DUNMORE, Feb. 22 – State Rep. Kyle Mullins, D-Lackawanna, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on state and local transportation issues. The public hearing roundtable will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Dunmore Community Center, 1414 Monroe Ave., Dunmore 18509. The media and public are invited to attend. Mullins will be joined by state legislators from across the state, including Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster. The current agenda is: 2 p.m. Welcome and opening remarks 2:10 p.m. Richard Roman, Burea Director for Maintenance and Operations/interim District 4 Executive, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 2:40 p.m. Panel from Lackawanna/Luzerne Metropolitan Planning Organization: John Pocius , member of Coordinating Committee Steve Pitoniak , chairman of Technical Committee 3:10 p.m. Panel from local transportation systems: Bob Fiume , executive director, County of Lackawanna Transit System Carl Beardsley , executive director, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Charlene Wagner Doyle , director of administration, Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority 3:50 p.m. Panel from local unions: Thomas Calpin , business agent, Ironworkers Local 404 Ronald Tomasetti , business manager, Heavy and Highway Construction Workers’ Local 158 Dave Horn , business development representative, Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 22 – State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., this week introduced legislation that would protect Pennsylvanians’ internet use. House Bill 544 would make it illegal for internet service providers to block lawful internet content, impair internet traffic or engage in any other activities that negatively affect the web experience of Pennsylvania residents. “Most people get their internet access from a handful of big companies, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. Under current law, the company you pay for your internet service could prevent you from going to a competitor’s website, interfere with speech that criticizes the company, or even block your access to a union website during a labor conflict at work,” Fiedler said. “We rely on the internet for so much of our communication with work, school, government and family, and for financial transactions including purchases and bill paying. We need to protect our equal access to information on the internet. In December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to dismantle the rules of net neutrality, which is the expectation that the company people pay for internet service will treat all data on the internet equally. House Bill 544 was referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 22 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, announced today that he has been appointed to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors by House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “As a proud graduate of West Chester University serving on the PASSHE Board of Governors is a great honor and an incredible responsibility. I thank Leader Dermody for this opportunity to support and strengthen our state’s institutions of higher education,” Briggs said. “As a Board member, my top priority is ensuring Pennsylvania’s students have access to quality higher education opportunities at a reasonable cost.” The 20-member Board of Governors is responsible for planning and coordinating development and operation of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. The Board establishes broad educational, fiscal, and personnel policies, and oversees the efficient management of the State System. Among other tasks, the Board appoints the chancellor and university presidents, approves new academic programs, sets tuition, and coordinates and approves the annual State System operating budget. “PASSHE Universities provide quality higher education to over 100,000 students at 14 campuses statewide, at an often more affordable cost than other state-related intuitions,” Briggs said. “At the same time, the system has seen declining enrollment while struggling to Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 22 -- State Rep. Dan Miller, chairman of the Allegheny County House Democratic Delegation, today announced he will co-chair the National Task Force on the Future of the Workforce for the Council of State Governments, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s an honor to be selected to serve as co-chair of the National Task Force on the Future of the Workforce. I really appreciate the opportunity to work with dozens of advocates, legislators and policy experts from around the country to work together to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” Miller said. “I thank the organizers for the appointment.” Miller, D-Allegheny, said his appointment is well-timed as employment for people with disabilities will be a key topic at his upcoming annual Disability and Mental health Summit. “The reality is that more and more people with disabilities are leaving high school and college with degrees and a high level of academic success. But far too many are graduating to the couch rather than to a job,” Miller said. He also referenced his work last session with state Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, on passing the Employment First bill. The task force will oversee the work of three subcommittees: Apprenticeships, Self-Employment and the Gig Economy, and Automation and Technology. Miller will also serve on the Apprenticeships subcommittee, Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 22 – State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, and the House Urban Affairs Committee this week unanimously approved a bill that would offer municipalities a new mechanism to reduce blight while supporting local microenterprises. Microenterprises employ one to five people. “Combatting blight while helping develop microenterprises will help create jobs and make our communities more attractive places to live and work,” Caltagirone said. “This bill would permit cities and communities like Reading to utilize existing administrative entities, including municipal authorities, to acquire blighted property and issue loans to microbusinesses, providing more opportunities to re-use downtown buildings and support small businesses. I thank my fellow committee members for joining me to advance this community-revitalizing legislation.” Introduced by Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-York, H.B. 324 would allow for the creation of programs to provide loan assistance to low-income Pennsylvanians to establish microenterprises and real property tax abatement for properties used to develop such businesses. “As Democratic chair of the Urban Affairs Committee I am focused on improving the quality of life in towns and cities across Pennsylvania,” Caltagirone said. “If passed, this bill would provide a valuable tool to help redevelopment entities, local governments and businesses to work together to improve the physical and economic Read more
ALLENTOWN, Feb. 21 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee roundtable discussion on protecting voting rights in Pennsylvania. The public roundtable will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 at the Dubbs Memorial Community Center, Fellowship Hall, 457 W. Allen St. The media and public are invited to attend. Schlossberg will be joined by state legislators from across the state, including Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster. The following organizations will talk with legislators about voting rights: County of Lehigh, League of Women Voters; Interlace Cultural y Desarrollo Integral Mexicano de Lehigh Valley Inc.; Lehigh County Conference of Churches; and Allentown NAACP. The meeting will also focus on a package of bills titled Your Vote Counts, part of House Democrats’ Plan4PA. The Plan4PA focuses on putting people first, good jobs, health care access, quality schools and jobs training, and a fair economy. Additional information about the plan is available at www.plan4pa.com . For more information about the Policy Committee, go to www.pahouse.com/policycommittee . Read more
BLUE BELL, Feb. 21 – State Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, is hosting a forum to help teens and young adults with disabilities, along with their families, understand their rights and the resources available to help them transition from school to adulthood. The forum will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at the North Wales Borough Hall located at 300 School St., North Wales. Hanbidge said representatives from Self Advocates United as 1, the Public Interest Law Center and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will be at the forum to help students and their parents/guardians understand their rights throughout their school experience and offer expert advice on ways to ease the transition from high school to college and/or the workforce. "A child's transition from adolescence to adulthood is one of the most important and challenging things families face," Hanbidge said. "Transition planning for those with disabilities can be an even greater challenge for families in navigating those next steps. We want to empower local families with knowledge about their children’s rights, and available resources and support systems. “There is a network of support in Montgomery County readily available to provide expertise and assistance to teens and young adults with disabilities, and their families. This forum will allow families to discover and access this network and will function as the beginning of a Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 21 – A bill that would give thousands of Pennsylvanians a leg up toward home ownership passed the House today with overwhelming bipartisan support, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, announced. House Bill 128 – introduced by Bizzarro and state Rep. Rosemary M. Brown, R-Monroe – would establish the “First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account Act,” permitting Pennsylvanians to open special savings accounts and take state tax deductions for eligible expenses such as a down payment and closing costs. “Our economy thrives because of the efforts of Pennsylvania’s working families, yet all too often those same families find themselves shut out from the financial benefits of home ownership and the sense of permanence it provides,” Bizzarro said. “Our residents who work so hard to enrich the commonwealth and contribute to its financial stability deserve that same stability for themselves and their families. Our bill would make it easier for families to break free of the cycle of renting and debt by helping them to save for a first home. “Beyond the benefits to our residents, the bill would further stimulate our state and local economies in key ways. It’s estimated that the bill would result in an additional 400 to 4,000 home sales annually to first-time buyers. That means more families with the credit and stability to invest back into the economy; additional economic activity spurred by home Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 21 – A resolution naming March 10, 2019, as “Charter Day” in Pennsylvania won unanimous support in the House today, according to the resolution’s sponsor, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny. “Pennsylvania’s history is unique – not just because of its central role in our nation’s birth but because of the commonwealth’s enduring contributions,” said Matzie, who is a member of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. “First and foremost, Charter Day commemorates King Charles II’s historic grant to William Penn on March 4, 1681, bestowing the land that would become Pennsylvania.” “House Resolution 93 also honors Penn’s remarkable ‘Frame of Government’ – an early form of constitution that laid the groundwork for our democracy by introducing ideas such as freedom of religion, fair trials and a balancing of powers that would inspire the framers of the U.S. Constitution. “Finally, the resolution recognizes the essential work performed by volunteers and historical organizations such as the commission, the Pennsylvania State Archives, the State Historical Records Advisory Board and the many other groups and societies that keep history alive for Pennsylvanians today,” Matzie said. Matzie encouraged residents visiting Harrisburg to go see the original 323-year-old parchment charter hand-printed on animal skin, which is Read more
EBENSBURG, Feb. 21 – The generosity of an anonymous donor who contributed $500 has boosted to $1,500 the reward Cambria County Crime Stoppers is offering to catch anyone responsible for the pellet-gun killing of an albino deer, said state Rep. Frank Burns. Anyone with information on the incident – which was reported in the vicinity of Bates Drive in Westmont – is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-548-7500. “This cowardly and illegal occurrence has shocked many residents of our community,” said Burns, D-Cambria. “Those of us involved in offering this reward hope that it encourages cooperation that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.” Last week, Burns joined officials from Crime Stoppers, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the West Hills and Upper Yoder Township police departments at a Hiram G. Andrews Center news conference to announce what was then a $1,000 reward. Read more
EBENSBURG , Feb. 21 – A longtime advocate of welfare reform, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, has signed on as an early supporter of legislation that would create a pilot program to move welfare recipients to full-time jobs in one year. Burns said he decided to sponsor the “welfare to work” bill because it would establish a public-private partnership designed to wean welfare recipients off the system, by letting them continue to collect benefits while gradually phasing in pay for their full-time work. During this transition, Burns said, employers would initially pay program participants for 20 hours per week, rising to 30 hours after six months and ending at 40 hours – at which point their cash benefits from the public dime would be cut off. “The vast majority of people in my district feel as I do, which is that people who can work should be working, not living off of the system in perpetuity,” Burns said. “I decided to co-sponsor this bill, which is a bipartisan move on my part, because it removes the excuse that, ‘If I get a job, I’ll actually lose money, because I can make more staying on welfare.’” Burns said an added bonus of the legislation is that it relies on the private sector, not government, to supply people with the path necessary to obtain gainful, full-time employment. “I’ll support any and all good ideas when it comes to welfare Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 21 – Rural and volunteer fire companies will be able to start applying for grants to help cover equipment and training costs later this month, state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, announced today. Conklin said the cost-share grants, which are awarded through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are earmarked for fire departments that serve fewer than 10,000 residents. “These rural and volunteer fire companies are instrumental in keeping our homes and properties safe,” Conklin said. “These much-needed grants will ensure they have the equipment and training to prevent and control fires in our communities.” Grant applications will be accepted Feb. 26 through May 2. The maximum grant award for 2019 is $10,000. More information, including specific eligibility requirements, can be found at the following link: www.dcnr.pa.gov/Communities/Wildfire/VolunteerFireDepartmentResources/Pages/default.aspx . Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 21 – Rural and volunteer fire companies will soon be able to apply for grants to help cover equipment and training costs, state Rep. Pam Snyder announced today. Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, said the cost-share grants, awarded through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are earmarked for fire departments that serve fewer than 10,000 residents. “These smaller fire companies have an enormous responsibility in keeping us safe, putting their lives on the line to protect ours,” Snyder said. “These grants will help ensure they have the needed tools and training to prevent, control and suppress fires in our communities.” Grants will be accepted Feb. 26 through May 2. The maximum grant award for 2019 is $10,000. More information, including specific eligibility requirements, can be found at the following link: www.dcnr.pa.gov/Communities/Wildfire/VolunteerFireDepartmentResources/Pages/default.aspx . Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 20 – The state House today overwhelmingly passed legislation that would extend the state’s Lemon Law protections to those who purchase or lease a new motorcycle, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington. “Motorcycles are major investments, and they’re subject to the same potential defects as other motor vehicles – including defects that can affect safety – so it’s only fair that consumers who buy or lease a motorcycle should have the same protections as other vehicle consumers,” Snyder said. “I’ve been fighting for this legislation since I became a lawmaker,” added Snyder, who has worked for years to expand public awareness of motorcyclists’ rights and ensure that bikers are treated fairly under Pennsylvania law. “I’m thrilled by today’s vote in the House because it signals that we may finally be on the road to equal consumer protection for Pennsylvania’s bikers.” State law currently requires a manufacturer to fix any defect that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of a new motor vehicle if the problem occurs in the first year of ownership or within 12,000 miles. House Bill 26 would extend those “lemon law” protections to consumers who purchase or lease a motorcycle by broadening the definition of “new motor vehicle” to include motorcycles. The bill now heads to the Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 20 – Raising awareness about a central nervous system disease that affects an estimated 400,000 Americans and more than 24,000 Pennsylvanians is the goal of House Resolution 92 designating March 10 through March 16 as “Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week” in Pennsylvania, according to the sponsor, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny. “Although it isn’t fatal, MS can steal quality of life from people in a dozen different ways,” Matzie said. “While there is no cure, there are treatments that can help modify the disease process. That’s why it’s essential to expand awareness about the disease. The sooner MS is diagnosed, the sooner a patient can receive medication and make lifestyle changes – with help from their family – that can curb relapses and help manage the disease. “The issue is highly personal to me because my father has lived with MS for so long,” Matzie said. "The disease is difficult to diagnose, and a diagnosis can be delayed or missed altogether. For years, my father thought his vision problems were caused by optic nerve damage, but the problems were actually a symptom of MS, and they left him legally blind in one eye.” Matzie noted that although the cause of MS is unknown, scientists believe an as-yet-unidentified environmental factor triggers a response in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease. The body’s immune system Read more
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, joined a Capitol news conference to announce a legislative package aimed at improving career and technical education opportunities. Read more
SCRANTON, Feb. 19 – Area veterans are invited to take part in the monthly support program next week at the office of state Rep. Marty Flynn. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, today announced his support for a bipartisan package of legislation that would enhance the quality of career and technical education programs throughout Pennsylvania. This four-bill package aligns with the House Democrats’ Plan4PA to give students throughout the commonwealth a quality education that would jumpstart their careers in vocational and technical job fields. “As Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, I am committed more than ever to improving the delivery of Career and Technical Education programs to those who need them the most,” Roebuck said. “These past few years, numbers have risen to more than 67,000 Pennsylvania high school students being able to participate in CTE programs. This bipartisan package of bills – especially my two bills – would build upon the success we have already seen, while also giving stakeholders a voice to make much-needed changes.” In 2015, the House unanimously adopted H.R. 102 to establish the Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness. The subcommittee, co-chaired by state Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, made several recommendations that resulted in this package of legislation, including calling for a central database of resources. “Young Pennsylvanians contemplating career paths have access to a wealth of resources from Read more
Synder: It’s high time to expand high-speed Internet service HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – Millions of Pennsylvania residents have access to some form of high-speed broadband Internet access, but the same can’t be said of hundreds of thousands of people who live in rural areas of the state, said Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Westmoreland. “Despite the passage of measures back in 1993 and 2004 to ensure all areas of our state have access to a modern broadband telecommunications network by 2015, that obviously hasn’t happened and it’s extremely frustrating,” Snyder said. “Pennsylvanians, regardless of where they live, need access to quality, reliable broadband service, and I am dedicated to making that happen.” Snyder said she has introduced legislation to address several issues related to lack of access in underserved and unserved areas of the state: House Bill 305 would direct the state Department of General Services to conduct an inventory of all state department, agency, commission, or institution-owned communication towers, poles, bridges and facilities to leverage existing assets to provide access to areas without broadband service. House Resolution 63 would direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct an audit of, and investigation into, the compliance by non-rural telecommunications carriers with previous enacted broadband telecommunications laws (Act 67 of 1993 and Act 183 of 2004). House Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – As more and more Pennsylvanians turn to solar energy to power their homes, a bipartisan group of legislators on Tuesday introduced legislation to allow for community solar projects. State Rep. Peter Schweyer is part of the bipartisan group of lawmakers, which also includes Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Luzerne, and Rep. David Millard, R-Columbia, to unveil H.B. 531 to open this renewable energy market to even more residents. “As our environment and economy rapidly change, it is important that we support and sustain our communities,” Schweyer said. “By enabling community solar projects, we give individuals and businesses the opportunity to engage in renewable clean energy opportunities. I’m excited to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to advocate for this important bill.” At this time last year, the number of solar energy system installations in the state had increased 24 percent over the same period in 2017. At nearly the same time, the cost to install large solar farms decreased 11 percent while the cost of rooftop systems decreased 26 percent. Solar is becoming increasing popular and even more cost-effective for consumers. “All too often, Pennsylvania property owners interested in relying on solar power to meet their energy needs learn their homes are not properly situated to have solar panels on their roofs. I am one of those homeowners,” Kaufer said. Read more
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