HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks, today announced the passage of a pension reform bill, Senate Bill 1, by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. “Today, I joined 142 of my colleagues in passing the first meaningful pension reform bill in seven years,” Warren said. “This bipartisan, bicameral effort represents a big step toward ending the gridlock in Harrisburg while supporting our schools and saving taxpayers money.” Senate Bill 1 is the product of months of discussion and compromise between Democratic and Republican legislators. “I wish we had more lawmakers like Perry Warren,” said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “He approached this decision seriously and listened to many people before casting his vote. The bipartisan pension reform bill that he supported will continue to pay down our debt, protect taxpayers by shifting risk and reducing Wall Street fees, provide long-term relief to school districts and provide workers with a fair retirement benefit. It’s a bipartisan pension solution that Perry Warren helped to move forward by voting to send this bill to the governor.” Republican Leader Dave Reed said during remarks on the bill today that its passage would not be possible without bipartisan support. “Passing the budget bill in April and now sending a public pension reform bill to the governor shows we are serious about changing how Pennsylvania government Read more
Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month resolution unanimously adopted in House PHILADELPHIA, June 8 – A resolution (H.R. 372) sponsored by state Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., designating June 2017 as Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month in Pennsylvania was unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives. The state recognition coincides with National Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month. CMV is a common virus that infects people of all ages and remains with a person for life. Over half of all adults living with CMV are infected by age 40. Most people show no signs of CMV, and if they do, symptoms are often mild. However, CMV can cause serious health problems to those with weakened immune systems, as well as babies infected with the virus before they are born. Pregnant women can contract CMV and the virus can be passed down to the baby. CMV is the most common congenital infection in the United States with one in every 150 babies being born with congenital CMV each year. More than 5,000 of these babies will develop permanent problems such as hearing loss, vision loss or developmental disabilities. An estimated 400 babies die each year from the infection. CMV causes more long-term health problems than Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and spina bifida. “This is a serious public health issue and I am glad that my colleagues have unanimously adopted the resolution,” Cruz said. “Countless babies die each year from CMV and designating June 2017 as CMV Read more
HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, D-Berks, a longtime advocate for responsible pension reform, voted for S.B. 1 today because it responsibly protects the retirement security of state employees, shifts the financial risk from taxpayers and saves more than $1 billion over the next several decades. Pennsylvania’s state employees are among the most talented and dedicated professionals in the country and after decades of service, they should earn a fair and reasonable retirement, Caltagirone said. In the past, Caltagirone has opposed legislation that would have been unconstitutional and would have undermined the retirement security of tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians. “I have held out for a long time for pension reform legislation that continues to pay down our pension debt, does not unlawfully take benefits already earned, does not put our current systems at risk, shifts future risk away from the taxpayers, requires board members to be educated in investment practices, and reduces Wall Street fees, all while providing workers with a fair retirement benefit,” Caltagirone said. “I am happy to say S.B. 1 accomplished these goals.” Notwithstanding, Caltagirone vowed to continue his efforts to address issues within the pension systems, including H.B. 1253 that would limit high-risk venture capital investment to 2 percent and H.B. 1016 that would prohibit public pension board members from accepting gifts and political Read more
HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, introduced a resolution today urging action to lead Pennsylvania into the U.S. Climate Alliance in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Members of the U.S. Climate Alliance are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the goals of the federal Clean Power Plan. “President Trump put the future of our communities, commonwealth, country and planet at risk when he decided to not honor the United States’ commitment to fighting climate change and withdraw from the Paris Agreement,” Krueger-Braneky said. “It is now up to local and state governments to step up to slow and mitigate the consequences of climate change, which include rising sea levels, more intense weather events and increased risk of draught and famine.” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has come forward in support of upholding the alliance. “Pittsburgh is the example of why the Paris Agreement is good for economic development: such work is good for business too,” he said. “We’ve rebuilt our economy on the future and our people, not the past.” In response to the United States’ withdrawal, the U.S. Climate Alliance was formed by the states of California, New York, and Washington to uphold the Paris Agreement. Members of the Climate Alliance include Connecticut, Delaware, Read more
Rep. Ryan Bizzarro reports that Senate Bill 1 is a modest but significant step toward fiscal solvency in Pennsylvania’s public pension plans. “The legislation represents a significant, bipartisan compromise, supported by the governor, and worthy of support,” Bizzarro said. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 8 – House Bill 1490 , introduced by state Reps. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, and Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, unanimously passed the House today. The bill would establish Public Utility Commission oversight of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Under state law, the PUC does not have jurisdiction over municipal authorities. “PWSA has been experiencing a number of very public issues over the past year or more,” Readshaw said. “News items in the past year have highlighted unsustainable debt levels, billing errors, leaks, unmetered accounts and, especially, lead and other water quality issues. "This bill would offer Pittsburgh water customers a new, unbiased level of protection and oversight for local water quality.” Failure to comply with state and federal standards would result in monetary fines. While PUC oversight of a municipal authority is very uncommon, it is not without precedent. In 1999 the legislature passed a law that placed Philadelphia Gas Works under the PUC. The bill now moves to the Senate for its further consideration and review. ### Read more
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today voted to pass legislation ( S.B. 1 ), a bill which would alter the retirement plan offered to new employees in the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System. State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, said since taking office, pension reform has been on the agenda each time the budget process has been underway and he has repeatedly cast votes opposing a variety of pension reform proposals. Schlossberg issued the following statement regarding S.B. 1, the latest pension overhaul effort: “I voted in favor of S.B. 1 because I feel it achieves a critical end: In the event of another stock market crash, risk is shifted away from the taxpayers, which is largely responsible for much of the current crisis. To be clear, this bill does nothing to address the current unfunded liability. That will take real revenue and political courage to fully solve. However, this proposal does help to stop future bleeding, while maintaining a secure retirement for current employees and retirees. Future employees will have options to determine a retirement plan which would meet their retirement security needs at 85-90 percent of benefits for current employees. “No proposal is perfect and Pennsylvania’s pension crisis is not going to magically disappear. I believe this legislation is necessary to ensure the long-term solvency of Pennsylvania’s Read more
HARRISBURG, June 8 – The following statement is from state Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, regarding the passage of S.B. 1: "After much debate, deliberation and study, I joined a bipartisan group of legislators in supporting Senate Bill 1 which would make significant changes to the retirement plans for future state workers and public school employees. “Senate Bill 1 would have no adverse impact on retirees or current state or public education employees. No one who has earned his or her pension or has begun to prepare for retirement by investing in the state pension system would see any change in benefit. “This bill would mandate that we continue to pay down our approximately $70 billion liability as prescribed by previous law under Act 120. This unfunded liability exists not because of the employees, but because of poor decisions taken by state policymakers. This bill includes provisions that can help reduce the likelihood that future legislatures will make decisions that harm our pension fund. “Importantly, by providing three retirement options for future employees, Senate Bill 1 still would ensure sound and generous post-retirement financial security for those yet-to-be hired teachers, park rangers, public nurses and PennDOT workers. They would be able to choose from one of two side-by-side hybrid pension systems or a traditional 401k retirement plan. “Finally, Senate Bill 1 would reduce risk to taxpayers if (and Read more
HARRISBURG, June 8 – Legislation that would reduce protections to streams where coal companies seek to mine under them passed the Senate 32-17 on Tuesday, said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery. Senate Bill 624, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, would directly affect a pending case before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB Docket No. 2014-072-B) relating to Consol Energy’s longwall mining activity in and near Greene County’s Ryerson Station State Park. Vitali said Scarnati introduced S.B. 624 on April 13 two weeks after receiving a $5,000 contribution by Consol. The Ryerson State Park case was brought three years ago by the Center for Coalfield Justice and Pennsylvania Sierra Club. A hearing was held in August 2016, and a decision from the state Environmental Hearing Board is expected soon. Senate Bill 624 has a retroactive effect and would directly affect this case. According to Vitali, Scarnati’s chief counsel, Drew Crompton, acknowledged that the bill is a response to the pending Consol case. Consol contributed over $136,000 to the Pennsylvania legislature in 2016, according to Vitali. According to records, in 2011, Consol paid for Scarnati’s trip to the Super Bowl in Texas. After media criticism, Scarnati repaid Consol. “Confidence in government erodes when special-interest groups contribute to elected officials who in turn advance legislation favorable to those Read more
I strongly oppose House Bill 1095 , voted out of the State Government Committee yesterday, because it would deny access to public benefits to more than 50,000 immigrants in Philadelphia and more than 180,000 immigrants across Pennsylvania. This is a bad bill because it is bad policy. While other states are moving in the opposite direction, some Pennsylvania lawmakers reject the fact that immigrants have helped us build our economy and made America the economic engine of the world. As the sponsor of the Police & Community Safety Act, I am committed to making sure everyone - regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or immigration status - has equal access to food, health, education and housing. We need to understand that social equity and inclusion are pillars in the process of developing a safer, more just and inclusive society at large. I adamantly oppose this bill because it would needlessly erode the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians and dishonor the very tenets on which our commonwealth was founded. Read more
Rep. Ryan Bizzarro and the state Fish & Boat Commission are sponsoring a free safe-boating seminar at 7 p.m. June 8 at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Erie. The seminar spotlights National Fishing & Boating Week. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., voted against legislation that would dramatically expand gambling in Pennsylvania. Dawkins said the expansion would not only saturate the gambling market at the expense of the Pennsylvania Lottery and the senior citizens programs it supports, it would further threaten the safety and quality of life of residents in the neighborhoods he serves and throughout Philadelphia. House Bill 271 includes authorizing up to 30,000 locations for video gaming terminals at licensed liquor retailers and establishments by the end of 2018 and 40,000 by 2020, as well as gambling tablets or “iGaming” at Pennsylvania’s six international airports, including Philadelphia. Dawkins added the "stop and go" liquor businesses that have been such a problem in Philadelphia would be eligible and that there is no distribution formula for ensuring that Philadelphia neighborhoods are not saddled with the majority of machines. “My concern is about the stop and go locations. It is a fact that 75 percent of gamblers have a drinking disorder. We have a saturation of stop and go’s in Philadelphia and this constitutes another challenge for us,” Dawkins said. “When you live in communities like mine, when you see poverty, addiction and opioid abuse, you can’t understand how we are putting another potential problem in our city. “It’s impossible not to think about our Read more
HARRISBURG, June 7 – State Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, today voted against legislation that would dramatically expand gambling in Pennsylvania. Donatucci, chairwoman of the House of Representative’s Philadelphia Delegation, said the expansion would not only saturate the gambling market at the expense of the Pennsylvania Lottery and the senior citizens programs it supports, it would further threaten the safety and quality of life of residents in the neighborhoods she serves and throughout Philadelphia. House Bill 271 includes authorizing up to 30,000 locations for video gaming terminals at licensed liquor retailers and establishments by the end of 2018 and 40,000 by 2020. “Video Gaming Terminals in the 9,000 liquor license establishments across the commonwealth are bad for Pennsylvanians. They are bad for families, children, older Pennsylvanians, and bad for our state lottery fund and state gaming fund,” Donatucci said. “Philadelphia families don't want gambling in their corner stores. “VGTs authorized in this bill are not all about helping bars and taverns but more about helping out those out of state VGT operators from Las Vegas and Chicago. They are all cued up to make hundreds of millions of dollars off the backs of Pennsylvania's bars and taverns, and our defenseless constituents," Donatucci said. Donatucci added the "stop and go" liquor businesses that have been such a problem in Read more
HARRISBURG, June 7 – State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., today voted against legislation that would dramatically expand gambling in Pennsylvania. Kinsey said the expansion would not only saturate the gambling market at the expense of the Pennsylvania Lottery and the senior citizens programs it supports, it would further threaten the safety and quality of life of residents in the neighborhoods he serves and throughout Philadelphia. House Bill 271 includes authorizing up to 30,000 locations for video gaming terminals at licensed liquor retailers and establishments by the end of 2018 and 40,000 by 2020, as well as gambling tablets or “iGaming” at Pennsylvania’s six international airports, including Philadelphia. Kinsey said the "stop and go" liquor businesses that have been such a problem in Philadelphia would be eligible and that there is no distribution formula for ensuring that Philadelphia neighborhoods are not saddled with the majority of machines. “Communities in Philadelphia are sick and tired of being targeted by businesses from outside the commonwealth that come to our communities to deteriorate them,” Kinsey said. “I’m opposed to this legislation because in addition to deteriorating our communities, this legislation will damage the property tax relief seniors need to stay in their homes, programs that help senior citizens afford prescriptions and transportation services across the commonwealth, Read more
HARRISBURG, June 7 – State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, today announced that First Quality Tissue, LLC was awarded two loans through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) program administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development. Hanna said the state will invest nearly $6.3 million to help spur statewide business development in five counties. For First Quality Tissue, this funding allows the company to retain 508 full-time employees and add an additional 184 full-time positions. “This is huge for First Quality Tissue and Clinton County as a whole,” Hanna said. “I am happy to see this funding being dedicated to assist growing businesses such as First Quality Tissue throughout the commonwealth as it is so important that we invest in these types of projects that create good, family-sustaining jobs.” The Clinton County Economic Partnership was approved for two loans on behalf of First Quality Tissue totaling $2.65 million that will help the company accomplish the following: $2,250,000, 15-year loan at 3 percent interest for the first seven years for the construction of an 850,000 square foot manufacturing facility at the company’s current production complex located in Lock Haven; and $400,000, 10-year loan at 4 percent interest for machinery and equipment to be utilized at the new facility. “This expansion project is tremendously complex but I look forward to its completion and Read more
HARRISBURG, Junio 7 – La Cámara de Representantes aprobó hoy el Proyecto de Ley 119 , que busca regular las casas de recuperación que reciben a usuarios de drogas provenientes de Puerto Rico y que se convierten en víctimas del puente aéreo. La legislación fue aprobada con una enmienda sometida por el representante estatal Ángel Cruz, D-Fila. La enmienda prohibe que los dueños o administradores de las casas de recuperación obliguen a los residentes entregar los beneficios que reciben a través de los programas de asistencia del estado. Asimismo, requiere que las instituciones que no cumplan con las regulaciones locales, estatales o federales sean referidas a las autoridades correspondientes para iniciar una investigación. “Mi enmienda asegura que se atienda de manera más específica la situación del Puente Aéreo”, dijo Cruz. “Familias envían a sus seres queridos a Filadelfia para que reciban tratamiento, pero ese tratamiento no está disponible. En cambio, son prisioneros de casas de recuperación que no están reguladas y que les quitan el dinero, la asistencia nutricional y otras ayudas del gobierno como paga por su estadía. Este es un paso importante, pero aún queda mucho por hacer”, añadió. El puente aéreo es una campaña que promete tratamiento efectivo a usuarios de Read more
HARRISBURG, June 7 – The state House of Representatives today passed a bill ( H.B. 119 ) that includes an amendment by Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., designed to address the "Air Bridge" issue. Cruz’ amendment would ban the owners, administrators and employees of recovery houses from requiring residents to sign over their public assistance benefits. It would also ensure that all drug and alcohol recovery houses throughout Pennsylvania not in compliance with federal, state or local law be referred to the appropriate agency for further investigation. "My amendment to the welfare code is important in making sure that the “Air Bridge” issue is resolved," Cruz said. "Families sent their relatives from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia to get treatment for drug addiction, but quality treatment options were not provided. Instead, they were prisoners of unregulated recovery homes that stole their money, food stamps and other government assistance in return for their stay. This is a big step to resolving the issue, but we can do more." Air Bridge is a network that promised Puerto Rican drug addicts treatment in lavish recovery houses in cities like Philadelphia. However, once individuals arrive to receive treatment, they are taken to live in rundown homes, share beds with several other people, and are forced to relinquish their food stamps and other public assistance benefits. In April, Cruz chaired a hearing in Philadelphia to Read more
CONSHOHOCKEN, June 7 – State Rep. Mary Jo Daley will host a Senior Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, June 16 at Colonial Elementary School, 230 Flourtown Road in Plymouth Meeting. Seniors and their families can learn more about tax and rent rebates, SEPTA KeyCards, health care programs and veteran services. There will be door prizes, food and bingo. Bingo starts at 11 a.m., and SEPTA will be there to help individuals sign up for a SEPTA ID card (valid ID is necessary to receive a card). The Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds also will attend, offering the opportunity for constituents to get their veteran ID cards and register their DD-214s (discharge papers and valid ID are required). "I hope to see as many seniors as possible for this unique event," Daley said. "It is always informative to hear from older Pennsylvanians, and it’s a pleasure to help connect them with state services that can improve their golden years." Read more
HARRISBURG, June 7 – At a Capitol news conference today, state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, and House Democratic Policy Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, called attention to legislation that would amend the Public School Code to change the way cyber charter schools are funded. Their bill — H.B. 1206 — seeks to cap the amount of funding unaffiliated cyber charter schools receive for students who live in an area in which the school district or an intermediate unit operates its own cyber charter school. Under their proposal, unaffiliated cyber charter schools would receive either the per-student funding amount of the school district cyber school program or the intermediate unit cyber school program, whichever figure is higher. “The actual cost of cyber charter education has dropped dramatically in the 20 years since Pennsylvania’s charter school legislation was passed, whereas our reimbursement formula for cyber charters, which is still based on the cost of a brick-and-mortar education, has not, and the Pennsylvania taxpayer has shouldered the burden,” McCarter said. Sturla added: “I want all Pennsylvania kids to have access to exceptional educational opportunities and to do that, we need to have fair, reasonable and accountable reimbursement practices in place. The proposal by Representative McCarter and myself is a fair and reasonable approach that makes sure cyber charters aren’t receiving more than what it Read more
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