Three area Senators are planning new legislation in Harrisburg to increase Pennsylvaniaâ€™s minimum wage in different ways.
State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Kensington) will replace her proposal to increase Pennsylvaniaâ€™s minimum wage to $9 an hour with a new bill that would increase it to $10.10 by 2016. Minimum-wage increases under SB 1300 would be tied to inflation once the base hourly rate hits $10.10.
â€œA rising tide lifts all boats,â€ Tartaglione said. â€œTo the critics who say an increase in the minimum wage will hurt the economy: You are wrong. Studies and history show that increases in the minimum have very little to no negative impact on the economy,â€ she said.
Citing a recent University of California-Berkeley study, Tartaglione said its evidence shows increases in the base hourly rate might mean small rises in the prices of products but it also sparks higher worker productivity and a more-positive impact on businesses.
While other state lawmakers have proposed bills to provide a higher minimum, Tartaglione said she believes an incremental increase to $10.10 an hour is the more-reasonable compromise. However, the Senatorâ€™s new proposal would allow municipalities with a higher cost-of-living to consider a higher minimum wage.
SB 1300 would also increase the penalties for companies that violate this law.
State Sens. Mike Stack (D-Northeast) and Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) are introducing separate legislation that will end a sub-minimum wage for employees who receive tips and raise the overall minimum wage to $12 an hour.
â€œThe tipped minimum wage is an archaic and overly generous allowance for business owners at the expense of low-wage workers,â€ Leach said. â€œStill, itâ€™s not good enough for big restaurant chains that pile up thousands of wage-law violations. Itâ€™s time to end this game.â€
Pennsylvania law allows for a tip credit that permits employers to use tips against all but $2.83 of the current $7.25 minimum wage. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 and has not changed for more than 20 years.
Tartaglioneâ€™s earlier proposal would have raised the tipped minimum from $2.83/hour to 70% of the regular minimum. She continues to support raising the tipped wage to 70% of the minimum.
State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.) and Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh) have introduced a pair of bills to streamline the clemency process for applicants and reduce the administrative burden of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.
The first bill, HB 1428, would establish a five-year waiting period from the time of a prospective applicantâ€™s most-recent conviction, excluding those sentenced to death. A backlog in applications has created a three-year processing delay between when an application is first filed with the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and it is reviewed.
For those granted a pardon, HB 675 would enable them to have their conviction expunged from their record.
These are both commonsense solutions to Pennsylvaniaâ€™s burgeoning prison population,â€ Brown said. â€œBy establishing minimum eligibility requirements for clemency applicants, we can effectively begin to reduce the backlog for those who are genuine about becoming productive members of society. It also offers hope to the estimated 97% of current prisoners who will someday return to our communities.
â€œAnd by granting those who pass the rigorous review process for clemency the right to clear their records, we are offering them an even greater incentive to reenter society and stay crime-free,â€ Brown said.
Legislation backed by State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast) to statutorily define recovery-based housing and establish statewide standards to govern the facilities has passed the State House.
â€œFacilities that offer assistance to those with drug- and alcohol-abuse addictions can be a lifeline to those in recovery, but there are currently no regulations in place in Pennsylvania to govern the operation of these facilities,â€ Taylor said. â€œThis can create problems when these facilities open near schools and other residential communities. We must ensure they are operated in a safe and appropriate manner.â€
HB 1298, sponsored by State Rep. John Sabatina (D-Northeast), would require the Pennsylvania Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs to define the term â€œrecovery houseâ€, determine guidelines for inspection of the facilities and establish penalties for violations of the regulations.
HB 1298 now awaits consideration by the Senate.
As part of her annual tribute to the late civil-rights activist Rosa Parks, State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop (D-W. Phila.) acknowledged Parks in the House chamber.
Parks was responsible for an international outcry in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. Her action launched the civil-rights efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. to international prominence and resulted in the US Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation on city buses and establishment of the 1964 Civil Rights Law.
â€œShe was one brave woman who was simply exhausted and unwilling to give up her seat. In that action, she took a meaningful stand against oppression and sparked the civil-rights movement,â€ Bishop said.
SABATINA APPOINTED TO RULES COMMITTEE
Last week, State Rep. John Sabatina was appointed to the House Rules Committee.
â€œThis is a tremendous honor and I look forward to serving as a member of the Rules Committee and engaging in meaningful debate and discussion concerning the legislative process,â€ Sabatina said. â€œIâ€™m extremely appreciative to Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) for this appointment and I plan to work in the best interest of my constituents and my fellow members.â€
The Rules Committee is considered the most powerful House committee and is generally reserved for more-senior members of the House. Unlike other standing committees, which are responsible for a specific area of policy, the Rules Committee is in charge of facilitating the flow of legislation in the House. The Rules Committee is also the only committee that can amend legislation that comes back from the Senate on concurrence and propose amendments to the rules of the House, if needed.
Sabatina was appointed to replace State Rep. Michael McGeehan (D-Northeast), who stepped down from the Rules Committee and is retiring at the end of the year.
ROEBUCK OUTLINES AP LEGISLATION
State Rep. James Roebuck (D-W. Phila.), Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, outlined legislation that would expand access to and credit for advanced-placement classes.
â€œPennsylvania has a below-average level of students taking AP courses and exams. Studies indicate even students who take AP courses and score only a 1 or 2 on an AP exam â€“ not enough for college credit â€“ still perform academically better than students who have not taken an AP course,â€ said Roebuck.
â€œBased on existing data, training 885 teachers needed to ensure that every high school in the state can provide AP courses in the four core academic areas would cost the State just over $1 million, at an estimated cost of $1,200 per teacher trained. If these 885 teachers taught just one AP class of 25 students and 60% of students obtain an AP exam score of 3 or higher, the studentsâ€™ families would save nearly $17 million in tuition costs. This is a very conservative estimate of savings to these families and the State,â€ Roebuck maintained.
PACE/PACENET SENIORS ELIGIBLE
State Rep. Ronald G. Waters (D-W. Phila.) said a new law protects nearly 50,000 senior citizens from losing their prescription-drug coverage through the stateâ€™s PACE/PACENET programs.
Act 12 of 2014 maintains eligibility for Pennsylvania seniors in the Stateâ€™s prescription-assistance programs, PACE and PACENET, if their Social Security cost-of-living adjustment pushes them over the income-eligibility limit through 2015.
â€œBecause of this law, cost-of-living adjustments will no longer disqualify people from receiving the prescription services they need,â€ Waters said.
Itâ€™s estimated without the new law, more than 40,000 seniors would have lost their coverage.
COUNCILWOMAN BROWN SEEKS SOLAR-PANEL SAFETY
Councilwoman at Large Blondell Reynolds Brown has legislation in City Council to require all new solar-panel roof installations be registered with the Philadelphia Fire Dept.
A 2010 report from the National Fire Protection Association stated that solar panels â€œpresent a variety of significant hazards should a fire occur. The safety of fire fighters and other emergency first-responder personnel depends on understanding and properly handling these hazards through adequate training and preparation.â€