API Poll: Pennsylvanians Want Energy Investment

gas drillingAccording to a poll from the American Petroleum Institute, residents of the Keystone State want to see increased funding for energy infrastructure.

The results of the survey showed that 94% of registered Pennsylvania voters agree that increased development of the country’s energy infrastructure would help create jobs in the U.S.; again, 94% say that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more jobs in the U.S. 86% say increased development of the country’s energy infrastructure is good for American consumers and 90% say increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could help stimulate the economy.

As always, take the results of polls commissioned by interest groups with a grain of salt and in this case, API has serious financial stake in American and Pennsylvania-based energy. API-PA is a division of API, which represents all segments of America’s oil and natural gas industry The petroleum industry also supports 9.8 million U.S. jobs and 8% of the U.S. economy.

“Today’s poll shows strong majorities of Pennsylvania voters support more domestic oil and natural gas development, regardless of party affiliation,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of API-PA, “Forward-looking policies that allow the United States to capitalize on its bright energy future are imperative for this nation to realize its job creation and economic potential.

“The people of Pennsylvania get it; America’s economic future, the availability of affordable and reliable energy, depends on the policies created today.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and API-PA are running with these results in a new marketing campaign, using social media and traditional advertising

The study was conducted April 3-9, 2014 by telephone by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute among 603 registered voters in Pennsylvania, with a sampling error of +/- 4%.

HD-36: Readshaw Joins Molchany on TV (Watch)

Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) joined his primary opponent Rep. Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny) on the airwaves with a biographical ad that launched this morning.

The bright, 30-second spot details some of the highlights from Readshaw’s nearly-twenty year career.

readshaw ad“He’s a dad, husband, grandfather and a leader who has earned our trust: Harry Readshaw,” a narrator reads. “He refuses a taxpayer funded car and led the fight to repeal the midnight pay raise because he’s fed up with the old Harrisburg politics.

“Readshaw fought Governor Corbett’s massive gas tax that funds Philadelphia’s mass transit and Harry led the fight to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.”

According to a press release accompanying the ad, “What the television ad does not highlight, due to time, is Harry’s massive list of endorsements: the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, the overwhelming majority of the Allegheny County Labor Council, the Realtors Association, IBEW 5, the Plumbers 27, and a number of leaders in the 36th district have all expressed support for Rep Readshaw.”

Molchany and Readshaw, both incumbent representatives, were merged into the same district after Molchany’s seat moved to Lehigh County. The new seat contains mostly Readshaw’s old district, a little of Molchany’s and some neutral turf. 72% of voters in the new district are already his, while just 21% live in Molchany’s district.

Molchany launched her first ad last Thursday.

Lt. Gov: LGBT Organizations Line Up For Stack

Sen. Stack

Sen. Stack

State Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) received a crop of endorsements from Pa. LGBT organizations, including the Steel City Stonewall Democrats, the Gertrude Stein Political Club and Liberty City Democratic Club.

The Steel City Stonewall Democrats is an advocacy group that supports “equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression” in the city of Pittsburgh. They are affiliated with the LGBT section of the Democratic National Committee and are the largest LGBT advocacy group in Western Pennsylvania. The Stonewall Democrats also endorsed State Treasurer Rob  McCord for Governor.

The Gertrude Stein Political Club is also located in Pittsburgh and is a multi-partisan organization that supports political candidates who actively defend and advocate for the rights of the LGBT community. In a press release covered by Pittsburgh’s City Paper, the organization explained why they supported the Philadelphia State Senator.

“[Mike Stack] has a strong organization, strong ties to our community, and has been instrumental to moving bits of progressive legislation through a government largely controlled by people who demonize our community.”

Stack is the co-sponsor of Senate Bill 300, a bill that would make it illegal in Pennsylvania for employers to discriminate against both employees and applicants based on sexual orientation. The bill has been stalled in both houses.

And as reported earlier this week by PoliticsPA, Stack also received the support of Liberty City Democratic Club of Philadelphia, an organization that works to further change to better the LGBT community.

Neither the GSPC and the LCDC chose to endorse a candidate for governor, which means that the support of these organizations is a big and defining win for Stack that affirms his credentials on socially progressive issues.

Also running for lieutenant governor are candidates former Congressman Mark Critz, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski and State Rep. Brendan Neuman.

PPP: Pennsylvanians Support Medicaid Expansion

Chemo-Drug-CroppedA new survey from Public Policy Polling and commissioned by progressive organization MoveOn.Org shows wide support for a Medicaid expansion in the state.

A majority, 59%, say that Governor Corbett should accept the Medicaid expansion as designed in the Affordable Care Act, compared to 30% who say he should not and 11% who were undecided.

The expansion is also likely to effect the decision of 63% of voters. 41% said they would be more likely to vote for a gubernatorial candidate if he or she supported the expansion and 22% said it would make them less likely to support a candidate. 37% weren’t sure or said it wouldn’t make a difference.

When directed at Governor Corbett, 46% say they are less likely to support him based on his decision to reject the Medicaid expansion compared to 23% who said they were more likely.

Corbett proposed a different plan for the federal dollars that would have been used for the Medicaid expansion – private vouchers that allow those eligible to shop on the private market for their health insurance. Similar plans have been proposed in other states but his has yet to be approved by the federal administration.

Every Pennsylvania voter polled said they are likely to vote in the November general election, but they aren’t coming to support the incumbent. A majority, 56% said they would support an unnamed Democratic opponent over Governor Corbett. 30% said they would vote for Corbett and 11% remain undecided.

Corbett did pick up decent support among Independents, 35% of whom said they would support him; 45% said they would vote for the unnamed Democrat. Republicans also support him 64% to 9%.

PPP surveyed 750 Pennsylvania voters from 4/1 to 4/2. Demographically, the poll broke down to 53% female and 47% male. 49% were Democrats, 40% Republicans and 11% Independent or other.

As always, take the results of polls commissioned by interest groups with the proverbial grain of salt.

HD-36: Molchany Launches First Ad

Rep. Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny) launched her first television ad this morning in her primary race against fellow incumbent Democrat Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny).

After redistricting moved her district, HD-22, to Lehigh County, Molchany was merged into Readshaw’s, HD-36.

Molchany’s ad launched on cable this morning at 5:00am and talks about her work during her first term in the House through the words of her father.

The spot opens introducing them both, and they trade lines through the 30-second spot.

“I’d like to tell you about my daughter. She’s never been afraid to be a leader to do what’s right,” Molchany’s dad says. “She’s working to raise the minimum wage, make taxes fairer for working families and to create jobs. She’s fighting for equal pay for women.”

molchany ad“He taught me to give back,” Molchany responds.

“I’m proud of my daughter,” her dad says.

“I’m proud of my dad,” Molchany reads as the ad ends.

It’s reminiscent of the popular ad of Carl Sciortino, who ran for Congress in Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District.

On the whole, it’s a cutesy, upbeat ad that will introduce Molchany in the new district, where 72% of voters in the new district are already Readshaw’s, while just 21% live in Molchany’s district.

It particularly highlights her work in equal pay, for which she’s received national kudos. Just this week, she and Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) were invited to the White House to discuss their work for equal pay in Pennsylvania. They are the prime cosponsors on House Bill 1890, legislation that mirrors the executive order President Obama unveiled to level out the gender gap in pay.

“I’m constantly looking for innovative ways we can continue to support all our working families. Equal pay for equal work is not just a women’s issue. It is about sustaining families and strengthening our economy.” said Molchany in a release. “Inequity in pay hurts our families and holds our neighborhoods back.”

This Saturday at noon Rep. Molchany will be joined by HB1890 coprime sponsor Brian Sims for a meet and greet at her campaign office at 2615 Brownsville Rd in Carrick. The event caps off a week focused on highlighting the fight for pay equity.

Sources: Senator Boscola Removed From Harrisburg Bar

According to several individuals who were at Brickhaus last night, Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) was asked to leave the popular Harrisburg bar after an alleged confrontation.

Boscola confirmed her removal from the bar with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In an interview Wednesday, Boscola acknowledged she was asked to leave the bar, but said she did not strike anyone.

“When you hit somebody there is a physical act of `stay away from me,’” she said of the woman. “Unless she was in my face. I do not know what her motivation is. I need to figure that out. Because in this business, it could be misinterpreted. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt as well. No one wants to hurt anyone in this business. Especially a woman. You know what I’m saying.”


This was posted on Facebook, and later removed, by the individual with whom Boscola allegedly had an interaction.


Update: According to the Inquirer article, she also had a contentious dispute with Speaker Sam Smith over a House bill. Smith released the following statement this morning:

“Given that other people have experienced similar encounters with the senator, I hope she gets whatever help she needs for her problems. Her statement is a clear indication of her own denial of the situation and I feel sorry for her.”

Boscola also updated her remarks from yesterday afternoon.

“There are differing perceptions of the heated conversation,” Boscola said in her statement, which was issued following numerous media calls to her office. “I had an animated discussion with members of the General Assembly and Republican House leadership about issues under discussion in both the Senate and House. The conversation was both frank and passionate as I made my positions known.

“Admittedly, the tone and level of discussion may have been uncomfortable for those engaged and others nearby,” Boscola said. “As a result, I was asked to leave, and I complied without incident.”

Senate Passes Cash Gift Ban

cash banIn the wake of scandal and consequent uproar, the Pennsylvania State Senate approved a bill to ban cash gifts.

Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-13) and Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) introduced Senate Bill 1327 to prohibit public officials from accepting cash gifts from lobbyists and other individuals who seek to influence the legislative process. The legislation also applies to public officials and employees in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

The bill was approved unanimously and would implement harsh penalties for any lawmaker found accepting a cash gift.

“It is our responsibility to take direct and decisive action to change the culture, to strengthen ethical standards, and to make certain that enforcement follows infractions and that meaningful penalties are applied,” Smucker said. “This is our chance to strengthen ethical standards, and we must seize the opportunity.”

This legislation sailed quickly out of committee and there has been much outcry for such a rule.

The renewed fervor for a ban on cash gifts is clearly the result of the Philadelphia sting investigation that yielded no criminal charges. According to the investigation, State Rep. Ronald G. Waters (D-Philadelphia) reportedly accepted $7,650, while State Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-Philadelphia) accepted $4,000, State Rep. Michelle Brownlee accepted $3,500 (D-Philadelphia), and State Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia) accepted $1,500. Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes was also implicated for accepting a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet.

If the tapes from this investigation reveal what is alleged, then these payments were given with the qualification that they were in exchange for a “No” vote on the Voter ID bill (which every House Democrat voted against anyway.) If this is the case, then these cash gifts were instead bribery, which is already illegal.

Bipartisan Coalition Proposes Marcellus Shale Tax


A bipartisan coalition of PA legislators stood together today to announce their support of a tax on the extraction of Marcellus Shale gas, a hot topic among environmentalists as of late. The lawmakers have different tax rates, but a common theme is that much of the money would be directed to fund education. .

The package of bills introduced in different forms by the legislators at the press event will act as an addition to the current impact fee imposed on drillers due to 2012’s Act 13. Currently, Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that lacks a tax on the extraction of shale gas.

According to 2012 rankings provided by the legislators, PA is number three in the list of the top 10 states for natural gas drilling, generating 9% of U.S. natural gas production. The impact fee currently in place is equivalent to 0.6% of an effective tax rate in 2014. The two states above PA in the top 10 list, Texas and Louisiana, have tax rates of 7.5% and 3.0%, respectively.

All sponsoring legislators believe that the proposal balances the needs of both the Commonwealth itself and the natural gas industry by instituting a fair tax. They also believe the proposal would put Pennsylvania in line with other states that conduct a good amount of drilling for natural gas.

The revenues gained from the tax will be put to fundamentally-accepted good uses. Senate Democrats, who took the lead in organizing the event, provided details of their proposal at the event. In FY 2014-2015, the revenues will be invested in public education, proven economic development and environmental protection programs. To take a closer look at how the money will be split up: Senate Democrats has said the state will receive around $720 million in revenue from a 5% drilling tax. The biggest chunk, $375 million, will fund public education. This would grow to $453 million by FY 2015-2016 and end up culminating in over $1 billion for public education in 2020. All annual tax increases and fees after FY 2015-2016 would be put toward funding education.

$195 million will go toward the economy and creating jobs for FY 2014-2015. In FY 2015-2016, and every year thereafter, $250 million would be put toward PA’s economy. The funds could have several uses, including funding DCED programs, infrastructure investments, local development or new tax reduction incentives.

The last $150 million will go toward protecting Pennsylvania’s environment. $75 million would be provided for Growing Greener programs and another $75 million would replace Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to allow Marcellus drilling near state parks and forest land. In FY 2015-2016 and every following year, the plans would provide $120 million for Growing Greener programs and $30 million for other environmental programs.

The bipartisan members of the coalition also point out that during FY 2014-2015, the money gained from this tax would help to provide short-term budget relief in a number of different ways. This would include relieving the need to end the moratorium on drilling on state lands as proposed by Corbett.

The support for this State Senate and the State House. These include Democratic Senators Vince Hughes, John Yudichak, Christina Tartaglione and Jim Brewster. Democratic House members involved are Reps. Greg Vitali, Harry Readshaw and Pam Delissio. Republican legislators involved are Senator Ted Erickson and House Reps. Gene DiGirolamo and Thomas Murt.

Senators Stack and Leach Propose Minimum Wage Bill

leach and stackState Senators Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) and Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) proposed S.B. 1317, a bill that would eliminate tipped minimum wage and raise the overall minimum wage to $12 an hour.

“The tipped minimum wage hasn’t changed in 23 years and allows business owners to take advantage of low-wage, disproportionately female workers even demanding they do un-tipped work like dish washing and cleaning bathrooms for $2.83 an hour,” Leach said. “Pennsylvania’s economy will grow as over 1 million workers in PA would see their wages rise if we pass this bill. Twenty years of research has shown that in states that have increased the minimum wage, small businesses had lower turnover and increased productivity.”

Stack believes those who defend the “poverty wages” have been putting too much pressure on working families, and it’s getting more and more difficult to handle with the slip ‘n’ slide economy.

“Adjusting the minimum wage to account for inflation prevents working families from being trapped in poverty and reduces dependence on public assistance,” Stack said. “Fair wages for a day’s work is fundamental to achieving the American dream and generating self-determination and independence.”

Advocates point out that since most minimum wage earners, tipped and otherwise are women, poverty wages aggravate the gender pay gap.

“In Pennsylvania, nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers and workers in tipped occupations are women, said Wendy Voet, executive director of WOMEN’S WAY. “In order to move the needle on women’s status as a whole, and to support the economic success of our communities, we need to support policies and programs to enhance women’s economic security.”

S.B. 1317 would index the minimum wage to inflation each year. Stack and Leach mentioned that currently, 11 states index their minimum wage to inflation. Current PA law allows for a tip credit that permits employers to use tips against all but $2.83 of the current $7.25 minimum wage.

The last time the Pennsylvania General Assembly voted to raise the overall minimum wage was in 2007, from $6.25 to $7.15. The state’s minimum wage reached $7.25 per hour when the federal minimum wage increased in 2009. As of now, 21 states have higher minimum wages than PA.

This proposal is higher than the popular federal number of $10.10, and will likely earn backlash from small business organizations. In fact, the National Federation for Independent Businesses recently put out a study saying that raising the minimum wage to above $8 would eliminate jobs in the state.

The National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation report projects the effect that three Pennsylvania minimum wage bills will have on jobs and economic activity in our state. The findings forecast the loss of as many as 28,000 to 119,000 jobs over a ten year period when the wage is increased to $8.75 or $9.00, as those increases are tied to cost-of-living adjustments. According to NFIB, the report uses a widely accepted regional economic model that is also used by the federal government, local governments and universities created by REMI, Inc.

In the busy election season 2014 is turning out to be, both Leach and Stack are making attempts at higher office. Leach wants to replace Rep. Allyson Schwartz, since she left her post to run for governor. Stack is in the middle of the race for lieutenant governor.

Schlossberg and Pileggi Featured in “State Legislatures”

state legislatures

In an article featured in the April edition of the magazine State Legislatures, State Rep Michael Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) and State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester) discuss the benefits of social media’s unique place in the lives of lawmakers.

The article, which is clunkily entitled “Almost everyone is using some kind of social media, including legislatures and lawmakers,” Pileggi touts the role social media can play in reaching out to voters.

“Social media is a phenomenal way to reach constituents,” he says in the article. “As a policymaker, I find the direct, immediate feedback to be tremendously helpful.”

Schlossberg, a young first-term Rep. who hosts a blog about social media and politics, discusses how he believes using social media is just part of the job for lawmakers nowadays.

“We have finally hit a point where being an elected official on Facebook is no longer unique, but practically a job requirement.”

Schlossberg recommends lawmakers use social media in creative and effective ways.

“To get constituents to connect with an elected official on social media, they have to want to get to know that official on a deeper level. They want to see what a day is like for their representative and where he or she stands on issues. Constituents want to get information that is relevant to their lives.”

Schlossberg recommends lawmakers post “Where Am I?” photos on Facebook, host Town Hall Twitter meetups (which Schlossberg recently did on LGBT issues), record videos of how they voted on important issues, and more.

But as Pileggi points out, as social media expands and becomes ever more ubiquitous, ethical questions will arise.

“Using social media presents some new and important ethical questions related to how to maintain a proper division between legislative work and campaign work,” Pileggi says.

The article is good exposure for the two Pa. lawmakers, but in the end, all Senators and Representatives, at the state or national level, are finding it harder and harder to avoid having a presence on social media.

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