State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-W. Phila.) will host a community meeting, in which he will announce his new “Violence Reduction Initiative,” on Thursday, Feb. 21 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Add B. Anderson ES, located at 1034 S. 60th Street.
“Violence is a complex epidemic that requires many solutions. We can’t just focus on getting guns off the streets — although that’s a crucial element. We need to help foster better family and community dynamics. We need to present educational and career placement opportunities. We need to offer a helping hand to those who truly need it,” said Williams. “I invite the community to join me in an important discussion on reducing violence in our neighborhoods and the many beneficial services that are available to the public.”
Participants will learn more about GED opportunities for youths and adults, computer training, employment assistance, addiction services, public safety, family guidance and resources, recreation programs and reentry programs.
This is the first of an ongoing effort by Williams and his staff to focus on the various ways to reduce violence in our communities, with a specific focus on disaffected populations with limited education.
Academics like noted criminologist Robert Agnew have long pointed to the correlation between limited academic achievement and heightened crime and violence in neighborhoods.
“We’re here to address the needs of those individuals who are most likely to engage in violent acts and give them the skills and support they need to focus on improving their lives,” Williams said. “This community meeting is going to be part of a larger effort to delve deeper into the epidemic of violence on our streets and take a more proactive approach to provide support to those who truly need it.”
For more information, contact Don Cave at (215) 492-2980.
HOUSE HONORS WENDELL YOUNG
State Rep. Ed Neilson (D-Northeast) saw the State House adopt his resolution honoring the life of Philadelphia labor leader Wendell W. Young III.
House Resolution 68 memorializes Young’s career as a labor leader who served his community for over five decades as a leader of the UFCW Local 1776. “Young was very instrumental in my life and was a person that pushed me to be the person I am today,” Neilson said. “He was always a man of his word, which is hard to come by in the world we live in.
“He was an exceptional labor relations leader and exhibited abundant energy when supporting members of UFCW Local 1776. He played in intricate role in unprecedented labor agreements and was personally responsible for saving the jobs of thousands of union members.”
WATERS UNVEILS GUN PACKAGE
State Rep. Ron Waters (D-W. Phila.) announced the introduction of a six-bill legislative package aimed at reducing gun violence in Pennsylvania.
Waters commented, “It breaks my heart” that children wake up every day and are afraid of being shot.” He remarked on the devastating effects of gun violence and stated 30,000 people are killed each year in the United States from gun violence and another 60,000 are wounded. He called for enactment of gun laws that will promote public safety without obliterating the hunting culture or taking guns away from responsible owners.
He argued the 2nd Amendment is subject to “reasonable limits” just as the 1st Amendment has been, suggesting such limits include preventing access to guns by children, the mentally ill, and felons.
BRENDAN BOYLE SPEAKS FOR TRANSIT IN CAPITOL
State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast) rallied with a coalition of Pennsylvanians to demand better funding for public mass-transportation systems. Boyle spoke at the rally in the Capitol Rotunda along with transit riders, labor leaders, faith-community leaders and other public officials.
The group is calling on Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers to approve legislation that dedicates long-term, sufficient and stable funding to maintain public mass transit systems like SEPTA.
According to Boyle, Corbett’s long-awaited transportation plan presented to lawmakers last week falls substantially short of what’s needed to fix the state’s $4.5 billion and growing transportation problem.
“Gov. Corbett waited far too long before showing a willingness to address Pennsylvania’s transportation crisis, even after his own, hand-picked transportation funding commission presented recommendations to him more than two years ago,” Boyle said. “Now he presents us with a plan that will do little to help commuters get to work and school safely, efficiently and affordably each day.”
Boyle said Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission indicated in its report that the unmet state-funding need for mass transit was about $500 million in 2010, and would grow to $1.4 billion by 2020. With those calculations, the unmet need for transit will increase by $90 million per year. Yet Corbett’s funding proposal suggests only $250 million over five years.
“SEPTA’s problems and anticipated deficits are well documented, as are those in the state’s other transit systems,” Boyle said. “Service cuts, ancient bridges, crumbling stations, downed wires, fare hikes – these are all problems the commuters I represent are forced to face every day as they try to get to work, go to school, see the doctor or do some shopping.
“Ridership is on the rise. SEPTA is barely holding it together but providing some 350 million rides each year, and Republicans in Harrisburg are clinging to an ideology that reality does not support. It’s time for Gov. Corbett to open his eyes and accept state government’s role in all transportation infrastructure, including mass transit. Our economy depends on it,” he said.
Boyle, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he will be focused on Corbett’s transportation proposal during state budget hearings and throughout the budget process. House budget hearings begin Feb. 19.
The Capitol rally was organized by Transport Workers Union Local 234 of Philadelphia.
TARTAGLIONE: LABOR DEPT. CRITIQUE ‘DEEPLY TROUBLING’
State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Kensington) has issued the following statement regarding the US Dept. of Labor’s 14-page criticism of Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Labor.
“The federal review of the Dept. of Labor raises deeply troubling questions about the administration’s ability to carry out its core functions. The shiny cover the administration put on for the Jan. 29 joint meeting of House and Senate Labor Committees was shattered by the revelation the department was failing to perform basic tasks while apparently fudging budget numbers.
“Obviously the Secretary was less than forthcoming with the committee and that’s a serious problem going forward. The federal government was questioning the budget-cut claim more than a month before it was included in her testimony and the department had not responded.
“The revelation that the federal government has spent more than $50,000 in remedial training without improvement to the department’s performance is astonishing.”
GROWING L.G.B.T. CAUCUS SAYS CITIZENS BACK IT
The Pennsylvania legislature’s LGBT Equality Caucus announced its membership has grown dramatically, corresponding with the strong support in a new Pennsylvania poll for equal civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), co-chairman of the caucus, said, “The LGBT Equality Caucus now has 58 members, more than double the 26 from the last session, and it includes members from both parties and both the House and Senate. These voices for equal rights come from throughout Pennsylvania, from Erie and Allegheny Cos. in the west; Dauphin, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lancaster and Berks Cos. in Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania; to the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and its suburbs.”
The poll was conducted by the Pittsburgh firm CivicScience for Equality Pennsylvania. Survey questions were deployed across CivicScience’s network of online polling applications, targeting a minimum sample of 1,000 adult Pennsylvanians between Jan. 29 and 30.
Asked if “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens should be entitled to the same civil rights and protections as other minority groups,” 62% agreed; 29 percent disagreed.
On whether gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens should be protected against being fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, 69% agreed, including 61% of Republicans.
Hotels and other businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to people based only on their sexual orientation or gender identity, said 72%.
State Rep. Brian Sims (D-S. Phila.) said, “I’m seeing signs every day that more of my colleagues in the state Capitol are finally beginning to hear this message from their constituents and are recognizing that commonsense protections against these forms of discrimination are long overdue.”
Other Philadelphia Representatives in this caucus are Brendan Boyle, Kevin Boyle, Vanessa Lowery Brown, Michelle Brownlee, James Clay, Mark Cohen, Angel Cruz, Pam DeLissio, Dwight Evans, Bill Keller, Stephen Kinsey, Mike McGeehan, Tom Murt, Mike O’Brien, Cherelle Parker, James Roebuck and Rosita Youngblood.
Local Senators in this body are Larry Farnese, Vincent Hughes, Mike Stack, Tina Tartaglione, LeAnna Washington and Anthony Williams.
FARNESE, CLARKE HAIL A.G. FOR CLOSING FLA. LOOPHOLE
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-S. Phila.) congratulated Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane for fulfilling her campaign pledge to close the Florida Loophole. Her decision to dissolve Pennsylvania’s reciprocal conceal-carry license agreement gives law enforcement and prosecutors a powerful tool that will keep Pennsylvanians safe.
“Since taking office more than four years ago, I have been fighting to get rid of the Florida Loophole and today, thanks to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, it is gone,” said Farnese.
“This is also a great day for law enforcement; because thanks to AG Kane’s signature they finally have what they have been asking for: the ability to keep criminals and those who do not meet the legal requirements from legally carrying a concealed weapon.”
The Florida Loophole allowed Pennsylvanians who had been denied a Pennsylvania license to legally carry a concealed firearm to receive one from the State of Florida’s Dept. of Agriculture, circumventing the checks and requirements that are in place to prevent unfit Pennsylvanians from legally carrying a concealed weapon.
For the last two legislative sessions, Farnese has introduced legislation that would have closed the loophole through an act of the legislature. “Pennsylvanians should decide Pennsylvania’s laws, not Florida bureaucrats. This victory makes sure law enforcement’s voice is heard loud and clear throughout the Commonwealth,” added Farnese.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke echoed Farnese’s praise of Kane’s action. “I am excited Attorney General Kane is tackling the problem of gun violence as one of her first acts in office,” Clarke said. “City Council and the Mayor have approved numerous laws that would make it tougher for criminals to access deadly firearms, and we have watched in frustration as those laws were ignored or overturned by faraway courts.”
On Feb. 17, 2011, City Council passed a law that would prevent Philadelphians from using out-of-state gun permits in order to carry a concealed weapon in the City.
Kane on Friday said the approximately 4,000 Pennsylvanians with a Florida gun permit will have 120 days to obtain a Commonwealth-issued permit.
WASHINGTON OFFERS FREE RECYCLING BINS
State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest) will provide a limited number of recycling bins at no charge to constituents of the 4th Senatorial Dist. who live in Philadelphia Co.
“Recycling is such an important part of protecting our environment for generations to come, and I hope that these bins will make it easier for residents of the 4th Senate Dist. to do their part,” Washington said.
Blue recycling bins are available for free at the Wadsworth Avenue district office (1115 Wadsworth Avenue) on a first come, first served basis. Constituents wishing to receive a bin will have their residency verified.
Those with questions about availability and residency can call the Wadsworth district office at (215) 242-0472.
“I urge those who don’t already have a recycling bin to come to my office and get one,” Washington continued. “The small steps that we take now will do so much to protect and preserve our community in the future.”
STACK: LICENSE PLATES NOW HONOR VETERANS
Pennsylvania vehicle owners can show their support for our veterans through a new decorative license plate, according to State Sen. Mike Stack (D-Northeast).
The plate is inscribed with the phrase “Honoring Our Veterans” and features an image of the American flag and a bald eagle.
“There are so many ways that we can thank our veterans for their valiant service to this nation, and now motorists can show their support every time they hit the road,” said Stack, who serves as a captain in the Pennsylvania National Guard JAG Corps. “The best part is, anyone can order them and a portion of the payment goes to helping our vets.”
The plate is available for passenger cars and light trucks up to 10,000 lb. The cost is $35, of which $15 goes to the Veterans Trust Fund, which is administered by the Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs and will be used to support and assist Pennsylvania veterans and their families through grants to veterans-service organizations and other charitable organizations.
To apply for the new license plate, visit PennDOT’s website at http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/license_plates/special_fund.shtml.
KEVIN BOYLE TRIES AGAIN TO CLAMP DOWN ON CLINICS
State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Northeast) has reintroduced legislation that would tighten the loose regulations now in place for methadone treatment facilities.
Boyle’s bill would require the Pennsylvania Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs to notify all federal, state and local elected officials within five days of receiving an application for a proposed facility. It also would require the department to assess whether adequate parking is available at the proposed location.
At least one public hearing regarding the proposed facility also would be required under Boyle’s bill. All property and business owners located within 500 feet of the proposed treatment facility would be required to receive written notice of the public hearing at least 30 days prior to its being held.
Boyle has led a nearly two-year fight to keep a methadone clinic from locating at 7900 Frankford Avenue. He said the community would not have been blindsided by Healing Way’s application if the regulations he proposes were in place.
“The public has the right to receive adequate notice and the chance to respond when a drug treatment center wants to open in their community,” Boyle said. “My legislation would provide the tools necessary to fight back against such a situation happening elsewhere in Philadelphia and across the state. The goal of my bill is to create a more transparent process.”
Boyle said in addition to his bill, he will continue fighting to keep the Healing Way methadone clinic from locating in the community.
“When you look at all the facts, it is clear 7900 Frankford Avenue is not a good location for a methadone clinic,” Boyle said. “The consequences to the neighborhoods and residents would be too great.”
Boyle introduced his legislation (HB 422) on the heels of a public hearing he hosted in Philadelphia last week regarding the effects of locating methadone clinics in communities. The bill is now under consideration in the House Human Services Committee.
YOUNGBLOOD PUSHES FOR SIBLING VISITATION RIGHTS
State Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood (D-Northwest) will soon introduce legislation that would strengthen sibling visitation rights and recognize the importance of these relationships on the emotional and psychological development of children.
Youngblood said her proposal would simply provide standing in court to siblings who wish to petition for visitation rights, similar to how grandparents can stand before a judge to seek visitation rights. The decision to grant visitation rights for siblings would still rest in the hands of a judge, she added.
“Studies have shown the increasing importance of sibling relationships in the development and growth of children,” Youngblood said. “The bond between siblings is unique and powerful, and provides a structure that is different from other relationships that are critical to a child’s social advancement – including the relationships between children and their parents, friends and peers.
“It is important that we recognize the importance of these relationships, and simply allow siblings who may be separated from their brother or sister as a result of divorce, or death of a parent, to have an opportunity to go before a judge and seek visitation rights,” she said.
HOUSE APPROVES MORE CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE
State Rep. Ed Neilson said the State House passed legislation that would extend Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program through 2015. Neilson, a member of the House Insurance Committee and co-sponsor of the measure, said HB 108 would extend the expiration date for the program to Dec. 31, 2015. It currently is set to expire at the end of this year.
The program provides health-insurance coverage to nearly 200,000 Pennsylvania children at little or no cost.
“The extension of the CHIP program puts the health and well-being of children first. This has the potential to alleviate the financial burden of health care costs for thousands of families throughout the commonwealth,” Neilson explained.
Neilson said the legislation would be funded by the federal Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act and the Health Care & Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.