'Deaths of despair' in economic stagnation and social immobility

(Mar 27, 2017)

In a decade increasingly dominated by Republican control of state legislatures, the very Americans they've promised to help the most have benefited the least. A new study from Princeton University shows a sharp rise in "deaths of despair" among middle-age working Americans. These skyrocketing rates of death from things like drugs, alcohol and suicide are unique in America -- they have occurred at the same time mortality rates have plunged among similar populations in other Western democracies. The Princeton study identifies a decades-long trend of economic stagnation and social immobility in the U.S. as an important factor. Wages stagnated or fell, benefits and pensions disappeared, and at the same time higher education and training became more necessary, both became less affordable and less accessible for many middle-class Americans. Working people without a college degree have experienced both real and perceived decreases in their economic and physical well-being. Real wages for working people without a college degree have fallen in the decades since the 1970s, while those people are far less likely to say they are in excellent or good health. “Traditional structures of social and economic support slowly weakened; no longer was it possible for a man to follow his father and grandfather into a manufacturing job, or to join the union,” the study authors write. Under Republican policies both in Read more

 

When you hear "right to work" -- ask "works for whom?"

(Mar 24, 2017)

Republican legislators in Pennsylvania are once again pursuing policies designed to reduce your wages while giving more power and influence to the corporations that pay the lowest wages and give Republicans the biggest contributions. Don't be lied to -- No one in Pennsylvania can be forced to join a union in order to get a job. This is federal law. Workers can't be forced to join a union if there is already one at the workplace, either. This is also federal law. And finally, workers cannot be forced to pay for union political activities in Pennsylvania -- even if they are union members. The only thing workers help pay for in union states like Pennsylvania -- without their written consent -- are the specific collective bargaining activities that directly benefit all of them. This is why Republicans are pushing so-called "right-to-work" laws so hard. These laws would allow workers who don't stand together with you to protect your pay and your job security to receive the same benefits you do. Republicans know that as these new laws shrink union funding and collective bargaining, even more power and influence will shift away from workers like you and toward the corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. "Right-to-Work" laws have nothing to do with creating new jobs or protecting yours. Workers in "right-to-work" states are NOT protected from being fired for any reason, or Read more

 

Fitzgerald/Kinsey host public meeting on 'Stop-and-Go' issues

(Mar 23, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA, March 23 – Philadelphia state Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and Stephen Kinsey today hosted a public meeting on the issues relating to stop-and-go establishments that sell alcohol and how they impact surrounding communities. "This is an opportunity to address this issue head on. Bringing everyone together under one roof allows concerns to be addressed and provides an avenue for all of us to be part of the solution," Fitzgerald said. "I remain committed to working with local and state agencies and organizations to reverse the negative trend of consequences associated with the nuisance establishments that are taking advantage of the state's liquor laws." In addition to discussing the effect of these stop-and-go establishments on a state level, the public meeting also addressed how these stores may disrupt local communities. "Overwhelmingly, this boils down to a public safety issue. The residents of northwest Philadelphia, south Philadelphia, northeast Philadelphia and the entire city deserve to live their lives without the problems caused by stop-and-go issues," Kinsey said. "I am encouraged by the actions taken today to ensure that we continue the conversation on how we can answer the public's call to provide them with the best quality of life as possible." Among the testifiers were Inspector Anthony L. Washington, Northwest Police Division commanding officer and personnel from Pennsylvania State Police Read more

 

Trumpcare -- a costly broken promise to Pennsylvanians and all Americans

(Mar 23, 2017)

Congress is scheduled to vote on the Republican healthcare repeal legislation on today. House Democrats join with the governor, local officials, doctors, hospital administrators, and tens of thousands of Pennsylvania residents to express our concern about the devastating impact a repeal would have in our state and on the health of our residents. Trumpcare will strip healthcare access for more than 1 million Pennsylvania residents and shift billions of dollars in costs to the state budget and our hospitals. The Medicaid cuts contained in the Trumpcare proposal could cost the state between $2.5 billion and $3 billion a year, kick more than a million people off of coverage and force the state legislature to make impossible decisions between paying for health care and funding schools, roads and bridges, clean air and water, and efforts to grow jobs and revitalize our communities and economy. The bill would sharply increase uncompensated care rates and expenses in Pennsylvania, costing hospitals billions and likely forcing some to close, particularly in rural and urban areas. Some of our more serious concerns about the Republican healthcare repeal legislation include: It allows insurance companies to charge older Pennsylvanians up to five times what they are allowed to charge younger Pennsylvanians for a policy. For many fixed-income senior citizens who would also lose the income-based premium assistance that is part of the Affordable Read more

 

Pa. House adopts Boyle resolution supporting Meals on Wheels as program faces federal cuts

(Mar 22, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Phila./Montgomery, is calling attention to the value of the Meals on Wheels program in Pennsylvania as the program faces proposed cuts in President Donald Trump's budget. The state House today adopted Boyle's H.R. 175 , designating March 22, 2017 as March for Meals Day in Pennsylvania. March for Meals is the annual campaign the Meals on Wheels Association of America sponsors to raise awareness of senior hunger. "Research indicates that 10.2 million seniors across the country, and nearly 320,000 seniors here in Pennsylvania, face the threat of hunger," Boyle said. "Now, more than ever, we must remind ourselves of the importance of Meals on Wheels, which could be headed for the budget chopping block in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration in defending cuts to the program made claims that Meals on Wheels is 'just not showing any results' and the program 'sounds great…but doesn’t work.'" "But the truth is – Meals on Wheels has shown some great results here in Pennsylvania, and across the country. In fact, according to a 2014 study conducted by the University of Illinois, programs like Meals on Wheels improve the quality of life for seniors. "According to the study, Meals on Wheels is showing results by offering an effective and vital nutritional and health program for seniors. And Meals on Wheels is showing results by helping to offset Read more

 

House panel advances Snyder bill on minors’ health services

(Mar 22, 2017)

State Rep. Pam Snyder reports that the House Human Services Committee has approved her legislation that would eliminate confusion over when a minor’s consent is needed for mental health examinations and other health services. Read more

 

Warren calls for toll tax credits for commuters, businesses

(Mar 21, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 21 – State Rep. Perry Warren introduced legislation today to establish a commuter and commerce toll tax credit program. House Bill 926, which is similar to a bill originally introduced in 2015-16 by former state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, would offer an annual state income tax credit of 50 percent of tolls paid, with a $500 cap per filer. Eligible tolls would include those on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and bridges across the Delaware River. Individuals, corporations and small businesses with tax liability would be eligible. “Many of our working families and local businesses use tolled routes frequently and would benefit from the relief this tax credit would bring,” Warren said. “Due to recent shifts in tolling rates and routes that remain un-tolled in Pennsylvania, commuters in the southeast wind up disproportionately paying for the rest of the state’s transportation infrastructure spending. This bill seeks to remedy that situation." The tax credit would also be extended to Pennsylvania residents and Pennsylvania-based companies that shoulder additional costs when accessing the toll bridges operated under the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Burlington County Bridge Commission. A U.S. Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Report found that Pennsylvania has the fourth most toll-road miles with 533, behind Read more

 

Income inequality is the result of intentional policy choices -- we can fix it

(Mar 21, 2017)

Wages for the vast majority of working Pennsylvanians have been stuck for decades. That's why even while people are working harder and their productivity is rising, they aren't feeling the recovery. Most working people feel like they are treading water, even while an ever-increasing share of economic growth goes to corporate profits and executive pay. This is a solvable problem. The solution to rising income inequality in Pennsylvania is wage growth for working people. Since income inequality is created in no small part by policies that allow labor standards, business practices and ideas of fairness to be manipulated in favor of corporations at the expense of their workers, we can rewrite the rules to bring some of that fairness and balance back in Pennsylvania. That's why House Democrats want to take a new way forward and put you and your family first. We can make wage growth a policy priority in Pennsylvania and, in doing so, boost jobs, our economy and you and your family's financial security. Boosting wages also helps government work better and more effectively for you. Policies that grow wages generate savings for government. Fewer dollars needed for safety-net and income-support programs make more revenues available for roads and bridges, good schools, clean air and water, and public health and safety. Raise the Minimum Wage - In 2015, the inflation-adjusted minimum wage was about 25 percent below Read more

 

Quality public schools help your children and your community thrive

(Mar 16, 2017)

Pennsylvania needs strong neighborhood public schools in every community. We have great schools in many areas of Pennsylvania, but in too many communities, schools don't get the resources they need to give every child an opportunity to succeed. Years of chronic underfunding have led to inequalities that negatively impact schools, students and families. Pennsylvania has the worst disparity in the United States between wealthy schools and poor schools. The careless cuts of the Corbett/Republican budgets in the first half of this decade accelerated the damage. At the same time our children were receiving less for their education, big corporations were getting bigger tax cuts to boost their profits and avoiding their fair share of the investments needed to build the workforce they rely on. Pennsylvania ranks 46 th in the nation in state share of support for its public schools. It is one of only 14 states with a regressive funding system -- meaning the fewest resources go to the poorest schools with the highest need. Last year, the General Assembly adopted a fair funding formula for basic education, but it only applies to new state funding -- only about 6 percent of total school spending. Unless you and your children live in a wealthy community, chances are they don't receive the same access to staff, resources and programs that kids in wealthier communities do -- and they will never catch up under Read more

 

Fitzgerald/Kinsey to host public meeting on 'Stop-and-Go' issues

(Mar 15, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA, March 15 – Philadelphia state Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and Stephen Kinsey will host a public meeting on the issues relating to stop-and-go convenience stores that sell alcohol and how they impact surrounding communities. It will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 23 at the Oak Lane Library, 6614 N. 12 th St., 19126. Along with the representatives, personnel from the Liquor Control Board and Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will be on hand to address concerns and discuss potential solutions. For more information, constituents can call Fitzgerald’s district office at (215) 549-0220 or Kinsey's district office at (215) 849-6592. Read more

 

PA benefits from supporting new moms at home and in the workplace

(Mar 15, 2017)

If you're the mother of an infant, you know how challenging life with a new baby can be. The healthcare services and protections provided by the Affordable Care Act have been important for you and your baby -- and the rest of your family. Democrats in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are extremely concerned about Republican efforts to move ahead with repeal of the law. Recently, Illinois U.S. Rep. John Shimkus questioned why men should have to help pay for prenatal care. This attitude isn’t surprising given that time and time again, Republicans have threatened protections and healthcare services for women and their children. Rolling back the Affordable Care Act will have widespread consequences not just for you, as a pregnant woman or new mom, but also for your child, for taxpayers and the economy. The average cost of maternity and newborn care in the U.S. ranges from $30,000 to $50,000. Before the ACA, these costs were a huge barrier to quality care for millions of women during pregnancy and the postnatal period. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, getting good prenatal care saves money you may have to otherwise spend on addressing complex medical issues later on. The ACA also requires health plans to cover screenings for the depression that some pregnant women and new moms experience, and helps breastfeeding mothers return to work sooner by making breast pumps free and requiring Read more

 

Healthcare for women EQUALS economic security for your family

(Mar 07, 2017)

Pennsylvania needs a healthcare system that works for all of us. That includes the more-than-50-percent of us who are women. The president and Republicans in Congress are threatening to repeal the Affordable Care Act and withhold federal funding from some groups that provide family planning and other legal health services for women. Special interests and some big insurance companies are behind this assault on women's health, trying to rewrite the rules to make it harder for millions of women to stay healthy, enjoy the economic opportunities they deserve, and support themselves and their families. We should demand that our elected officials stand up to these efforts, and protect affordable and equal healthcare access for our moms, daughters, wives and sisters. If federal funding for family planning services is cut, or Medicaid reimbursements decline under an ACA repeal, many women's health clinics may close their doors. Women are concerned that the contraceptive services that are important to their health and their family's financial security may vanish. While the ACA currently protects contraceptive coverage for women, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has the discretion to remove it from the list of preventive services covered by the ACA. President's Trump's Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, has said that federal funding for birth control is "unnecessary" and Read more

 

We need a healthcare system that works for ALL of us -- not just the healthy and wealthy

(Mar 07, 2017)

As anticipated, Republicans in Congress unveiled legislation that represents healthcare for the healthy and wealthy but ignores the healthcare needs and pocketbooks of working people and middle class Americans. The legislation does not replace the Affordable Care Act, nor does it fix or improve the current law. It simply paves the way to take health insurance coverage and critical health care away from millions of Pennsylvanians and other Americans. The Republican bill would repeal some of the most important pieces of the Affordable Care Act, the ones that led to more than 20 million people gaining insurance since that law's enactment in 2010 -- including 1 million Pennsylvanians. Republicans get rid of the individual mandate. While the mandate was unpopular, it also was the key to making sure that young, healthy people were in the insurance market and premiums were kept affordable for everyone. Without the mandate, there is no mechanism to keep insurance care costs reasonable, since the Republican plan does not address rising medical or prescription costs in any way. While the Republican plan keeps the ACA requirement that insurers accept everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions, it allows insurance companies to charge a 30 percent surcharge to anyone who drops coverage and then needs to re-enroll. This will allow insurance companies to make millions in excess profits while keeping many people from getting coverage Read more

 

Dawkins condemns DA’s decision to seek life without parole for juveniles

(Mar 06, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA, March 6 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., voiced his strong opposition to District Attorney Seth Williams’ decision to seek life without parole sentences in at least three cases with juvenile defendants. “Last year, District Attorney Williams did what was right, and announced that he would no longer pursue life without parole for those under 18 years old,” Dawkins said. “It is disheartening to see him go back on his word, and I condemn in the strongest terms his decision to revive a punishment the Supreme Court has called cruel and unusual.” In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court later held in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its decision in Miller applied retroactively. Dawkins said as the courts began resentencing hearings, Williams announced that his office “will not be asking for cases going forward for life without the possibility of parole for people under the age of 18” in order “to give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel.” “I hope that the district attorney returns to his original position, and provides these individuals – whose decades in prison began in their teenage years – what he once called ‘some light at the end of the tunnel,’” Dawkins said. Read more

 

Snyder measure would help pay basic utilities for volunteer fire companies

(Mar 03, 2017)

Rep. Pam Snyder introduces legislation that would enable fire relief funds to be used to pay basic utility costs at volunteer fire company stations. Read more

 

Warren introduces legislation requiring schools to provide information to parents on eating disorders

(Mar 02, 2017)

HARRISBURG, March 2 – Legislation requiring schools to provide parents of children in grades 5 through 12 with information about eating disorders was introduced in the House by state Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks. “Eating disorders are real and devastating,” Warren said. “These complex conditions have serious health consequences that impact a person’s productivity and relationships.” The legislation (H.B. 531) also would create guidelines for local school boards that exercise an optional development of an eating-disorder screening program with appropriate opt-out and exemption procedures, specify training requirements for personnel and volunteers, and provide the framework for parental notification procedures in the event of a positive indication of an eating disorder. “We have a responsibility to ensure that our children have a way to get the help they need,” Warren said. “These serious conditions are not fads, phases or lifestyle choices, but are potentially life-threatening conditions that affect emotional and physical health. The earlier we can provide help to those who are struggling with an eating disorder, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.” Warren explained that H.B. 531 would make accessing help easier for a child suffering from an eating disorder, as school districts would have materials and resources for parents readily available, and if needed Read more

 

House Democrats fighting for a Pennsylvania that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few

(Mar 02, 2017)

Everyone who works hard and works full-time should earn enough to support themselves. It's ridiculous that important jobs such as nurses' assistants, preschool teachers and even paramedics pay such low wages -- in some cases not enough to stay out of poverty. The minimum wage is so low in Pennsylvania that it is holding down the wages of other workers. It's costing you money by forcing tens of thousands of full-time working people and their families to rely on services subsidized by you and other taxpayers. Powerful corporations are using their influence to keep things that way. They are trying to convince you and your legislators that better pay for you is bad for small businesses. But we know better. Working people, small businesses and the middle class are the real engines of the economy. The more money that goes into your pocket, the more money gets spent at businesses on Main Street -- and that helps grow small businesses and allows our communities to thrive. Pennsylvania's neighbors are proving that. Our minimum wage is the lowest around -- but Pennsylvania isn't attracting jobs away from neighboring states, and their economies are doing better. Workers in those states are looking forward to extra money to spend each week, and their small businesses are looking forward to more customers. Tens of thousands of full-time workers in our state don't have anything to look forward to but another month without the means to pay the rent Read more

 

Gov. Tom Wolf's budget is a new way forward for PA

(Feb 23, 2017)

Throughout this first week of House Appropriations Committee hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf's 2017-18 budget proposal, Republicans have been working hard in the press to pick apart his plan forward for PA before the ink is even dry on the page. So it might be surprising to discover that some Republicans are walking around the Capitol at the same time calling his proposal a "Republican" budget. Sorry, Republicans, you don't get to take credit for someone else's sensible and responsible ideas while ignoring your own dangerous and irresponsible ones. Gov. Tom Wolf's new way forward on the PA budget bears no resemblance to the Republican budgets of the past -- the ones they passed under Gov. Tom Corbett. The ones that featured irresponsible across-the-board cuts that decimated your kids' schools, increased your property and other local taxes, and crippled efforts to protect air and water quality and community health and safety. The governor's new way forward features a strategy that’s' completely different: 1. Protect and expand the important gains Pennsylvania made over the past two years -- working together -- to invest in schools, improve public health, and restore crucial services that suffered after the cuts of 2011. 2. Pursue cost savings and efficiency in government by reducing bureaucracy and consolidating agencies where possible, while maintaining and even improving services for residents and Read more

 

Warren introduces bill to examine flood mapping, insurance

(Feb 21, 2017)

YARDLEY, Feb. 21 – State Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks, introduced a bill this month to create the Flood Insurance Premium Assistance Task Force in Pennsylvania. The task force would study the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act’s effect on premiums for flood insurance, the latest FEMA flood maps that classify new flood zones and the federal discount program to identify areas and neighborhoods that need additional assistance to keep flood-insurance premiums affordable. “Flood zones shift and can cause someone who didn’t need flood insurance before to now need it. That can cause a significant change in a homeowner’s budget,” Warren said. “We need to examine these issues closely.” According to the National Flood Insurance Program, Pennsylvania is among the 10 highest states for flood insurance payouts between January 1978 and March 2011, ranking eighth at $773 million. Warren added that almost every legislative district is impacted by the new flood maps and the flood insurance premium increases. House Bill 530, which has been referred to the House Insurance Committee , has bipartisan support and would address the impact upon residents across Pennsylvania. It would require that the task force, comprised of nine appointed members from state government, issue a final report within six months of its creation. The task force’s recommendations would include: Potential programs that provide premium Read more

 

Sturla comments on governor’s 2017-18 budget proposal

(Feb 07, 2017)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, released the following response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address for the 2017-18 fiscal year: “This year’s budget proposal seems like a smart approach to helping all Pennsylvanians while rethinking government efficiencies. The governor intends to make consolidations and cuts where necessary, while not jeopardizing gains we’ve made in education and health care, especially for those suffering from addiction. “There are investments in education and efforts to help more individuals with intellectual disabilities. The plan also includes additional funding to battle the statewide opioid crisis. “I especially applaud his proposal that would require municipalities who currently receive local police coverage for free from the Pennsylvania State Police to share in the costs. I have been fighting for years on this issue because it is unfair for 20 percent of the state’s population to get free police coverage while the rest of us pay for them and our own local police. “At first glance, the plan seems like a good starting point and I look forward to learning more in the coming weeks about how it could impact our state agencies.” Read more

 

'Deaths of despair' in economic stagnation and social immobility
Mar 27, 2017

When you hear "right to work" -- ask "works for whom?"
Mar 24, 2017

Fitzgerald/Kinsey host public meeting on 'Stop-and-Go' issues
Mar 23, 2017

Trumpcare -- a costly broken promise to Pennsylvanians and all Americans
Mar 23, 2017

Pa. House adopts Boyle resolution supporting Meals on Wheels as program faces federal cuts
Mar 22, 2017

House panel advances Snyder bill on minors’ health services
Mar 22, 2017

Warren calls for toll tax credits for commuters, businesses
Mar 21, 2017

Income inequality is the result of intentional policy choices -- we can fix it
Mar 21, 2017

Quality public schools help your children and your community thrive
Mar 16, 2017

Fitzgerald/Kinsey to host public meeting on 'Stop-and-Go' issues
Mar 15, 2017

PA benefits from supporting new moms at home and in the workplace
Mar 15, 2017

Healthcare for women EQUALS economic security for your family
Mar 07, 2017

We need a healthcare system that works for ALL of us -- not just the healthy and wealthy
Mar 07, 2017

Dawkins condemns DA’s decision to seek life without parole for juveniles
Mar 06, 2017

Snyder measure would help pay basic utilities for volunteer fire companies
Mar 03, 2017

Warren introduces legislation requiring schools to provide information to parents on eating disorders
Mar 02, 2017

House Democrats fighting for a Pennsylvania that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few
Mar 02, 2017

Gov. Tom Wolf's budget is a new way forward for PA
Feb 23, 2017

Warren introduces bill to examine flood mapping, insurance
Feb 21, 2017

Sturla comments on governor’s 2017-18 budget proposal
Feb 07, 2017