HARRISBURG, April 28 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody remarked on the assessment made public today by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs about the threat posed by a Republican budget bill passed on April 4. “It’s astonishing that my House Republican colleagues would vote to cut funding and degrade services for our state’s military veterans, but that’s just what they did,” Dermody said. “Is it possible these Republican legislators just didn’t realize what they were doing? The contents of the bill were disclosed just one day before the House Republican leaders insisted on bringing it to a vote, so perhaps those who voted yes didn’t understand the harm it would do to veterans in their districts. “I’m proud to say not one House Democrat voted for the bill. “Fortunately the budget process still has a long way to go. Democrats will keep fighting on the side of veterans to reverse the callous Republican budget cuts to veterans’ outreach programs, services and health care. “We can do no less for the men and women who served our nation honorably.” Read more
HARRISBURG, April 28 – State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, announced an investment of more than $890,000 in state funding to three projects in York County. “I’m extremely pleased to announce that $735,875 will be invested in our York County rail system and more than $150,000 in our York County neighborhoods,” Hill-Evans said. “The $735,875 investment to the York Rail Main Line Reconstruction projection in York County is a testament to the importance of maintaining the commonwealth’s position as a leader in this vital industry,” Hill-Evans said. “Approximately 14 miles of track will be rehabilitated and three bridges repaired with the aid of this funding, an investment that we will reap the benefits from for generations to come.” The total project has a $1.05 million cost, with funding provided from the 2016 Rail Transportation Assistance Program. More than $40 million in funding was awarded across the commonwealth. In addition to the RTAP funding, Hill-Evans also announced $155,000 in funding for two projects in York County made available via the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Program, also known as the State Housing Trust Fund, administered by Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. “Both the YWCA York and York Habitat for Humanity 2017 Building Project have been awarded funds that will benefit those York County residents most in need,” she said. “For example, Read more
ALLENTOWN, April 28 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, today said his Tele-Town Hall meeting with local residents Thursday night provided him useful insight into his constituents’ views on various state and local issues. During the hour-long meeting, the more than 1,400 participants from Allentown and center city were asked to weigh in on poll questions and had the opportunity to ask questions of Schweyer. Of those who responded to instant polls, 54 percent said Pennsylvania should decriminalize the use of marijuana, 62 percent support raising the state’s minimum wage and 56 percent believe that Pennsylvania should end the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases, allowing people to face their accusers at any time after the abuse occurred. Schweyer said all of the issues covered in his poll questions are being discussed in the legislature right now, and these more recent questions helped to build on the feedback he was given during his telephone town hall last fall. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he also was able to provide his constituents some useful information on how the state budget is crafted and how education funding is considered, especially as it relates to school property taxes. He also provided an update on job creation and economic development efforts happening in Allentown. "It’s always great to hear from my constituents about what’s important to them and to give them an update on the state Read more
HARRISBURG, April 28 – State Rep. Pamela DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., expressed disappointment with a House vote to approve a less than comprehensive reform bill to update the 20-year-old charter school law. DeLissio opposed House Bill 97 , which passed Tuesday by a vote of 108 to 84 and has been forwarded to the Senate for consideration. The bill mandates the addition of three board members to the current seven-person Charter School Appeal Board, and it will also create a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission to explore funding issues related to charter school entities and make recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor. The bill also creates a standard student-enrollment application. “The legislation does not adequately address flaws in the law that require school districts to pay cyber charter schools far more than the actual cost of educating students, and it doesn’t hold charter schools to the same standards of accountability and transparency as traditional public schools,” DeLissio said. “Additionally, it will create a system for evaluating students, teachers and administrators at charters that would be less rigorous than the system used in traditional public schools, making it challenging to compare strengths in relation to opportunities and outcomes between charters and traditional schools. “Charter school law needs reform, but H.B. 97 fails to provide the direction and opportunity Read more
DeLissio votes for bill allowing lottery-win intercepts in Pennsylvania HARRISBURG, April 27 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio on Monday voted in favor of a bill that would allow the state to intercept lottery winnings from individuals who owe back state taxes, back child support or victim restitution. House Bill 674 would require the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to conduct a background check on any person who wins more than $2,500 in the Pennsylvania Lottery to determine if the individual owes such money. Any amount owed will be deducted from any winnings and remitted to the state. When both back child support and back taxes are owed, the child support obligation will be given first priority. “This is a reasonable approach to ensuring that a person who receives a winning hand fulfills their obligations to anyone they legally owe,” DeLissio said. “I’m proud to have supported the bill and look forward to quick action in the Senate so that the governor can sign this bill and get children, victims , and the state , money that is rightfully owed.” Read more
HARRISBURG, April 27 – State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-Phila., continued to voice his opposition to firearm pre-emption legislation that would make it easier for gun groups such as the NRA to sue Pennsylvania municipalities at taxpayers’ expense. The Republican-majority House approved H.B. 671 this week after defeating a number of changes to the bill, among them 10 amendments Thomas introduced in an attempt to address the issue of gun violence. "This legislation is an assault on local control and an assault on everyday people in our local communities,” Thomas said. “It would tie the hands of our municipalities whose commitment is to protect their residents.” Thomas has both introduced and supported legislation over the years that would strengthen the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Law, which makes it unlawful for certain categories of people to possess firearms. He has been a strong advocate against gun violence. The bill would permit individuals to sue municipalities they feel have “adversely affected” their firearm rights. The bill would hold municipalities responsible for legal expenses if the individual is successful, but would not require those taking legal action to cover expenses if the municipality prevails. The bill would also extend to outside organizations like the NRA the option to implement legal action. “It would give outside organizations like the NRA influence Read more
HARRISBURG, April 27 – The House Game and Fisheries Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation introduced by state Reps. Neal P. Goodman and Keith Gillespie, R-York, majority chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, that would expand Pennsylvania’s mentored hunting program Read more
A resolution commemorating Workers’ Memorial Day, introduced by state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, was unanimously adopted in the House today. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 27 – State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, announced today that West Chester will receive a $40,000 state grant to develop a multi-year financial management plan. The grant comes through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Early Intervention Program. “I’m pleased that West Chester will be able to use this funding to look at how to best deliver services in our community. I look forward to seeing the borough develop a plan that paves the way to a bright future,” Comitta said. The Early Intervention Program helps communities develop comprehensive financial plans and establish short- and long-term financial objectives. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 27 – In an effort to better protect dogs and other domestic animals, state Rep. Gerald Mullery introduced legislation that would increase the penalty for illegally setting body-gripping traps. State law requires all body-gripping traps to be set inside an established watercourse, waterway, marsh, pond, or dam. Unfortunately, body-gripping traps are often illegally placed outside these water locations, inadvertently luring dogs and other domestic animals which are often seriously injured or killed by the traps, according to Mullery. “The frequency and severity of this problem prompted the Pennsylvania Game Commission to restrict the size of openings for these traps in an effort to reduce the number of domestic animals being killed or injured by them. Even with this size restriction, I believe it is necessary to strengthen the penalty for those who place these traps in unapproved and illegal locations,” said Mullery, D-Luzerne. A violation of the current law is punishable by a fine of up to $200. House Bill 1292 would raise that penalty to a fine of up to $1,500 and up to three months in prison. The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Trappers Association supported the bill when Mullery introduced it last legislative session, although it did not receive a vote by the House Game and Fisheries Committee. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 27 – State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, this week voted in favor of legislation that would strengthen the state's animal cruelty law. The legislation, H.B. 1238 , would update Pennsylvania's animal cruelty provisions by breaking down various cruelty to animal offenses and resulting penalties. "Animals deserve to be protected, period," Conklin said. Conklin said the three categories of offenses include neglect of an animal, cruelty to an animal and aggravated cruelty to an animal. They would be classified as a summary offense, second-degree misdemeanor and third-degree felony, respectively. "This means not providing food, water or a clean environment, abandoning an animal, torturing or causing bodily injury to an animal would no longer be tolerated," Conklin said. "No human deserves inhumane treatment, why should animals? "I sincerely hope our senators across the hall agree and we can swiftly see this bill signed into law." The legislation passed the House by vote of 167-20; it now awaits action by the Senate. Read more
WILKES-BARRE, April 27 – State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, announced today that he will host a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on the impacts of implementing a potential Marcellus Shale severance tax in Pennsylvania. The hearing will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, May 1 at Wilkes University in the Henry Student Center Ballroom, 84 W. South St., Wilkes-Barre. The current agenda is: 2:00 p.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks 2:10 p.m. Panel of State Officials: Dennis Davin , Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Scott Perry , Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection 2:50 p.m. Marleen Troy , Professor of Environmental Engineering, Wilkes University 3:20 p.m. Marc Stier , Director, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center 3:50 p.m. Closing Remarks The hearing is open to the public and the media is invited to attend. Read more
OLYPHANT, April 27 – State Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Lackawanna, announced today that he will host a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on human services. The hearing will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 2 at Haggerty’s satellite office, 530 E. Park St., Olyphant. Haggerty requested the hearing to give local groups the opportunity to discuss issues related to human services and to hear the latest happenings from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. The current agenda is: 2:00 p.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks 2:10 p.m. Patricia Allen, Director of Bureau of Program Support, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services 2:50 p.m. Panel from Local Organizations: Don Barney , Director of Clinical Services, Keystone Community Resources Paul Emark , Program Participant, Keystone Community Resources Don Broderick , Executive Director, The Arc of Northeastern PA 3:30 p.m. Closing Remarks The hearing is open to the public and the media is invited to attend. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 26 – State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., is calling for state House hearings on the Wordsworth youth treatment center scandal . "As the state representative whose district includes two Wordsworth sites and a member of the House Children and Youth Committee, I am extremely disturbed by what has been reported, above all because of the harm to children, and also because these centers are regulated by state agencies," Brown said. "We need to get to the bottom of this." Brown will ask two committee chairs to hold hearings: Children and Youth Committee Chair Katharine Watson, R-Bucks; and Human Services Committee Chairman Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks. Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, Democratic chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee, said, "The welfare of children should be our utmost priority. When incidents of neglect or abuse occur, it is our responsibility as legislators to make sure a comprehensive investigation is conducted to ensure our children are protected in the future." Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Human Services Committee, said, "Jointly we will work together to provide the best service for the troubled youth of Wordsworth and children in the commonwealth and look into any and all allegations." ### Read more
HARRISBURG, April 26 – State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, has been appointed to the House Game and Fisheries Committee for the remainder of the 2017-18 legislative session. Hanna previously served on the House Game and Fisheries Committee during the 1991 and 1995 through 2010 legislative sessions. “I am pleased to return to this important committee,” Hanna said. “My priority will be to advance legislation that protect the rights of sportsmen throughout this commonwealth.” Hanna said he looks forward to working with Majority Chairman Keith Gillespie and Minority Chairman Bryan Barbin to promote the very best interests of both hunters and anglers alike. “My 27 years in this institution have afforded me the ability to get many proposals through the legislative process,” Hanna said. “I believe my long history serving on this committee and my role in leadership certainly positions me to effectively strengthen the missions of both the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.” The Game and Fisheries Committee has the critical task of helping to manage Pennsylvania's wildlife resources and ensuring that the average citizen can access outdoor recreation. Every piece of legislation that affects hunting, fishing and trapping must pass through the committee. The committee is made up of 27 representatives from across the state – 16 Republicans Read more
HARRISBURG, April 26 – Despite opposition from numerous municipalities and environmental groups, the Pennsylvania House yesterday passed legislation that would prevent local governments from enacting measures to address problems caused by disposable plastic bags, said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery. House Bill 1071 would prohibit Pennsylvania cities, counties, townships and boroughs from imposing a ban, fee, tax or surcharge on the use of disposable plastic bags at retail stores. The bill passed the House by a vote of 102-82. “This is a bill driven by national plastic bag manufacturer Novolex, who owns the Helix Poly plant in Milesburg, Pa.," Vitali said. "Milesburg is represented by one of the House members sponsoring the bill." Novolex has been active in promoting this type of legislation in other states, Vitali said. "Unfortunately good public policy has been trumped by special-interest influence in Harrisburg, once again," Vitali said. Currently, 165 municipalities across the country have adopted some form of single-use plastic-bag legislation, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Following implementation of a citywide bag fee in 2010, the presence of bags in Washington, D.C., decreased by 67 percent. "Pennsylvania municipalities should have the tools of a plastic-bag fee or ban at their disposal to help deal with such local problems as litter, the clogging of storm Read more
HARRISBURG, April 26 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, held a Capitol news conference this afternoon to announce the reintroduction of legislation he authored in direct response to the workplace accident and death of a Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority employee in 2014. House Bill 1082, the Jake Schwab Worker's Safety Bill, was first introduced in 2015 in memory of Erie resident Jake Schwab, a mechanic with EMTA who lost his life due to a workplace incident in November 2014. As a public transit authority, EMTA is exempted from OSHA regulations, so the details regarding the incident and any safety concerns that would have been raised through an OSHA review have been hard to track. Harkins pointed out that following the accident, Schwab’s family, and especially his widow, Tiffany, had to battle to receive any information on the accident, because under current law, "the insurance industry controls the investigation. Tiffany has been a real inspiration to me," he said. William Dando, legislative director, AFSCME Council 13, Harrisburg, highlighted the five states that have established OSHA-like protection for their public employees: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey and New York. "Creating an OSHA state plan for public employees is the right thing to do," Dando said. "We need to stop treating public employees like second-class citizens." Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Read more
Rep. Joseph Petrarca reports that the state Department of Community and Economic Development has approved a $200,000 Early Intervention Program grant for the Indiana County commissioners to map fiscal-management and economic strategies. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 26 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, welcomed today's House passage of his advanced-placement bill. Roebuck's bill ( H.B. 1022 ), introduced with Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, would expand Pennsylvania's Transfer and Articulation Program to include credits for matriculating college freshmen who have taken Advanced Placement (AP) exams in high school with scores that qualify them for college course credits. The bill would cover community colleges and the 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education. The legislation passed the House last session. It would ensure that high school students who have taken Advanced Placement courses and obtained a score of 3 or more on the AP exam would receive college course credit from Pennsylvania public institutions of higher education. The bill also would include students who have achieved sufficient scores in exams for an International Baccalaureate Diploma, the College-Level Examination Program or DANTES subject standardized tests. "This legislation would relieve some of the financial burden on college students and parents by eliminating the need to pay for duplicate courses. The awarding of these credits would save students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition costs and lead more students to graduate from college in four years," Roebuck said. "Another benefit to both the state and Read more
Calling it life-changing therapy, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, joined legislators and advocates today at a rally for music therapy awareness at the Capitol. Read more
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