HARRISBURG, June 15 – The House Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the week of June 18 to June 24 as “Pollinator Week” in Pennsylvania, according to the resolution’s author, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny. H.R. 971 recognizes the significant role pollinators such as honey bees play in the production of the state’s food supply. The resolution also recognizes the important work of beekeepers and other groups that promote pollination. “Bees and other pollinators are a critical link in our ecosystem,” Matzie said. “Assisted by the efforts of beekeepers and other groups that promote pollination, they produce about one-third of all foods and beverages, including so many of the foods we take for granted. Honey bees alone account for between $1.2 billion and $5.4 billion in U.S. agricultural productivity.” Matzie noted that according to Pollinator Partnership – a nonprofit group that promotes and protects pollinators and their ecosystems – pollinators serve more than 180,000 different plant species and more than 1,200 crops, adding $217 billion to the global economy. They also promote healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize the soil, protect crops from severe weather and support other wildlife. In addition to the work of Pollinator Partnership, the resolution recognizes the efforts of the Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association, the state Department of Agriculture, the Read more
HARRISBURG, June 14 – State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, today lauded the vote by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to postpone a move on the controversial sentence risk assessment tool. McClinton, who serves on the commission, made the motion to delay the vote after receiving several pieces of testimony against implementing the tool. The commission voted unanimously to postpone any action. The General Assembly mandated the commission to adopt a sentence risk assessment instrument to serve as an aid in the sentencing process in an effort to reduce the prison population. It would provide judges with facts and information to ensure a defendant receives the proper punishment while indicating if they need help, such as a drug treatment program. McClinton said she believes the risk assessment tool is unfair because it would adversely impact people of color. “During three public hearings, including one in Philadelphia where 33 people testified, we heard from citizens, the Philadelphia Bar Association and advocate groups opposing the sentence risk assessment tool because of its racial implications,” McClinton said. “We cannot allow a judge to put someone in a box when they have a family to support and bills to pay. They should be granted another chance to put their best foot forward and work to become a productive member of society. “I am pleased the commission decided to take a step back, digest and evaluate the comments Read more
HARRISBURG, June 14 – Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus released the following statement after the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing voted to postpone action on the sentence risk assessment tool: “I applaud the members of the commission for delaying their action to vote for a tool that is in no way a crystal ball of predicting whether a convicted offender will commit another crime after they have served their sentence,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris, chairman of the PLBC. “A tool of predictability has no place in the criminal justice system, especially in a program that could end badly for citizens of this commonwealth, particularly people of color. There is certainly no predictability to the degree of accuracy of this tool as a result, so we will continue to see bias against young black males who are incarcerated at a nine-to-one ratio than other races.” “As a former public defender in Philadelphia, I always encouraged judges to sentence the individuals who were in front of them. I often reminded these jurists that "sentencing guidelines" are simply "guidelines," state Rep. Joanna McClinton said. “Computer statistics should not determine one's sentence because they cannot accurately predict one's ability to be rehabilitated, make positive changes and be properly punished. I do not want to interfere with a judge's ability to fairly administer justice and will not be voting to Read more
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, released the following statement in response to Thursday night’s confirmed tornado in Wilkes-Barre Township: “This morning, I spoke with the offices of Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey and Congressman Matt Cartwright to inform them of the weather devastation that was experienced in Wilkes-Barre Township. I also spoke with Laurel Run officials and Wilkes-Barre Township Mayor Carl Kuren to discuss the assessment and recovery operation. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 14 – State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, announced today that he will introduce legislation to combat problems that can place commonwealth residents in jeopardy of unexpected water shutoffs. Davis’ legislation would target situations in which a single water meter serves multiple units in a housing complex. The legislation would also permit regulation of homeowner associations that collect money from individual housing units and pay water or sewer bills on their behalf. “No resident should ever have to wonder if their tap water will be turned off because of the irresponsible actions of a third party,” Davis said. “Pennsylvanians should not have to face the kind of water security questions that plague residents of Third World countries.” Davis drafted the legislation in response to a recent situation in which residents of a Clairton housing complex lost tap water for about six hours after a utility suspended their service without warning for nonpayment. The homeowners’ association for the complex – which had just one water meter for several hundred units – was supposed to collect money from individual units to pay their water and sewer bills. A company that owned many of the units failed to pay its fair share and declared bankruptcy, forcing the association into bankruptcy, as well. The problem has been compounded by the challenge of collecting payments from units that are not separately metered. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is surveying women veterans, and state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, wants to make sure Pennsylvania’s women veterans weigh in. “Pennsylvania has about 60,000 female veterans,” Readshaw said. “Many face challenges transitioning back to civilian status, and some of those challenges may differ from the ones faced by their male counterparts. This is especially true when it comes to issues such as access to women’s health care. I’m urging all women veterans to take the survey so the department can be sure it’s providing them with the benefits, services and programs they need.” Women veterans can access the survey by visiting the department’s website at http://www.dmva.pa.gov and clicking on the link in the red box that says, “Take the Women Veterans Survey Today!” The survey will be available through midnight, June 18. “Our women veterans have served the commonwealth and the nation with selfless devotion,” Readshaw said. “To give back, we need to make sure they have the support and services they need, and that means – first and foremost – getting their input.” Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, today announced that Preservation Pittsburgh was awarded $5,000 in funding from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The commission awarded the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant to Preservation Pittsburgh, a community-based advocacy organization dedicated to preserving historic, architectural, cultural and environmental heritage. The group seeks to list Highland Park, founded in 1889, on the National Register of Historic Places. “Highland Park is important to Pittsburgh, especially since we can trace the land owned to Edward Bigelow who was known as the ‘Father of Pittsburgh’s Parks,’” Gainey said. “The park is also home to the city’s oldest operating zoological park.” Additionally, the project will involve contracting a researcher to document the park, create a historical narrative, and establish arguments for significance. Preservation Pittsburgh’s primary goal is to promote the importance of preservation issues in the deliberations and decisions of public officials, private groups, developers and the general public. Money for the grants is from the Keystone Recreation Park, and Conservation Fund and is supported annually by a portion of the state realty transfer tax revenue. Overall, $1.2 million in grants was awarded to 28 historical and heritage organizations, museums, and local governments in 19 counties. Grants require a 50/50 Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria/Somerset, announced today that a bill he sponsored restricting the use of fentanyl to palliative care, medical emergencies, surgical procedures and cancer patients, has unanimously passed the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration. House Bill 1987 would limit the use of fentanyl - an opioid which is used as a pain medication - until the use of opioid and heroin declines. The legislation would enact a two-year period of limited use of fentanyl in response to the federal and state emergency declarations on overdose deaths associated with heroin and opioid addiction. “The usage of fentanyl can be deadlier than heroin,” Barbin said. “Until the opioid and heroin pandemic subsides, we must take action in providing much needed relief to coroners, EMS providers, and our law enforcement.” Barbin’s bill would amend the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, and also would call for an annual report on the state’s number of fentanyl-related overdoses, overdoses where fentanyl and opioids were present, and any reduction in the dispersion of fentanyl. Despite the availability of Naloxone to first responders, Barbin said drug overdoses remain prevalent. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved an $80,000 matching-fund grant today for the Marcus Hook Preservation Society, state Rep. Brian Kirkland announced today. The grant will help fund the second phase of a four-phase project to restore the 1730 Marcus Hook Plank House to its 1750 period, the date of the rear kitchen addition. Phase 1 saw the restoration of the mortise-and-tenon roof framing system, new wood shingle roofing and chimney restoration. Phase 2 also will complete the restoration of the building envelope, including demolition of a late 20th-century addition. “I’m so pleased that the Marcus Hook Preservation Society was able to secure this competitive state grant,” said Kirkland, D-Delaware. “The Plank House means so much to Marcus Hook’s historical identity. Due in part to the heavy role that Marcus Hook played in Revolutionary War naval battles, it is the only pre-Revolutionary War structure we have left to help tell our story. “Congratulations to the society. We all look forward to the restoration being complete.” The Marcus Hook Preservation Society is a nonprofit organization formed in 2004 to preserve the history of the Borough of Marcus Hook through educational programming, events and community involvement. The group owns the Marcus Hook Plank House, is in the process of renovating it and has sponsored archaeological digs on its grounds. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – Today, state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, again called upon the State House Government Committee chairman to release his package of “good government” bills, which were referred to the committee more than a year ago. It’s Deluca’s third attempt in roughly two months to have the bill package – geared toward increasing political transparency and expanding voter rights throughout the commonwealth – released from the committee. “It’s been well over a year since Speaker of the House Mike Turzai referred my bills to this committee,” DeLuca said. “These bills will benefit all Pennsylvanians and provide transparency for politicians in Harrisburg, something which has been missing for quite some time. However, that doesn’t seem to matter to the committee chairman, who openly admitted to blocking bills sponsored by House Democrats.” In April, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, chairman of the House State Government Committee, acknowledged on his official state representative Facebook page that he blocks “all substantive Democrat legislation” sent to his committee. Today, DeLuca called upon Metcalfe to release H.B. 946 , H.B. 948 and H.B. 949 , three of the five measures included in his “good government” bill package. House Bill 946 would permit early voting; H.B. 948 would limit outside income for legislators to 35 percent of their base legislative pay; and Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor was awarded a $25,000 Keystone Historic Preservation Grant, according to state Rep. Bob Freeman. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – At a Capitol news conference today, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, called attention to an unfair practice that has injured the state’s taxpayers and consumers and damaged the ability of local pharmacies to purchase prescription medications. Matzie, co-chairman of the state Community Pharmacy Caucus, also applauded the state auditor general for agreeing to investigate the pharmacy benefit managers involved in the practice. “To put it simply, they are operating in bad faith and need to be investigated,” Matzie said. They are overcharging patients and taxpayers untold millions and trying to drive local pharmacies out of business in order to fatten their own bottom lines.” Pharmacy benefit managers negotiate with drug companies and insurers to help define which drugs are covered by health insurance plans. They also set drug reimbursement rates for community and chain pharmacies. There are examples of PBMs slashing reimbursement rates for local pharmacies to the point where they could not compete with the larger chains. “This issue is about fairness,” Matzie said. “It’s about an even playing field. It’s about patients and taxpayers being ripped off and mom and pop stores being forced out of business. Your local pharmacist can’t tell you how to save money on the medicine you need. Not because they don’t want to – but because they are forced not to – by Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – Legislation introduced by state Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Phila., to create a new Older Adult Mentor Volunteer Program advanced to the full House of Representatives today. The bill ( H.B. 2065 ) would better enable retired older Pennsylvanians to help middle- and high-school students. The House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee approved Solomon's bill. The legislation would establish a certified list of retired volunteers who would be willing to share their life lessons, experience and hobbies with junior and high school students interested in enhancing their knowledge and skill sets. Older adults wishing to participate would be required to undergo criminal background checks and any other necessary requirements put forth by their school district. "The ability to have one list of vetted volunteers shared among Pennsylvania's school districts would allow for an easier, simpler, and more cohesive manner in which to pair a volunteer with a student. By also using existing programs, this list could provide a one-stop shop for any older adult wishing to participate or guidance counselor looking to help a student learn more about a specific topic, trade or hobby of interest," Solomon said. The list is meant to be unlimited in nature; encompassing a host of interests and lessons, such as: Conversation in a foreign language; Discussing a specific trade, such as woodworking or plumbing; Learning more about a career path, Read more
CARMICHAELS, June 13 – State Rep. Pam Snyder today announced that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has awarded $65,000 to the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp. for a project in Greene County. Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, said the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant will be used toward Phase 3 of the historic restoration of W.A. Young and Sons Foundry and Machine Shop, located in Rices Landing. “All of the structure's windows and frames, and some of the clapboard siding, have deteriorated to a critical stage,” Snyder said. “Also, many glass panes are missing or broken, creating several ports of entry for wildlife and the weather to disturb the national treasures housed inside the machine shop.” Snyder said the work fits well within the intended scope of PHMC grants, which are used to support projects that identify, preserve, promote, and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and the revitalization of communities. The money comes from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, which is supported annually from a portion of the state realty transfer tax revenue, and requires a 50/50 cash match. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – Responding to Monday evening’s Whitehall Township commissioner’s meeting where the issue of alleged illegal dumping by Coplay Aggregates was discussed, state Rep. Jeanne McNeill issued the following statement. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – Bridges throughout Pennsylvania would have safety fencing installed on them to help prevent suicides if an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg and adopted unanimously by the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday becomes law. Read more
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, led a rally at the state Capitol Tuesday to highlight the long overdue need for reform of Pennsylvania’s laws affecting victims of childhood sexual abuse. Read more
– A bill co-sponsored by state Reps. Tarah Toohil, D-Luzerne, and Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, that would make resources available for children born to mothers who are at high risk for maternal depression has been approved by members of the House. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 12 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, today joined union leaders, advocates and fellow legislators for a rally at the state Capitol in support of workers’ rights, including Harkins’ bill that would ensure the state’s public employees are protected by the same workplace safety standards as private-sector workers. Harkins introduced H.B. 1082 – better known as Jake’s Law – after the death of Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority mechanic Jake Schwab, who was killed in a workplace accident in 2014. “Jake would be alive today and going home to his family if he had been protected by the same safety regulations that protect private-sector workers,” Harkins said. “It’s arbitrary and senseless. Public and private workers face the same dangers, but only private-sector workers are protected by adequate safety regulations. It’s time to say, ‘Enough is enough.’” Harkins’ bill would extend workplace protections under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act to the state’s public employees. Currently, those standards apply only to the private-sector and federal workers. Harkins said immediate action is needed on his bill, which has been sitting in the Republican-controlled Labor & Industry Committee since he reintroduced it in April 2017. The rally, which addressed workers’ pay, benefits and safety issues, was hosted by the Service Employees Read more
HARRISBURG, June 12 – The House today unanimously adopted two resolutions introduced by state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, and state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, congratulating the Penn State University men’s wrestling and basketball teams on championship-winning seasons. House Resolution 956, introduced by Conklin, congratulated Coach Cael Sanderson and the Penn State men’s wrestling team on its seventh National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I championship in eight years. “Last year, the Penn State wrestling team was described as ‘dominant,’ but it’s time we use the correct word and call them what they truly are – a dynasty,” Conklin said. “I can’t tell you how much pride we have in what this team has done. These amazing young men fought back from points behind – from what many thought were overwhelming odds – to capture this championship.” House Resolution 954, introduced by Benninghoff, recognized Coach Patrick Chambers and the Penn State men's basketball team for their victory over the University of Utah and becoming the National Invitation Tournament champions in 2018. “It was a great year to be a Nittany Lion fan,” Benninghoff said. “Congratulations to both teams on their outstanding seasons, athleticism and leadership on behalf of all of us in Centre County and across this commonwealth. We are proud to have cheered you on in your Read more
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