HARRISBURG, June 2 – House Urban Affairs Committee Democratic Chairman Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House of Representatives passed a bill to financially boost the state's affordable housing program. House Bill 792 would provide an additional source of funding for the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, or PHARE. "Our urbans areas are afflicted with affordable housing issues," Caltagirone said. "While they bear the brunt of the problems, affordable housing issues are prevalent in suburban and rural areas also." Caltagirone said the legislation would provide a dedicated funding source for the fund, utilizing any increase realized in Realty Transfer Tax revenue collected by the commonwealth. Under the bill, half of any additional revenue realized by the tax beyond the base year would go into the fund and the other half would go into the state's General Fund. The legislation also would provide a funding formula upon enactment. "This is a real opportunity to help families struggling to purchase or build a new home, pay rent or rehab an existing property," Caltagirone said. "Reversing blight and abandonment takes a long time but this could move that process along." Caltagirone added that prior to the House vote, the measure was unanimously approved by the House Urban Affairs Committee. Read more
State Rep. Neal P. Goodman’s legislation that would extend the Persian Gulf Veterans’ Bonus Program for three more years passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tuesday. The program, which provides a small, one-time stipend to veterans of the first Gulf War, is set to expire on Aug. 31.
Harrisburg – June 2, 2015 – Legislative Democrats gathered in the state Capitol for a news conference today to highlight the broad and deep support in the General Assembly for legislation that would create a new $1 billion natural gas extraction tax for education. Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia) along with House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-Clinton) and Democratic Appropriations Chair Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) in concert with Democratic members of both the Senate and House called on Republicans to move the education investment plan. In his March budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a new Marcellus Shale gas extraction tax of 5 percent, with a 4.7 cent tax on volume. The plan contains a provision to ensure that the distribution of Act 13 fee revenue to communities is maintained. “There has been far too little talk and too many delays in considering a gas extraction tax plan that would raise $1 billion for education,” Costa said. “The Republicans in both the Senate and House seem hesitant about addressing the substance of the governor’s proposal and uninterested in examining responsible education investment proposals.” The governor’s plan would generate an estimated $1.015 billion in fiscal 2016-17. “The severance tax proposed by the governor is reasonable and responsible and Read more
HARRISBURG, June 2 – State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, today said a student from Allentown has been awarded with the Outstanding Middle School Student with a Visual Impairment award during the 2015 Blindness Awareness Expo. The event is held every year in the State Capitol and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. According to the entry submitted for her nomination, Treasure Signorelli is a sixth-grade student at South Mountain Middle School. She does not identify herself as having a disability and takes every opportunity to participate in activities, both in and out of school. Treasure is a hard-working student who receives high marks in all her classes. Schweyer said Treasure is a role model both academically and socially. “It’s always sends a powerful message when someone defies the odds and does great things, not only for themselves, but also for their community,” Schweyer said. “I am truly inspired by Treasure’s accomplishments and actions and wish nothing but great things for her in the future.” Other awards given out during the Blindness Awareness Expo include the Outstanding Elementary School and High School Student with a Visual Impairment, Outstanding Employee with a Visual Impairment and the Independence Award. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 2 – House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, announced today that the committee will hold a public hearing about a national perspective of retirement security from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 4 in the House Minority Caucus Room, 418 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg. Read more
State Rep. Gerald Mullery has introduced legislation (H.B. 1274) that would ensure employees who are paid with a debit card have access to the full amount of their wages and no-cost access to their accounts. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 1 – Voting rights advocates joined state Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, at a news conference at the state Capitol today on Bizzarro’s legislation to make the electoral process easier through same-day voter registration. Read more
The energy investment plan contained in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal would create good, green jobs, save schools and municipalities money through reduced electric costs and help the environment. Those conclusions came from a panel that included representatives of energy companies, a suburban Philadelphia school official, farmers and a high-ranking member of the Wolf administration. They testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee during a hearing Monday in the state Capitol.
PHILADELPHIA, May 29 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., today released a statement on the importance of buying local produce and the value of PA Preferred, the state-supported agricultural marketing program for food and agricultural products grown, produced or processed in Pennsylvania. “It’s that time of year to start my rounds to the local farmers’ markets in the 194th Legislative District, and I am always impressed and pleased with the fresh produce and goodies I can find,” she said. “This week I stopped by the Bala Cynwyd Farmers' Market at its new location on the Barmouth Trailhead of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail. I love bringing the farm to my table; somehow the food just tastes better, and I know it is better for me.” DeLissio added that there are many other organizations devoted to local and fresh produce and products, including Farm to City , a Philadelphia-based program whose goal is to unite communities, families and farmers year-round through good locally grown food. “As a member of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, I am acutely aware of the benefits PA Preferred provides growers and consumers,” DeLissio continued. “By purchasing goods made in Pennsylvania, you are making a difference by instilling pride in our homegrown products and helping our local economy. Many of my farmers’ market buddies sell their PA Preferred products not only roadside, but look Read more
HARRISBURG, May 29 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro today announced that GeorgeKo Industries Inc. in Erie County received a $9,500 Small Business Advantage Grant from the state. The plastic parts manufacturer is one of nearly 140 businesses statewide that will install energy efficiency or pollution prevention projects using grants provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection. DEP recently awarded more than $980,000 to 139 small businesses for those purposes.
PITTSBURGH, May 29 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, said he supports today's court ruling requiring local health care giant UPMC to continue accepting the health insurance of Highmark Medicare Advantage customers. "Today's decision gives some security to our seniors currently enrolled in the Highmark Medicare Advantage program," DeLuca said. "Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini left no doubt that the previous agreement which extended coverage through 2019 could not be cancelled by one side." UPMC previously announced plans to end the agreement, which would have left 182,000 Highmark Medicare Advantage subscribers without access to UPMC facilities beginning in January 2016. "The court ruling today was a sharp reminder that neither UPMC nor Highmark has the authority to change the consent decrees that are currently in effect." DeLuca added. "Now these Medicare Advantage subscribers can look to the fall open enrollment period with a sense of stability and the knowledge that their current plan will remain in effect for the next three years." DeLuca has been active in trying to end the dispute between Highmark and UPMC and introduced H.B. 1172, which would give the state Insurance commissioner the authority to provide additional patient protection for consumers who are impacted by the Highmark-UPMC dispute. As part of the original consent Read more
PITTSBURGH, May 29 – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, released the following statement in light of the ruling today by Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini in the ongoing dispute between UPMC and Highmark: "Today’s decision by Judge Pellegrini is a momentous victory for consumers in western Pennsylvania. Under this decision, UPMC is required to continue to see Highmark Medicare Advantage patients at in-network rates which means that 180,000 seniors will not lose access to their doctors," Frankel said. "The decision is important in several ways. Not only does it resolve the ongoing confusion regarding Medicare Advantage, it requires both UPMC and Highmark to resolve outstanding issues related to their consent decrees through binding arbitration which must be completed by September 30, 2015. In doing so, this decision could help provide clarity to hundreds of thousands of consumers in Pennsylvania who’ve been held hostage by this ongoing situation," Frankel said. "Additionally, Judge Pellegrini made it clear that neither entity can make changes in their future business relationship with each other without court approval. The decision also requires the Commonwealth to make recommendations on how to change the corporate governance structure of both entities. This could lead to long-term changes in UPMC and Highmark’s behavior that reorients them to an even stronger commitment to serve Read more
PITTSBURGH, May 29 – State Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, today discussed legislation that would exempt volunteer emergency responders from paying fees that total more than $47 for state and federal background clearances. Costa, who was joined by fellow lawmakers from the Allegheny Delegation, volunteer firefighters and emergency responders at Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department, said that the financial burden on volunteers was an unintended consequence of changes to the state’s child abuse laws and that at least one bill in the House of Representatives, H.B. 1081 , would begin to right that wrong. He said that the bill would spare paid and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service responders from the $10 clearances from the state police and state Department of Human Services. “I know that many, if not all of the volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel, are prepared to do their due diligence, but let’s remember that these are the same firefighters and first responders who save the commonwealth millions of dollars, protect our communities, and most significantly, save lives – all while placing their own lives at risk,” Costa said. “We owe them a huge debt of gratitude and more, and at the very least the state should recognize their sacrifice and contributions by doing these background and clearance checks at no charge to them.” House Bill 1081 has garnered significant bipartisan support and has been sent to Read more
HARRISBURG, May 28 – State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, today said that Bakers Construction, Inc. in Centre County and Databit Solutions in Clinton County both received a Small Business Advantage Grant. Hanna said he is proud to see Bakers Construction, Inc. receive $6,307 and Databit Solutions receive $9,500 from the state. Gov. Tom Wolf today announced that nearly 140 businesses across Pennsylvania will soon install energy-efficiency or pollution-prevention projects by using the Small Business Advantage Grants provided by the Department of Environmental Protection. This year, DEP awarded more than $980,000 to 139 small businesses. “Energy efficiency technology is improving the lives of all Pennsylvania residents,” Hanna said. “These grants will not only help the two small businesses in my district, but will help improve Pennsylvania’s environment as a whole.” Pennsylvania’s Small Business Advantage Grant Program is funded through the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, which helps businesses with 100 or fewer employees. It provides 50 percent matching reimbursement of up to $9,500 to implement projects that will save 25 percent annually in pollution-prevention or energy-related costs. Since 2004, the program has awarded nearly $9.5 million to 1,915 small businesses statewide. Read more
The Senate and House Democratic policy committees hosted a joint hearing at Philadelphia City Hall to discuss legislation that aims to improve public health and safety by giving workers the opportunity to accrue paid sick leave. Read more
HARRISBURG, May 28 – State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne/Lackawanna, will introduce an omnibus Public School Code bill that would establish a moratorium on Keystone Exams being used as a requirement for graduation. Carroll said this suspension would benefit students and their families, while offering much-needed relief to school districts that face significant financial and educational obstacles to fully implement the graduation requirement. "It has become ever more apparent to me that the linkage of Keystone exam passage to graduation is riddled with problems and that more thought is required to assess students with a wide range of abilities," said Carroll, a member of the House Education Committee. "A one-size-fits-all approach seldom works in the real word and the Keystone exam requirement is no exception." Carroll said this provision of his pending bill complements an effort by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, Democratic chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Carroll's bill also will include all of Gov. Tom Wolf's education code changes, except that his bill will go beyond Wolf's plan to ensure fairness in special education funding for both charter and cyber charter schools. It will seek to accomplish this by applying the special education formula recommended by the Special Education Funding Commission to both charter and cyber charter schools. Another key difference between the Wolf plan and Read more
HARRISBURG, May 27 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, said the Commonwealth Financing Authority today approved nearly $800,000 in state gaming grants for important projects in portions of Lackawanna County he represents.
“While the casinos have provided thousands of jobs and helped the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania, an additional benefit is the local economic development dollars that are provided to adjacent counties,” Flynn said.
Rep. Robert Freeman reports that the Commonwealth Financing Authority has approved a $200,000 state grant for infrastructure improvements to the Easton Public Market, a multivendor, indoor food market scheduled to open this fall. Read more
State Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-Lackawanna, announced the state has awarded gaming fund grants totaling $479,500 to area organizations and municipalities to fund vital community projects. Read more
The House Democratic Policy Committee will conduct a public hearing at 10 a.m. Monday, June 1 in Harrisburg to discuss Gov. Tom Wolf’s energy investment plan included in his budget proposal. Read more
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