Some House Democrats have made the news recently for working to make a better Pennsylvania. See below on how they have been a voice for their constituents.
Last week Representatives Brandon Neuman (Washington) and Jesse White (Allegheny/Beaver/Washington) were appointed to serve on statewide reassessment task forces that are focused on fixing the process of conducting property reassessments. Both of these task forces will strive to collect accurate information while making recommendations that could save taxpayers money.
Representatives Phyllis Mundy (Luzerne), Gerald Mullery (Luzerne), and other House Democrats unveiled a package of bills this week that, if enacted, could bring relief to those affected by current and future natural disasters. Rep. Mundy was quoted as saying, “This legislation would throw a lifeline to people who need assistance quickly. We as a commonwealth should do everything we can to assist them.” The bills include providing funds for low interest loans and grants, as well as amending the state Constitution to allow the legislature to provide special aid after the declaration of an emergency.
On Wednesday, Representative Bryan Barbin (Cambria) as well as other Democratic legislators, called on the governor to help break the stalemate between UPMC and Highmark Inc. Earlier in the year, UPMC backed out of talks with Highmark over new rates. If no contract can be agreed upon before June 30 of next year, Highmark’s members, which total more than 3 million in the Pittsburgh area alone, could pay full price to see UPMC doctors. In response to this, Rep. Barbin was quoted as saying, “You can’t say that 3 million people just aren’t allowed to use UPMC facilities or see UPMC doctors. It’s wrong, and somebody has to do something.”
Representative Frank Burns (Cambria/Somerset) attended a ribbon cutting ceremony that unveiled the Swigle Mountain Road Water Project, which will provide residents and businesses in Jackson Township with clean water. After previously having to haul water to their houses, residents can now enjoy the benefits of a tank that holds close to 300,000 gallons. Rep. Burns cited this as a possibility for growth and development in the area.
House Republicans keep insisting that jobs are a top priority; yet, last week they made several moves that will undoubtedly hurt workers instead of help them.
In an effort to put more money into the pockets of private business and less into the pockets of Pennsylvania workers, the GOP voted in committee to change the prevailing wage requirements, which currently ensure that union workers who are working on public projects receive fair pay.
The changes to the law would amend the way the prevailing wage is calculated, increase the minimum project amount that qualifies to $185,000, and exempt school districts and local governments from having to pay the mandated rate.
Under current law, all public projects that cost more than $25,000 must be completed by workers who are paid a prevailing wage.
Democratic House Leader, Rep. Frank Dermody (Allegheny), came out blasting the bills, calling them “an assault on working people”.
That’s not the only action House GOP members took to hurt Pennsylvania jobs, however. They also voted unanimously six separate times in committee to protect those companies that hire illegal immigrants over US citizens. Also called “E-Verify”, these amendments would’ve required contractors to verify the legal status of their employees, ensuring that PA jobs go to PA citizens.
Republicans who voted against the amendment included freshman Representatives Mark Gillen and Warren Kampf.
Rep. Bill Keller (Philadelphia), who authored the amendments, criticized the vote saying, “We're only two weeks into the fall legislative session and Republicans are already moving bills that would help corporations keep more of their profits at the expense of highly trained, skilled Pennsylvania workers and the public.”
House Republicans were right about one thing--jobs are a top priority, just not keeping or creating them.
The Senate Republicans are moving to change the way the Electoral College works here in Pennsylvania, essentially stripping the commonwealth of its swing state status in presidential races. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the state has gone Democratic in every presidential election since 1988.
After its unveiling, the measure received a cold reception from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including several House Democrats.
Representatives Mike Gerber and Josh Shapiro came out criticizing the bill, saying that because administrations have historically spent discretionary money in swing states, the Senate bill could cost Pennsylvanians hundreds of millions of dollars. Shapiro was also quoted as saying that he believes that this “blatant partisan effort” would undermine Pennsylvania’s role in electing a President. Representative Gerald Mullery came out calling the initiative “an attempted power grab” by Republicans.
House Democrats aren’t the only ones who oppose the changes, however. Poll results released last week showed that 52 percent of Pennsylvanians prefer the winner-take-all system over the Senate proposal.
Despite last week’s poll results and criticisms by fellow Republicans, Republican House Speaker, Sam Smith, and House Republican Leader, Mike Turzai, expressed their support for the measure, showing just how out of touch the House GOP leaders are with Pennsylvanians.