HARRISBURG, March 24 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., plans to introduce a bill to reform special elections for the Pennsylvania legislature. "Like last Tuesday's election in Philadelphia, these special elections are often low-turnout, and they can put someone in a state House or Senate seat for most of a two- or four-year term. We need to make sure they are conducted the right way – that Pennsylvania legislators are elected, not selected," Rabb said. "I'm encouraged that this bill has already garnered bipartisan interest." "Under current law, a candidate for a special election is nominated by a process in accordance with their respective political party rules. Unfortunately, such processes often discourage broad candidate recruitment, vetting and input or review from committee people and the voters they were elected to serve," Rabb said. "To remedy this issue, my proposal would establish transparency and public integrity in the special election process for senators and representatives in the General Assembly." Under Rabb's bill, people interested in running in a special election would be required to: File their candidacy with the political party in each county of the legislative district; Pay a filing fee; and Prepare, or publicly opt out of preparing, a short video announcing their candidacy which would be posted on the Department of State’s website and made available to the Pennsylvania Read more
EBENSBURG, March 24 – Seizing the opportunity to remind folks that he favors stiffer animal abuse penalties, state Rep. Frank Burns will host his annual Pet Food Drive from April 1 through 30 at his four offices and in participating 72 nd Legislative District schools. Burns, D-Cambria, noted that April is an opportune time to start the drive, as it is “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” month. He is asking residents to donate non-perishable pet food items, either in the classrooms of participating schools or at one of his four constituent service offices: 535 Fairfield Ave., Lower Yoder Township, Johnstown, 15906; 119 S. Center St., Ebensburg, 15931; 112-A Munster Road, Portage, 15946; or Patton Senior Center, 405 Park Ave., 16668 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays). In addition to schools, Burns is coordinating this drive with a local animal protection organization. As in years past, Burns will arrange for school pickup and delivery of the items to that county organization. “Residents of the 72 nd Legislative District have always shown great support for this effort – we literally get truckloads of donated pet food items from the schools – and I’m confident that they’ll do so again,” Burns said. “This cause is something that’s near and dear to all of our hearts.” Burns also noted he has been a staunch advocate of toughening the commonwealth’s animal abuse penalties, Read more
YORK, March 23 – In celebration of Women’s History Month and to promote area entrepreneurship, state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, will host a roundtable featuring women business leaders and offer resources for starting a business. The roundtable will take place from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday, March 31 at Hill-Evans’ district office, Suite 3, 53 E. North St., 17401. The panel will feature constituents who are business leaders and owners in the district, including: Joan Mummert, president/CEO of the York History Center Toni Calderone, co-owner of Tutoni’s Restaurant Alexandria Keener, co-owner of My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe Joanne Ekeledo, owner of Grace Manor Bed & Breakfast In addition to offering information on state resources for opening a business and a chance to network, panel discussions will aid existing business owners in mentoring new entrepreneurs. “If you are interested in opening a business, improving yours or helping others, I hope to see you there,” Hill-Evans said. Light drinks and refreshments will be offered. For more information, those interested can visit Hill-Evans’ office or call (717) 848-9595. Read more
PHILADELPHIA, March 23 – Philadelphia state Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and Stephen Kinsey today hosted a public meeting on the issues relating to stop-and-go establishments that sell alcohol and how they impact surrounding communities. "This is an opportunity to address this issue head on. Bringing everyone together under one roof allows concerns to be addressed and provides an avenue for all of us to be part of the solution," Fitzgerald said. "I remain committed to working with local and state agencies and organizations to reverse the negative trend of consequences associated with the nuisance establishments that are taking advantage of the state's liquor laws." In addition to discussing the effect of these stop-and-go establishments on a state level, the public meeting also addressed how these stores may disrupt local communities. "Overwhelmingly, this boils down to a public safety issue. The residents of northwest Philadelphia, south Philadelphia, northeast Philadelphia and the entire city deserve to live their lives without the problems caused by stop-and-go issues," Kinsey said. "I am encouraged by the actions taken today to ensure that we continue the conversation on how we can answer the public's call to provide them with the best quality of life as possible." Among the testifiers were Inspector Anthony L. Washington, Northwest Police Division commanding officer and personnel from Pennsylvania State Police Read more
BETHLEHEM, March 23 – State Rep. Dan McNeill and Sen. Lisa Boscola will hold their annual Spring Senior Fair on April 7 at the Westgate Mall. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 23 – Siding with the belief that their premature release could spur vigilante-style behavior and unfairly tarnish reputations, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, voted this week to temporarily delay divulging police officer names in shooting or serious injury cases . Burns voted in favor of H.B. 27 , which would create a 30-day cooling off period before the names of any law enforcement officers involved in a firearm-discharge or use-of-force incident while on duty could be publicly released. However, under the legislation supported by Burns, the names could be released sooner, provided the official investigation into such an incident is concluded. “In these inflammatory times, we’ve seen one too many cases where a partial video, lying witnesses or incomplete information prompt a social media rush to judgement, which is disproven once all the facts are in,” Burns said. “If our legal motto is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, that right must extend to members of law enforcement.” Burns last year voted in favor of an identical bill (H.B. 1538), which passed the House 151-32 and also passed the Senate, only to be vetoed by the governor. This time around, he co-sponsored H.B. 27 even though it was introduced by a Republican, and the measure passed the House with even more support, 157-39. “It’s no secret that opposition to this bill is coming mostly from big-city legislators,” Burns Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Phila./Montgomery, is calling attention to the value of the Meals on Wheels program in Pennsylvania as the program faces proposed cuts in President Donald Trump's budget. The state House today adopted Boyle's H.R. 175 , designating March 22, 2017 as March for Meals Day in Pennsylvania. March for Meals is the annual campaign the Meals on Wheels Association of America sponsors to raise awareness of senior hunger. "Research indicates that 10.2 million seniors across the country, and nearly 320,000 seniors here in Pennsylvania, face the threat of hunger," Boyle said. "Now, more than ever, we must remind ourselves of the importance of Meals on Wheels, which could be headed for the budget chopping block in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration in defending cuts to the program made claims that Meals on Wheels is 'just not showing any results' and the program 'sounds great…but doesn’t work.'" "But the truth is – Meals on Wheels has shown some great results here in Pennsylvania, and across the country. In fact, according to a 2014 study conducted by the University of Illinois, programs like Meals on Wheels improve the quality of life for seniors. "According to the study, Meals on Wheels is showing results by offering an effective and vital nutritional and health program for seniors. And Meals on Wheels is showing results by helping to offset Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – A resolution authored by state Reps. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York Township) that denounces recent anti-Semitic activity in Pennsylvania and across the country was adopted unanimously today by the House. “The threats, vandalism and attacks on the Jewish community in York, across the Commonwealth and across the nation are unacceptable and must not be tolerated,” said Phillips-Hill. “In reacting to these acts of violence, we must realize the ability we have to create a better future. As elected officials, we can set the tone for the next generation in our actions.” House Resolution 161 condemns the bomb threats that were called into Jewish Community centers (including one in York) and the desecration of more than 100 tombstones at the Mt. Carmel cemetery in northeast Philadelphia. It also calls for the use of these incidents as an impetus for educating young people and adults throughout Pennsylvania about understanding and appreciating all people in our communities. “I have been encouraged by the outpouring of support from people in my district and throughout the state following the criminal vandalism at Mount Carmel Cemetery,” Solomon added. “We stand together in condemning these acts of hate and calling for cultural sensitivity training to ensure they never happen again.” A corresponding piece of legislation authored by state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) is Read more
PHILADELPHIA, March 22 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, welcomed a new poll out today that shows strong, bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians for criminal justice reform. "People make mistakes, but everyone deserves the right to demonstrate that they’ve learned from that mistake and are willing to change their ways," Harris said. "That’s one of the reasons why over 88 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans in the state agree that it doesn’t matter how long people are in jail, it matters that they don’t commit a crime when they return back to their communities. We need to take action and work on legislation that will improve public safety and put people back to work." Harris also welcomed the news that more than half the state Senate is co-sponsoring "Clean Slate" legislation being introduced by Sens. Scott Wagner, R-York, and Anthony Hardy Williams, D-Phila./Delaware. Harris and Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, are seeking House co-sponsors for the legislation, which would automatically seal the records for certain nonviolent offenses if the person hasn't committed another crime. Harris was instrumental in passing Act 5 of 2016, which provides a process for sealing low-level, non-violent misdemeanors. Harris said the new legislation he's advocating would improve on Act 5, which requires former offenders to petition the court. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, announced today that the House Democratic Policy Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss fee schedules for municipalities that do not have local police forces and currently receive free coverage from the Pennsylvania State Police. The hearing will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, March 27 at the University of Pittsburgh, William Pitt Union, Assembly Room, 3959 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh. A Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report released today estimated that the state police was overfunded by $222.2 million for patrol services from the Motor License Fund in fiscal year 2015-16. The state police received $755 million from this fund due to increased costs for covering municipalities that do not have local police. The current hearing agenda is: 2:00 p.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks 2:10 p.m. Panel One: Dan Cessna , District 11 executive, PennDOT Marita Kelley , deputy director, Governor’s Center for Local Government Services Lt. Col. Stephen Bucar , deputy commissioner of staff, PA State Police 2:50 p.m. Joe Kovel , president, Pennsylvania State Troopers Association 3:10 p.m. Elam Herr , assistant executive director/government affairs, PA State Association of Township Supervisors 3:40 p.m. Panel from Shaler Township: Tom McElhone , Commissioner Tim Rogers , Manager 4:10 p.m. Abe Amoros , PA Legislative Director, LiUNA! – Mid-Atlantic Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, today saw his H.R. 138 , designating April as “Limb Loss Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania, receive unanimous House approval. Before the vote, Matzie informed his colleagues that nearly 2 million U.S. residents live with an amputation, while another 28 million are at risk for one. “The primary causes of the 500 amputations that occur each day in our country are vascular disease, trauma and cancer,” Matzie said. “However, the general public is largely unaware of the physical, emotional and financial challenges faced by amputees and their families. Today, we voted to raise awareness of their plight.” Matzie said that according to the Amputee Coalition of America, the U.S. amputee population is projected to more than double by the year 2050 to 3.6 million. He added that the estimated cost to U.S. private and public insurance agencies is at least $12 billion annually. Video of Rep. Matzie’s floor remarks is available here . Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, spoked out against H.B. 741, which aims to revive mandatory minimum sentences for a number of drug-related offenses. The bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. McClinton said a letter that she received from the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association stated that mandatory minimums work to improve public safety, something that she said she wrestles with. “I wonder where the safety has improved,” McClinton said. “Time and time again, I look at the unfortunate homicide rate in Philadelphia and the number of non-fatal shootings where I live and they are always high, no matter how many people are behind bars serving 10-20, 25 to life.” House Bill 741 seeks to revive mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes that were ruled unconstitutional in cases before both the Pennsylvania and U.S. supreme courts. It also would increase sentences for certain offenses. “This bill would potentially get more support if there were studies that showed crime was reduced, that neighborhoods are safer, that people stop selling drugs at the same intersection where someone gets arrested,” McClinton said. “Where is the decreased recidivism? Why hasn’t it happened yet in my community? Why are there drugs readily available and we have all these sentences, yet nothing has changed?” McClinton has been a strong advocate on criminal Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – A bill that would create a task force to examine the opioid epidemic’s impact on infants and children has cleared the House Children and Youth Committee, according to its Democratic chairman, state Rep. Scott Conklin. House Bill 235 , of which Conklin, D-Centre, was prime co-sponsor, seeks to identify strategies, make short- and long-term recommendations, improve outcomes for pregnant and parenting women, and promote the health, safety and permanency of at-risk infants and young children due to parental alcohol and drug abuse. “This bill aims to help the truly innocent victims of the opioid abuse crisis plaguing our commonwealth – infants and children,” Conklin said. “The scope of the problem is staggering, as parental substance abuse was a factor in 56 percent of the infant protective custody cases in Pennsylvania in 2014.” Conklin also noted that between 2010 and 2014, more than 7,500 infants covered by Medicaid – 61 percent of whom died before reaching age 1 – were found to suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome because their mothers had used heroin or prescribed opioids during pregnancy. The task force would include representatives of the state departments of Human Services, Health, and Drug and Alcohol Programs; three members each from the state House and state Senate; and four appointed by the governor. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration. Read more
PHILADELPHIA, March 22 – State Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., will soon move her district office from 1991 N. 63rd St. and will host an open house for constituents at the new location from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, March 31, at 5921 Lancaster Ave., 19151. "Please come see the new office on March 31 and find out how my staff and I can help you and your neighbors with state services, such as the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, PACE prescription-drug coverage for seniors and CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program," Cephas said. Cephas represents the 192nd Legislative District in west Philadelphia, which is home to more than 60,000 residents from the Wynnefield, Overbrook Farms, Morris Park, Overbrook Park, Overbrook, Haddington, Hestonville and Carroll Park areas. For more information, constituents can call Cephas’ office at 215-879-6625. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – With a moment of reckoning fast approaching in Congress, several Democratic state lawmakers outlined the catastrophic effects a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have on Pennsylvania patients and families, people struggling with addiction to painkillers, and hospitals. House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said the reckless action contemplated by President Trump and congressional Republican leaders puts the entire nation at risk. “If they are successful, the fallout will be felt in every Pennsylvania town and city, in every hospital emergency room, in every doctor’s office,” Dermody said. “We just can’t afford for that to happen. It would devastate our Commonwealth and lead to disease and deaths that can and must be prevented.” Rep. Anthony DeLuca, the Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, noted the opposition of AARP and other groups representing older Americans. He said the stakes could not be higher. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act would send us back to a time when too many people couldn’t afford to buy health insurance, had no primary care physician, and all too often ended up in an emergency room with a medical crisis,” said DeLuca, D-Allegheny. “Emergency care is the most expensive kind of treatment and all of us end up paying for it when patients lack insurance.” Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Phila./Montgomery, emphasized the human impact of doing Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Joseph A. Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, voted in favor of legislation that would increase the annual income limit for retired people to qualify for vehicle registration fee exemption. “Thousands more of Pennsylvania’s retired residents would qualify to pay only $10 per vehicle per year, instead of the usual $36. This bill is welcome news; the income limit has not been raised for almost 20 years,” Petrarca said. Under H.B. 188, which was approved 186-11, any person who is retired and receiving Social Security or other pension with a total annual income of up to $23,500 would qualify for the reduced vehicle registration fee. This would be an increase of more than $4,000 over the current income limit and make nearly additional 130,000 retirees eligible for the program. Petrarca said that during the last 15 years, senior citizens have received different adjustments to their retirement plans that have elevated their income over the eligibility limit for this program by a narrow margin, which makes this bill necessary. “We want to make sure that, after all those years of hard work, service and dedication, we provide the resources our senior citizens deserve,” Petrarca said. The bill (H.B. 188) has been sent to the Senate for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – Lawmakers and advocates held a news conference today announcing the re-formation and legislative priorities of the PA SAFE Caucus, which aims to bring attention to state firearm and public-safety legislation, said the group’s co-chairs, state Reps. Madeleine Dean and Dan Frankel. Members of the caucus discussed how the issue of gun safety is gaining traction across political lines and outlined their support for legislation needed in the commonwealth, including for universal background checks, limits on magazine capacity and requirements to report lost or stolen guns. “Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support sensible gun-safety legislation,” said Dean, D-Montgomery. “The members of PA SAFE know this, and in no way are we proposing measures that infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners. We simply want to protect our constituents, and if our measures can save even just one person, I feel that we have a duty to make it law.” “As a vice chair of the PA SAFE Caucus, I’m proud to be part of this group that is working together on commonsense gun safety legislation,” said state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware. “This session, I’m hoping we’ll be able to move forward on issues that have strong bipartisan support, such as the universal background check bill (known as H.B. 1010 last session), and that we’ll actually see a vote in committee and on the House floor.” Read more
State Rep. Pam Snyder reports that the House Human Services Committee has approved her legislation that would eliminate confusion over when a minor’s consent is needed for mental health examinations and other health services. Read more
ALLENTOWN, March 22 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg issued the following statement regarding Mayor Ed Pawlowski: Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, applauded the unanimous passage Tuesday of two bills: one that would honor women veterans and another that would ensure more existing monuments that recognize military service are well kept. Through H.B. 215, which Sainato co-sponsored, passenger car and truck owners would be able to honor women veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces by purchasing a special license plate. The special plate would have a fee of $35, of which $15 would be directed to the Veterans’ Trust Fund for programs and resources that assist women veterans. “As chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, I’m pleased to see that my colleagues in the House agreed that we should recognize the significant contributions of women in our Armed Forces,” Sainato said. “With this bill, we not only honor their hard work and sacrifice, but designate funding to help them as well.” The bill would also create special plates for recipients of the Legion of Merit, which would be available for a $20 fee. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers 39 other military license plates, including plates that honor veterans of the various branches of military and those who served in Vietnam, Korea, World War II or the Persian Gulf. The House also unanimously passed H.B. 247, which would enhance a fund to preserve all memorials and monuments honoring Pennsylvania’s military veterans. Read more
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