HARRISBURG IS BROKEN; Progress on the public's priorities hinges on fixing it

(Apr 08, 2016)

On Thursday, Gov. Wolf signed executive orders that will protect state employees under his jurisdiction, as well as employees of contractors doing business with the state, from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or identity. New laws in North Carolina and Mississippi that expressly permit businesses and other groups to discriminate against LGBT residents are causing great controversy and have had serious economic repercussions in those states. What many people don't realize is that in Pennsylvania it is already legal for an employer to fire an employee based on his spouse, or a business to deny service or accommodations to someone because of her sexual orientation. That's something some legislators have been trying to fix for years, most recently with H.B. 1510 . But that legislation, which a strong majority of Pennsylvanians support, has gone nowhere in the legislature. Similarly, a few weeks ago Gov. Wolf signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for hundreds of state workers because legislation to give all low-wage earners in Pennsylvania -- and the state's economy -- a much-needed boost (H.B. 250 ) has languished in the legislature without a vote. In addition to a fair wage for all workers and equal treatment under the law for all Pennsylvanians, a significant majority of Pennsylvanians also want quality schools for all kids, higher education that students and families can afford, budgets that are balanced Read more

 

Krueger-Braneky bill would limit lobbyist influence on campaigns

(Apr 07, 2016)

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, today announced plans to introduce a bill that will more clearly separate lobbying and campaign activities. Read more

 

DeLissio bill would improve transparency and accountability on money spent in elections

(Apr 07, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 7 – Concerned about the influence that special interests and advocacy groups have on elections, state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., plans to introduce a bill that would require disclosure of expenditures for political communications. "Everyone has the right to make their voices heard, but with the proliferation of political and issue advertising in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, it's difficult to know who is behind the advertising," DeLissio said. "My legislation would not restrict those voices, but help level the playing field by improving transparency and accountability regarding the money spent to influence elections." DeLissio’s bill would require individuals, advocacy groups and special interests engaging in organized political communication to register with the Department of State and file regular disclosure reports. "This would be similar to the reports that candidates and political parties are already required to file during election cycles. The reports would list the names of people and entities that contribute to the sponsors of the advertising," she said. Under the bill, any advertisement or message that refers to a candidate or elected official would be considered "political communication," and if the message or advertisement was made within 60 days of an election, it automatically would be considered political communication, Read more

 

Bizzarro bill to curb animal cruelty passes Pa. House

(Apr 05, 2016)

HARRISBURG, April 5 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved legislation proposed by state Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, designed to cut down on and prevent animal cruelty throughout the commonwealth. "Today’s passage of H.B. 869 sends a clear message that we won’t tolerate animal abuse in Pennsylvania," Bizzarro said. "We’ve all heard the horrific stories of animals being left for dead in homes where they’re not properly cared for. My legislation would help ensure these animals find the loving homes they deserve." Under Bizzarro’s bill, anyone convicted of animal abuse with a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, or a felony, would be required to forfeit their animals to shelters or other organizations dedicated to preventing animal cruelty. It also would permit the court considering an animal abuse case to order a person convicted of summary offenses or a third-degree misdemeanor to forfeit their animals to shelters. Bizzarro added that besides alleviating stress to the animals, the bill would help cut costs throughout communities. "Unfortunately, there are many animal abusers who are repeat offenders," Bizzarro said. "Not only are these offenders repeatedly bringing harm to our animals, but they also cost us money in further seizures and law enforcement checks. This legislation, sponsored in a bipartisan fashion, not only makes for sound fiscal policy, but it’s morally the Read more

 

Legislators urge approval of drilling regulations

(Mar 31, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 31 – A group of nearly 20 state House members led by state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today sent a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission urging approval of regulations that would make gas drilling safer in Pennsylvania. IRRC, the agency created to review commonwealth agency regulations to ensure they are in the public interest, is scheduled to consider the regulations at its April 21 hearing. Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said the regulations would enhance public resource protections, including those for state parks and forests, playgrounds, schools and public water supplies; provide for pre-drilling review of potential abandoned and operating wells; require water supply restoration standards for operators who degrade a water supply; and enhanced spill reporting and clean-up requirements. The Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites regulations were promulgated in accordance with Act 13 of 2012, and have not been updated since 2001, so modernizing them is critical to ensure protection of Pennsylvania’s environment, the group’s letter states. The drilling industry opposes the regulations and on March 24, the Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association filed a suit in Commonwealth Court challenging them. The House and Senate can stop the regulations by passing a concurrent resolution disapproving them, which must be signed by Read more

 

Krueger-Braneky: Fiscal code veto a win for environment and clean air

(Mar 24, 2016)

State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware, released the following statement on Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to veto the fiscal code bill: “This entire budget process has been a disappointment. From the lackadaisical attitude of the Republican leadership and their refusal to compromise, to the Speaker of the House adjourning session in December when we were poised to end this impasse, it has been a sobering look at how partisan Harrisburg has become. Read more

 

Gov. Wolf right to let Republicans own their policies

(Mar 23, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 23 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, released this statement following Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement that he will allow the most recent budget proposal to become law without his signature: “Governor Wolf has made extensive efforts to work with legislators on both of sides of the aisle to craft a budget that provides for the needs of all Pennsylvanians, pays down the structural budget deficit and improves our fiscal outlook. Unfortunately, Republican majorities repeatedly sent unbalanced budgets that protect special interests and continue to increase the structural deficit to the governor’s desk. After three separate attempts by the governor at compromise over nearly 10 months, a change in direction had to happen. “By simply allowing this budget to stand without his signature, the governor forces the Republican majorities to own their failed policies in this budget. Time is already telling by the multiple credit downgrades from independent credit rating agencies. We’ve seen increased school property taxes, teacher and school staff layoffs, increased class sizes and plummeting test scores in our school districts. Pennsylvania cannot afford to go down this same path, but that is the only path that Republicans will allow for now. “In the interest of moving forward and focusing efforts on the 2016-17 budget, I stand with the governor and hope we can focus on finding sustainable revenue sources that produce Read more

 

Snyder bill exempting local farm markets, stands from sign requirement fees passes House

(Mar 22, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 22 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved a bill introduced by state Rep. Pam Snyder that would exempt from the state's fee requirements signs for local farmers' markets and farm stands along highways. "Our local agricultural businesses such as farmer's markets and farm stands provide fresh, nutritional food to Pennsylvanians, while at the same time enhancing our local business efforts," Snyder said. Current regulations require a permit and fee in order to have an off-premises sign advertising a business. Snyder's legislation would exempt farmers' markets and farm stands from this requirement for any state routes that do not receive federal funding. PennDOT still may set the size, number and proximity of the signs. Snyder introduced the bill after a family-owned farm in her district was told to remove signs advertising their farm stand from the state route right-of-way. "It is important that PennDOT ensures the orderly and effective display of outdoor advertising, while protecting the state's natural beauty along our roadways. But it is equally valuable that family farming should be supported, especially since agriculture is an important industry in our commonwealth," Snyder said. "The bill that passed today would benefit both the farmer and consumers seeking fresh produce, while continuing PennDOT's oversight." The bill now goes to the state Senate for Read more

 

Legislators join Cruz in call for support of lead-testing legislation

(Mar 22, 2016)

Citing the tragedy unfolding in Flint, Michigan, state Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., was joined by a bipartisan group of legislators today calling for support of a legislation package that aims to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in Pennsylvania. Read more

 

Government that works and government that doesn't; Pennsylvanians saw both this week

(Mar 18, 2016)

Pennsylvanians got to see the two sides of Harrisburg on March 16. First, the positive side. Months after the state Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, a large bipartisan majority of representatives were able to use the persistent pressure and advocacy of thousands of patients and families to finally pass a similar bill in the House. Success came only after supporters were able to overcome months of obstruction by a few powerful legislators who opposed the bill. It was a great example of legislators working in a bipartisan fashion to pass commonsense -- and in this case compassionate -- legislation that will relieve suffering and benefit tens of thousands of Pennsylvania citizens. Important work remains to be done; the House and Senate versions of the bill still have to be aligned before the governor signs it, but Pennsylvania finally seems ready to enact a legal, well-controlled and effective medical marijuana program that will allow many doctors to provide the help their patients need. Unfortunately, the latest budget action this week also demonstrated the worst side of Harrisburg…the part that increasingly seems broken. Back in December, the House and Senate were hours away from taking the votes necessary to finalize a state budget that not only would have provided the funding needed for schools and human services, but also would have laid the foundation for sustained funding in future years, paid Read more

 

Kinsey honors the late Rep. John Myers

(Mar 16, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 16– State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila., along with many of his colleagues paid tribute to the late Rep. John Myers in the House chamber today. Kinsey previously worked as chief of staff for Myers. “It was a humbling experience to honor such an admired and respected man who served admirably in this esteemed body for 17 years," Kinsey said. "It was important to ensure that Representative Myers' contributions to his community, to his people, be inscribed in the history of the Hall of the House." Myers was born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He attended local schools, including Germantown High School, and then entered the U.S. Navy, serving his country in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. Myers was re-elected to eight consecutive House terms. “He was the kind of man who didn’t back down; he tackled many crucial issues – issues that focused on gun safety, crime, the rights of people, public safety, health, economic development,” Kinsey said. During Myers’ terms in the House, he served on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the Liquor Control Committee. He served as a subcommittee chairman on both the Appropriations Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee, working his way up to become the Democratic chairman of the Health Committee. Retiring from the House of Representatives in 2012, Myers focused his attention to community concerns, Read more

 

Gainey lauds House passage of medical marijuana bill

(Mar 16, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Ed Gainey praised today’s House passage of legislation ( S.B. 3 ) that would legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. “It’s about time that we help Pennsylvania families who have been asking for this bill for several years. While some people in Harrisburg sought to delay the legislation, family advocates continued to watch their loved ones suffer from debilitating illnesses, all the while encouraging passage of the bill,” said Gainey, D-Allegheny. “We need to listen to them and medical professionals who support medical marijuana and we need to give it a chance. “The drug policies we have in place just don’t work. They haven’t worked for 30 years. If a doctor can prescribe opioids that are highly addictive and have led to many deaths, why can’t we make sure that medical marijuana can help families who are experiencing pain and suffering? There are no overdose deaths related to marijuana.” Gainey served on a bipartisan House task force that studied the issue throughout the summer and fall and recommended changes to the bill. Several amendments were added to the bill including one by Gainey to ensure diversity among medical marijuana businesses to include veteran, minority and women participants. The Pittsburgh lawmaker said this week’s House action is a big step in the process of medical marijuana becoming law because it’s the first time the House passed Read more

 

Daley lauds bipartisan support for redistricting reform

(Mar 16, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 16 – State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, today joined House and Senate Democrats and Republicans at the state Capitol to rally support for redistricting reform legislation. The bipartisan and bicameral redistricting reform group and its legislation has seven core principles: Assign redistricting authority to an independent citizens commission; reform both congressional and legislative redistricting; prohibit districts from being drawn to favor or discriminate against a political party or candidate; use statistically sound methodology when setting district boundaries; ensure transparency in the process with meaningful opportunities for active public participation; make all districts as equal in population as possible with a minimum range of deviation; and respect political subdivisions and communities of interest. "The political representation currently in Pennsylvania has made the commonwealth a national example of gerrymandering at its worst," Daley said. "Redistricting should result in a fair map, putting aside partisan interests and protecting the interests of the voters." Daley added that as a member of the redistricting reform group, she has authored legislation ( H.B. 878 ) that would create more openness and fairness in the redistricting process. "My legislation would require a commission to consider plans drawn by Pennsylvania residents, hold public meetings on those plans, and establish a website to share the Read more

 

Mullery introduces legislation to prohibit drones from interfering with outdoor sportsmen activities

(Mar 14, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 14 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery today introduced legislation that would prohibit individuals and organizations from using drones to interfere with lawful hunting, fishing, and boating activities. House Bill 1896 would make operating a drone a punishable offense when it intrudes on a person who is partaking in outdoor sportsmen activities. It also would make it a punishable offense to use a drone that interferes with someone engaging in the lawful taking of wildlife or other permitted activities. Mullery said while some drone operators claim they are operating them to spot illegal activities, many times, they are disrupting a law-abiding citizen’s leisure time, whether they are hunting, fishing, or boating. "The reality is that operating drones in this matter is becoming an overwhelming nuisance," said Mullery, D-Newport Township. "Many of these folks enjoying the great outdoors of Pennsylvania are doing so legally and they shouldn’t be disturbed by someone using a drone who thinks there may be illegal activity going on." Mullery added several states have already enacted laws making it an offense to use a drone to interfere with hunting and fishing activities. Read more

 

Governor leads by example on call for minimum wage increase; Republicans continue game of musical chairs on budget

(Mar 11, 2016)

House Democrats have been advocating for a minimum wage increase in Pennsylvania for years. This week, Gov. Tom Wolf jump-started that effort by signing an executive order increasing the wage to $10.15 for about 450 low-wage state workers. In addition to moving these workers closer to a living wage, the governor was clearly calling for the legislature to increase the minimum wage for the rest of the 1 million-plus Pennsylvanians trying to afford rent, groceries and other necessities on the current minimum of $7.25, which leaves a family of two below the federal poverty line. Public support for a minimum wage increase in Pennsylvania is above 70 percent. Raising the wage is about fairness and economic justice: every state around Pennsylvania has a higher minimum wage. But it's also about boosting our state's economy. Raising the minimum wage would put more money in the pockets of low-wage workers, money that would be spent on goods and services in our small businesses. The Economic Policy Institute reports that raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania would boost demand and productivity, create as many as 5,000 new jobs and have an economic impact in Pennsylvania worth more than $1 billion. It would also boost revenues for the state budget by $60 million – an important consideration as we try to find ways to fund education and fix the state's growing structural deficit. Speaking of the state budget and structural deficit, three weeks of House and Read more

 

Galloway to lead House committee

(Mar 02, 2016)

HARRISBURG, March 2 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody announced that Rep. John Galloway will become Democratic chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee. Galloway, D-Bucks, has served on the committee for 10 years and is currently the Democratic vice chairman. “Chairman Galloway is committed to standing up for Pennsylvania’s working families. He’s someone who can reach across the aisle to build coalitions and get things done,” Dermody said. “John’s long background on the committee and his familiarity with key people in labor and industry will help him to hit the ground running as chairman. “With bills pending on the minimum wage, workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation, John’s knowledge and his ability to reach consensus solutions will be put to use as Democrats work to protect the wages and hard-won rights of working people,” Dermody said. Galloway looks forward to the challenge. “I’m honored to chair this important committee after making an effort over the years to understand all sides of labor issues,” Galloway said. “As demonstrated by my work on difficult issues such as the 2012 law to apply the federal E-Verify system to all public works projects, we can get more done in Pennsylvania when legislators work together across party lines.” The House has 23 standing committees which review proposed legislation and regulations. Committee chairs are Read more

 

Mullery legislation to help ease burden on club licensees

(Jan 26, 2016)

HARRISBURG, Jan. 26 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, today introduced legislation that would help ease the reporting and fundraising burdens on club licensees under the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act. Currently, state law requires clubs with proceeds exceeding $20,000 in a year to submit annual reports. These reports provide information on proceeds from each game of chance and the amount of prizes awarded, itemized weekly. Mullery said his legislation would change that requirement from weekly to quarterly. "House Bill 1807 does not change the information provided to the state -- it simply eases the reporting timeline," Mullery said. "Filling out this necessary paperwork would not be as burdensome for our veteran and fraternal organizations and other nonprofit clubs." Mullery's bill also would increase the fundraising limit from $40,000 annually to $60,000 annually, allowing clubs to satisfy their charitable mission. Read more

 

Sturla calls on Republicans to address structural deficit in ongoing budget negotiations

(Oct 07, 2015)

HARRISBURG, Oct. 7 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, said he voted today to eliminate the structural deficit and adequately fund education and human services. “Structural deficit spending has been going on for seven years now and it’s catching up with the state. Pennsylvania has received five credit downgrades in the past three years. The amendment that was defeated today would have addressed the deficit and went a long way in restoring the cuts to education and human services over the past administration’s tenure,” Sturla explained. Sturla said that while he is disappointed that the legislation did not pass, he pleased that legislators across the aisle are acknowledging the state’s fiscal problems. “It took 99 days for Republicans to finally acknowledge that there is a structural budget deficit. Moving forward, that information needs to be just as much a part of negotiations as adequately funding schools, human service and property tax relief for our most vulnerable citizens,” Sturla said. “It’s taken years for the poor fiscal management of years’ past to catch up with the state and result in credit downgrades. We need to act now to improve our finances because it will take years of sound decisions to climb out of the hole.” Sturla also noted that a modest personal income tax would keep Pennsylvania among the lowest personal income taxes in the nation. “The structural budget Read more

 

Sturla calls on Republicans to end political gamesmanship and move a responsible Pa. Budget

(Aug 25, 2015)

HARRISBURG, August 25 – Two months past the June 30 state budget deadline, state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, called on Republicans to stop wasting time and negotiate a responsible budget for all Pennsylvanians. “Today’s political stunt was a waste of time and attempted overrides of a line-item budget that was vetoed by the governor. It’s a charade that makes it appear as though the same people that are responsible for the 10 percent cuts to human services are now looking out for our most vulnerable citizens. The bottom line is, today’s stunt won’t filter money to these organizations any faster and it won’t restore those cuts.” Sturla said Republicans should work on a budget that doesn’t contain accounting gimmicks and adjustments that result in structural deficits, and ultimately have led to five credit rating downgrades for the state over the last three years. “This is an unconstitutional process that is giving false hope to our local human service providers. I would implore my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to stop with the political gamesmanship and invest their time engaging in meaningful negotiations and concessions that move Pennsylvania forward, restore their cuts to education and human services and lift Pennsylvania from the bottom of the pack in job creation.” Read more

 

Sturla says 2015-16 budget perpetuates mistakes of years past

(Jun 27, 2015)

HARRISBURG, June 27 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, said he voted against a Republican spending plan that fails to restore education funding, address the structural deficit or bring any property tax relief to Pennsylvania homeowners. “For the past four years, Republicans who controlled the legislature in both the House and Senate, along with a Republican governor, passed one irresponsible budget after another. Four years of mismanagement eliminated 20,000 teachers and school staff resulting in larger class sizes, declining test scores and skyrocketing local property taxes. It caused the Commonwealth credit rating to be downgraded multiple times and allowed the Commonwealth to drop from seventh in job creation to 50 th . We cannot afford another year of the same irresponsible policies that have placed the state in its current fiscal predicament and that’s what this budget proposal does,” Sturla said. Sturla said the plan over-projects future revenues and relies on one-time revenue sources and accounting gimmicks, guaranteeing a built-in structural deficit for next year. “This is another budget that runs the state into the ground. It puts off Social Security payments as an accounting gimmick to ring in a ‘balanced’ budget. Pennsylvania families can’t fudge the numbers to balance their budget and there are serious ramifications for putting off paying the Commonwealth’s obligations. The numbers tell the story and Read more

 

HARRISBURG IS BROKEN; Progress on the public's priorities hinges on fixing it
Apr 08, 2016

Krueger-Braneky bill would limit lobbyist influence on campaigns
Apr 07, 2016

DeLissio bill would improve transparency and accountability on money spent in elections
Apr 07, 2016

Bizzarro bill to curb animal cruelty passes Pa. House
Apr 05, 2016

Legislators urge approval of drilling regulations
Mar 31, 2016

Krueger-Braneky: Fiscal code veto a win for environment and clean air
Mar 24, 2016

Gov. Wolf right to let Republicans own their policies
Mar 23, 2016

Snyder bill exempting local farm markets, stands from sign requirement fees passes House
Mar 22, 2016

Legislators join Cruz in call for support of lead-testing legislation
Mar 22, 2016

Government that works and government that doesn't; Pennsylvanians saw both this week
Mar 18, 2016

Kinsey honors the late Rep. John Myers
Mar 16, 2016

Gainey lauds House passage of medical marijuana bill
Mar 16, 2016

Daley lauds bipartisan support for redistricting reform
Mar 16, 2016

Mullery introduces legislation to prohibit drones from interfering with outdoor sportsmen activities
Mar 14, 2016

Governor leads by example on call for minimum wage increase; Republicans continue game of musical chairs on budget
Mar 11, 2016

Galloway to lead House committee
Mar 02, 2016

Mullery legislation to help ease burden on club licensees
Jan 26, 2016

Sturla calls on Republicans to address structural deficit in ongoing budget negotiations
Oct 07, 2015

Sturla calls on Republicans to end political gamesmanship and move a responsible Pa. Budget
Aug 25, 2015

Sturla says 2015-16 budget perpetuates mistakes of years past
Jun 27, 2015