Top Pa. Senate Dem launches anti-poverty bills. Is this the AOC effect in Harrisburg? | Friday Morning Coffee

March 1, 2019 6:53 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

As we head into the final furlong of the working week, we’re going to stipulate something up front.

There’s nothing new under the sun about Democrats  rolling out anti-poverty programs. It was in 1964, after all, that President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his ‘War on Poverty.‘ Decades later, we’re still waging it.

So it would be easy to shrug at the news that yet another state legislator has rolled out another anti-poverty effort. But in this more enlightened age of CoryKamalaAOC, and the DSA, knocking the legs out from under income inequality feels more urgent – and, just maybe – more achievable than it has for a while.

Enter state Sen. Vince Hughes, of Philadelphia.

Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is sponsoring a pair of proposals that he says will “take a data-driven approach to public policy to ensure that lawmakers are fully informed of the potential impacts of legislation on people living in poverty before they vote.”

So what does that mean — for practical purposes? In short, he wants his colleagues to consider the consequences of their actions on the poor – as much as they would any other special interest.

The first proposal would fight “generational poverty,” by taking data collected by the state Dept. of Human Services and turning it over to a special commission that would “recommend policies to address generational poverty in areas such as public assistance, education, [and] criminal justice.” Hughes’ office said in a statement.

It’s modeled after a program from that noted hotbed of liberalism — Utah. But, punchlines aside, Utah has seen a decline in childhood poverty rates since the program was established in 2012, Hughes’ office said.

The second proposal would require the state’s Independent Fiscal Office to crunch the governor’s annual general fund budget proposal — and the final enacted product — to determine its “poverty impact,” Hughes‘ office said.

The bill would also allow any lawmaker to request a “poverty impact analysis” on any piece of legislation that comes before the General Assembly, Hughes’ office said. The General Assembly would also be barred from taking a final vote on any bill until such an analysis is completed, under the proposal.

Taken together, the bills are hardly radical. In their own way, they’re closing the fiscal barn door long before there’s a chance for the budgetary horses to flee (If we can torture a metaphor in the most DeWeesean way possible.).

According to Hughes’ office, about 12.5 percent of the state’s more than 12 million people are below the federal poverty line. Additionally, about 700,000 state residents, including 206,000 children, live in what’s known as “deep poverty,” — which means they have household incomes of less than 50 percent of the federal poverty level, Hughes’ office said.

It’s rare in Harrisburg that lawmakers contemplate the long-term impacts of policy-making on Pennsylvania’s poorest residents. And even if the bills don’t go anywhere, forcing lawmakers to at least have a policy discussion about the broader impacts of their actions is a start.

Our Stuff:
Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes
 looks at some new challenges facing the revived general assistance program.
Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso finds some Democrats talking about … gasp … cutting regulations and red tape.
Elizabeth Hardison looks at the strain an aging prison population is putting on the state Corrections Department’s budget.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey wants the Pentagon to explain the impact President Trump’s border wall will have on funding for military construction projects in Pennsylvania.

On the Opinion side of the house, an Iowa State University professor explains why voters keep falling for politicians’ lies about statistics.

The state has pulled cash from the Harrisburg school district amid questions about a program started last year by Superintendent Sybil Knight-BurneyPennLive reports.
The Philly school board has voted to deny the applications of three charter schoolsThe Inquirer reports.
The Allegheny County Health Department is cracking down on pollution at U.S. Steel Plants in the Mon ValleyThe Post-Gazette reports. 
The Penn Hills schools in western Pa. are in the worst financial shape of any school district in the stateAuditor General Eugene DePasquale says. The Tribune-Review has the story.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

Philly Sheriff Jewell Williams routinely nabs campaign contributions from his staff – and even his rivals, BillyPenn reports.  
Officials in Allentown are looking to save $800K by refinancing their debtThe Morning Call reports.
The late U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., will be remembered in a memorial service in Washington D.C on Saturday, PoliticsPA reports.
Politico explains why the Trump 2020 fundraising operation is having issues.
A former coal industry lobbyist is now running EPA. Because, of course. Roll Call has the story.

“These things don’t go so fast, but it’s another means of transportation for areas where there’s not necessarily mass transit,”  Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Philadelphia, on the rise of eScooters.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
is in Waynesburg at 10:30 a.m. to plug the need for statewide broadband for education. At 1:30 p.m., he’s talking flood protection in Williamsport.

Heavy Rotation.
Because nothing says the weekend like a little French dance-pop, here’s Aya Nakamura and “Djadja.”

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Philly lost a squeaker, falling 4-3 in OT to Columbus on Thursday night.

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.