PHILADELPHIA, June 26 – State Reps. Jason Dawkins, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Elizabeth Fiedler, all D-Phila. and leaders of the House Philadelphia Delegation, today said they will continue their fight to save the General Assistance program and help people living in poverty, despite the many roadblocks being put up by Republican leaders in this month’s state budget debate. Last week the House passed legislation (H.B. 33) that would eliminate Pennsylvania’s General Assistance program, which provides about $200 per month to people who are temporarily or permanently unable to work because of disability or other hardship and costs the state about $50 million per year. Every Democrat but one voted against the measure. It passed the Senate today also along party lines, 26-24. “House Democrats put up nearly 30 amendments last week to save this lifeline for the more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians who rely on it to afford the most basic of necessities,” said Dawkins, chairman of the Philadelphia Delegation. “But our efforts to save it and help the most vulnerable among us continue to be met with indifference and derision by the Republican-led majority.” Kenyatta, vice chairman of the delegation, praised his Senate colleagues for attempting to offer the same amendments to save the program as House Democrats and denounced GOP tactics in both chambers. He said Senate President pro tempore Joe Scarnati today ruled Senate Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery issued the following statement regarding the Hanover Area School District audit findings announced today by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale: Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – Municipalities with high levels of tax-exempt property, such as major universities, nonprofit medical facilities, government offices or state forests and game lands would be eligible for special financial assistance from the state, under legislation introduced by Rep. Robert Freeman. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – State Rep. Brandon Markosek, D-Allegheny, cast a “yes” vote for the budget on Tuesday, noting the bill’s substantial investments in education, job training, and no new taxes or fees, but added he was disappointed the General Appropriations bill didn’t include funding that would address workers’ wages. “On Tuesday, a good bill that will do a lot of great things for the commonwealth passed the House. I voted for this bill in support of the initiatives that will assist in the forward progression of the commonwealth, including a substantial investment in the educational sectors of Pre-K and early childhood education; elementary and secondary basic education; special education; job training; career and technical training; school security funding; more funding to support students through PHEAA; and more. “A key element of our job as state legislators is to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass a budget that saves taxpayers money and is passed on time. Though this budget did not raise taxes, I was disappointed to see that House Bill 790 failed to include funding for workers’ wages. Raising the minimum wage was something House Democrats were hoping to achieve this legislative session, and I believe we still need to work together in order to accomplish that goal. “However, I voted for this bill because it still included a lot of positives for state residents. I will remain steadfast in my Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins and Sen. Sharif Street, both D-Phila., were joined by their colleagues to push for criminal justice reform by giving some people who are serving life without parole a second chance. “We are locking away so many positive role models that could diffuse a lot of the crime that we are seeing throughout this nation and throughout this world,” Dawkins said. “There are some powerful stories being told of experience. These lessons are the one thing young people are missing. If they have the chance to hear the experience of the folks who spent 25, 35 or even 45 years behind bars, they may make different decisions about their lives.” House Bill 135, sponsored by Dawkins, would provide a chance for people to get parole after serving 25 or 35 years of a life sentence, regardless of their crime. They would go before the Board of Probation and Parole and would be released on parole if they deserve it and do not present a safety risk to the public. Dawkins added people convicted of murdering a law enforcement officer would not be eligible. The legislation also would create an Office of Reentry program to assist those who are released under the new eligibility standards. Street, who has a companion bill ( S.B. 942 ) in the state Senate, said their legislation highlights the growing need to reform parole for lifers in the commonwealth. “The economic and moral imperatives of this reform are clear. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – State Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, is applauding the unanimous approval of legislation (S.B. 298), which would ensure fines collected in stolen valor convictions are deposited into the Veterans’ Trust Fund. “I’m extremely pleased this legislation passed unanimously. It makes sense that the fines of those who would impersonate and misrepresent the service of the great men and women in our military, should go to the programs that help our veterans and their families,” Sainato said. Sainato serves as the Democratic chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee . Sainato offered his thanks to state Sen. Lisa Baker for her work on the issue. Baker is the sponsor of S.B. 298. The legislation would amend the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it illegal to impersonate for profit a member or veteran of the U.S. military. It would require the full amount of all fines collected from violations of the Stolen Valor Act be transferred to the Veterans’ Trust Fund. The Veterans’ Trust Fund, which Sainato supported, was created in 2012 to support Pennsylvania veterans and their families. The fund provides grants to charitable organizations to help veterans in need. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. It would take effect in 60 days once the governor signs it. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – Following the passage of H.B. 790 -- the General Appropriations Bill -- state Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood, D-Phila., issued the following statement about her “no” vote: “House Republicans are relying on the weak argument that this budget is a compromise, but how can this be a compromise when many vital services have been underfunded, or even completely eliminated? With no attempt to expand use of the fair funding formula or properly fund needed building improvements for our schools, and no attempt at raising the minimum wage, which has been sitting at $7.25 an hour for more than a decade, and the complete elimination of the General Assistance Program that has served as a safety net for our most at-risk citizens, how is this a compromise? I voted against the 2019-20 state budget because it comes at the expense of working families and our children, particularly those in my district.” Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., today expressed his dismay with the announcement that Hahnemann University Hospital plans to close its doors . “As a former program coordinator at Hahnemann University Hospital, this is personal for me,” Kenyatta said. “I know a great number of people who work at Hahnemann, who will be among the roughly 3,000 people to lose their job if the hospital closes. “This historic hospital serves a low-income patient population, and is a teaching hospital, training doctors and nurses. Its closure would put more stress on other Philadelphia-area hospitals that are already experiencing emergency room wait times that are far and above the state and national averages. To close it would be devastating to residents who rely on it for accessible health care, to Drexel University and to our economy alike.” The day Hahnemann officials announced it would close, Kenyatta and other members of the Philadelphia delegation wrote to Gov. Tom Wolf, asking that he use every available power to keep Hahnemann open. The letter is available here . Kenyatta said he would continue to work with fellow lawmakers, the governor, the city and Hahnemann officials to find a way to keep the hospital open and serving the city. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – State Rep. Brian Sims, along with members of the Philadelphia House and Senate delegations, have released the following statement on the impending closure of Hahnemann University Hospital: “The Philadelphia House and Senate delegations have come together to request emergency funding from Governor Wolf to address the dire situation at Hahnemann University Hospital. HUH is a vital health care provider for Philadelphians and the surrounding communities, and members of the legislature are committed to working with stakeholders to find a solution to ensure that HUH remains a fully functioning hospital. “In order to understand the means necessary to prevent closure, we have requested that the owners of HUH, American Academic Health System, submit to an audit and agree to a state-appointed independent monitor to oversee operations and financial management. "The closure would immediately impact the Philadelphia region through the loss of good paying jobs and an economic driver in the city, as well as throughout the commonwealth. We will do everything in our power to work with state, local and institutional partners to prevent the loss of this historic institution.” The Philadelphia legislators sent a letter to the governor Tuesday, asking for his assistance in keeping Hahnemann University Hospital from closing. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 26 – Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood is calling on President Donald Trump, Congress, and the U.S. Treasury to stop stalling and act now to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. “More than four years ago, the American people were asked who they wanted to see on the $20 bill,” Youngblood said. “Overwhelmingly, they chose American heroine Harriet Tubman. What are we waiting for? Now is the time to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.” The current administration has delayed the process to put Tubman on the $20 currency, apparently for no good reason, according to Youngblood. Her H.R. 433 would urge U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with Trump and Congress to continue with the original plan to place Tubman on the redesigned $20 bill by 2020. In June 2015, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced a redesign of the $10 bill, and called on the American people to nominate someone worthy of the honor of being placed on that currency. In an open letter Lew penned less than a year later , he credited a powerful response from more than one million Americans for his decision to direct the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to accelerate plans for the redesign of not just the $10 bill, but also the $5 and $20 bills. It was then that Lew announced Tubman would be placed on the $20 bill. He said final concepts for those redesigns would be unveiled in 2020, to coincide with the 100 th anniversary of the passage of the 19 th Read more
COATESVILLE, June 26 – State Rep. Dan Williams, D-Chester, attended the ribbon-cutting of a Coatesville auto store on Saturday, June 22. America’s Finest Automotive Concepts, LLC is open for business on East Lincoln Highway. Store owner Jose Colón is a Coatesville native and has worked in the automotive industry for the last nine years. “I will always support my constituents for chasing their dreams and contributing to our community,” Williams said. “Local businesses are an asset to our community and I’m proud to support my constituents on their entrepreneurial endeavors. I was honored to attend this ceremonial ribbon-cutting and to be a part of Mr. Colón’s special day. I wish him nothing but the best.” ### Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, issued the following statement about today’s passage of H.B. 790 , the 2019-20 budget. “With every budget we work to find a compromise in order to best serve Pennsylvanians,” Caltagirone said. “Although I am extremely disappointed in not having any business tax credits or additional means of funding in place for pediatric cancer centers, this budget does a lot of good. My bill would have allocated $10 million in tax credits to businesses per year for the next 10 years to ensure that our children do not have to suffer from this disease as they have in the past. Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States between 1 and 14 years old, and not including any way to address this issue for our most vulnerable children is quite concerning. “The silver lining to this budget is our investments in our education and schools. Governor Mifflin School District will receive $6.6 million next year, a 3.5% increase, while Reading School District will see a 3.8% increase up to $145 million for basic education funding. Special education funding will also increase to approximately $2.3 million for Governor Mifflin, a 6.1% increase and Reading will have an increase of 9.9% at $13 million. I’m looking forward to seeing what our school districts can do with these additional resources and delighted that they get the chance. “Ultimately, Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, cast a “yes” vote for House Bill 790, the General Appropriations bill, saying that while it’s not perfect, the bill does provide increased support for educational services and other amenities: “This bill certainly doesn’t achieve what we want it to do, but it does move Pennsylvania forward in some significant ways,” DeLuca said. “Most importantly, in my view, is the increased support for educational progress at all levels: Pre-K and early childhood education; elementary and secondary basic education; special education; career and technical education; job training; a 2% increase for public universities and community colleges; more funds to support students through PHEAA; school security funding; and library funding, so that our children and adults know what is going on now as well as what has occurred in the past. “As you’ve heard others say, it does not raise taxes and puts a substantial amount in the rainy-day fund, which helps protect us when things get tough – just like a home budget. It also reduces the waiting list for services to people with intellectual disabilities and families seeking help with affordable childcare. “I support this budget for the good things it does. There are many more things we all need to work on, including an increase to the minimum wage. I was hopeful this budget would include a minimum wage increase, but Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, today issued the following statement regarding the passage of H.B. 790 , the state’s general appropriations bill: “As a fiscally conservative Democrat, I supported this no-tax increase budget that gets back to the basics by putting more money into education,” Burns said. “It’s not just about spending more; it’s about spending smarter, so the dollars actually get into the classroom. Every child in every school deserves to feel safe and this budget increases funding for school safety. “While I would have liked to see the surplus go back to the taxpayers, this was a budget compromise I support.” Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski both cast “yes” votes for the budget bill today, saying they believed that, although not perfect, the bill (H.B. 790) would make sound investments in the commonwealth’s future. “Although the budget is not everything I wanted, I believe it would invest our resources wisely and would not increase the burden on taxpayers,” Harkins said. “I’m especially encouraged about the substantial increases for public education and pre-K resources – including increased funding for my school districts – and additional funding for nursing homes and home health care operations. “Finally, I’m pleased the new budget would make a sizeable increase to the Rainy Day Fund. Having served in lean years, I understand how important that will be for the commonwealth moving forward and how it will help with our bond rating over the long term.” Merski was likewise pleased about the budget’s emphasis on education and protecting the state’s vulnerable populations, though he has some concerns. “This budget would increase funding for every school district I represent,” Merski said. “It also would increase investments in Pre-K Counts to give our kids the best possible start, and in nursing facilities to help protect our seniors and most vulnerable citizens. Best of all, it would do all of this without raising taxes. “Of course, Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – Citing historic investments in education, job training and programs to help veterans and families in crisis, state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, cast a “yes” vote today for the state’s General Appropriations budget bill. The budget now moves a step closer to the governor’s desk well before the end of the fiscal year. “I voted for this bipartisan budget because it invests taxpayers’ dollars wisely without burdening residents with any new taxes. I’m especially pleased that we have secured funding to launch the new Military Family Education Program for our National Guard families, and we have increased support for the Red Cross to help families in crisis. “I’m encouraged that we were able to work together to secure sizeable investments in our children and young job seekers. The budget provides a monumental investment in our schools – including an additional $160 million for basic education, $50 million for special education, and $25 million for Pre-K Counts to give kids the best possible start in life and overcome barriers. We are also allotting $60 million for school safety grants to keep our students safe. “Likewise, the budget contains increased funding for career and job training and higher education. Investments of this kind in our next generation will yield many positive returns for Pennsylvania, our working families and our economy. “Finally, an estimated $300 Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – Saying that it holds the line on taxes while increasing education funding, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, cast a vote today in favor of the state budget bill, H.B. 790. “As with any budget, there is a give and take,” Matzie said. “This is especially true when the legislative majorities and the governor are of the opposite party. My ‘yes’ was based on several things. No new taxes or fees. More money for schools, colleges and job training programs. More money for libraries. More money to fight opioids. More money to support lowest wage healthcare workers. “Equally important, this budget is on time, which is imperative in order to avoid imposing difficulties on counties, municipalities, school districts and any other entity that relies on state funding. It’s not perfect, but it works and moves us forward.” Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Rep Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, cast a vote in support of Pennsylvania’s budget bill, H.B. 790, saying that he believes the budget makes sound investments in the commonwealth’s future. “I’m encouraged that we passed a budget that is on time, does not raise taxes, and puts approximately $300 million in the Rainy Day Fund. Most importantly, I believe the budget makes strategic investments to move Pennsylvania forward by investing in our children and job seekers, while also ensuring that our seniors and the most vulnerable among us are protected. “I’m especially pleased that the new budget adds $160 million for basic education funding for our school children; a $50 million increase in special education funding; a $25 million increase for early childhood education, a 2% increase for higher education; and a $10 million increased commitment for Career and Technical Education. “The budget also invests in one of our most important industries by providing resources to assist farmers with business development, disaster response and best management practices. “Any budget is a compromise, and although the bill is not perfect, I believe it spends our resources responsibly and accomplishes a lot of good on behalf of the commonwealth’s citizens.” Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, provided the following statement regarding his “no” vote on H.B. 790 today, the state’s General Appropriations bill: “While I am grateful for the funds devoted to education, including basic, special and pre-k education, it doesn’t go far enough to address the financial challenges school districts in my region are facing related to charter and cyber charter schools. “Instead of placing nearly $300 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, more of those funds should have been placed into education. We need to do more to halt property tax increases, and this bill does nothing to address that. “I also have concerns about the state’s school safety grant program, as contained in the budget bill. Last year, the schools in my district did not receive any funds, and out of the $45 million that is earmarked for the program this year, I am still not getting a clear answer as to whether they will this year. “This bill also contains significant transportation funding cuts, to the tune of $366 million, despite the fact that we have nearly 3,000 structurally deficient bridges across our state. That figure also includes $111 million in cuts to mass transit, which will hurt many of my residents who rely on reliable transportation.” “We can and should do better for the people of Pennsylvania.” Read more
HARRISBURG, June 25 – State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, cast a “yes” vote for the budget bill today, praising the bill’s strong investments in education and job training but saying he was disappointed that it misses opportunities for realizing millions in savings by failing to address workers’ wages and closing loopholes for special interests. “To be clear, there is a lot of good in this budget bill – particularly with regard to its substantial investment in education and the fact that it does not impose any new taxes on residents,” Bizzarro said. “At the same time, I’m disappointed that the budget contains some important missed opportunities. “An essential part of our obligation when it comes to passing a budget is not just passing the budget on time but also passing a budget that saves money for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers. By failing to include a modest increase in the minimum wage that would help thousands of low-earning Pennsylvanians pull themselves off public assistance, we are missing out on savings of $100 million, according to a recent report by the Independent Fiscal Office. It’s not hard to image how the commonwealth could use those dollars. “That said, I’m not prepared to let the perfect stand in the way of the good. I voted for this budget because I believe that on balance, it contains a number of provisions that will benefit Pennsylvanians and working families. Read more
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