from Rep. Danielle Friel Ottn (D-155), newsletter to her constituents, 11/19/21
In last week’s newsletter, which is available to view on my website, I talked about my frustration with how the legislature too often spends its time in Harrisburg on ceremonial or partisan pursuits, instead of working to improve our constituents’ lives by addressing actual problems that need to be solved here and across the state.
At the end of this week’s session, House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton addressed some of those same concerns in moving remarks calling for a return to collegiality, deliberation, collaboration, and democratic process in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Our constituents did not send us to Harrisburg to engage in partisanship or exacerbate the political polarization taking hold across our nation. We are here to be a voice for our districts, represent your interests in Harrisburg, find common ground with our colleagues, and work toward legislative solutions that improve the lives of Pennsylvanians.
Leader McClinton’s remarks were inspired by the events of Monday’s and Tuesday’s sessions. We spent hours both nights on bills that are destined to be vetoed. On Monday, House majority leaders violated House rules by tabling every single minority amendment offered on a bill, in one sweeping motion, with no opportunity for deliberation, and without tabling the bill itself.
My colleagues and I have no complaint about working long or late to reach compromise or make progress on meaningful legislation that will actually have a chance of becoming law and improving people’s lives. That is our job. But this was pure political theater, all on the taxpayers’ dime and at the expense of time and energy that should instead be spent on productive actions for the people of Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, we debated SB 565, a bill that Governor Wolf promised to veto before it even came over to the House from the Senate. This bill, which is opposed by the PA Chiefs of Police Association, the PA District Attorneys Association, and numerous gun safety groups, would end the requirement to qualify for a permit to carry a concealed firearm and lower the age to carry a concealed firearm from 21 to 18 years old.
When Arizona repealed its concealed carry permit requirement, it didn’t see safer streets. It saw a 44 percent increase in aggravated assaults committed with a firearm. We know that requiring an individual to obtain a permit and a background check during the process of purchasing a handgun is associated with a reduction in firearm suicide, and we know that lowering the minimum age for concealed carry is associated with an increase in suicide rates for 18- to 21-year-olds.
So why were we debating this bill, instead of working on ways to address our youth mental health crisis, improve access to health care and mental health care, or address substance use disorders, or living wages, or any of the contributing factors to depression, crime, and suicide? When I asked those questions and speculated as to the answer, I was gaveled down multiple times.
Senate Bill 565 passed the House by a vote of 107-92 and will now be sent to Governor Wolf, who has promised a veto.
It is my sincere hope that House leadership will take Rep. McClinton’s comments to heart and work toward positive change in the General Assembly. The people of Pennsylvania deserve better.