Time to do the right thing for unemployed workers

(Apr 18, 2017)

It's time to end the six-months' worth of suffering tens of thousands of Pennsylvania individuals and families have endured because Republican leaders in the state Senate refused to do their jobs back in October. The state was forced to close three unemployment call centers and furlough 500 workers in December after Senate Republicans refused to vote on a bill to keep the centers open and upgrade technology and services. Since then, unemployed workers in Pennsylvania have had to deal with endless busy signals, dropped calls, hours spent on hold, and sometimes weeks and even months waiting for benefits. Workers like Anita Salvato, whose experience was detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lost her job at a Philadelphia hospital in February and waited eight weeks to get her first unemployment check, even though there was no opposition from her former employer. "I’m usually self-sufficient. It is scaring the hell out of me. I’m so afraid. I’m so frightened," she says. No Pennsylvania worker, or business for that matter, that pays taxes into the unemployment system should have to deal with that level of frustration when it comes time to use the system. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on legislation that would provide temporary funding to rehire some of the furloughed workers and restore some of the services lost last year. The Senate passed a version of the bill in Read more

 

Say no to a Trump budget that harms Pennsylvanians

(Apr 17, 2017)

The federal budget Donald Trump has proposed would do severe damage not just to the Pennsylvania budget -- which is already facing a potential shortfall of several billion dollars by the end of the next fiscal year -- but the financial security, health and lives of hundreds of thousands of state residents. Just one example: Trump's budget would eliminate federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which annually helps nearly 350,000 Pennsylvania households keep their home heated during the winter. Pennsylvania could lose $185 million or more in heating assistance under the Trump proposal, an amount the state could not afford to make up in its already stressed budget. The LIHEAP cuts are just the tip of the iceberg -- during the past several weeks state officials have learned other Trump cuts could: jeopardize meal programs for senior citizens; eliminate millions of dollars the state relies on to incarcerate undocumented foreign criminals; cut Homeland Security funding for counties in Pennsylvania by nearly $10 million; restrict federal funding that helps pay for senior centers, parks, sewer improvements and fire-fighting equipment; discontinue a program that helps small- and medium-size manufacturers in Pennsylvania, leading to a loss of more than 10,000 jobs -- mostly in manufacturing and technology; cut transportation services impacting statewide, regional and local commuters and businesses; remove Read more

 

Matzie bill would help secure sensitive online data used by state

(Apr 13, 2017)

State Rep. Rob Matzie is reintroducing his Protecting Commonwealth Data legislation that would require state employees conducting state business to use encryption to protect personal, online information from being viewed or modified by a third party. Read more

 

Briggs announces internet privacy legislation to restore repealed protections

(Apr 13, 2017)

HARRISBURG, April 13 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, announced today a proposal to protect Pennsylvanian’s online privacy by restoring part of the privacy protections recently stripped by congress and President Donald Trump. Briggs’ legislation is part of a package of commonsense privacy and consumer protection bills designed by House Democrats to mirror the recently repealed Federal Communications Commission internet privacy protection rules. “Republicans in Washington recently voted to sell your private information to the highest bidder and it’s up to Pennsylvania to restore those protections,” Briggs said. “My proposal, and others proposed by my colleagues, would prevent big companies from exploiting your personal information and online activity for private profit while requiring them to notify you should a breach occur.” Briggs’ proposal would require internet service providers and telecommunications companies to notify their customers when a data breach of customer personal data occurs and to establish, implement and maintain safeguards reasonably designed to ensure the security of personal data of its customers. “Online users have a right to know when their sensitive information has been compromised. This bill helps to fix Washington’s failure to protect consumers by holding service providers accountable for securing sensitive data and requiring them to notify you in a timely manner if Read more

 

Best interests of working Americans being put on hold

(Apr 12, 2017)

During his campaign, Donald Trump talked a lot about standing up for hardworking Americans and putting corporations on notice. But as president, his actions have signaled the exact opposite. Every year, financial advisors cheat investors out of about $17 billion by pushing products whose sales generate bonuses, commissions and prizes for the financial advisor, but significantly higher costs and fees for the consumer. A new consumer protection rule known as the "fiduciary rule" proposed by President Obama would require financial advisors to act in the best interests of their customers, not themselves or their investment firm. Under the rule, working people and middle class Americans could trust that their financial advisor was working to help them and their family save for a secure retirement, not to line their own pockets. And, ethical financial advisors wouldn't have to compete on an uneven playing field with unscrupulous financial advisors more interested in making a quick buck than helping their customers. The fiduciary rule was supposed to take effect this week. But Trump has delayed the rule for 60 days, and has indicated he may kill it altogether. Saving for retirement is difficult. Nearly one-third of American workers have no retirement savings at all. Most corporations have stopped helping the hard-working employees who make them successful by ending pension plans and opting instead for bigger Read more

 

Rabb's proposed VOTE Act would make voting much easier in Pa.

(Apr 11, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA, April 11 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., will introduce a bill to make it much easier to vote in Pennsylvania. "With the April 17 deadline to register to vote in the Pennsylvania primary just days away, I'm encouraging everyone who qualifies to make sure they register. You can even register online at votespa.com . And I'm also looking ahead to ways the legislature can make it easier to use your constitutional right to vote. Many of these are things that other states already allow, and Pennsylvanians deserve the same ease of voting," Rabb said. "Our commonwealth is only as strong as the democracy we bolster through our state laws. In an era of record low turnout and deep public cynicism, it's more important than ever to create new avenues of expression and engagement for citizens and to expand and empower our electorate toward liberty and justice for all." Rabb's proposed Voting Opportunities Toward Empowerment (VOTE) Act would: Provide for no-excuse-needed absentee voting and create the option for a permanent absentee voter status for those who are disabled or otherwise unable to travel to the polls. Establish early voting beginning 15 days before Election Day and ending at 6 p.m. on the Sunday before the election. Voting sites would be open at or after 7 a.m. and close by 8 p.m. each day, with at least 10 hours for voting each weekday and at least eight hours for voting on each Saturday and Sunday. Read more

 

The War on Democracy

(Apr 11, 2017)

Republicans and their corporate friends have been writing the playbook for the war on Democracy for years. Going "nuclear" and changing decades of rules and tradition in the U.S. Senate in order to confirm conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is just the latest example of their efforts to thwart the will of working people in favor of corporate interests and the wealthy. But while the marching orders -- and this latest battle -- are coming out of Washington, Republicans are playing the real game in the states, with endless efforts like voter suppression through strict ID laws, partisan gerrymandering, and legislation to reduce the power of elected Democratic officials. In Pennsylvania, the majority party in the legislature has turned to all of these tactics and more. Their efforts to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians through a strict voter ID law were declared unconstitutional. Undeterred, they continue to move various legislative proposals to weaken the governor's ability to manage the state workforce, direct economic development and other state funding, appoint boards and commissions, and otherwise interfere with powers and duties clearly reserved in the state constitution for the executive and judicial branches of government. Last week's vote in the state House to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences that have proven ineffective and were previously ruled unconstitutional is a Read more

 

Miller to introduce legislation regarding law enforcement concussion protocol

(Apr 10, 2017)

MT. LEBANON, April 10 – State Rep. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, announced that he will introduce a bill that would require the Pennsylvania State Police, in coordination with other interested groups, to establish a concussion protocol to be used for all law enforcement officers. Once introduced, the bill will become H.B. 1176. Miller is partnering with state Reps. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, and Barry Jozwiak, R-Berks, as main sponsors of the bill. He is currently inviting other representatives to sign on as co-sponsors. The bill would direct the Pennsylvania State Police, in consultation with the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, union representatives of law enforcement officers, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, and appropriate state agencies that have expertise in the area of traumatic brain injury, to develop a concussion protocol which will be used by all police departments to protect a law enforcement officer who suffers or who may have suffered a head impact or head injury while on the job. “This legislation recognizes the physical risks inherent with a career in law enforcement,” Miller said. “Injuries, assaults and crashes are just part of the job and concussion symptoms can be easily missed. Officers protect the public every day, and we have to be sure to cover them and their families when injuries like these occur. Documentation is key.” When the bill is introduced, it will be assigned to a House committee for Read more

 

Longietti seeks contractor transparency, financial accountability for school management organizations

(Apr 10, 2017)

HERMITAGE, April 10 – Seeking to protect students and taxpayers, state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, plans to introduce legislation that would limit charter school management organization fees to no more than 5 percent of tuition charged per student enrolled. Besides limiting overhead, Longietti said his forthcoming bill would require much more disclosure of financial documentation from for-profit and nonprofit school management organizations. “Currently, Pennsylvania law is deficient on placing limits paid – and revealing contracts made – with management companies, which can result in profit-making with public education dollars,” Longietti said. “Moreover, management company fees increase a school’s administrative costs and result in less money being available to educate the students.” Longietti added that it is difficult for authorizers, oversight bodies and taxpayers to see how their money is spent by these private companies unless such transparency is required by law. His legislation would apply to for-profit management companies that provide management, educational or administrative services to public school entities, including school districts, charter and cyber charter schools. Generally, a private organization or firm that manages public schools, including district and charter public schools, is referred to as an education management organization or a charter management organization. Longietti said research Read more

 

Rep. Madden to introduce bill for timely transfer of students’ school records

(Apr 10, 2017)

State Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, said she plans to introduce legislation in the near future that would require schools to provide a timely transfer of students’ records to another school. "My legislation would protect students and their families regardless of their choice of school," Madden said. Madden said the legislation would include students who transfer to another public school, including charter schools, or a nonpublic school. "It is necessary that a student be provided with the continuity of their education program and my bill would ensure that a student's records are transferred within 10 days from the school’s request for those records," Madden said. The Monroe County lawmaker said the school would also need to evaluate students’ needs and place them in the appropriate academic programs, and provide a complete and accurate record of their academic and attendance records. "Record keeping is vital to an education system’s information cycle and school records are an important means of accountability because they provide proof and they also provide data that reveal students' learning performances," Madden said. Madden said school records help administrators and teachers make decisions about their students. Madden represents the 115 th Legislative District. Read more

 

Republican healthcare failure boosts momentum for states to get more of their residents insured

(Apr 07, 2017)

Republicans' Affordable Care Act repeal and replace debacle seems to have had one unintended but beneficial consequence -- a renewed interest in Medicaid expansion in Red states that had previously rejected it. When congressional Republicans and Donald Trump tried to jeopardize the healthcare and financial security of millions of American middle class working families, they faced a backlash that state legislatures and governors felt, as well. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government offers funding for states that open up Medicaid to the middle class. Only 31 states have taken the money so far -- almost all of them led by Democrats. But after the ACA repeal plan died without a vote, several states where Republican opposition was blocking Medicaid expansion suddenly grew more receptive. In Georgia, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal announced he is now open to applying for a federal waiver that would let the state expand Medicaid. In Virginia, where the Republican-dominated legislature has denied Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's attempts to expand Medicaid, he is renewing his push. In deep-Red Kansas, the legislature voted to expand Medicaid and narrowly missed overriding the governor's subsequent veto. And, in Maine, where the legislature passed Medicaid expansion five times only to see it vetoed by the governor, frustrated voters finally took matters into their own hands and got the question placed on the ballot this coming Read more

 

Government working for you doesn't 'work' for the corporations

(Apr 06, 2017)

Earlier this year, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to bar employers from asking potential workers to disclose their previous incomes. The city law is an important step toward ensuring #EqualPay for women and others who traditionally face wage discrimination. Now, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, with the support of several major corporations in the city, reportedly will challenge the city law in court in an attempt to have it overturned. In the wake of a complete failure by the Republican legislature to act on any significant worker-friendly legislation -- such as #EqualPay, #PaidLeave, or the #MinimumWage -- statewide, cities and municipalities in Pennsylvania are forced to take on the responsibility of protecting you and your family at the local level. Corporate special interests and their friends in Harrisburg are fighting against these worker protections vigorously -- in the legislature by proposing bills to pre-empt local worker-friendly legislation and at the local level by going to court. Evidence from other states where equal pay, paid leave, minimum wage and other worker-friendly measures are in place shows that these initiatives don't just support workers like you and your family, they boost the economy and help businesses and communities thrive. They put more money in your pocket, and in the pockets of other middle-class working families -- the engine that drives our economy. Read more

 

Pashinski, labor leaders call Open Workforce Initiative Package anti-worker, bad for Pennsylvania

(Apr 04, 2017)

Calling it part of a continued systematic assault on workers, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, joined labor leaders and fellow legislators today to call a package of bills known as the Open Workforce Initiative Package another anti-worker attempt to destroy unions and turn Pennsylvania into a “right-to-work” for less state. Read more

 

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

 

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

 

Time to do the right thing for unemployed workers
Apr 18, 2017

Say no to a Trump budget that harms Pennsylvanians
Apr 17, 2017

Matzie bill would help secure sensitive online data used by state
Apr 13, 2017

Briggs announces internet privacy legislation to restore repealed protections
Apr 13, 2017

Best interests of working Americans being put on hold
Apr 12, 2017

Rabb's proposed VOTE Act would make voting much easier in Pa.
Apr 11, 2017

The War on Democracy
Apr 11, 2017

Miller to introduce legislation regarding law enforcement concussion protocol
Apr 10, 2017

Longietti seeks contractor transparency, financial accountability for school management organizations
Apr 10, 2017

Rep. Madden to introduce bill for timely transfer of students’ school records
Apr 10, 2017

Republican healthcare failure boosts momentum for states to get more of their residents insured
Apr 07, 2017

Government working for you doesn't 'work' for the corporations
Apr 06, 2017

Pashinski, labor leaders call Open Workforce Initiative Package anti-worker, bad for Pennsylvania
Apr 04, 2017

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

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