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Ciresi introduces legislation to support child mental health workforce

(7 hours ago)

HARRISBURG, March 31 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, introduced H.B. 725 and H.B. 726 to support the mental health workforce. “Pennsylvania’s children need adequate mental health support, but the mental health profession has been depleted by underfunding, provider and staffing shortages, and insufficient programs and access,” Ciresi said. “Especially as the need for mental health services challenges the system’s capacity, we need to address the profession’s recruitment and burnout. My two bills would help retain and recruit highly qualified individuals into the mental health field and ensure that our children receive the quality care they need.” The bills were produced in response to the Joint State Government Commission’s study on the shortage of mental health care professionals in Pennsylvania. The commission reported that Pennsylvania has a below-average number of mental health care providers per capita, and the trend is worsening. The commission recommended greater financial assistance for mental health professionals to reduce the cost barrier of higher education and attract more individuals to the field. The issues highlighted in the commission’s 2020 report only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw higher demand for mental health services and added to the workforce shortage. H.B. 725 would establish a student loan forgiveness program specifically for students seeking undergraduate or Read more

Benham, Kenyatta and Smith-Wade-El introduce bill to protect minors from conversion therapy in PA

(8 hours ago)

HARRISBURG, March 31 – State Reps. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny; Izzy Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster; and Malcom Kenyatta, D-Phila., have introduced legislation (H.B. 575) to protect minors from conversion therapy. “There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that tells us efforts to change an individual’s sexual identity through so-called ‘therapy’ causes serious harm to their mental health,” said state Benham, who co-chairs the PA LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “It is shameful that in 2023 Pennsylvania still allows the abhorrent practice known as conversion therapy to occur, and I am looking forward to outlawing it to protect and affirm LGBTQ+ youth across our Commonwealth.” “Conversion therapy is anti-gay bias masquerading as science,” said Smith-Wade-El. “This abusive practice has caused immense harm on patients, including depression, trauma, drug use, homelessness and suicide. It reinforces the idea that there is something psychologically wrong with LGBTQ people because of their sexual identity. It’s long past time that PA joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia in banning this abhorrent practice to protect the physical and psychological well-being of LGBTQ minors.” The legislation, the Protection of Minors from Conversion Therapy Act, seeks to address harms associated with conversion therapy by prohibiting a mental health professional from engaging in this archaic treatment with an Read more

Hearing House testimony, Warren introduces 3 commonsense gun safety bills

(1 day ago)

HARRISBURG, March 30 – Following the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun safety last week, state Rep. Perry Warren reintroduced three bills directly addressing the gun safety concerns heard during testimony. The committee hearing, called by the new Democratic majority, included testimony relating to the pressing needs for safe-storage, lost-and-stolen, and background-check legislation. After the hearing, Warren promptly reintroduced bills he had introduced in the prior legislative session, each of which would address an aspect of the recommendations of the testifiers at the hearing. House Bills 712, 713 and 714 would address these widely supported measures, said Warren, D-Bucks. “Majority Chairman Tim Briggs organized this hearing as the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee this session. Pennsylvanians support policies that will reduce violence and unnecessary loss of life involving guns,” he said. “Guns are involved in suicide, domestic violence, accidents, gang violence and mass shootings – and all signs point to these three basic policies as proven life savers.” Victims, second victims and advocates took turns Thursday outlining support for laws in Pennsylvania to ensure that stolen or missing guns are reported to law enforcement, guns in homes are safely stored and that long-gun sales at shows, stores or private sales are included in standard background checks. “The experts and advocates who Read more

Scott attends House Majority Policy Committee hearing on housing crisis

(1 day ago)

HARRISBURG, March 30 – State Rep. Greg Scott, D-Montgomery, attended the House Majority Policy Committee hearing on Tuesday on the housing crisis in Pennsylvania, which is negatively impacting Pennsylvania’s residents and economy. “Our community is in an unprecedented housing crisis,” Scott said. “At this week’s policy hearing on the issue, I learned that one of the big problems we are facing is the fact that the housing crisis is seen as a ‘low-income issue’ and often disregarded. In fact, the housing crisis is negatively impacting residents from all income levels throughout the state. By changing the narrative to focus on the breadth of people affected by this crisis, we will be able to garner political support for creative solutions to resolve this problem. No one in Pennsylvania should be without an affordable and safe place to live.” A report in 2022 faulted communities failing to produce enough housing options to meet housing needs for the widespread growth of the crisis. Tuesday’s House Majority Policy hearing featured testimony from Michaela Allwine and Jocelynn Ritchey from Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Holly Beck from the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and Lisette Rivera and Stephanie Thomas from Families in Transition. The committee pointed out that the housing crisis is having adverse effects on all income levels, not just low-income Pennsylvanians. Read more

Majority Policy Committee examines affordable housing crisis

(Mar 28, 2023)

“There is not a corner of our commonwealth or a corner of our nation not affected by a lack of affordable housing,” said hearing host Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El, who represents portions of Lancaster. “While our caucus continues to lead the way on issues, including education and employment, all of that work will be undermined if we cannot address the affordable housing crisis and ensure our families will be able to a find a place to lay their head every night.” Read more

Ciresi, James introduce legislation to create tax credit to rehabilitate and preserve historic homes

(Mar 28, 2023)

HARRISBURG, March 28 – State Reps. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, and R. Lee James, R-Venango, introduced legislation on Monday to create the Historic Homeownership Preservation Incentive Tax Credit in Pennsylvania. The proposed legislation would allow homeowners with a plan to rehabilitate their historic home located in a qualified census tract to receive tax credits towards the rehabilitation project. “Historic preservation preserves our cultural and historic resources for future generations, and plays a key role in revitalizing communities, creating jobs, supporting local tax bases, and improving quality of life,” Ciresi said. “Currently, Pennsylvania has a Historic Preservation Tax Credit that supports the rehabilitation of income-producing properties but has no equivalent for owner-occupied historic structures despite the benefits to our economy and society. It’s time we changed that.” The representatives say that research shows that similar tax programs are great economic engines for communities. The representatives found that Maryland’s Historic Revitalization Tax Credit Program helped rehabilitate over 4,000 historic buildings since 1996, creating 25,000 jobs in the process. They also learned that studies have repeatedly found that historic preservation creates more jobs for each dollar than other public investments, including new construction and manufacturing. “So much rich history has passed here in the Read more

Representatives, testifiers advocate to Raise the Wage

(Mar 27, 2023)

“Too many people have worked too hard for too long to not be able to pay their bills,” hearing co-host Rep. Patty Kim said. “We want to tag a cost-of-living adjustment on this, so we never have to wait years and years – or wait for a once-in-a-century pandemic – for this issue to have a bright light shined on it.” Read more

Ciresi introduces legislation to replace state song

(Mar 24, 2023)

HARRISBURG, March 24 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, introduced legislation (H.R. 41) this week to replace the Pennsylvania state song. In 1990, the state legislature adopted the current state song, “Pennsylvania” by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner. State law establishes this as Pennsylvania’s official song for all public purposes, and the song is often performed at public events, such as gubernatorial inaugurations. “State symbols bring us together,” Ciresi said. “When we see our state flag and hear our state song, we should be able to share our commonality and celebrate our heritage as fellow Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, our current state song is known by few and does not reflect the dynamic and diverse Pennsylvania of today.” “In the three decades since the state song was adopted, Pennsylvania has changed greatly, and our state song should embody the spirit of our great state,” Ciresi said. The resolution would establish an independent commission to study the history of the state song, solicit submissions from the public, and recommend changes to the state song. The legislature would then have the option of passing legislation to change the state song based on the commission’s recommendation. Read more

Borowski introduces bill to provide new funding source for EMS

(Mar 21, 2023)

HARRISBURG, March 21 – State Rep. Lisa Borowski announced today she has introduced a bill that would support emergency medical service providers by providing Medicaid reimbursement for every mile a patient is transported by ambulance. The bill, also sponsored by Rep. Greg Scott, D-Montgomery, would amend the Fiscal Code to eliminate the provision that limits the per-mile Medicaid reimbursement of at least $4 to each mile beyond 20 miles of patient transportation. “The ongoing hospital closures around the commonwealth are limiting Pennsylvanians’ access to care in many ways – one of them is by adding to the intense strain on our EMS system,” Borowski said. “This is a commonsense move to help deliver much-needed funding to these essential providers, giving them more flexibility to provide timely responses to medical emergencies in this unpredictable healthcare environment.” “Building this funding mechanism between Medicaid and our EMS providers would provide money for the critical work being performed,” Scott said. “We cannot continue to burden patients with thousands of dollars in medical debt any more than we can leave EMS providers without payment for lifesaving work. And as an EMT myself, I’m especially proud to partner with Rep. Borowski on this legislation.” Borowski said she has been visiting her district’s EMS providers to discuss the challenges they face. Their main concern Read more

Ciresi introduces legislation to protect patients and medical personnel from retaliation

(Mar 21, 2023)

HARRISBURG, March 21 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, today introduced legislation, (H.B. 641) that would protect patients and medical personnel from health care facility retaliation for filing grievances and complaints. “When mistakes are made at a medical care facility, patients can suffer physically, emotionally and financially,” Ciresi said. “Patients and medical personnel should be able to report errors and unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation for speaking up.” House Bill 641 would protect patients and medical personnel who file grievances or complaints with the facility or its staff, entities charged with accrediting or evaluating health care facilities or a governmental entity. It would also protect people who initiate, participate in, or cooperate with investigations or administrative hearings related to facility quality of care, services or conditions. As part of the protection, the bill would establish a rebuttable presumption that discriminatory treatment against patients and medical personnel was retaliatory if done within a set time after the filing of a grievance or complaint. If a facility is found to have engaged in discrimination or retaliation, victims would be entitled to civil and criminal penalties, including fines and restitution, for lost wages, work benefits and legal costs. “When passed, my legislation will help guarantee the vital right of patients and medical personnel to report unsafe Read more