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Harkins, Policy Committee examine commonwealth’s commitment to education funding

(Mar 24, 2015)

ERIE, March 23 – Requested by state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, the House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing today on Gov. Tom Wolf’s education funding proposal to collect input from local school superintendents and a fair education funding advocate. “House Democrats and I believe the key to a better future starts with a solid education that requires a stronger investment from the state,” Harkins said. “Hearing the testimonies of our local superintendents brings the need for, not only more funding, but also a fair funding formula into clear focus.” Harkins co-chaired the hearing with state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, who serves as House Democratic Policy Committee chairman. Sturla added, “Representative Harkins has been a strong advocate for education investment and he recognizes that Schools that Teach is a critical part of Governor Wolf’s plan for moving Pennsylvania in an upward and positive direction. I thank him for hosting this important hearing today.” The hearing was held at Erie's nationally recognized Barber National Institute, which Harkins said is a leader in providing educational support for children and adults dealing with developmental or mental disabilities, as well as those on the autism spectrum and others dealing with hearing disabilities. Those testifying included: Jay Badams, superintendent, Erie School District; Shane Murray, superintendent, Iroquois School District; Read more

 

Caltagirone introduces constitutional amendment to prohibit the government from taking homes for unpaid property taxes

(Mar 19, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 19 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, has introduced legislation designed to protect Pennsylvania homeowners from government seizure of their homes. Under H.B. 688 , the commonwealth or a local government entity would be prohibited from taking a primary residence from a homeowner because he or she cannot afford to pay property taxes on it. "Property taxes in this commonwealth have risen to the point where many citizens can no longer afford to stay in their homes. Many of these people have paid off 30-year mortgages but simply can’t afford the property taxes," said Caltagirone. "There are far too many homes being sold at tax sales, leaving our most vulnerable citizens literally out in the cold. The burden of these taxes fall particularly hard on poor, sick and older citizens. These people are constantly fighting to keep their homes and the American dream of homeownership is a job layoff, illness or death of a spouse away from being torn from their grasp." The bill would require passage in the state House of Representatives and state Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions. After that, it would be put before the voters of the state to decide if they want to amendment the Pennsylvania Constitution. "Until the legislature gets the courage to take on the entrenched interests fighting property tax elimination, I am proposing this solution to protect the most vulnerable citizens from an overbearing Read more

 

Schweyer, Policy Committee examine commonwealth’s job market, ways to make state economically competitive (with video)

(Mar 19, 2015)

ALLENTOWN, March 19 – The House Democratic Policy Committee today heard from leaders in the business, labor and job-training industries, along with state officials, concerning Pennsylvania’s economy at a hearing requested by state Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh. The meeting focused on creating a competitive job market, specifically with regard to the manufacturing sector. “House Democrats are leading the way in developing policies that will help create family-sustaining, private-sector jobs,” Schweyer said. “Today’s conversation with leaders in business and labor was incredibly informative and will prove to be most helpful in the coming months.” The hearing was held at Allentown Economic Development Corp., located in the 22 nd Legislative District represented by Schweyer and based in a former Mack Trucks assembly plant transformed into a manufacturing-focused business incubator. "We are happy that Representative Schweyer asked AEDC to host the committee hearing at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center and that he is taking a deep interest in the creation of manufacturing jobs in Allentown,” said R. Scott Unger, AEDC executive director. “These types of jobs provide livable wages to Allentown families that are typically higher than service-sector wages in the city." Schweyer co-chaired the hearing with state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, who serves as Democratic House Policy Committee chairman. “I commend Read more

 

Conklin to lead Children and Youth Committee

(Mar 13, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 13 – Centre County state Rep. Scott Conklin has been appointed to serve as the Democratic chairman of the Children and Youth Committee in the House of Representatives. “I’m honored and very excited to take on this job and contribute to the success of Governor Tom Wolf’s ambitious agenda to improve the lives of children,” Conklin said. Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said Conklin was a natural choice to lead the committee’s Democrats. “With his background as a former county commissioner, Representative Conklin is very familiar with how children and youth services are delivered through county agencies,” Dermody said. “Scott also was part of the concentrated and successful effort to improve Pennsylvania’s child protection laws in the last three years.” Conklin will work with the committee’s majority chairperson, Rep. Katharine Watson of Bucks County. “This House committee is known for the ability of members to put partisan differences aside and work productively for the protection and benefit of children,” Conklin said. “I look forward to continuing that tradition.” Conklin was first elected to the House in 2006 and currently is serving his fifth term. Read more

 

Donatucci reintroduces legislation to give workers paid sick leave

(Mar 11, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 11 – Citing Philadelphia’s recent passage of a paid sick leave law, state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware, has reintroduced legislation that would allow workers statewide to accrue paid sick leave. Read more

 

Rozzi announces career technical center’s ‘out of this world’ opportunity

(Mar 06, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 6 — State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, today announced the Reading Muhlenberg Career Technology Center will be involved with making parts for the international space station. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is partnering with the Reading Muhlenberg CTC Shop to machine parts for use by space station astronauts. John Keck, liaison between NASA and the local career and technology center, will visit Reading Muhlenberg CTC at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 10 to examine students’ progress. Read more

 

Wolf budget would improve environmental protection

(Mar 05, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 5 – State Rep. Greg Vitali commended Gov. Tom Wolf on proposing a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year that would increase environmental protection and invest in renewable energy and conservation. “Considering the difficult fiscal challenges the Commonwealth faces, Pennsylvania’s environment fares very well in this budget,” said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The proposed budget increases state funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection by 5.6 percent to $147 million. The Department received about $200 million in state funding in fiscal year 2007-08 and has been cut most years since then. The budget also would provide an additional 50 oil and gas inspectors to DEP, with funding coming from a severance tax proposed by the governor, according to Vitali. Wolf’s budget increases funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by 10 percent, from $137 million to $151 million. Unfortunately, Vitali said, $117 million of this amount would come from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, which receives its revenues from gas drilling on public land. The other $34 million would come from the General Fund. “Funding so much of DCNR with Oil and Gas Lease Fund money is a big problem because this money should be used for conservation purposes only,” Vitali said. Wind, solar and energy efficiency Read more

 

Roebuck: House GOP charter-school bill trying to wish away Gov. Wolf

(Mar 04, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 4 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said the charter-school bill House Republicans passed today (H.B. 530) doesn't contain much reform and deserves a "D" grade. "There's very little reform in this partisan charter-school bill and in fact, some of its provisions would actually take Pennsylvania backwards. It would weaken local control of charters, which are public schools and funded with tax dollars," Roebuck said. "One major way the bill would weaken local control is by stacking the state charter school appeals board, which has generally been even-handed and approved about 50 percent of the charter school applications that reach it. The bill's $4 million in savings for Philadelphia would probably be wiped out by hundreds of millions of dollars in new costs for charter schools. "Keep your $4 million and give me a board that will be fair! "This bill could also cost local property taxpayers money and jobs by giving charter schools right of first refusal on unused school properties that the community might want to put to another use, such as locating a new business there. "Governor Wolf's budget proposes reasonable limits on cyber charter school payments that would return $160 million in savings per year to school districts -- permanently. This House Republican bill would only provide about $24 million in savings Read more

 

Freeman introduces bill to encourage student success through peer tutoring

(Mar 04, 2015)

HARRISBURG, March 4 – State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation to create a tutoring program where 11th- and 12th-graders could tutor elementary school-aged children for academic credit. "This proposal could be a valuable resource for every one of Pennsylvania's school districts, not only because it is designed to boost student achievement at little-to-no cost to taxpayers, but also because it would get students to succeed by helping each other," Freeman said. "The one-on-one tutoring can help both sets of students. High school students serve as positive role models for the younger students who receive help with their studies. While the older students receive academic credit for helping the young students to achieve, they also hone their own understanding of academic subjects by taking on the responsibilities of being a tutor." Freeman's plan also includes a provision that would encourage 11th- and 12th-grade students who are not meeting their academic potential to participate as tutors. He said that students who become tutors improve their own academic performance because they begin to take their own studies more seriously in order to help the young students they are tutoring. "Helping someone by sharing your expertise, can, in turn, bring out the best in yourself. That's a wonderful gift to share with others," Freeman said. The bill (H.B. 723) is expected to be referred to the House Read more

 

Schlossberg joins colleagues and health experts to support bipartisan vaccine proposal at Capitol news conference

(Mar 02, 2015)

Legislators, experts and advocates today spoke in support of legislation that would limit the types of immunization exemptions granted in Pennsylvania, during a Capitol news conference hosted by state Reps. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, and Becky Corbin, R-Chester. At the news conference, Schlossberg explained that currently the state allows three exemptions for childhood immunization – medical, religious and philosophical. Schlossberg's and Corbin's legislation, which they intend to introduce shortly, would eliminate philosophical immunization exemptions, currently the most common type granted in the state. Read more

 

Freeman introduces bills to expand participation in Main Street, CRIZ programs

(Feb 26, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton has introduced two bills to help small towns. The first bill (H.B. 659) would let communities extend their participation in the Main Street Program for up to five years. The second bill (H.B. 660) would make more small cities eligible for the state's City Revitalization and Improvement Zone program. "Our small towns and cities face many of the same challenges of larger, urban areas, but sometimes they get overlooked," Freeman said. "My legislation would help ensure their success by assisting them with downtown revitalization and stimulating economic development and job creation." The state's Main Street Program provides grants to help revitalize downtown districts and pay for a full-time Main Street manager who works with local officials and merchants to implement a downtown revitalization plan. Current involvement in the program is limited to five years. Freeman's bill would provide administrative support funding for up to an additional five years with approval by the Department of Community and Economic Development, which funds the program. "Unfortunately, we have seen in numerous cases that the current five-year time frame to turn around a traditional downtown is too short. A community just begins to see the progress brought on by Main Street initiatives only to see the plug pulled prematurely, often causing the downtown's success to suffer," Freeman Read more

 

House adopts Cruz resolution honoring Rep. Rosita Youngblood as first African-American female member of House leadership

(Feb 25, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., thanked House members this week for their unanimous adoption of House Resolution 86 , which honored Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Phila., on her accomplishment of becoming the first African-American female elected to a House leadership position. "This is a tremendous honor for Representative Youngblood, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving candidate," Cruz said. "Since taking office over 20 years ago, she has dedicated herself to not only improving the lives of her constituents, but also the lives of women and minorities across the state. I am positive she will continue to be a perfect example of how to use public service for the greater good of her community and all of Pennsylvania." Following her election to an 11th term in the state House, Youngblood was elected by members of the House Democratic Caucus to serve as the Democratic Caucus secretary, becoming the first African-American female to hold a leadership position in the history of the General Assembly. "There are truly no words to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the support from my colleagues in the House," Youngblood said. "It is overwhelmingly humbling to be recognized by my peers, colleagues and friends, and I truly appreciate each and every one of them, especially Rep. Cruz, for their kindness and support. To become the first ever African-American woman elected to a House leadership Read more

 

Caltagirone bill to provide training to police and judges on mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism passes House, heads to Senate

(Feb 24, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 24 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, said the House passed his legislation that would provide training for law enforcement training and judges related to individuals suffering from mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism within the criminal justice system. Under Caltagirone's bill, H.B. 221 , police officers and the minor judiciary, such as magisterial district judges, would receive training on the recognition and proper de-escalation techniques to be used when interacting with individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism. The bill also calls for instruction on diversionary options for these individuals. "Incarcerating individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism is not always the best option," Caltagirone said. "This bill addresses the issue on the front end by providing our police and minor judiciary with more early-detection training so they can identify these individuals as quickly as possible. "Moreover, with proper training our law enforcement officers may be able to avoid dangerous situations if they can quickly identify an individual experiencing a mental breakdown and use proven crisis intervention techniques to de-escalate a situation." Caltagirone added that according to recent estimates, over 50 percent of all female inmates and more than 20 percent of all inmates in state prison receive mental health treatments. Read more

 

Legislation introduced to reduce Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions

(Feb 19, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Greg Vitali unveiled legislation designed to encourage Pennsylvania to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during a news conference today in the Capitol. He was joined by representatives of environmental organizations, a professor and a legislator who voiced support for the legislation. "Pennsylvania has a duty to work toward carbon neutrality because it produces almost 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases," said Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. "The legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf must find ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy." To work toward that goal, Vitali has introduced three bills that would increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, permanently fund the Sunshine Solar program and reduce the demand for energy. "Too much of our energy comes from dirty sources that harm the environment and our communities -- but it doesn't have to be that way," said Elowyn Corby, PennEnvironment’s global warming and clean energy associate. "We can harness abundant and pollution-free energy from the wind and the sun. Legislation like this shows how Harrisburg can help us get to the clean energy future Pennsylvanians deserve." Joanne Kilgour, director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, said increasing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard to require Read more

 

Mullery looks to close loophole in DUI law

(Feb 19, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, has again introduced legislation (H.B. 474) that would ensure all victims of DUI accidents can be fully compensated for their injuries and damage to their property. Under current state law, a victim of an accident where the drunk driver is convicted of a DUI or is placed in Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition may receive full tort coverage. However, if the drunk driver dies as a result of the accident, even if his or her blood shows he or she was driving under the influence, the victim does not receive full tort coverage. "Drinking and driving is one of the top safety issues faced by Pennsylvanians," Mullery said. "In 2013, there were 11,041 alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania, and deaths in these crashes accounted for 32 percent of the total traffic deaths in the state. Of all the alcohol-related deaths, 77 percent were the drunk drivers." Mullery said Pennsylvania must attack the problem aggressively and give as much assistance as possible to the victims of these DUI accidents. Read more

 

Bizzarro: Bill would protect against theft of older adults' prescription medication

(Feb 19, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, has reintroduced legislation that aims to cut down on the theft of prescription medication from older adults. Read more

 

Cruz announces creation of bicameral, bipartisan Latino Affairs Caucus

(Feb 12, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 12 – State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., today announced creation of an informal, bicameral and bipartisan Latino Affairs Caucus within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. “With the Latino population in Pennsylvania continuing to grow exponentially each year, I truly believe it is time to finally recognize the importance of Latinos in our public policies,” Cruz said. “I’m especially proud that the Latino Affairs Caucus will be represented in a bipartisan, bicameral manner. This will serve as a benefit to all Pennsylvanians as we work together across party lines and across both chambers to education the public about Latino issues and advance Latino causes.” Cruz said the Latino Affairs Caucus will focus on issues important to Pennsylvania’s Latino communities and explore what public policies are necessary to address the needs of Latinos across Pennsylvania. The caucus is open to all members of the General Assembly, regardless of ethnicity or whether they represent a large Latino population in their district. Read more

 

Snyder: Measures would honor local heroes for their sacrifices

(Feb 11, 2015)

The state House unanimously approved Rep. Pam Snyder’s legislation honoring two members of America’s armed forces from southwestern Pennsylvania killed in action in Vietnam and Somalia. H.B. Bill 178 would name the Exit 28 Mon-Fayette Expressway Interchange in Washington County as the Marine Corporal Thomas R. Matty Memorial Interchange. H.B. 179 would designate the Route 88 bridge over Muddy Creek in Greene County as the Army Corporal Richard W. Kowalewski, Jr. Memorial Bridge. Read more

 

Davis unveils proposal for 8 percent severance tax on Marcellus gas

(Feb 09, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 9 – State Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, today unveiled her proposal to address the commonwealth’s budget and education crises with an overall 8 percent severance tax on Pennsylvania’s $11 billion Marcellus shale natural gas and oil industry. "Pennsylvania is the only major gas producing state not to tax production at the wellhead, and this corporate favoritism costs Pennsylvania dearly," Davis said. "It is time for producers to pay their fair share and provide fair funding for essential services for depleting this valuable resource." Davis noted that this week marks the three-year anniversary of former Gov. Tom Corbett’s signing the disastrous Act 13 Marcellus shale drilling law and its paltry impact fee with an effective tax rate of 1.9 percent. "My legislation would not affect the Act 13 impact fee or its distribution but build into it a warranted and sustainable revenue stream," Davis said. "Adding a 6 percent severance tax to the impact fee would raise substantial funding for our struggling public schools, including early childhood and basic education funding, as well as for the General Fund." Davis said her measure would put Pennsylvania closer to the mainstream of what major gas-producing states require from the industry. "My approach takes into account both the price of gas and the volume of the gas severed," Davis said in her co-sponsorship memo to House colleagues. Read more

 

Patty Kim to reintroduce minimum-wage increase bill

(Feb 09, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 9 – State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, announced she is reintroducing her legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage, which would help struggling families pay their bills and reduce their reliance on government assistance programs. “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 14 percent of Pennsylvanians are living in poverty,” Kim said. “Now is the time to start making Pennsylvania’s working families our top priority by increasing their wages.” Kim announced the reintroduction of the legislation, H.B.250, during a daylong event advocating for a minimum-wage increase hosted by the Raise the Wage Coalition, a statewide alliance of worker, religious, community, women’s and labor groups. Kim’s bill would increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour and then to $10.10 per hour a year later. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would boost the earnings of a full-time worker by more than $5,900 to $21,008. For a single mother with two children who works 40 hours per week, this would get her family above the poverty line, which is $19,790 for a household of three. Currently, someone earning minimum wage who works 40 hours per week only makes $15,080, which is more than $4,700 below the poverty line, requiring many people to use government assistance programs just to get by. House Bill 250 also includes an annual cost-of-living Read more

 

Harkins, Policy Committee examine commonwealth’s commitment to education funding
Mar 24, 2015

Caltagirone introduces constitutional amendment to prohibit the government from taking homes for unpaid property taxes
Mar 19, 2015

Schweyer, Policy Committee examine commonwealth’s job market, ways to make state economically competitive (with video)
Mar 19, 2015

Conklin to lead Children and Youth Committee
Mar 13, 2015

Donatucci reintroduces legislation to give workers paid sick leave
Mar 11, 2015

Rozzi announces career technical center’s ‘out of this world’ opportunity
Mar 06, 2015

Wolf budget would improve environmental protection
Mar 05, 2015

Roebuck: House GOP charter-school bill trying to wish away Gov. Wolf
Mar 04, 2015

Freeman introduces bill to encourage student success through peer tutoring
Mar 04, 2015

Schlossberg joins colleagues and health experts to support bipartisan vaccine proposal at Capitol news conference
Mar 02, 2015

Freeman introduces bills to expand participation in Main Street, CRIZ programs
Feb 26, 2015

House adopts Cruz resolution honoring Rep. Rosita Youngblood as first African-American female member of House leadership
Feb 25, 2015

Caltagirone bill to provide training to police and judges on mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism passes House, heads to Senate
Feb 24, 2015

Legislation introduced to reduce Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions
Feb 19, 2015

Mullery looks to close loophole in DUI law
Feb 19, 2015

Bizzarro: Bill would protect against theft of older adults' prescription medication
Feb 19, 2015

Cruz announces creation of bicameral, bipartisan Latino Affairs Caucus
Feb 12, 2015

Snyder: Measures would honor local heroes for their sacrifices
Feb 11, 2015

Davis unveils proposal for 8 percent severance tax on Marcellus gas
Feb 09, 2015

Patty Kim to reintroduce minimum-wage increase bill
Feb 09, 2015