Shenanigans in the PA Senate

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

Stop Violence Against Women NOW

Shenanigans in the Senate. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Senate Local Government committee added an amendment to HB1796. This bill passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives on January 14, 2014.  As it arrived in the Senate, it was designed to make it illegal for communities to evict a domestic violence victim from her home for calling 911 “too often.” The amendment that was added would outlaw local communities from passing/enforcing local paid or unpaid sick leave ordinances.

The amendment added by the  Senate Local Government Committee—shown in all caps here—basically guts this bill. On one hand, it protects victims of domestic violence from being evicted but, on the other hand, it threatens them with loss of their livelihood if they have to take off from work to protect themselves or their family members and cannot get paid or unpaid sick leave that goes beyond federal or state law.  Note, federal and state law only protect people who take sick leave who are employed by companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees.  Since the majority of employers have fewer than 50 employees, this amendment could threaten a victim of domestic violence in two ways:

  1. She could lose both of her livelihood and her home should she be unable to pay the rent as a result of her job loss.
  2. She might be forced into continuing the violent relationship should she want to leave if she fears losing her job and can’t take off time from work to productively deal with the violence and injuries that have been inflicted, even after having emergency service intervention.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee need to be contacted asap to ask them to strip the “paid/unpaid sick leave preemption” amendment out of the bill. See note below.

The members of the committee are as follows. You can get their contact info by either going to the Senate Appropriations page or by linking directly to your state Senator below.

Majority Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee

Minority Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee

Minority Members of Senate Appropriations Committee

Thanks for contacting your legislator if she/he is on the Appropriations Committee.  Tell her/him to call for the removal of the paid/unpaid sick leave amendment that was added to the bill in the Senate Local Government Committee and then send the clean bill to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Sample Letter Opposing Sick Leave Preemption Bill

Help Stop ALEC

Help Stop ALEC

Yesterday afternoon, the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee forwarded a sick leave preemption bill — HB 1960 — to the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representative without amendment.  I have previously written about this ALEC-initiated bill and a similar one on this blog.

The vote on the amendments and on referral of the bill “as committed” was completely along party lines.  All 15 Republicans voted to limit local control and disallow exceptions to the bill for pregnant women and victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; all 10 Democrats voted for the amendments and against the bill.

Now the bill goes to the full floor for debate.  In Pennsylvania, bills can be amended from the floor ONLY on “Second Consideration.”  And that is expected as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, January 29.

Every legislator—Republican and Democrat—needs to know our concerns about this type of  bill.

So in an effort to assist my readers on contacting their representatives about a preemption bill such as this one, I decided to post my letter to Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-171, Centre & Mifflin Counties) on this blog. FYI, he is a conservative Republican, but is not a member of ALEC.

If you live in Pennsylvania, now is the time for you to write a similar letter OR call your state Representative(click here to find your Representative).

This bill is also being “shopped” around the country by ALEC. So… if you live elsewhere in the country, keep this in mind, as a sick leave preemption bill is likely to show up in your state.

Hi Kerry,

I’m writing to strongly urge that you oppose and vote NO on  HB 1960 when it comes up for second consideration as well as on final consideration.  Voting and debate on several amendments is expected on the House floor tomorrow, January 29 under the rules for Second Consideration.

I want you to vote NO on HB 1960 because:

  1. Laws that preempt local decision-making strip cities and counties of their right to adopt policies that will benefit their communities, in violation of core conservative and democratic principles;
  2. It represents attempts by national businesses to circumvent policy at its most basic level; and
  3. Local innovation is the lifeblood of progress. Preemption efforts, driven by special interests, should not stand in the way of local innovation or self-rule. Bills like this represent an ominous attempt to remove power from locally elected officials and make the voters mere bystanders in the democratic processes that define the character of their communities.

I’m particularly concerned about its effect on victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.  This proposed law will threaten the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who need this form of leave to receive critical services to protect their and their families’ lives – like medical treatment, counseling, and dealing with all court and law enforcement related business.  If local communities can’t make laws that allow victims who work for employers with less than 50 employees, you will be potentially sending these victims back into the hands of their violent perpetrators because they will be unable to financially stand on their own two feet.

Even if preemption bills seem to have a narrow focus, passage of this type of legislation could result in preemption of a wide range of local ordinances in municipalities throughout the state. These include efforts to expand protections for those who have experienced domestic violence, laws prohibiting wage theft, consumer protection initiatives, and many more.

Based on all of these concerns, I am therefore also requesting that you vote for any amendment that makes this bill less onerous.  I understand that several such amendments will be offered, including ones that

  • Allow municipalities to have paid or unpaid leave programs with respect to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Allow municipalities to have paid or unpaid leave programs with respect to maternity leave.
  • That grandfather in any existing local ordinance.

Please vote for all of these life-protecting amendments.  And when the bill comes up for a final vote, VOTE NO!  on HB 1960.

Please let me know what you will do regarding this bill. Thank you.

Underhanded Attempt to Pass a Paid/Unpaid ALEC Sick Leave Preemption Bill?

Help Stop ALEC

Help Stop ALEC

In December, I posted a blog about some Pennsylvania legislators’ connections to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Among those legislators is Representative Seth Grove of York County, PA.  In that blog, I focused on his paid and unpaid sick-leave preemption bill that would prohibit any local control over paid or unpaid leave of any type.  His bill – HB 1807 – ran into a lot of opposition after a party-line vote in the House Labor and Industry Committee in mid-December.  This bill has been placed on – and pulled off – of the floor calendar after 14 other Representatives offered at least 24 amendments for floor debate.

So on January 16, 2014, Representative Grove introduced a “new” version of his bill – HB 1960 – in what looks to me like an effort to avoid any changes to his original legislation.  And this bill was introduced without, as far as I can tell from the General Assembly website, any circulation of a “Co-Sponsorship Memo.” I have been reviewing legislation on this website for years.  This is the first time I have ever seen a bill introduced since co-sponsorship memos started being posted that has not included such a memo.  HB 1807 had one; HB 1960 does not.

Differences in the Two Preemption Bills

Upon reading both bills, there appears to be little if no difference at all.  Except for the addition of one new cosponsor (Rep. Fred Keller (R-85, Snyder & Union Counties)), the style of wording to prohibit paid or unpaid sick leave ordinances at the local level is the only change I can see. The result is exactly the same. The original bill – HB 1807 – creates the preemption with a one paragraph “Mandate prohibition.” The new bill – HB 1960 – creates the preemption by changing the prohibition wording to three paragraphs within two subsections titled “General Rule” and “Inconsistent mandate.”  Both bills prohibit any local jurisdictions to pass ordinances that

“mandate requiring an employer to provide an employee or class of employees with vacation or other forms of leave from employment, paid or unpaid, that is not required by Federal or State law.”

Both bills grandfather any currently enacted ordinance but prohibit all future local paid or unpaid sick leave legislation.

So by adding one new cosponsor and reorganizing the way the bill is presented without circulating a co-sponsorship memo allows Representative Grove and his cohorts a “do-over” chance to ram this bill through the House without the current “baggage” of 24+ amendments.

Is there some subterfuge going on here? Is Representative Grove trying to get this ALEC-initiated bill passed under the radar?

If so, this under-the-radar effort doesn’t appear to be working.  Both progressive members of the legislature as well as members of the Coalition of Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces have found out about this bill and are starting to push back.

Status of Bills

Due to the high number of amendments on HB 1807, the leadership of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has apparently decided not to bring forth the bill for floor debate.  So the new bill will be a start-over.  And eleven days after its introduction (January 16, 2014), HB 1960 will be heard AND voted on in the House Labor and Industry Committee (scheduled for Monday January 27, 2014).

This bill has no more leadership backing than original. That’s a good thing.  This means that there is not likely to be a GOP caucus push to have all Republicans vote for this bill.

All legislators – Democratic and Republican — can therefore either vote their conscience OR their constituents’ views without fear of repercussion from leadership.

What You Can Do

As of right now, the focus will be to attempt a majority no vote in the House Labor and Industry Committee.  So if you personally know OR are a constituent of a member of this Committee, please contact her/him by Monday morning at 11 am EST.  Tell this legislator that you are a voter and that you want her/him to vote NO on HB 1960 because:

  1. It violates of core conservative and democratic principles,
  2. It represents attempts by national businesses to circumvent policy at its most basic level, and
  3. It will threaten the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who need this form of leave to receive critical services to protect their and their families lives

For more talking points on this preemption bill, click here.

Here’s a list of the targeted members of the House Labor and Industry Committee. Each link will take you to the legislator’s personal legislative web page where you can find full contact information – addresses, phone numbers, faxes, and email.  And for some of the legislators, you will also have links to either their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts so you can contact them that way as well.

Officers

Scavello, Mario M.

Chair

Keller, William F.

Democratic Chair

Majority

Minority

Thanks for taking time to help stop this bill and to stop this underhanded attempt to ram through a proposed law that threatens, among others, the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who need time off from work to create a safety plan or obtain needed services and protections.

ALEC and Preemption in Pennsylvania

Help Stop ALEC

Help Stop ALEC (Graphic courtesy of and permission to use by Keystone Progress)

Two days ago, the Guardian released some papers that were leaked from the August 2013 ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council.  The initial papers that were leaked shows that ALEC is in financial trouble due to some of the mega-corporations having let their memberships lapse due to concerns over ALEC’s lobbying for “stand-your-ground” or “shoot-to-kill” laws and for suppressing voting rights, environmental protections.  Despite this run with the money, ALEC is continuing to push this right-wing agenda throughout the country and here in Pennsylvania.

ALEC’s Funding, Task Forces, and Agenda

Ninety-eight percent of ALEC’s funds come from corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations.  The remaining funds come from dues paid by conservative Republican legislators.  These funds are then used by the organization to craft so-called model legislation that the corporations believe will positively affect their bottom line.  This legislation is crafted within one of nine task forces.  According to ALEC-Exposed, “The organization boasts 2,000 legislative members and 300 or more corporate members. The unelected corporate representatives (often registered lobbyists) sit as equals with elected representatives on nine task forces where they have a “voice and a vote” on model legislation.” 

These task forces create state-level one-size fits all model bills that are designed to remove regulations on corporations.  Corporations have veto power over any bill that is crafted.  Legislator members are then indoctrinated at regular meetings of the organization (often paid for by ALEC “scholarships” or by the state travel budget for legislators). These legislators then return home and introduce these bills as their own.  Among the types of bills crafted within the task forces are bills to privatize education, limiting access to the voting booth through voter id laws, union-busting bills, and an anti-green agenda that, for example, penalizes homeowners who install solar energy.  One of ALEC’s newest targets is preempting local communities from adopting and enforcing their own laws on paid and unpaid sick days, a higher minimum wage and other workplace standards.

Pennsylvania Legislative Involvement in ALEC

Preemption and Who in the PA Legislature is a Member of ALEC

In Pennsylvania, there are currently 39 Republican state Representatives who are members of ALEC.  One of them is Representative Seth Grove (R-York).  He is a member of ALEC’s Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force, one of the committees that focuses on limiting local control through preemption bills.  Using ALEC and his membership, Representative Grove introduced a new preemption bill – HB 1807 – that preempts or prohibits county and municipal governments from adopting and enforcing their own laws on paid and unpaid sick days.  The bill specifically prohibits any local control over paid or unpaid leave of any type; it states:

A political subdivision in this Commonwealth may not enact or administer a mandate requiring an employer to provide an employee or class of employees with vacation or other forms of leave from employment, paid or unpaid, that is not required by Federal or State law, and may not require an employer to compensate an employee for any vacation or other forms of leave for which Federal or State law does not require the employee to be compensated.

The other co-sponsors include Representatives R. Lee James (R-Butler & Venango), Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford, Sullivan, & Susquehanna), Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), Mindy Fee (R-Lancaster), RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon), Stephen Barrar (R-Chester & Delaware), Ron Miller (R-York), Susan Helm (R-Dauphin), Will Tallman (R-Adams & York), Kurt Masser (R-Columbia, Montour, and Northumberland), Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks), Duane Milne (R-Chester), Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland), Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) and Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster).  Five—Barrer, Helm, Marsico, Pickett, and  Ron Miller—of  these sixteen co-sponsors are also members of ALEC.

Status of this Preemption Bill

The bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee on October 23, 2013 on which Representatives Grove and Aument  sit.    It immediately became one of the fastest moving bills in the legislature. On November 18, this committee amended the bill to grandfather local communities that have already passed a preemption ordinance prior to January 1, 2014 and then passed the bill out of committee along party lines (15-9).  It immediately came up and passed under first consideration and is now set for second consideration where amendments may be offered.

As of today, the House has announced that they are at least temporarily tabling the bill.  Supporters however are saying that they will pass the bill out of the house by the end of the year.    So we need to keep up the pressure and tell our legislators to vote NO on HB 1807.  The following are some talking points you can use when writing or calling your Representative.

Talking Points

The following talking points were created by a coalition of organizations in Pennsylvania concerned about this preemption bill.

  • Across the country, grassroots efforts to enact paid sick days, higher minimum wages and other common sense workplace reforms are gaining momentum. These policies improve the lives of working men and women, their families, communities and local economies.
  •  To stop this progress, corporate lobbyists and the state legislators they control have quietly begun to enact dangerous and undemocratic “preemption” laws.
  •  Preemption” laws passed at the state level prohibit cities and counties within that state from adopting their own laws on paid sick days, a higher minimum wage and other workplace standards.
  •  Laws that preempt local decision-making strip cities and counties of their right to adopt policies that will benefit their communities, in violation of core conservative and democratic principles.
  •  Preemption has been a nationally coordinated, go-to strategy of special interest lobbyists for years, used to undermine and eviscerate smoking bans, nutrition labeling laws and other food safety measures, and gun violence prevention measures. Now this strategy is being used by the National Restaurant Association and the corporate group ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to target modern economic policies that help working people and their families.
  •  ALEC is the industry-backed organization responsible for “stand-your-ground” or “shoot-to-kill” laws and for suppressing voting rights, environmental protections and more. It is comprised of both lobbyists for multi-million dollar corporations and legislators who are aligned with and take contributions from those corporations.
  •  Preemption is yet another way that ALEC is attempting to “steal” democracy from voters. In addition to trying to control who gets to vote, ALEC also wants to control what citizens can vote on.
  •  Instead of fighting grassroots paid sick days and minimum wage efforts city by city, corporate lobbyists are working with their legislator allies in the state capitals, where they have more influence, to keep local governments from doing what’s best for their people and communities. In fact, they’re pushing paid sick days preemption law in states that don’t even have any municipal efforts to pass the measure – just to head off grassroots momentum before it starts.
  •  Nine states have already passed paid sick days preemption laws – Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Wisconsin. And the opposition is getting more aggressive: Six of these nine laws were passed in 2013. A tenth state – North Carolina – has passed a narrower preemption bill that affects state contractors. Bills are pending in at least six other states – with more expected in 2014. It’s obvious that they’re being coordinated on a national level.
  •  Local innovation is the lifeblood of progress. Preemption efforts, driven by special interests, should not stand in the way of local innovation or self-rule, which historically has paved the way for meaningful statewide and then federal action on minimum wage, family leave and other issues. Bills like this represent an ominous attempt to remove power from locally elected officials and make the voters mere bystanders in the democratic processes that define the character of their communities.
  •  Strong statewide earned sick days and minimum wage standards are preferable, but in the absence of statewide policies, localities must have the freedom to do what’s best for their people and communities. Millions of workers without paid sick days are too often forced into going to work sick, sending sick kids to school, putting off needed health care, or losing pay and even their jobs if they stay home. Local lawmakers are increasingly recognizing that paid sick days policies are both an economic and a public health imperative, and are learning from the positive experiences with paid sick days standards in San Francisco, Seattle and Connecticut.
  •  Even if preemption bills seem to have a narrow focus, passage of this type of legislation could result in preemption of a wide range of local ordinances, whether passed through voter referendum or by city councils, in municipalities throughout the state. These include efforts to expand protections for those who have experienced domestic violence, laws prohibiting wage theft, consumer protection initiatives, and many more. Corporate lobbyists don’t want any regulations standing in the way of their profits.

What You Can Do to Stop This Bill

We need to have members of the House of Representatives called to tell them to vote NO on this bill.  Keystone Progress has set up a call-in page for us to use. Let’s start getting calls in to legislators right now! Once you make your call, please forward this email to your constituents, members, friends, family – anyone who can make a call. Here’s the contact call page:

You can also tweet about this – here are a few Sample Tweets:

  • PA’s House Labor Cmmte just passed a bill taking local control from YOUR local officials. Tell them what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
  • Stop corporate vetoes on our local laws: call your legislators now! http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe #paidsickdays
  • ALEC attempting to preempt local control of paid and unpaid sick leave in PA. Tell #PALegis what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
  • ALEC attempting to preempt local control of paid and unpaid sick leave in PA. Tell @PAGOP what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
  • #Preemption is another way that ALEC is attempting to “steal” democracy from voters. Tell @PAGOP what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
  • #Preemption is another way that ALEC is attempting to “steal” democracy from voters. Tell #PALegis what you think: http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe
  • #Preemption bill threatens local efforts to assist Domestic Violence survivors. Call your legislators now! http://bit.ly/1aNdZLe

You can also let your friends, family, and neighbors know about this corporate threat to local control by talking, emailing, using social media, and/or forwarding this blog on to them. There are several links at the bottom of this blog: choose what works for you.

And thanks!