millennial bills

Pot, booze, ridesharing and a $10 minimum wage: 11 bills to watch in 2015

ICYMI, 2015 might be the year our lawmakers drag Pennsylvania out of the Prohibition era and let us buy beer and wine at the same time we buy groceries. Or maybe it’ll be the year that the state takes away the PPA’s right to control ridesharing. Also there are strong hints medical marijuana will become a thing in 2015. But there are better ways to make the things you want to happen become a reality in this state.

Billy Penn picked 11 pending bills millennials will probably care about this year. Below, you can find the bill, what it would do and information about how to support them or oppose it.

1. Medical marijuana legalization

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Bill: Senate Bill 3

Status: Re-introduced in January and is now in the Senate Committee on State Government where a hearing will be held Feb. 25

What it would do: The bill would allow for cannabis to be used as medical treatment for patients with one of these diseases: Cancer, Epilepsy and seizures, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Cachexia/ Wasting Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-concussion Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinocerebellara Ataxia (SCA), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or severe Fibromyalgia.

According to language in the bill, a patient with a condition different from the 10 specified in the bill can petition a review board if they feel they need medical cannabis. The bill will also lay out specifications for regulating dispensaries in the state.

Sponsors: The prime sponsors of this bill are Republican Sen. Mike Folmer (chair of the state government committee) and Philadelphia progressive Democrat Sen. Daylin Leach.

Who doesn’t want this: State Sen. John Eichelberger of Blair County has been the loudest voice against this, as he and other Republicans in state government have concerns that legalizing medical marijuana will serve as a gateway for eventually legalizing recreational marijuana use. The bill likely won’t have trouble passing through the Senate, as a similar bill easily passed last year but was stalled in the House. The difference is that now proponents of medical marijuana have a governor who is enthusiastic about signing the bill and a House majority leader who backs the medical stuff.

What you can do: House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, can be reached here. Click here to find your state representative and their contact information. If you’re a proponent, click here to join the Facebook group Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana so you can stay abreast of developments including hearings and events. The Senate Committee on State Government is chaired by Republican Mike Folmer, who can be reached at (717) 274-6735, and Philadelphia Democrat Anthony Williams, who can be reached at (215) 492-2980.

2. Liquor privatization

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Bill: No bill formally introduced… yet

Status: House leaders say a vote on a liquor bill could come as soon as the end of February

What it would do: Liquor privatization would sell the state’s liquor system, remove Sunday sales limitations, allow for direct wine shipments and allow for the sale of liquor in retail stores that aren’t state stores.

Sponsors: Republican leaders Dave Reed (majority leader) and Mike Turzai (speaker of the house) are at the frontlines of championing the bill.

Who doesn’t want this: House Democrats really, really hate this. Most say selling the revenue driving liquor system is a bad idea for a state government that’s facing a massive budget deficit (however, Republicans say the sale itself would bring in $1 billion). Gov. Tom Wolf has said that he’s for the “modernization” of the state liquor system, but hasn’t gone against the party to support privatization.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to contact them about liquor privatization. Click here to contact the Office of the Governor.

3. Transgender rights

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Bill: House Bill 303 (aka the Transgender Student Rights Act) and House Bill 304

Status: Both bills introduced in the House this month — HB303 was referred to the Committee on Education and HB304 was referred to the Committee on Health.

What it would do: HB303 looks to eliminate gender-based bias in Pennsylvania schools by allowing for transgender students to follow the dress codes, use facilities and play on sports teams that align with their self-attested gender identification. HB304 would require coverage of transition-related healthcare (hormones, surgery, counseling, etc.) in all private, public and Medicaid plans.

Sponsors: Philadelphia Democrat Mark Cohen introduced both bills.

Who doesn’t want this: Both bills are highly opposed by conservatives, and HB304 is very controversial in that it would use public funds for transgender care. Only four states currently have full transgender healthcare, and with Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature, it’s unlikely to become the fifth.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to contact them about transgender rights. Sign up to receive updates via Equality PA. The Education Committee is chaired by Republican Stan Saylor, who can be reached at (717) 783-6426, and Philadelphia Democrat James Roebuck, who can be reached at (717) 783-1000. The Health Committee is chaired by Republican Matthew Baker, who can be reached at (717) 772-5371, and Democrat Florindo Fabrizio, who can be reached at (717) 787-4358.

4. Police body cameras

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Bill: House Bill 420 (Police Body Cameras Legislation)

Status: Referred to the Judiciary Committee

What it would do: This bill would require that all police officers in Pennsylvania wear body cameras while on the job. While Philadelphia is already testing out the use of body cameras by both Philadelphia Police and SEPTA police, this bill would codify a statewide requirement.

Sponsors: DelCo Democrat Thaddeus Kirkland introduced the bill that has backing from a number of Philly representatives.

Who doesn’t want this: Body cameras have proven to have bipartisan backing, however they require significant funding when it comes to training officers and purchasing the equipment itself. Representatives against requiring local police forces to incur these costs will likely be against the measure. In addition, the cameras raise concerns about privacy — the American Civil Liberties Union has come out in opposition of the cameras, saying they could capture more private data than dashboard cameras would.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing the police body cameras measure. The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Republican Ron Marsico, who can be reached at (717) 783-2014, and Democrat Joseph Petrarca, who can be reached at (717) 787-5142.

5. Ridesharing

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Bill: Nothing formally introduced… yet

Status: Sen. Wayne Fontana, who introduced a ridesharing bill last year, says he’ll introduce another proposal in the near future.

What it would do: The bill would essentially create a new category of transportation network company and would make it legal for Uber and Lyft to operate across the state. Of course, Philadelphia’s status will be for debate as the Philadelphia Parking Authority contends that it has the right to control ridesharing in the city — unlike how ridesharing is regulated by the state Public Utility Commission in the rest of the state. Legislators hope a bill passed would clear up this discrepancy.

Sponsors: The bill was introduced by Allegheny County Democrat Sen. Wayne Fontana.

Who doesn’t want this: There’s less opposition against legalizing ridesharing as there is about Philadelphia’s exemption from being controlled by the PUC. Currently, taxis are regulated by the PPA, and some Philly legislators want it to stay that way.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing the legalization of ridesharing in Philadelphia.

6. Conversion therapy

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Bill: Senate Bill 45

Status: Referred to the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure

What it would do: The bill would prohibit state licensed mental health professionals from performing any type of conversion therapy, AKA efforts to change their sexual orientation, on minors. Of note: The bill would not in any way limit counseling for gender transition, exploration or development.

Sponsors: This bill was introduced by State Sen. Anthony Williams, the Philadelphia Democrat who’s a frontrunner in the race for Philadelphia Mayor. In 2013, Philly Rep. Brian Sims introduced similar legislation in the House.

Who doesn’t want this: Sponsors of the bill expect pushback from conservative religious groups, some of which challenged a similar ban in New Jersey saying the law infringes on the First Amendment rights of counselors.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing banning conversion therapy for minors in Pennsylvania. The Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure is chaired by Republican Robert Tomlinson, who can be reached at (717) 787-5072, and Democrat Lisa Boscola, who can be reached at (717) 787-4236.

7. Minimum wage

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Bill: House Bill 250 and Senate Bill 195

Status: The House Bill hasn’t yet been formally introduced, and the Senate bill has been referred to the Committee on Labor and Industry.

What it would do: Both bills would raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour over the next two years.

Sponsors: The House bill will be introduced by Dauphin County Democrat Patty Kim and the Senate bill was introduced by Philadelphia Democrat Christine Tartaglione.

Who doesn’t want this: While Gov. Tom Wolf has expressed its support for a raise in the minimum wage, the bills face an uphill battle in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature. In addition, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry has come out in opposition to the wage hike.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing a minimum wage hike. The Senate Committee on Labor and Industry is chaired by Republican Lisa Baker, who can be reached at (717) 787-7428, and Philadelphia Democrat Christine Tartaglione, who can be reached at (717) 787-1141.

8. Equal pay

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Bill: Senate Bill 303

Status: The bill was referred to the Committee on Labor and Industry

What it would do: The bill will strengthen Pennsylvania law eliminating the gender wage gap by increasing the protection to employees who have filed a complaint against an employer and prohibiting retaliation against employees for discussing wages.

Sponsors: Prime sponsors are Dauphin County Democrat Sen. Rob Teplitz and Philadelphia Democrat Sen. Anthony Williams.

Who doesn’t want this: Bills to reform Pennsylvania’s already-existing equal pay statute have languished in the legislature for more than a decade, and a similar bill didn’t make it out of committee during the last legislative session after being held by Republican opponents.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing equal pay measures. The Senate Committee on Labor and Industry is chaired by Republican Lisa Baker, who can be reached at (717) 787-7428, and Philadelphia Democrat Christine Tartaglione, who can be reached at (717) 787-1141.

9. Unionization of student-athletes

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Bill: Senate Bill 33

Status: Referred to the Education Committee

What it would do: In addition to allowing for student-athletes to form “collective bargaining units” aka unions, it would also require colleges with media revenues over $10 million annually to provide comprehensive medical insurance to student-athletes and would protect a student-athlete’s individual right of publicity.

Sponsors: This bill was introduced by State Sen. Anthony Williams (yes, the mayoral candidate).

Who doesn’t want this: National bills that would similarly allow for the unionization of student-athletes have been opposed by Republicans.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing the unionization of college athletes. The Senate Education Committee is chaired by Republican Lloyd Smucker, who can be reached at (717) 787-6535, and Democrat Andrew Dinniman, who can be reached at (717) 787-5709.

10. Abortion-related bills

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Bill: Senate Bill 291 and Senate Bill 292

Status: Referred to the Committee on Public Health and Welfare

What it would do: The first bill introduced by Sen. John Eichelberger would clarify that state law that says public funds can’t be used to pay for abortions will always supersede municipalities like Philadelphia. The second bill would stipulate that health care providers and institutions don’t have to perform practices or provide medications that would be against their religious or moral beliefs. It would also allow health care professionals to refuse to prescribe birth control.

Sponsors: Both were introduced by Blair County Republican Sen. John Eichelberger.

Who doesn’t want this: Most Democrats and pro-choice activists/ lobbyists.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing abortion-related bills. The Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare is chaired by Republican Patricia Vance, who can be reached at (717) 787-8524, and Philadelphia Democrat Shirley Kitchen, who can be reached at (717) 787-6735.

11. Electronic voter registration

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Bill: Senate Bill 315

Status: Referred to the Committee on State Government

What it would do: Simple: The bill would amend the Election Code so that Pennsylvanians can *finally* register to vote online.

Sponsors: The bill was introduced by Lancaster County Republican Sen. Lloyd Smucker.

Who doesn’t want this: Most lawmakers think this is a good idea because 2015.

What you can do: Click here to enter your address and find your legislator to talk to them about supporting or opposing electronic voter registration. The Senate Committee on State Government is chaired by Republican Mike Folmer, who can be reached at (717) 274-6735, and Philadelphia Democrat Anthony Williams, who can be reached at (215) 492-2980.

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