HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., thanked House members this week for their unanimous adoption of House Resolution 86 , which honored Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Phila., on her accomplishment of becoming the first African-American female elected to a House leadership position. "This is a tremendous honor for Representative Youngblood, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving candidate," Cruz said. "Since taking office over 20 years ago, she has dedicated herself to not only improving the lives of her constituents, but also the lives of women and minorities across the state. I am positive she will continue to be a perfect example of how to use public service for the greater good of her community and all of Pennsylvania." Following her election to an 11th term in the state House, Youngblood was elected by members of the House Democratic Caucus to serve as the Democratic Caucus secretary, becoming the first African-American female to hold a leadership position in the history of the General Assembly. "There are truly no words to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the support from my colleagues in the House," Youngblood said. "It is overwhelmingly humbling to be recognized by my peers, colleagues and friends, and I truly appreciate each and every one of them, especially Rep. Cruz, for their kindness and support. To become the first ever African-American woman elected to a House leadership Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 – State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, on Tuesday voted for a bill that would require health insurance providers that cover intravenous cancer chemotherapy to cover oral chemotherapy treatment equally. The bill (H.B. 60) passed the House and was sent to the Senate. "Chemotherapy in pill form is the newest option for chemo. It is more convenient for patients because it can be taken at home and has fewer side effects, compared to the traditional intravenous chemotherapy, which also requires a hospital visit for its administration," Longietti said. "However, oral chemotherapy also is more expensive. This bill would put oral chemotherapy more in line with other chemotherapy treatments." Intravenous chemotherapy treatments are usually covered under a health plan's medical benefit and require a minimal payment. Orally administered treatments are covered under a health plan's pharmacy benefit. Some insurance companies have placed orally administered treatments on "specialty tiers," requiring those who need the drugs to pay as much as one-third of the cost. Typically, a person will pay $1,500 to $3,000 per prescription for a specialty tier drug, according to a study by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. Longietti said this is unaffordable for many patients. House Bill 60, which Longietti co-sponsored, would prohibit insurance companies from placing oral Read more
ERIE, Feb. 25 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, has announced constituents can obtain applications for the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program at his various Erie County offices. Read more
STATE COLLEGE, Feb. 24 – Centre County state Rep. Scott Conklin released the following statement on the announcement of ESPN's suspension of Keith Olbermann for a week. The suspension is a result of comments Olbermann made against the Pennsylvania State University's student body relating to the university's annual pediatric cancer fundraiser, THON: "I commend ESPN's decision, but more importantly, I commend the fundraising effort of Penn State students. "The only headlines we should be reading are ones praising the charitable acts of Penn State students. The only focus should remain on the millions raised to fight pediatric cancer. It is unfortunate that Mr. Olbermann decided instead to attack the integrity of this great university and its student body. "He was totally off target. When you have young people raising almost $14 million to help sick children in this country, to have someone of his credentials use his personal prejudice against Penn State -- a university high in academics, high in achievement -- is unacceptable. "There should be nothing but congratulations for these young people," Conklin said. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Chris Sainato has voted for a bill that would put the cost of orally administered chemotherapy treatments within reach of more Pennsylvanians. The bill (H.B. 60) passed the state House today 197-3. "Pennsylvanians fighting for their lives should have affordable access to chemotherapy," said Sainato, D-Beaver/Lawrence. "It should not matter if the treatment recommended by a doctor is ingested or injected." Intravenous chemotherapy treatments are usually covered under a health plan's medical benefit and require a minimal payment. Orally administered treatments are covered under a health plan's pharmacy benefit. Some insurance companies have placed orally administered treatments on "specialty tiers," requiring those who need the drugs to pay as much as one-third of the cost. Typically, a person will pay $1,500 to $3,000 per prescription for a specialty tier drug, according to a study by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. Sainato said the median annual household income in Pennsylvania is $50,000, so the course of treatment would be unaffordable to many residents. House Bill 60 would prohibit insurance companies from placing oral anti-cancer medications on a specialty tier or charging a co-insurance payment for the medication. Sainato noted that the LBFC study found that more than 30 percent of people who were prescribed a drug on a specialty Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, has introduced a bill that would designate the bridge on S.R. 3005 over the outlet of Lily Lake in Conyngham Township as the Senior Officer Eric J. Williams Memorial Bridge. A corrections officer at the U.S. Penitentiary, Canaan, Williams was attacked and killed by an inmate in February 2013. He was 34 years old. "Officer Williams was dedicated to serving his community, his commonwealth and his country," Mullery said. "His courageous service will never be forgotten and this legislation is just one small way we can remember him. "He owned a cottage at Lily Lake, so it is entirely fitting to name the nearby bridge in his memory," Mullery said. Williams was a 1996 graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, and graduated from King's College with a criminal justice degree. Before he began serving as a federal corrections officer on Sept. 11, 2011, he spent years working as a police officer. The bill (H.B. 629) is expected to be referred to the House Transportation Committee for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House passed his legislation that would provide training for law enforcement training and judges related to individuals suffering from mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism within the criminal justice system. Under Caltagirone's bill, H.B. 221 , police officers and the minor judiciary, such as magisterial district judges, would receive training on the recognition and proper de-escalation techniques to be used when interacting with individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism. The bill also calls for instruction on diversionary options for these individuals. "Incarcerating individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism is not always the best option," Caltagirone said. "This bill addresses the issue on the front end by providing our police and minor judiciary with more early-detection training so they can identify these individuals as quickly as possible. "Moreover, with proper training our law enforcement officers may be able to avoid dangerous situations if they can quickly identify an individual experiencing a mental breakdown and use proven crisis intervention techniques to de-escalate a situation." Caltagirone added that according to recent estimates, over 50 percent of all female inmates and more than 20 percent of all inmates in state prison receive mental health treatments. Read more
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution today, sponsored by state Rep. Rob Matzie, which designates March 8 as "Charter Day" in Pennsylvania.
House Resolution 96 commemorates the charter that King Charles II of England signed on March 4, 1681 granting William Penn a tract of land, which would eventually become known as Pennsylvania. The resolution also honors the Frame of Government of Pennsylvania, which Penn drafted to serve as the colony's first constitution and contained rights such as freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment and a guarantee of free elections.
HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, today issued his support for a Senate bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the commonwealth. Introduced by state Sens. Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer, S.B. 3 would regulate the medical cannabis industry in Pennsylvania to ensure a controlled, but safe and quality product, while also permitting universities to conduct medical research and study of the drug. Gainey, who introduced his own version of the bill last session, said that the use of medical cannabis has been proven to benefit people of all ages in relieving pain and other debilitating symptoms, from providing children relief from seizures and veterans an alternative to dangerous narcotics for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, to offering pain relief for senior citizens and people suffering from cancer. "We have an obligation as state legislators to ensure that our sick friends, family members and neighbors have access to the best medicine available that can help them," Gainey said. "It seems unjust to deny people medicine that will help them feel better, especially when we routinely prescribe far more toxic medications for many of the same conditions that can be relieved by medical marijuana. "Senate Bill 3 would make the option of medical cannabis as a treatment legal." Gainey said that the licensing and application fees provided for in the bill would cover the cost of implementing the Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 23 – In a committee action, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, today voted against a liquor bill he said would put small beer distributors out of business because they won’t be able to compete with big-box retailers. “I voted against the bill because it will hurt our mom-and-pop beer distributors,” Burns said. “It's inherently unfair to these small businesses. It will cost them their livelihood, as well as eliminate thousands of family-sustaining jobs, if this convoluted bill becomes law.” House Bill 466 would sell off Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores operated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and allow private businesses to purchase licenses to sell wine and liquor. The first licenses would be open to large existing beer distributors. Burns said remaining licenses would go to market, where big-box retailers’ buying and selling power would be too much for local businesses to compete. “I believe this legislation would put local distributors out of business by allowing competition from out-of-state companies to buy the licenses,” Burns said. “That means corporate retail giants like WalMart and Sheetz could sell beer at their cost, not making a profit, just to get people into the stores. That is something the small-business beer distributor cannot afford to do, so it would drive them out of business.” Burns added, "This plan will not create jobs, but create more Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 23 – State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, today said the results of an audit conducted by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home increased patient care while saving taxpayers more than $478,000. The audit found the cost for therapy services decreased from $102 to $3 per hour after the facility and the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs decided to contract out therapeutic services in 2011. That resulted in more physical, occupational and speech therapy services. "Providing the best quality of care to our veterans should always be top priority," Burns said. "I commend the facility for working with the department for coming up with a plan that not only resulted in giving more care to our veterans, but also saving taxpayers thousands of dollars." The Auditor General’s office conducted the audit after receiving requests from some constituents. The office also looks periodically at veterans homes in the commonwealth. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 23 – House lawmakers today adopted a resolution ( H.R. 87 ) sponsored by Democratic Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, to bring attention to a disorder affecting pregnant women. The resolution designated Feb. 25 as "Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Awareness Day" in Pennsylvania. Hanna said peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a rare condition in which a pregnant woman's heart becomes weakened and enlarged. It develops during the last month of pregnancy, or within five months after the baby is born, and largely affects women over age 30. The cause of the condition is unknown and patients usually have no history of heart disease. Symptoms of PPCM include difficulty breathing when lying flat, shortness of breath on exertion, swelling, frequent nighttime urination, cough, excessive weight gain in the final month of pregnancy, heart palpitations, chest pain and enlarged left heart ventricle. “While some women remain stable for long periods, others experience a rapid deterioration in health, show no improvement with medical therapy, and may require cardiac transplantation, or unfortunately die of heart attack,” Hanna said. “If the heart remains enlarged, future pregnancies may result in heart failure. “Awareness is the key to successful PPCM outcomes, so I introduced this resolution to have Pennsylvania take a positive step toward educating and informing women of the dangers of this Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 23 – House lawmakers today passed legislation that would make cyber bullying a crime, according to state Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Phila., one of the bill’s co-sponsors. Under the bill (H.B. 229), a person would commit cyber harassment of a child if he or she repeatedly communicates directly to the child online or through publication on social media sites with a threat to inflict harm, or with seriously disparaging statements or opinions about the child's physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity or mental or physical health. O’Brien said juveniles charged with cyber harassment would be given a path toward becoming responsible adults. In those cases, the court would be required to give first consideration to referring the juvenile to a diversionary program. Juveniles who successfully complete a diversionary program would have their records expunged. "Bullies have been around forever," O'Brien said. "But today's bully has a host of avenues online and through social media in which to mentally torture his or her victim. In addition to the final and heartbreaking act of suicide, cyber bullying is leaving too many young people with emotional scars that ruin their chance for successful and productive lives. “This legislation is meant to have those young bullies think twice before going online to do their damage, and to give the wayward a chance to rehabilitate into Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 23 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, said his office has applications available for the state's popular Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. “Eligible residents can claim rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2014, and the deadline is June 30, 2015, so I recommend my constituents get a head start on filing their claims,” Flynn said. “If help is needed, don’t hesitate to come to my office for free assistance.” Flynn's office is located at 409 N. Main Ave. in Jay's Commons, Scranton; the phone number is 570-342-4348. This program benefits Pennsylvania residents 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older, and disabled people 18 or older. The filer’s income must not exceed $35,000 a year for homeowners or $15,000 a year for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded. Applications can also be filed online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. Additionally, changes to the program last year, which Flynn supported, now allow rebate claims to be filed by spouses, personal representatives or estates on behalf of deceased claimants who meet all qualifying criteria and lived at least one day in 2014, rather than the entire year. Another change excludes Social Security cost-of-living adjustments from being considered, in case the COLA pushes an applicant out of eligibility. Last year, more than $276 million in property tax Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 20 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., facilitated a meeting with a coalition of universities comprising St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia, Temple and LaSalle, as well as representatives of the civic associations in the 194th Legislative District to discuss liquor control enforcement as it pertains to students who attend the universities and frequent the bars and neighborhoods in the 194th. The goal of the group, also known as the Town and Gown Coalition, was to address the needs of the community and the universities regarding responsible drinking by students and to identify ways to encourage students to be responsible neighbors and students on and off campus. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. was represented by Josh Cohen, special assistant to the majority leader. “It was promising to hear about the university-led programs in place for students to educate them on the perils of excessive drinking and underage drinking,” DeLissio said. “Representatives of the civics also offered ideas on how to welcome students as neighbors and to help students learn to be good neighbors while living in the community.” Police Sgt. Dan Steele, a liquor enforcement officer, discussed the role of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and the fact that liquor licenses are renewed every two years. He also said that complaints are reviewed by BLCE in conjunction with that renewal process. Steele Read more
After a personal meeting today with Gov. Tom Wolf, state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-Phila., commended the new governor on his leadership but renewed calls for the executive branch to dismantle the School Reform Commission.
"In the 25 years I've been serving my district in Harrisburg, I have never seen a governor make an effort to reach out to every member of the General Assembly like Gov. Wolf has done," Thomas said. "It is encouraging to know that he has the ability to lead because our state currently faces serious challenges, particularly as it comes to education in Philadelphia."
Thomas said he spoke to Wolf about many issues of concern to constituents in his district, but their conversation mainly focused on education and news of the SRC’s recent approval of five new Philadelphia charter schools.
HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, invites owners of minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged businesses to the state Capitol for his annual Minority/Women/Disadvantaged Businesses Lobby Day on Tuesday, Feb. 24. Wheatley said the business leaders will lobby for Wheatley's H.B. 85 , which is designed to improve the participation of minorities, women and the disadvantaged in state contracts and purchasing. The day’s schedule includes: 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. - Registration at the Capitol Media Center (Room 1 East Wing). 10:20 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. - Press Conference in Capitol Media Center. 10:45 a.m. - Lobby Day Participants will be recognized on House floor. 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. - Luncheon in Rep. Wheatley’s office (Room 36 East Wing). 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m. - Participants visit legislators to lobby for H.B. 85. Wheatley said his bill would level the playing field for small businesses to compete with larger businesses for state contracts. "Small businesses need our support to help them survive and eventually thrive in the marketplace,” Wheatley said. “My bill includes things we can agree to, on a bipartisan basis. In fact, similar legislation has already passed the House unanimously in the past, so I am hopeful we can get my bill to the governor’s desk this session.” ### Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Greg Vitali unveiled legislation designed to encourage Pennsylvania to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during a news conference today in the Capitol. He was joined by representatives of environmental organizations, a professor and a legislator who voiced support for the legislation. "Pennsylvania has a duty to work toward carbon neutrality because it produces almost 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases," said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. "The legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf must find ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy." To work toward that goal, Vitali has introduced three bills that would increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, permanently fund the Sunshine Solar program and reduce the demand for energy. "Too much of our energy comes from dirty sources that harm the environment and our communities -- but it doesn't have to be that way," said Elowyn Corby, PennEnvironment’s global warming and clean energy associate. "We can harness abundant and pollution-free energy from the wind and the sun. Legislation like this shows how Harrisburg can help us get to the clean energy future Pennsylvanians deserve." Joanne Kilgour, director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, said increasing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard to require Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, has again introduced legislation (H.B. 474) that would ensure all victims of DUI accidents can be fully compensated for their injuries and damage to their property. Under current state law, a victim of an accident where the drunk driver is convicted of a DUI or is placed in Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition may receive full tort coverage. However, if the drunk driver dies as a result of the accident, even if his or her blood shows he or she was driving under the influence, the victim does not receive full tort coverage. "Drinking and driving is one of the top safety issues faced by Pennsylvanians," Mullery said. "In 2013, there were 11,041 alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania, and deaths in these crashes accounted for 32 percent of the total traffic deaths in the state. Of all the alcohol-related deaths, 77 percent were the drunk drivers." Mullery said Pennsylvania must attack the problem aggressively and give as much assistance as possible to the victims of these DUI accidents. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, has reintroduced legislation that aims to cut down on the theft of prescription medication from older adults. Read more
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