Time to Stop SB 22

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Republicans today added a second constitutional amendment to, in effect, gerrymander the Supreme Court to a bill, SB22, that proposed a constitutional amendment to stop gerrymandering of the congressional and state legislative elections. The Supreme Court gerrymandering amendment passed on a party line vote. And it means that today all supporters of redistricting reform, including PBPC, withdrew support for SB22 and tomorrow all Democrats will likely vote against  it.

Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill Aims to Strengthen SNAP, Not Undermine it Like the House’s Proposed Bill

Last Friday, June 8, the Senate Agricultural Committee came out with its plan for the Senate Farm Bill. Keeping with the Farm Bill’s long tradition of bipartisan support, this version was released by the Senate Agricultural chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas and the ranking member Debbie Stabenow who is a Democratic senator from Michigan. Unlike the House version of the bill which included harmful work requirements connected to SNAP, the Senate Farm bill would reauthorize SNAP and make steps toward improving it.

The Folmer Redistricting Commission: Neither Independent Nor Nonpartisan

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Update Monday June 11, 11:00 am

Some advocacy groups are supporting an omnibus amendment from Senator Folmer and others. It makes some small improvements to SB22 and deals with the finality issue I mention below. (point 4). But it does not deal with SB22's fundamental structural issues which will enable the majority party to continue to gerrymander congressional and state legislative districts. Thus, we continue to urge that SB22 be restored to its original form. And if not, it should be defeated. As we have pointed out elsewhere, defeating SB22 in its current form does not mean the end of redistricting reform. The House can pass HB2402, which is the same as the original version of SB22, and send it to the Senate. The best elements of SB22 can be enacted as legislation and applied to the current redistricting process. And we all can, and should, be working for a good constitutional amendment next year which can be used to redraw district lines as soon as the voters approve it. 

Click here to send your state senator a quick email asking them to oppose SB22 as currently constructed and to fight to return the bill to its original language.


Original piece

Both the political class in Harrisburg and the progressive community around the state are focused today on the redistricting issue. Last week the Senate State Government Committee passed a version of SB22 that was crafted by Senator Mike Folmer. Some of the advocacy groups that have been working in favor of a fair redistricting process have been cautiously, or in some cases not so cautiously, supportive of it. Some who have argued that the proposal itself is problematic have held that passing it in the Senate is a necessary step to reaching a better bill.

I’m reluctant to create divisions among people who are generally allies, but I want to make clear that I believe the Folmer redistricting proposal is not only deeply flawed but is in no way a step forward for those of us who want to see a fair, nonpartisan process of drawing congressional and state legislative district lines.

A Step Towards Pay Equity in Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order yesterday aimed at combating pay equity in Pennsylvania. The order, called “Equal Pay for Employees of the Commonwealth,” prohibits employers in state government from asking applicants for their salary history in an effort to steer employers away from reinforcing pay inequities between men and women.

How to Fix Legislative Districting in Pennsylvania (Without Making Things Worse)

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We at the PBPC have been very critical of the effort to pass SB22, a constitutional amendment to change the way legislative districts for both Congressional and state legislative races are drawn, as it was recently amended in the state government committee. But that’s not because we don’t favor an independent redistricting commission that would create fair, nonpartisan districts.

We are very much in favor of a nonpartisan independent redistricting commission. There are very good, strategic options for securing a constitutional amendment, or the best parts of the current SB22, through legislation this year or very soon without supporting SB22 as it stands now. But we object to a political strategy that runs the very real risk of giving us another decade or more of gerrymandered districts, especially one that allows the Republican majority to claim credit for creating a better redistricting process when they have, in fact, undermined it. 

Rep. Fitzpatrick Made the Right Choice On SNAP Cuts; Unfortunately Rep. Costello Did Not

Last week, the House of Representatives voted against the troubling Farm Bill that had recently passed through the Agricultural Committee. This version of the bill would have resulted in many Pennsylvanians losing access to SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, which is often the last defense against hunger in our communities. The proposed House Farm Bill would cut SNAP benefits by nearly $19 million and take away food assistance from two million Americans who already struggle to make ends meet. It would particularly hurt families, children and the disabled by implementing strict and ineffective work programs, as well as unforgiving reporting rules, that would lead to people losing this critical benefit.

NEW POLL: Pennsylvanians Want State Legislature to Make Additional K-12 Education Funding a Priority

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As the PA General Assembly considers Governor Wolf’s request for new spending on K-12 education in the budget for 2018-2019, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has released new polling that shows that Pennsylvanians strongly support more funding for K-12 education. In fact, education was second only to taxes as the issue that poll respondents view as most critical for the Legislature to address.

Complicated work requirements will upend SNAP as a stabilizing force for those in crisis

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Over the last couple months, we at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center have been holding community conversations to hear from individuals across the state about the challenges they are facing and to understand what they would like to see done differently in Harrisburg. One young man we spoke to in recent weeks, Colten, told us his story. Colten has been homeless off and on over the last three years since his grandma committed suicide. He has been in and out of low wage retail jobs and struggles to secure affordable housing.

Let’s be honest about food stamp work requirements…

The following is a guest blog post from Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. The post originally appeared on their blog here.

The House Health Committee recently approved a measure (H.B. 1659) that would impose mandatory work requirements for all able-bodied food stamp recipients. The legislation is now being fast-tracked for consideration before the full House.

Mandatory work requirements sound reasonable … until you know the facts.

One in seven Pennsylvanians currently use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, to help buy the food they need to survive and feed their families. SNAP helps keep food on the table for thousands of low-wage and part-time workers who can’t find steady employment, veterans, people who are homeless, and people struggling with addictions, in addition to children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

A $4,000-pay raise? Nope. Since Trump’s tax cut, businesses spending 39 times as much on stock buybacks than on wages or bonuses.

“My council of economic advisors estimate that this [tax cut], along with a lower business tax rate, will likely give the typical American household around a $4000 pay raise. And that is money that will be spent.” – Donald Trump, October 17, 2017 at the Heritage Foundation’s annual President’s Club meeting.

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