News Releases

Costa, Hughes Support Budget Becoming Law; New Funds for Education, Opioid Treatment

Harrisburg, July 10, 2016 – Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) released the following comments in support of Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement that he was allowing the state budget bill (Senate Bill 1073) to become law without his signature.

The governor said that he will continue working on a bipartisan revenue package to fund the $31.53 billion state spending plan for Fiscal 2016-17. The spending measure that cleared the Senate with a bipartisan 47 to 3 vote includes $200 million in new dollars for basic education, $20 million more for special education and additional fund for early childhood education.

Sen. Jay Costa:

“In letting the budget become law and keeping the dollars flowing for key programs, the governor is appropriately moving the state forward. The state spending plan is solid budget that includes new funds for basic education, special education, early childhood education and dollars for opioid treatment. Work must continue on a bipartisan basis to find the resources and revenues that are needed to fund these key initiatives.”

Sen. Vincent J. Hughes:

“The state budget was developed in a bipartisan way and it passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support. While we all have differing priorities, I am pleased that the measure will go into effect so important social service programs and funding initiatives are not interrupted. Revenues are tight and choices hard, but we must continue working in a bipartisan way to find sustainable revenues and balance the state spending plan.”

-30-

Senator Vincent Hughes Budget Reaction Interview

 

Senator Hughes Floor Remarks on passage of 2016-17 State Budget

 

Senator Hughes Statement on Passage of State Budget

Harrisburg, June 29th, 2016 – State Senator Vincent Hughes today voted with the majority of the Pennsylvania Senate to pass a $31.53 billion General Fund budget. The bill offers an on-time budget that contains a modest increase funding for public education and makes other investments. The bill, which passed the Senate 47 to 3, will now be sent back to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for concurrence.

 

“This budget represents a bipartisan compromise that delivers an increase in funding for education in a very difficult fiscal and political climate,” said Senator Hughes. “There were many people who wanted to do nothing for our public schools. That is why I have joined with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this on-time budget a reality.”

The $31.53 billion budget contains a $250 million increase in funding for education. This includes $200 million for basic education, $30 million for Pre-K and Head Start, and $20 million increase for special education. This represents the beginning of restoring more than $1 billion cut from public education under the previous administration.

 

“This budget also increases funding for higher education, while others sought a spending agreement that contained no increase,” said Senator Hughes. “I have been steadfast since the beginning of this process that I would only support a budget that contained increased funding for education. There is still a significant amount of work to be done, but this budget represents a step forward.”

The budget passed by the Senate also includes new investments in social programs and human services. It contains $15 million to combat opiod abuse, $1.4 million for Zika Virus prevention, $506,000 increase for services for victims of domestic violence, and a $289,000 increase for rape crises centers. There is also a significant increase of $630,000 for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

“The spending plan passed by the Senate makes modest and sensible increases,” said Senator Hughes. “This stands in contrast to others who sought a more austere state budget.”

The budget agreement passed the Pennsylvania Senate one day before the deadline of June 30th, which is the end of the fiscal year. This is a major improvement over the previous year, which saw the longest budget standoff in the history of Pennsylvania. The on-time budget means that school districts, social service agencies, and non-profit organizations will be able to provide vital services without any disruption.

Senate Democrats and Republicans Hold a Joint Press Conference to Discuss the State Budget

 

Senator Vincent Hughes PCN Budget Interview

 

Senator Vincent Hughes Calls for More Funding for Human Relations Commission

 

Senator Vincent Hughes Remarks on the Human Relations Commission Funding Issues

 

Senate Democrats Call for More Funding for Human Relations Commission

June 22, 2016 − State Senate Democratic Whip Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) today said that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) has been devastated by recurring state budget cuts and that the state spending plan now under consideration needs to address agency funding shortfalls.

“The PHRC has an incredibly important job to do and it cannot function properly if its funding is slashed year in and year out,” Williams said today.

Williams was joined at a news conference at the Capitol by his Democratic colleague from Philadelphia Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Senate Democratic leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Democratic Appropriations Chair Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) other Democratic senators and advocates.

 

“The agency’s ability to ensure that civil rights protections are upheld has been compromised by chronic underfunding,” Tartaglione said. “We are here to request that additional funds be included in the appropriation for the commission so it has the resources to do its important work.”

The state appropriation for the PHRC has fallen from $10.6 million in 2008 to $8.7 million last year. The total agency budget was reduced from $14.1 million to $10 million over the same time span.

“Incredibly, at a time when we should be doing more to protect civil rights, the agency dedicated to this purpose has had to dramatically cut staff and is under pressure to close cases without proper investigation,” Williams said.

The lawmakers are seeking an additional $2 million in state funding in this budget to bolster operations at the PHRC.

“I am pleased that my Senate Democratic colleagues and those representatives that have been touched by the work of the PHRC have come out today to support the call for more funding,” Williams said. “It is important that those of us who are committed to preserving this agency as a protector of civil rights stay united and put pressure on budget negotiators.”

Williams said that staffing at the commission is at a crisis point. According to the senator, the historical complement of investigators and professional staff has been just under 200 employees. Today, there are only 76 investigators and professionals to handle the agency’s responsibilities.

“Values like equality, service, integrity, excellence and teamwork were once associated with the commission and its operations,” Williams said. “The PHRC was once recognized as a preeminent protector of civil rights.

 

“We can get the agency back to that position of being a nationally-recognized leader, but it has to be funded properly.”

The call for more funding and for making systemic repairs at the commission follows media reports about upheaval at the agency over the last several years. Allegations of long-time staff being forced out, hostile working conditions and discriminatory hiring practices have been cited in news reports.

The operations of the commission were recently examined at a Senate State Government Committee hearing requested by Williams earlier this month.

-30-

State Senate Roundtable in Philadelphia Focuses on the Dangers of Lead Exposure

Philadelphia – May 19, 2016 – At the request of state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a roundtable discussion today on the health impact of lead exposure.

“The effects of lead exposure are indelible, dangerous and deadly,” Hughes said. “There is no cure. Whether it’s lead from old pipes or peeling paint that still clings to aging homes and school buildings, this problem will only get worse if we do nothing to help now.”

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh), who chairs the committee, added, “From my standpoint, we need to get a better understanding of lead exposure levels in Pennsylvania – and we then need to do what’s necessary to limit and prevent exposure.”

The lawmakers pointed to the water lead poisoning tragedy in Flint, Michigan, as a wake-up call for states and cities across the country. While state Department of Health officials claim Pennsylvania’s lead exposure threat is more due to pealing and cracking lead-based paint, a February report by the Department on childhood lead surveillance revealed that Pennsylvania has at least 18 cities with higher lead exposure rates than Flint.

Pointing to data issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a February 3 Vox.com article (www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10904120/lead-exposure-flint-pennsylvania) warned that the rate of lead exposure in Pennsylvania is “incredibly alarming.” The study revealed that nearly 10 percent of the more than 140,000 kids tested had levels of five or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood. Five micrograms per deciliter is the threshold government uses to identify children with dangerously elevated blood lead levels.

Held at the Karabots Pediatric Care Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, today’s roundtable discussion also focused on a package of bills introduced by Hughes and fellow Democrats. The measures include:

  • Senate Bill 14 (Hughes) would create a “SuperFund for Lead Abatement” that could be used by schools, day care centers, and other organizations to defray lead remediation costs.
  • Senate Bill 16 (Yudichak) would create a task force to study the scope of the lead issue, including an accounting of the age of the state’s housing stock, pipelines, school buildings and day care centers. It would also study best practices and make recommendations.
  • Senate Bill 17 (Haywood) would require every school building to be tested (water, paint, soil) for lead before a school year begins. Test results would be sent to parents of every enrolled child and posted on school district websites. If a school tests at lead levels higher than the Centers for Disease Control’s acceptable amount, it would be required to submit a remediation plan to the state Department of Education.
  • Senate Bill 18 (Kitchen) seeks to require lead testing (water, paint, soil) in day care centers licensed by the PA Department of Human Services. DHS would be prohibited from issuing a license to a day care operator if lead levels are higher than CDC recommended readings.
  • Senate Bills 19 and 20 (Fontana) would enable homebuyers to request that a home be tested to determine what level of lead is in the water; and require that known lead paint within a home build before 1978 as well as any contamination in drinking water be disclosed on a seller’s property disclosure statement.

Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, medical director of the Poison Control Center at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP), called lead exposure “brain poison” in describing the devastating consequences of elevated lead levels in the human body.

Dr. Marsha Gerdes, a senior psychologist in the Policy Lab, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that additional funding will be necessary to clean up both water sources and homes. She also said that prevention needs to be the primary form of intervention.

“An important opportunity to clean up lead poisoning occurs at prenatal visits and at the time of birth,” Gerdes stated. “Asking mothers about where they are living and linking them with services that can reduce lead in their home is a way to reduce exposure from the beginning of life.”

Dr. Carolyn Johnson, who serves as Philadelphia’s interim deputy health commissioner, urged legislators and health agencies to place greater emphasis on preventing lead exposure.

“We need to do more to provide secondary prevention for the thousands of at-risk kids who don’t have elevated lead levels yet,” she said.

Boscola said, “This is a very critical and timely issue – and I commend Senator Hughes for insisting that we have this discussion right now — and right here in Philadelphia.”

Hughes and Boscola were joined at the hearing by Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Phila/Delaware) and Sharif Street, the unopposed candidate to fill retiring Sen. Shirley Kitchen’s (D-Phila.) senate seat, also attended the hearing.

The following also participated in the roundtable discussion:

  • Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, Medical Director, Poison Control Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Marsha Gerdes, Senior Psychologist, Policy Lab, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Dr. Caroline Johnson, Interim Deputy Health Commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Public Health
  • Collen McCauley, Health Policy Director, Public Citizens Children & Youth
  • Jerry Roseman, Director of Environmental Science & Occupational Safety & Health, PA Federation of Teachers – Health & Welfare Fund& Union
  • Roy Christ, Director of Building and Housing, City of Harrisburg
  • Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney, Education Law Center
  • Daniel DeLellis, Office of Medical Asst. Programs, PA Department of Human Services
  • Michelle Figlar, Deputy Secretary, Office of Child Development & Early Learning, PA Department of Human Services

# # #

Senator Vincent Hughes on Combating Opioid Addiction Epidemic

 

Senate Democrats Outline Legislation to Combat Opioid and Heroin Crisis

Harrisburg, May 18, 2016 – With drug overdose deaths reaching epidemic levels, Senate Democrats unveiled legislation today to address the opioid addiction crisis from prevention through recovery.

“Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate and there is no easy solution to fix the problem,” Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said. “When addiction finds its way into a family, it can nearly paralyze them for fear of what the future may hold.”

 

Recognizing the need to provide support at all levels, the Senate Democrats’ legislation focuses on providing new opportunities for education and treatment as well as expanded support options in the community for addicts, professionals and families.

“We cannot address this problem in a vacuum and must work to provide the necessary services and support to everyone involved,” Costa said. “Families are being affected and communities torn apart as a result of opioid abuses and heroin addiction.”

Opioids are a class of drug that include heroin as well as the prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. According to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study, fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania increased 14 fold between 1979 and 2014.

“We are in the midst of the worst ever overdose death epidemic and the worst public health crisis of the last 100 years, Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis said. “It will continue to take a collaborative effort among many partners to effectively address this crisis.”

The package of legislation includes:

Emergency Addiction Treatment Program – Charging the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs with establishing a comprehensive program that includes new addiction treatment facilities for those drug users that are currently going without care; new intake methods to provide information to those with addiction problems or their family and friends; advice and assistance in accessing treatment; and data collection to help identify patterns of addiction.

School Aged Children Opioid Awareness Education Program – Requiring the Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Education to work cooperatively to design an opioid awareness education programs to be delivered in schools.

Addiction Treatment Professional Loan Forgiveness Program – Require the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to develop an addiction treatment professional loan forgiveness program.

Opioid Addiction Prevention and Treatment Assessment – Impose a 10 percent assessment on the first sale of an opioid into the state. Revenues from the assessment will be used to support the purchase of naloxone for local law enforcement and emergency management personnel in addition to supporting addiction prevention and treatment programs.

Responding to the Senate Democratic proposals to the drug and alcohol problem, Deb Beck from the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania said that the drug and alcohol problem “has reached epidemic levels in the state and these proposals will be life saving in impact.”

###

Senator Vincent Hughes Brown vs. Board of Education Floor Remarks

 

Senator Vincent Hughes Budget Floor Remarks

 

Senator Vincent Hughes Background Checks Rally

 

Sen. Vincent Hughes Fair Taxation News Conference

 

Senator Hughes Responds to the Auditor General’s Audit of the Philadelphia School System

HARRISBURG, May 11, 2016 − Senator Vincent Hughes released the following statement on the Auditor General’s audit of the School District of Philadelphia:

“I commend the auditor general and his team for their thorough review of the School District of Philadelphia’s finances. With the auditor general reporting that the Philadelphia school district has a structural deficit of $500 million, it’s clear the state’s broken charter school funding law is causing major damage to the Philadelphia School District and most likely to any public school districts across Pennsylvania which have a significant number of charter schools. The real question is how many more reports do we need to make the obvious conclusion?

“What’s also clear from this report is that this significant public institution cannot be operated halfway. It’s no surprise that the district had trouble tracking attendance after school secretaries were laid off. The same is true of keeping track of library books after massive layoffs of school librarians, with just 11 for 240 schools. We see this pattern repeated again and again.

“We can no longer accept an approach that running our schools with a financial and academic deficit is sufficient. Enough is enough. As long as our schools are underfunded, operate with a financing law that bleeds limited resources, and tolerates broken facilities as safe places for the education of our children, we are violating their rights and dropping the ball on our responsibilities.”

The children in low income school districts, like Philadelphia, are just as important as all of the other children in Pennsylvania. We should treat them as such and provide for them the education they deserve.”

Senator Vincent Hughes represents the 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. He is also the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

###

Democratic Senators, Community Leaders Call for State Tax Reform

HARRISBURG, May 11, 2016 – At a news conference held at the state capitol today, State Senator Art Haywood joined Senate Democratic colleagues and community leaders calling for tax reform to protect middle and low-income Pennsylvanians. At the event, Haywood introduced legislation – Senate Bills 1257 and 1258 – that would reduce the tax burden for everyday Pennsylvanians.

“At a time when our state and nation seem rigged against working people, when our minimum wage remains outrageously low, when schools and social services have been drained of funds – it is a crime that our commonwealth’s tax system is also stacked against everyday citizens,” Senator Haywood said. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy placed Pennsylvania on the “Terrible Ten” list of states for unfair taxation in 2015. The researchers found that low-income Pennsylvanians pay three times the tax share of the wealthy in Pennsylvania, while middle-income earners pay twice as much as the well-off.

 

Senator Haywood introduced a two-part legislative package at the press conference, noting that he was open to additional suggestions for inclusion in the reform effort. First, SB 1257 would amend Article VIII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow for graduated taxation of income. The amendment would make it possible for Pennsylvania to tax middle income families at a lower rate than those who are high-income. All of the states surrounding Pennsylvania have graduated taxation according to data from the Tax Foundation.

Second, SB 1258 would impose a 4% tax on non-wage, non-interest income classes that are concentrated among the most affluent. The tax would apply to net profits; dividends; net income derived from rents, royalties, patents and copyrights; gambling and lottery winnings; and net gains derived through estates and trusts. According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, this legislation could add up to about $1.2 billion in revenue by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

“While Pennsylvania is struggling to manage a more than $1 billion deficit, we cannot afford to continue requiring low and middle income families to pay double or even three times as much as the wealthy,” Haywood said. “What we need is a balanced tax system.”

SB 1258 complies with the Pennsylvania Constitution’s uniformity clause. In Aldine Apartments, Inc. v Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided the uniformity clause requires all taxes to be uniform “upon the same class of subjects” so long as a reasonable, non-arbitrary distinction exists relative to classification. Additionally, the bill’s impact on small businesses would be limited. Under current Pennsylvania law and regulations, if owners of small businesses classified as “S” corporations are employees of the corporations, their income could be classified as “compensation,” and would not fall within the classes of income impacted by SB 1258.

Joining Haywood in support of the legislative reform package were Senate Democratic leadership Jay Costa and Vincent Hughes. Senator Larry Farnese also voiced his support in a statement. “By ‘fair tax reform’ we mean taking the pressure off the people who can least afford to pay for the corporate welfare handouts that have increased under Republican leadership,” Senator Farnese said. “Fair is fair. The people and businesses at the top must stop depending on the people at the bottom to keep them afloat.”

Community leaders representing Pennsylvania’s Choice, a newly-formed non-partisan coalition for a balanced state budget, advocated for the legislation. Marc Stier of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Susan Spicka of Education Voters PA, both member organizations of Pennsylvania’s Choice, said the bills could bring important changes to the commonwealth: “Pennsylvania’s uniformity clause has made it difficult to adequately fund services like education while protecting everyday people from high taxes. By amending our state’s constitution, we can ensure middle-class and working people are not unfairly burdened with high taxes,” said Stier. “At the same time, implementing a tax on classes of income concentrated among the wealthy would create a more balanced tax system for all of us without any constitutional changes.”

As 2016-17 state budget conversations focus on addressing the structural deficit facing the commonwealth, dozens of community organizations across the state have joined Pennsylvania’s Choice to advocate for sustainable new sources of revenue as an alternative to continued cutbacks. Senator Haywood has supported Pennsylvania’s Choice, and says his legislation would soften the impact of tax increases on middle and low-income families.

“My hope is that this reform package opens up a responsible revenue discussion in Pennsylvania that looks at the real impact of our budget on everyday people,” Haywood said. “We must lay the groundwork to pay for schools, troopers, nursing home care and other state government services by protecting both the middle-class and those living paycheck-to-paycheck from shouldering the heaviest tax burden in our state.”

###

Contact: Melissa Ostroff

Phone: 717-787-1427

mostroff@pasenate.com

Senator Hughes Unveils Youth Investment Initiative to Create 20,000 New Youth Jobs

 

Sen. Hughes to Propose Council on Jazz to Promote, Preserve Jazz in PA

PHILADELPHIA, April 28, 2016 – After meeting with jazz educators, musicians and experts today at the iconic Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts about steps to take to better promote and preserve jazz’s legacy in the commonwealth, Sen. Vince Hughes said he will work to establish the Council on Jazz.

The vehicle for making the council a reality: Senate Bill 1234.

“We have great organizations throughout Pennsylvania that work to promote jazz, like the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts has done for 50 years,” Hughes said today following his meeting with the music genre’s experts and caretakers. “But their efforts would flourish and more people would learn about jazz in Pennsylvania if a state organization helped to direct each effort.

“Whether big band, contemporary or ragtime; Dixieland or cool, Pennsylvania has played a key role in the history of jazz.”

Under SB 1234, the five-member Council on Jazz would mirror the PA Council on the Arts. Council members would be appointed by the governor and the General Assembly.

It would be responsible for promoting, marketing, encouraging, educating, protecting and preserving jazz in the commonwealth.  The council would award grants that fulfill the responsibilities of the council, and it would get administrative support from the Council on the Arts.

Sen. Hughes said it is important to introduce his new bill now because April is Jazz Appreciation Month, or JAM.

“Jazz is cool. Doing what we can to ensure its legacy is even cooler, cats,” Hughes, a jazz aficionado, said. “Let’s put Senate Bill 1234 ‘in the mix’ and get this done.”

###

Follow Sen. Vincent Hughes via Twitter, Facebook or his website.

Contact: Mark Shade

Phone:  717-787-9220

mshade@pasenate.com

District Office

4950 Parkside Avenue
Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Phone: 215.879.7777
Fax: 215.879.7778

Harrisburg Office

545 Capitol Building
Senate Box 203007
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3007
Phone: 717.787.7112
Fax: 717.772.0579

Looking for Something?

Still not finding what you’re looking for? Please contact me or my staff so we can help you!