House Dems’ bill would create new Dept. of Accessibility & Inclusion | Thursday Morning Coffee

February 11, 2021 6:59 am

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Taking their cue from the state’s Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs, two western Pennsylvania lawmakers say they want the commonwealth to take a similarly specific approach to serving the needs of residents living with disabilities.

On Wednesday, Reps. Dan Miller and Jessica Benham, both Allegheny County Democrats, began seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would create a new state Department of Accessibility & Inclusion.

“Nearly one in four Pennsylvanians have a disability, and despite the best intentions of many, most have only seen modest improvements in their lives and opportunities,” Miller, a member of the House’s Autism and Intellectual Disabilities Caucus, said in a statement. “This department would be committed to providing government services and opportunities that are accessible to every Pennsylvanian.”

In a ‘Dear Colleague’ memo, the two lawmakers said their plan would consolidate several state existing programs under the new agency. It also calls for creating a new cabinet-level secretary in the governor’s administration.

“Having a secretary dedicated to the needs of people with disabilities would go a long way in helping the governor’s office craft much-needed policies,” Benhamone of the first autistic lawmakers in the nation, said. “This is a way for Pennsylvania to make sure progress is made and that what matters to people with disabilities is considered.”

In their memo, Benham and Miller note that “the progress of such issues, embedded in the heart of the bipartisan Americans with Disabilities Act, requires a commitment by all of us to reach fruition. And here in Pennsylvania, it requires every level of our government to make sure that progress is made and that every aspect of our government’s services are provided in an accessible manner.”

Neighboring Maryland created a similar agency in 2004. The state’s secretary of disabilities has “helped the governor craft much-needed policies that consider people with disabilities at every step,” the two lawmakers wrote to their colleagues.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Legislative Democrats are calling for an investigation of Republican lawmakers who they say fanned the flames of the Capitol insurrection from the Keystone State, Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison report.

Former state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who began his career as a tough-on-crime prosecutor and ended it as a voice for criminal justice reform, has died, aged 81Elizabeth Hardison has the story.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, a lawyer and member of the House Judiciary Committee, helped her colleagues build the case Wednesday for former President Donald Trump’s conviction on a single impeachment count of inciting a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Your humble newsletter author has the details.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who’s now running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, has justified, but not apologized, for chasing down and brandishing a shotgun at a Black jogger while he was mayor of Braddock, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, Stephen Caruso reports.

LGBTQ seniors in Philadelphia are getting the COVD-19 vaccine, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, school segregation fights didn’t just happen in the South, a University of Texas at Austin scholar writes. And don’t just support Black-owned businesses during Black History Month, do it 24/7/365Michael Coard, of our partners at The Philadelphia Tribune, writes

En la Estrella-Capitallos defensores y legisladores le presionan a Wolf para que libere a más personas de la prisión estatal en medio de un invierno fuerte durante la pandemia. Y los funcionarios estatales confirman que la elegibilidad de SNAP se amplió para incluir a estudiantes universitarios.

(Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, an emergency department physician at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, receives Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Mon., 12/14/20)

Black Philadelphians aren’t getting their fair share of vaccines, the Inquirer reports.
The COVID-19 relief bill moving through Congress would direct $767 million in aid to the Pittsburgh area, the Post-Gazette reports.
The state Department of Labor & Industry is starting a texting service to assist with unemployment claims, PennLive reports.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has suspended an Allentown attorney, saying she misappropriated her clients’ money, the Morning Call reports.
COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Luzerne County is getting worse, the Citizens-Voice reports.
A Lebanon County man will face federal charges for allegedly threatening to kill U.S. senators, the Lebanon Daily News reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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WHYY-FM explains how Philadelphians have turned their homes into DIY billboards.
The first case of the UK variant of COVID-19 has been found in Allegheny CountyWESA-FM reports.
The Observer-Reporter talks to municipal candidates who are adjusting to gathering nominating petition signatures during the pandemic.
The NRCC have put U.S. Reps. Susan Wild, D-7th District; Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, and Conor Lamb, D-17th District, on its 2022 wish list
Scammers are unsurprisingly seizing on the chaos and confusion of the vaccine rollout, reports.
Senators faced their own mortality during Wednesday’s impeachment trial proceedings, Roll Call reports. Will it be enough to sway Republicans?

What Goes On.
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania
 holds a 9 a.m. public hearing, via Zoom, on the pandemic’s impact on the state’s heroin and opioid addiction crisis.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Deb Kiner, the engine room at PennLive, who celebrates today. Congratulations, dear friend. Enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
We’re going to keep the Afro-beat vibe going this morning with the under-appreciated Nigerian combo Vis-a-Vis. Here’s ‘Obi Agye Mi Dofo.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Toronto got past Montreal 4-2 on Wednesday night in an Original Six match-up. The Leafs’ Auston Matthews saw his goal streak snapped, however.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.