B. 1310 . “The passage of this bill demonstrates that the legislature is taking the right to privacy very seriously,” Donatucci said. “No one should feel hesitant to call 911 because they fear retribution or are concerned their private information will be made public. Think about a domestic violence victim who flees to a friend’s house and calls 911. Their abuser shouldn’t be able to find out where they are calling from and harm them even further. This legislation would give people peace of mind when they find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having to call 911.” Under H.B. 1310, in response to a request under the state’s Right-to-Know Law, a public safety access point is prohibited from releasing the name, telephone number and home address of victims, witnesses or people calling 911. The only case in which this information would be made available is if the 911 center or a court determines it is in the public’s best interest to have such information. “We know that a person who calls 911 is likely a victim or witness, but that’s not always the Read more

 

Readshaw resolution would fight opioid addiction

(May 17, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 17 – State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, introduced H.R. 893 , which would look at options for dealing with heroin and other opioid addiction. The resolution would direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study and publish a report for the Legislature on the benefits, costs and drawbacks of alternative opioid dependence treatment programs that use FDA-approved medications. The study would also look at the feasibility of re-opening state hospitals for detox, rehabilitation and re-entry facilities. "The state hospitals are already in place," Readshaw said. "This would be a way to offer treatment opportunities for individuals who are looking to get off heroin and other opiates while utilizing facilities already owned by the Commonwealth and will provide family-sustaining jobs throughout the state. "The families who are on the front lines dealing with heroin addiction know that this is a serious problem today. We need to stop talking about the epidemic and begin providing real solutions for our families and friends. I am confident that the House will vote on my Resolution in the immediate future." ### Read more

 

House, Senate bills would provide more protections against child abuse while cracking down on animal abuse

(May 17, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 17 – At a Capitol news conference today, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca and Sen. Guy Reschenthaler discussed their respective bills that would institute cross-reporting measures for child and animal abuse. The bills (H.B. 2007 and S.B. 1231) would add animal control and humane society police officers to the list of mandated reporters -- those required to report suspected cases of child abuse -- while social services employees would be required to report suspected cases of animal abuse. "These bills would provide more protections against child abuse, while also cracking down on animal abuse," said Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana. "It's widely acknowledged that animal abuse can be a precursor to violence against a person, so it makes sense to require those tasked with investigating animal abuse to report anything they may see or suspect regarding child abuse when they are performing their job. Likewise, child welfare workers may witness or see signs of animal abuse in the course of their duties. We need to take advantage of all available resources in the fight against abuse." A number of studies connect animal abuse to family violence. A survey of pet-owning families with substantiated child abuse found that animals were abused in 88 percent of the homes. And, a study of women seeking shelter from abuse showed that 71 percent of those with pets reported their partner had threatened, hurt or killed their companion 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

 

Caltagirone introduces bill to raise funding for pediatric cancer research in Pa.

(May 03, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 3 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, has introduced legislation designed to increase funding for pediatric cancer research throughout Pennsylvania. The legislation, H.B. 1865, is designed to offer tax credits to businesses in order to raise millions of dollars in funding for pediatric cancer research. Specifically, the bill would allocate $10 million in tax credits per year over the next 10 years to Pennsylvania businesses, similar to the existing Educational Improvement Tax Credit program which offers tax credits to businesses that contribute to scholarship organizations. "We've seen this system work. Let's give it a chance to work with pediatric cancer research too," Caltagirone said. "Over the next 10 years we could have the chance to allocate $100 million to fight pediatric cancer. That's not penny change." The funding would be distributed to the four eligible institutions in Pennsylvania that conduct research relative to pediatric cancer: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cancer Center; Penn State Hershey Pediatric Hematology/Oncology; Abramson Cancer Center, the University of Pennsylvania; and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. "I've been to Hershey's hospital. I've talked to doctors. I've seen the researchers at work and what is needed most is more funding for research," Caltagirone said. "The lack of research funding Read more

 

Goodman’s bill to help fight blight wins state House approval

(May 02, 2016)

HARRISBURG, May 2 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday passed state Rep. Neal P. Goodman’s bill that would reduce the time a purchaser of a building has to correct known code violations or demolish the structure from 18 months to 12 months. 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

 

Petrarca-introduced bill would use child abuse-animal cruelty connection to fight abuse

(Apr 22, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 22 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca has introduced a bill that would provide more protections against child abuse, while at the same time cracking down on animal abuse. The bill (H.B. 2007) would require the cross-reporting of these types of potential abuse cases. Petrarca said there are a number of studies that connect animal abuse to family violence. A survey of pet-owning families with substantiated child abuse found that animals were abused in 88 percent of the homes. "My bill would be another tool in the toolbox in the fight against child abuse," said Petrarca, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "It's widely acknowledged that animal abuse can be a precursor of violence against a person, so it's not a stretch to require those tasked with investigating animal abuse to report anything they may see or suspect regarding child abuse when they are performing their job. "And, as with animal control or humane society officers, the duties of child welfare workers often take them into people's homes where they may witness or see signs of animal abuse. We need to take advantage of all of the resources available to us to fight abuse." Under the bill, animal control and humane society police officers would be added to the list of mandated reporters -- those who are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse -- while social services employees would be required to report possible cases 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

 

Roebuck introduces bipartisan bill to provide more substitute teachers

(Apr 14, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 14 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, has introduced a bill (H.B. 1989) designed to increase the number of available substitute teachers in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. "I'm pleased my bill already has bipartisan support. This legislation would allow retired teachers to return to the classroom to serve as day-to-day or long-term substitutes for up to 90 days without interruption of their state retirement benefit. This legislation would mirror current law that allows retired state employees to return to service for a certain period of time without affecting their state retirement benefits," Roebuck said. "Substitute teachers play a vital role in maintaining momentum and continuity in the classroom. When students’ regularly assigned teachers are unavailable due to illness, hiring shortages, or professional development needs, substitute teachers help fill in the gaps so student learning is not interrupted. "When substitutes are not available, many schools rely on other teachers to fill in during their prep periods – time that should be dedicated to thoughtful planning, professional collaboration or other academic preparation. When neither substitutes nor a teacher on a prep period are available, students must do without a teacher in their classroom for a day, a week or even longer. Without a pool of consistently available, qualified substitutes, 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

 

House passes Petrarca's statute of limitations bill

(Apr 12, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 12 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Joseph Petrarca that would reform the statute of limitations regarding child sexual abuse cases. "This is an important bill for Pennsylvania children," said Petrarca, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Not only does it help to protect our children, it also allows child sex abuse survivors to seek justice." The bill, introduced by Petrarca and his Republican counterpart on the committee, Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, would abolish the criminal statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions for serious child sexual abuse crimes relating to human trafficking, sexual servitude, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, aggravated indecent sexual assault and incest. The bill also would waive sovereign immunity for state and local public institutions in cases of gross negligence, which would allow civil cases to be filed against them. It also would increase the length of time, from age 30 to age 50, for when child sexual abuse victims could file civil claims. As amended by the House Monday, this provision would be retroactive, so that civil suits could be filed no matter when the crime occurred, as long as the survivor meets the age criteria. "It can take years for survivors of child sex abuse to remember their trauma and have the courage to Read more

 

Gov. Wolf signs Donatucci’s 911 privacy bill into law
May 27, 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

Committee reports out Petrarca's bill that would modernize the state's organ donation law
May 17, 2016

Donatucci’s 911 privacy bill awaits governor’s signature to become law
May 17, 2016

Readshaw resolution would fight opioid addiction
May 17, 2016

House, Senate bills would provide more protections against child abuse while cracking down on animal abuse
May 17, 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

Caltagirone introduces bill to raise funding for pediatric cancer research in Pa.
May 03, 2016

Goodman’s bill to help fight blight wins state House approval
May 02, 2016

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

Petrarca-introduced bill would use child abuse-animal cruelty connection to fight abuse
Apr 22, 2016

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

Roebuck introduces bipartisan bill to provide more substitute teachers
Apr 14, 2016

Sturla lauds House approval of medical marijuana
Apr 13, 2016

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

House passes Petrarca's statute of limitations bill
Apr 12, 2016