The state Senate this afternoon passed HB 1177, which will provide additional funding for the School District of Philadelphia by implementing a $2 tax on cigarette sales in Philadelphia.
The bill passed by a 39-11 vote. The vote came just a day after the state House approved the bill by a 114-84 vote.
School district officials have called the legislation essential to preventing further layoffs within the district. The bill is expected to provide the funding necessary to make up an $80 million shortfall in the district’s operating budget.
Passage of the bill followed a months-long delay.
Gov. Tom Corbett, who is running for re-election against Democrat Tom Wolf, hailed its passage as a success.
“I am pleased that both chambers have taken action on this legislation so that the Philadelphia School District, and more importantly, the students of Philadelphia, can benefit from it,” Corbett said in a statement released by his press office. “I intend to sign the (bill) into law as soon as it reaches my desk so that the Philadelphia School District has the ability to ensure students have access to a safe and secure learning environment for the remainder of the school year.”
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D-8, of Philadelphia, said the funding is not enough and called for a greater fix to the city’s funding struggles.
“While this is a significant revenue stream for Philly schools, it is also the epitome of what is wrong with Pennsylvania. We are depending on cigarette smokers to close the financial hole that exists in the city,” Williams said in a statement. “This commonwealth needs to do much more to reverse course and re-dedicate itself to the mission of public education. We need a modern funding formula that fairly distributes the precious billions in revenue that we now pay to deliver a first-class education.”
State Senate candidate Tom McGarrigle announced today that his campaign has knocked on 12,000 doors and called 22,000 voters since the Republican formally declared in February.
McGarrigle is campaigning against Democrat John Kane for the open seat in the 26th Senatorial District. Current state Sen. Edwin Erickson, a Republican, is retiring.
“I am committed to meeting with as many voters as possible between now and Election Day,” McGarrigle said in a statement. “I want to know the priorities and concerns of residents across this district and I want them to know my views as well. While there are many social media tools that we use to reach voters, there is no substitute for grassroots campaigning.”
The McGarrigle campaign also announced it has raised more than $1 million in campaign donations and expects to double that amount in the final six weeks of the race, which is expected to be among the most expensive in the state.
State House candidate Chuck Hadley, a Radnor Democrat, is seeking to debate his opponent, state Rep. William Adolph, R-165, of Springfield. In a press release this morning, Hadley suggested holding a series of four debates moderated by a nonpartisan organization. He wants to hold one in each of the communities that comprise the 165th Legislative District.
Lastly, today is National Voter Registration Day. The League of Women Voters of Delaware County is holding a voter registration event at Delaware County Community College. The nonpartisan organization has several more registration events planned before Oct. 5, the deadline to register in time for the Nov. 4 general election.
State Rep. William Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, announced Thursday that he has introduced legislation designed to help prevent suicide, the 11th leading cause of death in Pennsylvania.
The Matt Adler Suicide Prevention Act would require state-licensed psychologists, social workers, professional counselors and marriage and family therapists to dedicate at least one hour of their continuing education requirements to the assessment, treatment and management of suicide risk.
“Many of these professionals already do a great job with helping those at risk get the proper treatment,” Adolph said. “However, the intent of this legislation is help strengthen our providers awareness of the growing problem of suicide.”
Pennsylvania recorded 1,747 deaths by suicide in 2011, the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s 13.71 percent suicide rate was a tick higher than the national rate of 12.68 percent. Delaware County had 66 suicides in 2013, according to county officials.
The bill was prompted by Gary and Phyllis Adler, a pair of Adolph’s constituents whose son, Matt, died of suicide in 2011 in Seattle.
The bill has received 41 co-sponsors from both parties.
Adolph, like all members of the state House, is up for re-election. He is opposed by Democrat Charles Hadley.
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State Reps. Joe Hackett, R-161, of Ridley Township, and William Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, heralded Pennsylvania’s job creation statistics Wednesday, claiming hard work and smart decisions made by both the public and private sector has sparked job growth.
Led by the booming natural gas industry, Pennsylvania has gained 123,321 jobs since 2011, Adolph said, citing numbers prepared by the House Appropriations Committee. Delaware County has gained 6,900 jobs.
The state unemployment rating stands at 5.7 percent — a 2.4 point drop from Jan. 2011, according to statistics from the state Department of Labor and Industry. Delaware County’s unemployment rate is 5.5 percent — a 2.6 point decline.
“It didn’t happen because it happened,” Adolph said. “It happened because good legislation was passed. Four straight budgets with no tax increases.”
Adolph pointed to legislation that reformed workers compensation by eliminating regulations that forced shipbuilders to pay for duplicative insurance policies for employees. He noted the Inheritance Tax Elimination bill, which exempted from the tax all assets of family-owned businesses being transferred to another family member. He also heralded the reduction of the state’s capital stock and franchise tax.
“You didn’t even have to make a profit and you were still paying a heavy tax,” Adolph said. “Slowly, but surely, we are phasing that capital stock tax out.”
The state lawmakers — who are each up for re-election — held their press conference at East Coast Contractors, a Ridley Township pipe and metal fabricating company that severely cut its workforce in 2011, when two Delaware County refineries were threatened with closure. The company reduced its staff to six full-time employees, but has since rebounded to employ about 35 full-time workers.
“While there was direct involvement in bringing these plants back to life, sound state fiscal policy and reasonable spending by state government has helped to make Pennsylvania and Delaware County an attractive place to do business,” Hackett said. “Our commonwealth is making world headlines on the energy front with the production of Marcellus Shale’s natural gas exploration in our state. This fact has played a role in the resurrection of the refineries in our area and contributed to the success story of East Coast.”
Hackett, a former police officer, is running for his third term in Harrisburg against Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, a Swarthmore businesswoman.
Adolph, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was first elected in 1988. Earlier this month, he gained a new Democratic opponent in Charles Hadley, a retired venture capitalist who replaced Jeremy Fearn on the ballot.
Hadley, of Radnor, and Krueger-Braneky each released statements critical of Pennsylvania’s job growth and the education policies of incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. They pointed to statistics, compiled by Arizona State University, that ranked Pennsylvania 42nd in job growth — down significantly from its No. 7 ranking in January 2011.
“If Rep. Adolph thinks Pennsylvanians should be happy with abysmal job growth, a billion dollars less funding for our schools and higher property taxes and gas taxes for motorists to boot, he should get out of the Harrisburg bubble,” Hadley said. “Because that equation doesn’t work for Delaware County.”
Krueger-Braneky’s statement blamed state Republicans for underfunding schools, causing property taxes to increase.
“This didn’t have to happen,” Krueger-Braneky said. “Hackett and Corbett chose to support the gas drillers over our schools. … If Joe Hackett stopped wasting time on smoke-and-mirror press conferences, maybe he could stand up to Corbett and help middle class families in Delaware County.”
Unlike Corbett, who opposes an extraction tax on natural gas, Hackett has said he would support a 5 percent extraction tax if it enabled senior citizens to freeze their property taxes. Adolph also has said he supports an extraction tax.
House Republican leaders cancelled a vote on a Philadelphia cigarette tax that would provide critical funding to the School District of Philadelphia, citing a lack of consensus on the proposal.
A special summer session had been slated for Monday to consider the proposal, which would have placed a $2 tax on all cigarette packs sold in Philadelphia. The tax was expected to raise as much as $45 million in revenue for the beleaguered district, which has a $93 million budget gap.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said earlier this month that the district would have to lay off employees or consider delaying the start of the school year.
State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, issued a statement Thursday afternoon criticizing the decision to cancel the special session. Adolph serves as the majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Here is Adolph’s statement in full:
“I am extremely disappointed the House will not be returning to complete the unfinished business that is necessary to give the Philadelphia School District the resources they need to educate more than 200,000 students in the Commonwealth’s largest school district.
“Ensuring our state’s largest school district opens on time is something for which we should all accept some responsibility. I am very frustrated that we could not reach agreement on the language that was added by the Senate. It is my opinion that since there was no agreement on the issues added to HB1177, the funding of Philadelphia schools should have remained an isolated issue and voted on its own merits.
“The will of the House in regard to the enabling legislation for the School District of Philadelphia was expressed in the initial passage of House Bill 1177 on July 2. I believe there are other avenues that can be used to advance the extraneous issues added to House Bill 1177.
“Along with several other legislative leaders, I have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to find consensus and build support in the Legislature for this proposal. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach that consensus in time to consider the legislation for the scheduled session days on August 4th, 5th and 6th.
“I remain optimistic a solution can still be reached. However, time is of the essence and I will continue to work so that the schools will be able to open their doors on time.”
Vince Rongione announced today that he has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council.
Rongione, a Democrat, is running against Republican Jamie Santora for the open seat in the 163rd Legislative District. Longtime Republican state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie is retiring at the end of the year.
The Building and Construction Trades Council is made up of 16 regional councils and more than 115 local unions from 15 international building trade unions. The endorsement is the 12th landed by Rongione, an attorney from Upper Darby.
“It’s truly humbling (to) earn the endorsement of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council,” Rongione said in a statement furnished by his campaign. “This is a huge victory for the campaign. I look forward to working with the State Council to fix our economy, bring jobs to the 163rd and get people in the 163rd working again. We need economic growth that works (for) everyone, not (Republican Gov. Tom) Corbett’s corporate friends and big money interests.”
Rongione also has earned endorsements from the United Steelworkers Local 10-1, Plumbers Local 690 and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776, among others.
Santora, an Upper Darby Councilman, has earned the backing of four organizations, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 654.
Jamie Santora, campaigning for the open seat in the 163rd Legislative District, announced the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 654.
Santora, a Republican, is running against Democrat Vince Rongione to fill the seat being vacated by longtime Republican state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie.
Local 654 represents about 700 active and retired members in Delaware and Chester counties. Its members provide electrical work at various businesses, including Boeing, Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Kimberly-Clark, Sunoco Logistics and Monroe Energy.
Thus far, it is the largest organization to back Santora.
“I am honored to have the backing of our local electrical workers who play a vital role in keeping so many of our local businesses and employers up and running,” Santora said in a statement released by his campaign. “It means a lot to have earned the backing of trade, fire, and police unions, as well as the business community. The diverse endorsements I have received reflect the approach I intend to take in Harrisburg as a consensus builder who works in a bipartisan fashion and brings together diverse coalitions for the betterment of our residents and communities.”
Santora, an Upper Darby Councilman, also has been endorsed by the Delaware County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27, the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association and SEPAC, a business organization.
Rongione, an attorney from Upper Darby, has earned the endorsement of eight trade unions, including several that previously supported Micozzie.