from Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167), 9/19/19
After a nearly 10-week summer break, our legislature went back in session this week and yours truly returned to Harrisburg. I would like to say we went back to work, but unfortunately, from my perspective, that would be misleading. You see, I associate being back to work with actually getting something important done.
So, allow me to finish this first week by telling you what important things are not getting done:
No votes on increasing the minimum wage
No passing an extraction tax on natural gas frackers
No ban on assault rifles or high capacity ammunition magazines
No redistricting reforms
No bill banning LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace
No legislation for fair funding of public education
No limits on single-use plastic products
No agreement on treatment options for opioid victims
No movement on a comprehensive plan to rebuild our infrastructure
No action on extending OSHA type protections to Pennsylvania public workers
And why can’t we get any of these important legislative initiatives passed, especially given the fact that nearly every one of these topics enjoy majority support in the arena of public opinion? It is simple. We do not have a majority that works in Harrisburg.
The Republican leaders who are in the majority in the legislature, who clearly are not reflective of the thinking of most Pennsylvanians or even the more moderate Republican voters in the Chester County district I represent, won’t even allow these bills to come to the floor for debate, let alone a vote.
Rather, the leaders of the majority that doesn’t work in Harrisburg are moving bills they deem to be more important and that appeal to the narrow right-wing, primary voters they fear in their severely gerrymandered districts. For example, this session we will likely be voting on State Representative Stephanie Borowicz (R-76) radically anti-abortion “Heartbeat” bill, or another majority member’s proposal to establish requirements for the final disposition of the “remains of unborn children after their demise”. And, let us not forget, the majority’s horrific package of 8 bills known as Energize PA, one of which passed today over my no vote.
Among other bad ideas for the environment, climate change and the budget, Energize PA provides unprecedented corporate giveaways via tax breaks and tax incentives to highly profitable petrochemical companies to build and expand plants that use shale gas and methane in production, offers grants to build and extend pipelines for transporting liquefied and natural gases, cuts anti-polluting and safety regulations and takes the Department of Environmental Protection out of the permitting process replacing it with a politicized board of appointees with 10-year terms and no direct accountability to voters.
The political agenda of the Republican leaders is a disturbing waste of time and resources. None of these extremist proposals will make it past the Governor’s desk. However, all of their bad ideas will get out of legislative committees and to the house floor for debate and votes while legislation more reflective of the true majority of Pennsylvanians languishes in committee never to see the light of day while this majority that doesn’t work is in power.
We have to change the way things work in Harrisburg and that means changing who is in the majority. The only way to do that is by winning elections. Democrats need to keep the seats we have and pick up nine more, a worthy and achievable goal.
I invite you to join me in the fight to win a majority that works in Harrisburg and get Pennsylvania moving in the right direction.