HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, today voted against the bill to privatize liquor sales, noting it would cost consumers and the state more and do little to help Pennsylvania’s current fiscal crisis. Pashinski said the plan (H.B. 466) would result in higher prices with fewer selections and could require consumers to go from store to store to search the items they want. "Supporters of this bill say that it’s more convenient to consumers, but with 30 different kinds of licenses, it becomes more confusing and less convenient," Pashinski said. "When you realize you may have to travel to several stores to find the wine or spirit you desire, you may end up shelling out more money for gas along with paying the higher price for the liquor, so it’s really financially inconvenient in the end." Pashinski said the GOP-sponsored plan claims that privatizing the liquor stores would generate $1 billion in revenue for the state budget; however, only about $167 million of that would be available in the first year. In addition, the state would lose $80-100 million per year that liquor stores contribute to the state, as well as the transition costs estimated at $1.4 billion which would negate any real profit from the sale. "As we deal with a budget deficit of more than $2 billion, privatizing the state’s wine and spirits shops would be fiscally irresponsible," Pashinski said. "We need to Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-Phila., said today that he voted against Pennsylvania House Republicans' plan to sell off state liquor stores because it would endanger public safety in Philadelphia and across the state, while destroying thousands of family-sustaining jobs.
"This liquor privatization plan is bound to harm Pennsylvania business, workers and consumers if it becomes law," Thomas said. "While many of my colleagues and I would be interested in discussions about improving the current system, this plan simply would dismantle what is working with little regard for the effect it will have on the public."
Thomas said public safety concerns are more than just speculation. Research from the Centers for Disease Control has concluded that privatization of alcohol sales results in a reduction in enforcement of sales regulations, including enforcement of underage drinking laws.
HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – House Democrats today unanimously opposed a Republican plan (H.B. 466) to privatize the state’s wine and spirits stores, stating that it does not address consumers’ wants, would cost taxpayers more in the long term, do little to help Pennsylvania’s current fiscal crisis, and risk thousands of jobs. Liquor Control Committee Democratic Chairman Paul Costa rebutted backers of the bill who claim that putting all liquor sales in the private market is what Pennsylvanians want. In fact, consumer polling tells another story and the bill’s cumbersome formula for private licensing would set up a system people don’t want. A 2014 poll done by Franklin & Marshall that included an explanation of privatization and alternative plans found that more than half of respondents (57 percent) preferred to make the state wine and spirits stores more convenient or leave them the way they are. Costa said the Republican scheme would birth a complex system of private stores selling a hodgepodge of products with only a few fully stocked with liquor, wine and beer. Selection would diminish in many areas of the state, while big distributors would eventually put smaller, family-owned businesses out of business and then charge higher prices. Consumers would lose out. “Pennsylvanians want convenience, selection and good pricing,” Costa said. “The majority are not demanding privatization or Read more
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, released the following statement in opposition to a liquor privatization plan that passed the state House of Representatives today, which would cost taxpayers millions in annually recurring state revenue:
“It is financial madness that we are considering selling a long-term cash asset to cover a short-term budget shortfall. Fiscal responsibility isn’t just spending as little as possible; it’s making sure that you have the revenue to meet your expenditures. We currently have a budget deficit that is $2.3 billion – and climbing. This isn’t a one-year problem; this is a long-term problem, and one that will continue to get worse. The liquor system provides $80 million annually to the general fund. It is insanity to think that we can climb out of our current budget hole by selling that long-term asset.
HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, voted against a liquor bill Thursday that he said was wrong for Pennsylvania: "There are many things wrong with this proposal, not the least of which is looking at this sell off as a financial windfall for the state, solving the fiscal problems we're facing. "This is essentially a fire sale of a valuable, revenue-generating asset. The Liquor Control Board generates $80 million in profits annually for the state's General Fund. Even if we were to get the full amount that is being claimed from the sale of licenses, which is unlikely, it's a one-time proposition. We'll still end up losing a steady source of revenue in exchange for a one-time payment that will not responsibly address the projected $2.2 billion structural deficit facing the state. "We have to get what the system is worth, and this proposal does not offer that, but instead will increase prices, decrease selection and eliminate 5,000 family-sustaining jobs," he said. "Liquor store privatization has adverse ramifications on jobs, tax revenue and our society. I think the state can offer increased customer convenience without these negative impacts to our commonwealth; advances in consumer convenience have already been made, and that should be allowed to continue." Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton has introduced two bills to help small towns. The first bill (H.B. 659) would let communities extend their participation in the Main Street Program for up to five years. The second bill (H.B. 660) would make more small cities eligible for the state's City Revitalization and Improvement Zone program. "Our small towns and cities face many of the same challenges of larger, urban areas, but sometimes they get overlooked," Freeman said. "My legislation would help ensure their success by assisting them with downtown revitalization and stimulating economic development and job creation." The state's Main Street Program provides grants to help revitalize downtown districts and pay for a full-time Main Street manager who works with local officials and merchants to implement a downtown revitalization plan. Current involvement in the program is limited to five years. Freeman's bill would provide administrative support funding for up to an additional five years with approval by the Department of Community and Economic Development, which funds the program. "Unfortunately, we have seen in numerous cases that the current five-year time frame to turn around a traditional downtown is too short. A community just begins to see the progress brought on by Main Street initiatives only to see the plug pulled prematurely, often causing the downtown's success to suffer," Freeman Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila., today stated he will be voting against H.B. 466, the liquor privatization bill, due to the negative impact it will have across Pennsylvania and specifically in Philadelphia. “This bill is simply the wrong choice at the wrong time for Pennsylvania,” Harris said. “Our state is facing a budget deficit approaching $2 billion, and the other side of the aisle has decided now is the appropriate time to sell off an asset that brings in $80 million annually to the General Fund budget. This is simply not the time to entertain this idea. “In addition, nearly 4,000 hard-working Pennsylvanians will suddenly be without a job. These are family-sustaining jobs that provide good benefits and a living wage. The inclusion of minor grants for furthering their education and additional points on a civil service test for employees who lose their job do not go nearly far enough to ensure that our state store workers are taken care of. “The bottom line is that House Bill 466 is not the answer for Pennsylvania, and I refuse to vote for decreased income for the General Fund and increased unemployment throughout our state.” Read more
LEVITTOWN, Feb. 26 – State Rep. John Galloway, D-Bucks, and his staff will host forums to help senior citizens in his legislative district fill out and submit Pennsylvania’s 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate applications. The dates, times and locations are as follows: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Thursday, March 5, Bristol Borough Area Active Adult Center, 301 Wood St., Bristol 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Friday, March 20, Falls Township Senior Center, Trenton and Oxford Valley roads, Fairless Hills "The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is funded from Pennsylvania Lottery profits, and is meant to help reimburse low- and fixed-income homeowners for the property taxes they paid in the previous year," Galloway said. "Also, some seniors who rent their homes may qualify for rent rebates." Seniors 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older and permanently disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 64 may be eligible for the refunds, depending on their income level. Homeowners may have earned up to $35,000 and renters may have earned up to $15,000 in the 2014 calendar year, with only half of the applicant’s Social Security, Supplemental Security and federal railroad Retirement Tier 1 earnings counting toward the limit. The maximum rebate is $650, depending on the person’s income. "My staff is trained to help determine if you qualify, and to complete the forms if you may be eligible," Galloway said. "Please Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, today hosted a news conference to unveil legislation that would require additional disclosure of lawmakers' outside income and place a limit of that income as well.
"The Pennsylvania General Assembly is a full-time legislature that is paid full-time and works hard in Harrisburg and in our respective legislative districts. Our constituents deserve our full attention and the only clock we should be punching is the one for them," DeLuca explained.
In hopes of raising awareness for multiple sclerosis, the House of Representatives adopted Rep. Rob Matzie’s H.R. 88, designating March 2 through March 8, 2015, as “Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week” in Pennsylvania.
“With over 400,000 Americans affected by this disorder, it’s time to increase our awareness across the state,” Matzie said. “This week provides individuals living with MS, along with their families, friends and supporters, an opportunity to help educate others about this disease.”
MS is a chronic neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system. It can differ in severity, with about 90 percent of the diagnosed population having relapsing-remitting MS, where they experience periodic relapses, followed by partial or complete recovery. MS affects about twice as many women as men, with an elevated chance of diagnosis in women between 20 and 40. While connections have been made between diagnosis of the disease and environmental and genetic factors, no specific cause has been discovered and there are no known cures.
A vote on Pennsylvania House Republicans' plan to sell off state liquor stores without first holding public hearings is imprudent and rash, said state Rep. Michael Driscoll today, especially while the state anticipates a multibillion-dollar structural budget deficit.
"With the $2.3 billion deficit currently facing the state, it is essential that we act with caution and forethought to ensure that a stable source of revenue, and a provider of family-sustaining jobs, isn't destroyed needlessly," Driscoll said. "Voting on this legislation, which would have a major impact on the state’s economic landscape, without first holding public hearings is simply irresponsible."
While the House passed similar legislation last year, Driscoll said that even small changes in a bill of this magnitude can have serious unintended consequences. In addition, Driscoll, who is one of 26 new House members this year, said each freshman member should have the opportunity to get their questions answered before any vote.
HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 -- House Bill 209 , introduced by state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, unanimously passed the House this afternoon. The bill would require all licensees under the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to report criminal convictions to the authorizing board within 30 days of the conviction. Convictions subject to reporting would include felony, misdemeanor or drug violations. Currently, each board can establish its own reporting criteria and timeframe. "This is a common-sense bill which would make reporting convictions easier and consistent across all licensing boards," Readshaw said. "The more consistent we can make our rules, the easier it will be to ensure they are being complied with." The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs oversees 29 individual licensing boards: 13 are business-related boards such as architecture, cosmetology and real estate, while 16 boards are health-related, including dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and veterinary medicine. The bill moves to the Senate for further consideration. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 - House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody and Whip Mike Hanna said Republicans on Tuesday prevented legislators from considering a plan to provide $90 million to help school districts across Pennsylvania move forward on more than 200 critical construction projects. Many of the projects were bottlenecked when Gov. Tom Corbett's education cuts forced a moratorium on state reimbursement for new projects in October 2012. "The House considered legislation last session that was meant to improve the reimbursement process and remove the moratorium," Dermody said. "By the time the House voted on the bill, the amount it called for had been reduced to just $10 million. That amount was completely inadequate." The Senate took no action on the bill (H.B. 2124) last session. When the bill was reintroduced this session as H.B. 210, it again only called for $10 million in funding. During debate on Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. Mike Carroll attempted to offer an amendment that would have increased that amount by $90 million. "The original version of the bill introduced by a Republican called for $100 million," Hanna said. "Representative Carroll's amendment would simply have restored that amount. Claiming that you are eliminating the moratorium and improving the process while only providing a small fraction of the amount of money necessary to help school districts actually start moving projects forward is absurd." Read more
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
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