‘For every Pennsylvanian’: Pa. Senate Dems release 2023 priorities list | Monday Morning Coffee
‘We share a strong belief that our government can — and must — level the playing field,’ Senate Democrats said
State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, speaks during the Whole-Home Repairs Act Rally held on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
As the General Assembly reconvenes for the first time after more than a month of budget hearings, Pennsylvania Senate Democrats will kick off a social media push for a new policy agenda today that puts jobs that pay a livable wage, healthcare access, and equitable funding for public education front and center.
With it, Democrats say they plan to draw a bright-line distinction between themselves and the culture war issues embraced by some Republicans in the GOP-controlled chamber.
“From far-right ideologues to enemies of our public schools [and] greedy corporations, the opposition we face is mighty and entrenched,” Senate Democrats said in a posting to the new website highlighting the agenda. “But let us be crystal clear: We have won enormous victories for [Pennsylvania’s] families, and we will do it again.”
Even with a slender majority in the House, and with Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro at the top of the ticket, Senate Democrats have their work cut out for them, with Republicans holding a 28-22 majority in the the 50-member chamber.
“We share a strong belief that our government can — and must — level the playing field,” Democrats said in that web posting. “… Our work will not stop until that is true for every Pennsylvanian.”
The agenda stretches across six policy areas, ranging from the economy, schools and public safety to the environment, healthcare access, and voting rights.
In the case of economic issues, Democrats say they want to, among other things, purse legislative authorization of “paid family, vacation, and sick leave for 100% of jobs,” and “fight to provide property tax relief to seniors and working families.”
The budget proposal that Shapiro released on March 7 calls for boosting the the maximum rebate for seniors from $650 to $1,000, and raising the income cap for renters and homeowners to $45,000 a year.
Democrats put abortion access and reproductive health services at the top of their healthcare priorities agenda. In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling toppling Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania. Democrats and their allies have focused on access, as well as addressing concerns around maternal mortality.
The Democrats’ public safety proposal features a suite of long-sought changes to Pennsylvania’s gun laws that include a ban on assault-style weapons; the approval of extreme risk protection orders, and expanded background checks for gun purchases.
While expanded background checks and so-called “red flag” laws remain popular, polling shows the public more narrowly divided on an assault weapons ban.
On their website, Democrats punched up their support for a state grant program that helps synagogues, houses of worship, and other nonprofits pay for security improvements.
When it comes to issues of climate change and the environment, Democrats sketched out a broad agenda that includes “[investing] in electric vehicles; [ensuring] all new energy investments are clean, green, and safe; [holding] fossil fuel industries accountable, and [providing] clean water for every community.”
Shapiro’s budget pencils in revenue from the state’s membership in a multi-state carbon trading initiative that’s now tied up in court. During an appearance before the Pennsylvania Press Club last week, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, said Republicans remain opposed to the state’s membership in the compact.
With the 2023 primaries just a few weeks away, and the 2024 elections beckoning, Democrats say they support a wide-ranging, pro-democracy platform that includes making it easier to register to vote and state funding for local elections administration. Democrats also say they want to enact campaign finance reform — a cause that remains a legislative unicorn, and has evaded approval for decades.
The Senate returns to session at 1 p.m. today.
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