East Falls Local Article: Working Across The Aisle

The atmosphere in the state Capitol is partisan too often.  A mentality of Them vs. Us. The majority party vs. the minority party. Democrats vs. Republicans. 

I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is not a productive environment. I can also tell you from firsthand experience that there are those of us who do work across the aisle, on substantive issues.

That work rarely makes the news. It does not garner the interest of many citizens as it is often considered mundane and does not involve loud voices or recriminations.

For the past 7 months I have been working with Representative Brett Miller, R- Lancaster, on his HB764, Provisional Hiring Parity Legislation. In summary, this legislation will affect an employer’s ability to hire an employee on a provisional basis. This bill would ensure that the 45-day provisional hiring window that is applied to childcare providers, would also be applied to employees who are in direct contact with children, but are not childcare providers. This bill was introduced last session where it went through the House and to the Senate floor where it was not called up for a final vote.

This bill was created in response to the passage of Act 47 of 2019 (HB 235), which reduced the provisional hiring window childcare providers could utilize when hiring employees from 90 days to 45 days. However, the provisional hiring window for all other employers who hire and supervise employees or volunteers who are in direct contact with children was reduced from 90 days to zero. The complete elimination of a provisional hiring window for all employees other than employees of childcare providers has caused considerable hardship to both employers and employees who must wait 3-4 weeks before the employee is legally able to start working. 

As the minority chair of the Children & Youth Committee, I have a unique platform to influence policy. I met with Rep. Miller to understand why he felt this legislation was necessary and why he was not instead searching for a solution to what was causing the delay in receiving these clearances. I offered to work with him through the bureaucratic ‘mishigas’. I offered my assistance because a focus of the Children & Youth Committee is to mitigate risk to our youngest citizens. By expanding provisional hiring to an additional group of employers, we were in fact expanding that risk. I did vote for the bill in committee and subsequently on final passage due to Rep. Miller’s commitment to work together to solve the underlying problem. 

This bill is currently in the Senate health and Human Services Committee. By the time you read this article, Rep. Miller and I will have met with the Committee’s majority chair to inform her that we are endeavoring to change the process so that the clearances can be delivered electronically versus by the U.S. mail to ensure timely receipt. 

Along the winding way, we learned that the Department of Education uses an electronic delivery system, which reaches their applicants within days instead of weeks. It took a good deal of work to uncover that process and we have been advocating across the departments of Human Services and General Services to have the same or a similar system put in place related to clearances for employment regarding the direct care of children.

Rep. Miller and I have worked closely on this issue, commiserated about having to go from pillar to post on some days to obtain what we believed should have been a straightforward response and have often described our journey as ‘down a rabbit hole’.

He agrees with me that we should be mitigating and not expanding risk to children. However, we need to measure that against employer’s ability to hire workers timely in the service of caring for those same children. Worker shortages place children at risk too, and for those services where certain staff to child ratios are required, the service may not be provided at all.

We are committed to getting this issue resolved. Our most recent round of meetings was encouraging. 

I work across the aisle regularly for the greater good of my constituents – although I do not anticipate that to make the news anytime soon.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts and concerns on state related matters.  I can be reached at RepDeLissio@pahouse.net or at 215-482-8726.