This Week In Harrisburg

Union Brothers and Sisters: It’s budget season and Harrisburg is on a roll. This week, three charter school bills moved forward in a continued effort to undermine and underfund our public schools. Governor Wolf has announced his intention to veto HB 800.

House Bill 849, the Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act, prohibits employers from requiring current and prospective employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement related to sexual harassment as a condition of employment. The bill passed the State House unanimously on Tuesday, June 11.

Education

House Bill 800 would increase the state’s Educational Investment Tax Credit (EITC) cap by $100 million and then allow the program to grow by 10% a year thereafter. HB 800 is basically one of these voucher schemes intent on giving wealthy donors a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to private scholarship organizations, which in turn, give vouchers for children to attend private and parochial schools. On May 7, HB 800 had passed the House 111 to 85. On June 11, this bill passed the Senate 28 to 21. The bill is now in the Governor’s hands and he has announced his plans to veto it.

House bills 356 and 357 purport to “fix” Pennsylvania’s charter school law. But they are one more attempt at further draining school budgets, permitting unfettered charter expansion, and empowering Harrisburg bureaucrats and political cronies at the expense of locally elected school boards, parents, and taxpayers. Both bills passed the house on June 12.

Mobile fifth-generation (5G) wireless systems

Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T have lobbied federal regulators and state legislators to relax rules and red tape in the area of small cell wireless deployments. Those wireless service providers are rarely if ever, licensed as public utilities responsible for inspecting, maintaining, or managing poles. Endowing them with this right raises concerns regarding both public safety and potential abrogations of existing collective bargaining agreements in the areas ensuring utility workers’ safety. Legislation making it easier and cheaper for wireless carriers to put thousands of small cell antennas on utility poles throughout Pennsylvania (HB 1400) might be moving quickly and soon. A public hearing on this bill was held by the House Consumer Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on telecommunications on June 12, and within a few hours afterward, a voting meeting was scheduled for June 17.

“Recovery-to-Work”

The sponsor of this bill (SB 118) notes the “vicious cycle” that many individuals with a history of substance abuse fall into when trying to find and maintain steady employment. But, as currently drafted, SB 118 will be a greater boon to business partners than to the men and women trying to reenter the workforce. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO wants greater worker protections and commitment from SB118. The bill is expected to be up for a final passage vote in the Senate the week of June 17.

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