|House Democratic Legislative Review|
Recent legislative activity by PA House Democrats
October 21, 2011
IN THE NEWS
House Democrats call for action on jobs
With high unemployment continuing to trouble Pennsylvania, House Democratic lawmakers urged their Republican counterparts to put aside a divisive social agenda and join Democrats in making jobs the priority item for legislative action.
“It has been nine months since Governor Corbett took office. The governor and Republican leaders have failed to lead on the issue that's most important to Pennsylvanians,” Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said. “Every public opinion survey, as well as what we hear in our own districts, confirms that people are most concerned about jobs and the economy, not the out-of-whack issues that Republicans are pushing instead.”
The House Democratic plan – JumpstartPA – would take a back-to-basics approach, emphasizing infrastructure maintenance and repairs, restoration of education cuts made in the Corbett budget, worker training, and tax credits to help employers hire more workers.
It also features an innovative Back-to-Work Incentive Program for unemployed workers who take a new job that pays substantially less than they earned before. This will speed workers' re-entry into the labor force while saving money for the state's Unemployment Compensation system.
Read more at www.pahouse.com.
Lawmakers seeking legislative solution to UPMC-Highmark stalemate
Hoping to break the stalemate between health care conglomerates UPMC and Highmark, state lawmakers this week held a legislative hearing and Capitol news conference to discuss legislation they hope will ensure access to care for 3 million Western Pennsylvanians.
"People are worried they will lose access to UPMC's 2,700 doctors and 20 hospitals because these two businesses can't – or won't – come to an agreement. Even if people can still access those doctors, they may not be able to afford to pay the high fees that will occur when those doctors are out of their insurance network,” said Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee.
At DeLuca's request, the House Insurance Committee held a series of public hearings, to gather information on ways to get everyone back to the table and to seriously discuss the issues. The committee heard from UPMC and Highmark, as well as the state Insurance and Health departments. A Wednesday hearing included testimony from the Attorney General's Office.
Following the initial hearing in Pittsburgh, DeLuca said he would look into whether legislative action could force the health care entities to continue their contract.
Read more at www.pahouse.com/DeLuca.
Rep. Brendan Boyle announces legal effort to defeat GOP Electoral College plan
The Pileggi Plan, (S.B. 1282), would end the “winner take all” system that Pennsylvania has used for more than two centuries. It would change the Pennsylvania Election Code so that presidential nominees would designate one presidential elector from each congressional district in the state, as well as two at-large presidential electors. Section 1502 of the Election Code would be amended so that each elector chosen within a congressional district “shall cast his ballot for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who received the highest number of votes in the congressional district."
“Senate Bill 1282 is in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution,” Boyle said. “This legislation has no reason for existence beyond the purely political, and it is for that reason that S.B. 1282 is both arbitrary and capricious. Moreover, it denies equal protection by diminishing the proportionate representation of the Electoral College. This will disparately and negatively impact hundreds of thousands of urban residents statewide.”
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Boyle.
Experts say Marcellus air pollution a threat
Experts testified about air pollution and its consequences from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling during a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing hosted by state Rep. Greg Vitali Oct. 12 at Delaware County Community College in Media.
"Air quality is a growing concern as Marcellus drilling expands across the state," said Vitali, D-Delaware. "The purpose of this hearing was to examine the extent of air pollution associated with drilling and what steps need to be taken to address that."
Jay Duffy of the Clean Air Council noted that Marcellus Shale drilling operations rely on a great deal of equipment that is already known to discharge pollutants into the air.
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Vitali.
Democratic Policy Committee examines Pa.'s transportation issues
The House Democratic Policy Committee heard from several transportation experts at a public hearing in Bristol Oct. 13 to examine the wide range of transportation issues impacting the Commonwealth, said Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.
State Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, requested the hearing and served as its co-chairman.
“Pennsylvania's recent flooding accelerated our state's existing transportation infrastructure challenges,” Sturla said. “Representative Davis has been a strong voice in Harrisburg in advocating for the robust, multifaceted approach we'll need to tackle our transportation issues head on.”
“Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure crisis is about more than just filling in a few potholes; it is about the safety of our families and the economic viability of our Commonwealth,” Davis said. “For decades our leaders have neglected our roadways, bridges and mass transit by putting bandages over gushing wounds. I called for this hearing because it is time that we take a hard look at this problem and come up with some serious, realistic solutions.”
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Davis.
Josephs testifies about domestic partner inheritance tax bill
State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., testified this week before the House Finance Committee on her legislation (H.B. 1828) that would add domestic partners to the list of relatives who are currently exempt from paying state inheritance taxes.
"I believe that the institution of marriage is sacred and quite special; however, there are many people who are in deeply committed relationships, but for personal reasons, choose not to enter into the institution of marriage," Josephs said in her testimony.
"Some widows/widowers and divorced individuals find it unacceptable to re-enter into marriage because of the sanctity of the institution and belief that it is reserved as a once in a lifetime endeavor. Other couples in our Commonwealth are prevented by law from entering into marriage for the sole reason that their partner is of the same gender. Nonetheless, these 'non-traditional' arrangements do not preclude one from loving another individual wholeheartedly and accepting the responsibilities that come along with a monogamous relationship of mutual interdependence."
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Josephs.
Daley bill voted out of House Finance Committee
Legislation introduced by state Rep. Peter J. Daley II, D-Fayette/Washington, has been voted out of the House Finance Committee and is one step closer to becoming law.
The measure, H.B. 1100, would eliminate the sales and use tax on fixed-wing aircraft sales, parts, maintenance and repair in Pennsylvania, allowing the state to create jobs while it gains a stronger foothold in the aviation and aeronautics industry.
“This legislation is not only about ensuring that Pennsylvania remains competitive with its neighboring states and regionally, but also about creating good-paying jobs,” Daley said. “When a similar measure was passed for helicopters, a company in West Chester added 412 jobs and now Pennsylvania collects six times more revenue in personal income and local wage taxes, as we were through the sales and use tax. And we know that there are far more fixed-wing aircraft than there are helicopters, which will need routine maintenance and repair. If we can just catch up to Ohio in terms of employment, the return to the General Fund could be $8.2 million, alone.”
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Daley.
Northeast legislators to introduce four-bill package for disaster assistance
State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, Phyllis Mundy, and Gerald Mullery, all D-Luzerne, and Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne/Monroe, announced at a Capitol news conference this week that they will introduce a four-bill package that would make disaster assistance available to individuals, businesses and other organizations.
“The devastating flooding we have endured has disrupted lives and damaged property in the northeast and throughout this state,” Pashinski said. “We have the opportunity to help many people in this moment of need by tapping the state's massive surplus to provide low-interest loans and grants.”
The bills would direct state surplus dollars into a new Flood Damage Minimization Fund to provide low-interest loans to businesses for disaster assistance and individuals not eligible for PEMA or FEMA assistance (Pashinski); help individuals and families who have been approved for FEMA or PEMA assistance but are still waiting for that assistance (Mundy); direct a portion of the state surplus to provide additional funding for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (Carroll); and amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow the legislature to enact laws that would provide special aid to individuals, businesses and nonprofits after the U.S. president declares a disaster or emergency (Mullery).
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Pashinski.
Daley to introduce small disaster assistance legislation
State Rep. Peter J. Daley II, D-Fayette/Washington, unveiled legislation this week that would aid homeowners and businesses impacted by weather-related natural disasters.
Daley is proposing a Small Disaster Assistance Program, which would extend much-needed assistance to communities that do not qualify for federal assistance. Under the program, homeowners, renters and small businesses and municipalities would be eligible for grants and low-interest loans to make necessary repairs, replace personal effects and property and perform hazard mitigation. Funding would be derived from a surcharge on real property insurance at a rate of $1 per $100,000 of insured value.
“When a natural or manmade disaster strikes one of Pennsylvania's communities, it can cause significant damage, as well as disruption for the individuals and businesses located there,” Daley said. “As we've seen recently in a number of communities and regions across Pennsylvania, these disasters may not qualify for federal disaster assistance programs. So, where does that leave homeowners and businesses, who are now struggling to not only restore their home or business to normal, but also must find the resources to pay for these repairs?”
Read more at www.pahouse.com/Daley.
Davis bill would close unregulated gaming loophole
"Sweepstakes promotions have been around for more than a century and do help businesses market their services," Davis said. "However, a new wave of Internet sweepstakes cafes has found a manipulation in state law that opens up casino-style gaming in communities across the state."
Davis said that through this loophole, cafes offer online "sweepstakes" with the purchase of Internet time on a computer or long-distance phone card. When the customer makes a purchase, they are given free entries to play a sweepstakes game. The entrant plays the game and earns points that are redeemable for cash.