The amount of unfinished business in Harrisburg is scary and my commitment continues to be to serve as an instigator and disrupter to facilitate change.
The General Assembly meets in a two-year session and we are winding down to the end of our 2017-2018 session on November 30.
Session after session there are good reform bills that languish while leadership focuses often on those bills that are politically expedient (it is an election year for the PA House and half of the PA Senate) or those bills influenced by special interests who have large checkbooks.
Please note, I am not being cynical — just factual. The unfinished business includes:
- Voting improvement. Legislation to update and improve voting such as early voting; thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have early voting with the average being twenty-two days in advance of Election Day. No excuse absentee ballots; including signing up for an absentee ballot and receiving that absentee ballot going forward without having to apply each election.
- Severance tax. Pennsylvania is the only state where Marcellus Shale drilling occurs where the industry does not remit a severance tax. HB1401 (of which I am a co-prime sponsor) was debated at some length this session but as in previous sessions, politics and special interests have prevailed and I do not believe this bill will reach the Governor’s desk.
- LGBTQ protections. If you are a member of the LGBTQ community in the commonwealth you can be fired or denied public accommodation or housing solely for being a member of the LGBTQ community. Such protections exist in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Code to prevent discrimination based on gender, age, race, and religion but not for gender identity or sexual orientation. Legislation has been pending for well over a decade and a few years ago I personally helped to sign up twenty-five of my colleagues to sponsor this comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.
- Expanded healthcare access. Healthcare has been a topic that has been front and center at the national level. At the state level we have been trying, again for multiple sessions, to pass legislation to give full practice authority to nurse practitioners. The PA Senate has passed this legislation expeditiously this session and last session. It is being held up in the PA House due to financially influential special interests.
Passing this bill would ensure that access to care would be more available to our citizens and a healthier society would result. Physician organizations have been the major road block to passing this legislation in the PA House. In my opinion, their objections are without merit. Nurse practitioners are not trying to be doctors; they deserve to practice to the full scope permitted by their license.
The above is a small sample of bills that will most likely not get finished this session. Here is a quick list of other topics that are good government legislation that have been introduced but will most likely not become law — most have to do with serious reform of the flaws in government that currently plague our citizens: redistricting, campaign finance, criminal justice, merit selection of judges, closing loopholes in gun laws, ensuring our environment stays clean, funding basic education fairly etc., etc.
If we cannot accomplish the work that moves our state forward then we do not need to be a full time General Assembly; we should be a part-time legislature, and in my opinion we would be more focused on more meaningful priorities. The amount of unfinished business is scary and my commitment continues to be to serve as an instigator and disrupter to facilitate change. Look for details of my 78th town hall to be held later this month.
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