HARRISBURG, Feb. 11 – Pennsylvania state legislators are making a bid to assist hundreds of workers idled by Allegheny Technologies Inc.’s six-month lockout who are about to see their unemployment benefits expire. Reps. Frank Dermody and Joe Petrarca this week teamed up to introduce a bill that would provide financial help to workers who were locked out of their jobs and have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. "Workers and their families are in severe financial distress after being locked out of their jobs for half a year," Dermody said. “These workers helped make ATI what it is today. They take pride in the work they do and they want to get back to doing it. Until that happens, we need to help them weather the crisis.” The bill (H.B. 1857) introduced by Dermody and Petrarca would provide temporary unemployment benefits to any Pennsylvania workers who see regular unemployment benefits expire after being locked out of their jobs. Only unemployed workers affected by a lockout would be eligible and the state Department of Labor and Industry reports the locked-out ATI employees are the only ones in Pennsylvania currently affected. “Hundreds of people would rather be working, but instead they are about to lose unemployment benefits through no fault of their own,” Petrarca said. “Their families are suffering along with them, as well as all the local businesses that depend on the daily spending generated by Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously adopted a measure authored by state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, recognizing March 2016 as “National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. “Experts suggest up to 60 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented if people age 50 and older were regularly screened and appropriately treated for this disease,” Donatucci said. “As uncomfortable as some people may be discussing colorectal cancer, it’s important to raise awareness about the illness so that people don’t live in fear.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, killing 49,700 Americans in 2015. Donatucci noted she understands the devastating toll the disease can have on families if left undetected. “I lost my father to colon cancer in 1998,” Donatucci said. “I want to make sure other families don’t have to go through what my family and I did, especially so many cases of this disease are preventable.” Donatucci’s H.R. 709 noted colorectal cancer often begins as a polyp, which is a growth that forms on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. In addition to polyps, risk factors for colorectal cancer can include age, family history, certain genetic mutations, excessive alcohol use, obesity, Read more
PITTSBURGH, March 4 – State Reps. Jake Wheatley, and Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, announced the creation of a new annual scholarship fund for needy students in Allegheny County on Thursday night. The new scholarship will be the Speaker K. Leroy Irvis Scholarship Fund, named after the former Speaker of the Pennsylvania House and Representatives, and the first African American Speaker of the House in the United States. Wheatley and Gainey will each donate $2,500 to fund the scholarship, which will be housed within and administered by NEED, the oldest community-based, nonprofit, minority, higher education assistance program in Pennsylvania. NEED’s vision is to unlock the power of education by helping youth meet their highest potential and enhance their quality of life, thereby strengthening the Pittsburgh regional economy. “Former Speaker Irvis left a tremendous legacy of fighting for social justice and civil rights,” Wheatley said. “He dedicated his life and talents to improving the lives of the people of the commonwealth. I am hopeful a scholarship in his name will help fund the education of future African American leaders to follow in his footsteps.” ### Read more
WHITEHALL, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Daniel McNeill, D-Lehigh, today hosted government officials, medical experts and concerned citizens from across the Lehigh Valley at a town hall meeting on the heroin and opioid epidemic plaguing the area. McNeill was joined by Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin; Lehigh County Sheriff Joe Hannah; Lehigh County Administrator for Drug and Alcohol Layne Turner; Lehigh County Chief Deputy Coroner Andrew Kehm; Toxicologist in Emergency Medicine for Lehigh Valley Health Network Dr. Matthew Cook; Devin Reaves from Young People in Recovery; Mary Ellen Jackson from HOPE (Heroin and Opioid Prevention Education); Denise Continenza from Communities That Care/Penn State Extension; Denise Jacobsen, a parent leader of the Lehigh Valley Parent and Family Support Group; and Nicholas Labar, a recovering addict and advocate for clean and sober living. “Families across the Lehigh Valley are facing a battle every day to save the lives of their loved ones who are addicted to heroin or other opioids,” McNeill said. “I hope this meeting starts what will be the first of many steps toward ridding our neighborhoods of heroin, and I look forward to working with all concerned parties to begin solving these problems.” McNeill said he was moved to take action on this issue after seeing how widespread this epidemic has become. According to data from the Pennsylvania Coroners Association, over the past five years, heroin and opioid Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 6 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., today announced the award of $7 million in state tax credits to aid construction of a new $29 million shopping center at Harbison Avenue and Tulip Street. Known as Shoppes at Wissinoming, the 110,000-square-foot project will include a Shoprite Supermarket as the anchor tenant, plus space for retail stores and restaurants. “This is great news for our area,” Dawkins said. “I am committed to providing the 179 th District with the resources it needs to support healthy food options and family-sustaining jobs. Shoprite will bring fresh food and produce to our area, which we have been lacking for a long time. The project and new businesses will also create hundreds of jobs, and help move our community forward.” Shoppes at Wissinoming is expected to support 250 full-time jobs during 18 months of construction and create 300 permanent, full-time jobs once completed and fully occupied. Shoprite is expected to employ more than 200 full- and part-time workers who will be offered benefits, job training and career advancement opportunities. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, March 17 – State Reps. Stephen Kinsey and Joanna McClinton, D-Phila, plan to introduce a resolution recognizing and honoring Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Kinsey said Tuesday, March 22 is the AKA legislative day at the Pennsylvania state Capitol. “I am looking forward to honoring these women before the legislature for their dedication and commitment to improve social and economic conditions through community service programs,” Kinsey said. “The sorority works with communities on such initiatives as progressive programs relating to education, family, health and business.” The sorority was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. by a group of 20 students, led by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle. Now the organization has a membership of approximately 283,000 members. The distinguished women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. have never wavered from doing the supreme service for all of humanity. “The sorority joined in the battles for racial equality through education since its inception,” McClinton said. “They continue to use their strength in numbers to fight for opportunities for those in need, both in America and around the globe.” McClinton said the organization has more than a dozen chapters and 1,000 members in Pennsylvania. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 17 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, today released the following statement after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed H.B. 1801, which he said would help wrap up the long-overdue 2015-16 state budget: “Until we can come up with a compromise budget that mathematically works and addresses the real fiscal issues we face in Pennsylvania, this plan is the only option. Time is not on our side. I don’t want to see our schools close, and I don’t want to see massive layoffs. I don’t want to see our nonprofits fold, and I don’t want to see Pennsylvanians denied the crucial services they need. I don’t want the divisiveness of this impasse to loom over this great commonwealth and the people we serve. “This is no way to govern or lead, but it’s the unfortunate reality of the situation we’re in, given the lack of ability to compromise, and lack of political will to address the real issues at hand. We are over nine months into the fiscal year, and we need to make sure our schools are not disrupted by the mass dysfunction in Harrisburg. We have many challenges ahead of us and we cannot overcome them without bipartisan support. “Choosing to support this budget proposal wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe that we as a legislative body, and especially its leaders, should have done better because Pennsylvanians deserve better. But at the end of the day, this job requires you Read more
HARRISBURG, March 17 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, supported legislation this week that would end the nine-month budget standoff and help ensure community organizations and schools do not have to close their doors. The House passed a supplemental budget bill and several budget-related bills Wednesday evening, including bills to fund Penn State, which included its agricultural and cooperative extension services, and the University of Pittsburgh, and were sent to the governor. "It was important for me to support these proposals, that while not perfect, would help bring an end to the uncertainty of whether our communities' most vulnerable residents will continue to receive needed services. Families will receive financial assistance to help send their students to college, students will be able to attend school without threat of closure before the end of the school year, and seniors will continue to have access to state programs," Petrarca said. "Also, important to me is that this budget would not require any new state taxes." The governor signed a scaled-down budget bill in December, which authorized the flow of emergency funding to schools, counties and human service providers, but it was not a complete budget and left many areas and services unfunded. "I am hopeful that Wednesday's votes will bring an end to Pennsylvania's budget impasse so that we can wholly concentrate on crafting a budget Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today approved legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, supported S.B. 3 and helped steer the measure through the House during three days of debate before the final vote. This was the first time the House passed such a bill despite the Senate overwhelmingly approving similar proposals in the past two legislative sessions. The House-amended version of the bill would strictly regulate the use of medical marijuana. Petrarca was part of a bipartisan task force that met last summer and fall to craft an effective medical marijuana bill that could be supported by a House majority. The legislation passed today contains changes suggested by that task force. "The task force debated the issue and looked at what was done in other states," said Petrarca, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "We saw things that worked and things that didn't work. We looked at medical marijuana as a tool for doctors to help people. "Parents want to help their children, and doctors want to help their patients, and medical marijuana can do that. I'm pleased we were able to draft legislation that would give Pennsylvanians another option in palliative care -- one that doesn't result in overdose and death -- while at the same time tailoring its use to ensure it is used only for specific Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, today joined House and Senate Democrats and Republicans at the state Capitol to rally support for redistricting reform legislation. The bipartisan and bicameral redistricting reform group and its legislation has seven core principles: Assign redistricting authority to an independent citizens commission; reform both congressional and legislative redistricting; prohibit districts from being drawn to favor or discriminate against a political party or candidate; use statistically sound methodology when setting district boundaries; ensure transparency in the process with meaningful opportunities for active public participation; make all districts as equal in population as possible with a minimum range of deviation; and respect political subdivisions and communities of interest. "The political representation currently in Pennsylvania has made the commonwealth a national example of gerrymandering at its worst," Daley said. "Redistricting should result in a fair map, putting aside partisan interests and protecting the interests of the voters." Daley added that as a member of the redistricting reform group, she has authored legislation ( H.B. 878 ) that would create more openness and fairness in the redistricting process. "My legislation would require a commission to consider plans drawn by Pennsylvania residents, hold public meetings on those plans, and establish a website to share the Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, today applauded the approval of a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed S.B. 3 , which would allow patients with serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and glaucoma, to use the drug. “Today’s vote has been a long time coming for so many people, especially in our area,” Bizzarro said. “It’s been heartbreaking to watch parents beg for relief for their children dealing with debilitating diseases, and hear patients tell alarming stories about having to suffer from chronic pain. Patients and doctors should be able to choose the course of treatment that is right for them, including medical marijuana. I am proud to support this measure and hope it will become law soon.” Under the bill, medical marijuana would only be permitted to be used as a pill; oil; liquid; tincture; topical form, such as a gel, cream, or ointment; or through vaporization or nebulization. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, in addition to the District of Columbia. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration of House amendments. Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated if medical marijuana legislation reaches his desk, he will sign it. Read more
‘Luzerne County school districts need funding to properly finish school year’ HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery today voted in favor of a GOP spending plan to wrap up the long-overdue 2015-16 state budget. Mullery said the spending plan increases spending by 3 percent overall, and provides an additional $200 million more to public schools. Citing looming threats from school officials in his district who say they may have to close schools before the end of the year, Mullery said students can no longer be the victims of political gridlock in Harrisburg. "Today, I set aside party politics and voted for a budget. Although not perfect, this budget is a compromise that will increase funding to our schools and does not raise taxes," Mullery said. "Hopefully, this budget will bring an end to the nine-month struggle our schools and community organizations have endured. "It is time to begin the work on next year’s budget and make certain we do not make the same mistakes." Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16– State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., along with many of his colleagues paid tribute to the late Rep. John Myers in the House chamber today. Kinsey previously worked as chief of staff for Myers. “It was a humbling experience to honor such an admired and respected man who served admirably in this esteemed body for 17 years," Kinsey said. "It was important to ensure that Representative Myers' contributions to his community, to his people, be inscribed in the history of the Hall of the House." Myers was born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He attended local schools, including Germantown High School, and then entered the U.S. Navy, serving his country in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. Myers was re-elected to eight consecutive House terms. “He was the kind of man who didn’t back down; he tackled many crucial issues – issues that focused on gun safety, crime, the rights of people, public safety, health, economic development,” Kinsey said. During Myers’ terms in the House, he served on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the Liquor Control Committee. He served as a subcommittee chairman on both the Appropriations Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee, working his way up to become the Democratic chairman of the Health Committee. Retiring from the House of Representatives in 2012, Myers focused his attention to community concerns, Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, issued the following statement regarding his vote for legislation which passed the House Wednesday that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. "The statistics show that there are nationally about 40,000 overdose deaths a year from aspirin, 100,000 related to alcohol and about 48,000 from prescription drugs, but there are zero overdose deaths from marijuana. That’s not 5, not 100, not 1,000 overdose deaths from marijuana, but zero," Flynn said. According to Flynn, states that have legalized medical marijuana have shown a decrease of nearly 25 percent in annual prescription drug overdose deaths. "I’ve seen the children and their families who are experiencing daily seizures and other medical conditions, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the elderly with cancer who need this to help relieve their pain. "Legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is a commonsense answer and we need to pass it now, so we can help all of those who are suffering in their daily lives. "This is an important step forward for Pennsylvania and I was proud to cast my vote for the bill," Flynn said. The legislation (S.B. 3) returns to the Senate for consideration of the House amendments. Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated his strong support for the issue. Read more
HARRISBURG , March 16 – Saying the specter of closed schools and crippled human services must not come to fruition, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, voted for a budget bill put forth by the Republican legislative majority today. Snyder said that with only three months left in the current fiscal year, and with budget wrangling between GOP leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf still ongoing after nine months, it’s time to wrap up the tumultuous 2015-16 budget and start focusing on the 2016-17 spending plan due June 30. "We’re able to put this one to bed without raising taxes – and still get an extra $50 million for basic education, pushing that total fiscal-year increase to $200 million," said Snyder of her affirmative vote for H.B. 1801. "I don’t want to see schools close, I want to see human services and 4-H funded, I don’t want to further put our Penn State Extension Services and county commissioners in fiscal predicaments. "Certainly, I would like to see more state funding for basic education. But when it looks like there’s a greater chance of public schools closing their doors than getting more money, we’ve got to acknowledge the reality of the situation and act accordingly. After nine months, this saga must end." Snyder said a constant theme as she’s traversed the 50th Legislative District is resolving the budget impasse and the adverse impact the inability to strike a lasting Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, today announced the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously approved her resolution designating March 9, 2016 as “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day” in Pennsylvania. Donatucci’s H.R. 708 explained registered dietitian nutritionists are food and nutrition experts who use nutrition to find solutions for healthy living. To be considered a registered dietitian nutritionist, a person must complete an accredited supervised practice program, pass a national examination and complete continuing professional educational requirements to earn their credential. Many of these professionals work in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, the food industry and other entities. “Experts say maintaining a healthy diet is key in preventing illness and boosting overall wellness,” Donatucci said. “The work being done by our registered dietitian nutritionists is so important in improving public health and educating communities about how to be healthy. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their support of this measure honoring these vital professionals.” Approximately 3,700 residents of the commonwealth are members of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year, the academy’s theme for “National Nutrition Month” is Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Ed Gainey praised today’s House passage of legislation ( S.B. 3 ) that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. “It’s about time that we help Pennsylvania families who have been asking for this bill for several years. While some people in Harrisburg sought to delay the legislation, family advocates continued to watch their loved ones suffer from debilitating illnesses, all the while encouraging passage of the bill,” said Gainey, D-Allegheny. “We need to listen to them and medical professionals who support medical marijuana and we need to give it a chance. “The drug policies we have in place just don’t work. They haven’t worked for 30 years. If a doctor can prescribe opioids that are highly addictive and have led to many deaths, why can’t we make sure that medical marijuana can help families who are experiencing pain and suffering? There are no overdose deaths related to marijuana.” Gainey served on a bipartisan House task force that studied the issue throughout the summer and fall and recommended changes to the bill. Several amendments were added to the bill including one by Gainey to ensure diversity among medical marijuana businesses to include veteran, minority and women participants. The Pittsburgh lawmaker said this week’s House action is a big step in the process of medical marijuana becoming law because it’s the first time the House passed Read more
State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, has been appointed to serve on the House Labor and Industry Committee for the remainder of the 2015-2016.
"It’s a tremendous honor to be selected to help make progress on issues that will benefit Pennsylvania’s economy and improve Pennsylvania’s workforce,” Krueger-Braneky said. “I look forward to hearing from working families in Delaware County, and across the state, about their views on topics such as raising the minimum wage and ensuring a safe workplace. Together, I am confident we can make Pennsylvania a better state for our workers and reach bipartisan solutions on many of these vitally important topics. I look forward to bringing my experience working with locally owned businesses to this committee.”
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, praised today’s House passage of legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
“Once this bill becomes law, patients in Pennsylvania who suffer from debilitating diseases will be able to legally acquire, with their doctor’s consent, the medicine they need,” Matzie said. “While I can understand the concerns I heard from my colleagues on the other side of this issue, I believe the scientific evidence supporting medical marijuana is clear. Not only can it provide relief, it can at times offer hope to patients who would otherwise have none.”
The House passed an amended version of S.B. 3, which originally passed the Senate in May 2015. The amended bill would allow patients with serious medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and glaucoma, to use the drug. Under the legislation, patients only would be able to use medical marijuana in the form of a pill, oil, liquid, tincture, topical ointment, or through vaporization or nebulization.
“I think of Leah and Olivia McGurk of Beaver County who may be helped by passage of this bill; their courage and the strength of their parents and siblings have been nothing short of miraculous,” Matzie said. “The McGurk's fight for passage of this bill for their girls and others is an inspiration that I will never forget."
Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states Read more
HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Phila., praised today’s House passage of legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
“Today, Harrisburg was able to come together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that citizens in our state who suffer from debilitating diseases can obtain the medicine they need,” Neilson said. “Misunderstandings about this medicine and fears about its potential abuse shouldn’t tie the hands of doctors who are trying to offer relief to their patients.”
The House passed an amended version of S.B. 3, which originally passed the Senate in May 2015. The amended bill would require a prescribing doctor to be registered with the Health Department before they could prescribe the use of cannabis.
“The need for this medicine has been great and the inability to acquire it has caused real pain throughout this commonwealth,” Neilson said. “I have heard of multiple families moving out of Pennsylvania to a state that allows medical marijuana simply to ensure a child or other loved one has access to the medicine. Patients shouldn’t be forced to decide between the medicine they need and breaking the law, and when this bill is signed into law they won’t have to.”
Under the bill, authorized doctors would be only be able to prescribe medical marijuana for the following conditions: intractable seizures, cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntingdon's disease, Crohn's disease, post-t Read more
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