Voting will get unfinished business done in Harrisburg
The list of unfinished business in Harrisburg is fairly extensive. The amount of bills that were left sitting in committee or on the calendar is unacceptable. Some of the most impactful legislation for citizens of this commonwealth was simply left undone.
The legislation I refer to below, in many instances, has been pending for five or more sessions. A session is a two-year period; 10 years is a long time to wait for something good to happen.
Bills that would improve how we vote in Pennsylvania never even made it out of committee, let alone to the House floor for a full vote. Those bills include early voting, which is permitted in 37 states, plus the District of Columbia. The average period of time for early voting is 22 days.
No-excuse absentee ballot legislation, same day voter registration, optional vote by mail and youth pre-registration bills have all been introduced numerous times to no avail.
Legislation for redistricting reform that would have created an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission did get quite a bit of activity this spring, but those efforts were ultimately undermined by both Senate and House leadership – despite overwhelming support from rank and file members. The commission would have ensured that district boundaries for state senate, state representative and Congress were drawn by other than those in elected office.
Believe it or not, LGBTQ non-discrimination legislation is still not the law of the land.
This legislation would ensure freedom from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are many people in my personal and professional life who are members of the LGBTQ community, and I am horrified that they can be discriminated against solely due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. You should be too.
The legislature has declined to pass legislation that would effectively ban gifts from being bestowed on elected officials, or short of an outright ban, lower the thresholds whereby such gifts would need to be disclosed.
To state that firearm-safety legislation is a hot-button issue would be an understatement. Earlier in the spring, I was encouraged when the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee held public hearings for six days on gun safety and gun violence. Legislation for policies as straightforward as reporting a lost or stolen weapon, or requiring child safety locks or universal background checks went nowhere. The hearings were nothing more than lip service in response to the citizen outcry for the then-latest mass shooting.
Other legislation that took the ride to Dead-endville included: the merit selection of judges, because we think it is better for judges to take money from the lawyers who will try cases before them; a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas, apparently because our natural resources should benefit the corporations that are extracting that gas and not the citizens of this commonwealth; and a last example is that we believe that nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania should be at a disadvantage to their counterparts throughout the country as evidenced by keeping them under the thumb of the medical profession instead of permitting them to practice to their full scope and license.
How do citizens get their money’s worth from the legislature? November 6th sent a loud message when voter turnout crossed 50 percent. Unless there is consistent and strong turnout, elected officials at all levels of government will operate as if their actions have no consequences. Voting sends that message. I worked hard this past session to help all of the initiatives above move forward, but cannot do it alone. I need your assistance. Please continue to pay attention, be woke and continue to vote. Circle May 21, primary election day on your calendar now.
State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio writes from the 194th Legislative District, which includes Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.