Tuesday, August 30, 2011

1000 Women Leaders say "We've had enough!"

We need your help.
  • The Pennsylvania legislature is on the verge of passing new abortion regulations that are so burdensome that many safe, compassionate and pro-women providers are expected to close.
  • Another bill that would prevent women from using their health insurance to cover abortion care is one step away from final passage.
  • Another bill to force doctors to ask women to look at their ultrasound image and listen to a fetal heartbeat before abortion is waiting in the wings.
In the meantime, women are suffering from a failing economy and a sluggish recovery that has not produced jobs for women; from widespread wage discrimination; from harassment, violence, and abuse; from hunger and poverty; from lack of health care; from a lack of affordable housing and transportation; and from inadequate support for their family responsibilities.

Our state government’s answer to these real problems is, Let’s pass another abortion restriction!In fact, in the first six months of this year, the Pennsylvania legislature acted on anti-abortion legislation on fully one-third of its voting session days.

Had enough?

As a leader in your community, we are asking you to join the 1000 Women Leaders campaign to send a message to the Pennsylvania legislature that we’ve had enough. 1000 Women Leaders is a shared initiative of the Women’s Law Project and Pennsylvanians for Choice, a statewide coalition of reproductive health advocates and providers. Our goal is to shift the focus of our state government away from restricting abortion and toward solving the problems of real women in communities across the Commonwealth.

How to participate:

All we ask is that you add your name to the rapidly growing list of women leaders (see below) who think the Pennsylvania legislature should stop passing new abortion restrictions and start solving women’s real problems. We will share the list with these leaders at a rally at the state capitol scheduled for Tuesday, September 27th. We hope you’ll be there. Yes, please add my name to the 1000 Women Leaders List!

If, in addition to lending the force of your name, you are also in a position to make a contribution, we will put all funds raised from the 1000 Women Leaders initiative into a paid media campaign to publicize our message. Contributions are tax-deductable.

And if you’d like to spread the word to another woman whose name is missing from the 1000 Women Leaders list, please pass this message along through your networks.

Also, if you would like to participate in our social media campaign and learn more about the rally on September 27th, visit www.wevehadenoughpa.org. The We’ve Had Enough campaign is also a project of Pennsylvanians for Choice and is committed to planning the September rally and educating Pennsylvanians about this dangerous legislation.
1000 Women Leaders
(affiliations are listed for identification purposes only)

Amanda S. Aronoff, Executive Director
Suzanne Sheehan Becker
Jessica Beckett-McWalter, Esq.
Kathy Black, President
Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union women
Jen Boulanger
Allentown Women's Center
Jeanne K.C. Clark, Chair
Shadyside Dems, Democratic Committee Seventh Ward, City of Pittsburgh
Jennifer R. Clarke, Executive Director
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Melissa M. Craig
Gerianne Tringali DiPiano, President & CEO
FemmePharma Global Healthcare, Inc.
Barbara Burgos DiTullio
WomenVote PA
Anna Doering
AD Consulting
Julie Drendall
JoAnne A. Epps
Nancy O'Mara Ezold, Esq.
Sara K. Faisetty
Allentown Women's Center
Kristyn Felman, MPH, LSW
Cynthia Figueroa
Alma Speed Fox
Susan Frietsche, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney
Women's Law Project
Terry Gillen
Carol Goertzel, President & CEO
Pathways PA
Nancy Bregstein Gordon
Brenda Green
Wendy Grube, Ph.D., CRNP
Barbara Hafer
Hafer and Associates, LLC
Honorable Babette Josephs
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Carol Ann Kell
Eve Biskind Klothen
Vicki W. Kramer
V. Kramer & Associates
Judith N. Lasker, Ph.D.
Dept. Sociology & Anthropology, Lehigh University
Roberta D. Liebenberg, Esq.
Gail Lopez-Henriques, Esq.
Carol A. Mager, Esq.
Dorothy Mann
Lynn A. Marks
Tara Marks
La'Tasha D. Mayes
New Voices Pennsylvania: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice
Kate Michelman, Former President
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Leslie Anne Miller, Esq., LLC
Diane Mohney, Recording Secretary
Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women
Dr. Lynne Ann Molter, Professor & Chair
Dept. of Engineering, Swarthmore College
Kimberly C. Oxholm
Nancy Reese, Chief Creative Officer
Sarah Ricks, Board of Trustees
Women's Law Project
Mary Catherine Roper, Staff Attorney
American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
Judith A. Ruszkowski
Margaret Sadler
Susan Schewel, Executive Director
Women's Medical Fund
Carolyn Scott
Dayle Steinberg, President & CEO
Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Sylvia Stengle
Martha Swartz, Esq.
Stella M. Tsai, Esq.
Carol E. Tracy, Esq., Executive Director
Women's Law Project
Deborah A. Williq, Esq.
Kathleen J. Wilson, Vice President
Pennsylvania NOW

New Commission to Gather Citizen Input on Gas Drilling

HARRISBURG, PA (August 30, 2011) — A new commission launching this week will give the citizens of Pennsylvania an opportunity to tell their side of the story about drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Former state Representatives Carole Rubley and Dan Surra will co-chair the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission, which will hold hearings across Pennsylvania to gather citizen perspectives on the Marcellus Shale and produce a final report for policymakers. The first of five hearings will take place Wednesday in Southwestern Pennsylvania (see full schedule of hearings below).

“Marcellus Shale development will have a huge impact on our Commonwealth and it is critical that we get it right,” Surra said. “This commission will give citizens an opportunity to add their voice and bring some necessary balance to this critical debate.”

“The Commission will give the people of Pennsylvania an opportunity to weigh in on this important issue,” said Rubley. “Their input should inform state policies to ensure gas drilling is conducted in a responsible manner.”

The Citizens Commission was formed by eight leading civic and environmental organizations to give Pennsylvanians living with drilling in their backyard a place to speak out and recommend action.

Earlier this year, Governor Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, heavy with industry representatives, produced a report and recommendations on shale drilling. The Citizens Commission is intended to supplement that work and delve deeper into a variety of issues, including water and air quality, social impacts of gas drilling, the drilling tax, and impacts outside Marcellus communities.

“The Governor’s commission told part of the story,” said Thomas Au, of the Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter. “The citizens of Pennsylvania have a different story to tell.”

The Commission will hold five hearings across Pennsylvania in August and September. Each hearing will be held from 6-9 p.m., with the first hour reserved for expert testimony and the remaining two for public input.

In early October, the Commission will produce a report documenting the opinions and concerns of citizens to be delivered to Governor Corbett and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The hearing schedule is:

Southwestern Pennsylvania
Aug. 31, 2011, 6-9 pm: South Fayette Middle School, 3640 Old Oakdale Rd., McDonald, Pa

Southeastern Pennsylvania
Sept. 6, 2011, 6-9 pm: The Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia, Pa.

Northeastern Pennsylvania
Sept. 13, 2011, 6-9 pm: Lycoming College, Academic Center on Mulberry Street, Room D001, Lower Level, Williamsport, Pa.

Sept. 14, 2011, 6-9 pm: Wysox Volunteer Fire Company, P.O. Box 2, Lake Rd., Wysox, Pa.

Central Pennsylvania
Week of Sept. 18, 2011, Harrisburg, Pa. (Details TBA)

Citizens can sign up to participate at these hearings at the Commission’s web site: http://citizensmarcellusshale.com or by calling Stephanie Frank at 717-255-7181

Follow on Twitter: @CitiznMarcellus

Follow on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Citizens-Marcellus-Shale-Commission/167473073330059

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Clean Water Action, Keystone Progress, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, Penn Environment, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter, and the CLEAR Coalition.

The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission was formed by eight civic and environmental organizations in Pennsylvania to assess the impacts, both positive and negative, of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale and to identify the steps needed to ensure drilling occurs in a responsible manner. Learn more: http://citizensmarcellusshale.com.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

PA Public Sector Earnings on Par with Private Sector

New study provides apples-to-apples comparison of compensation

Full-time state and local government employees in Pennsylvania earn about the same or less in wages and benefits as their private-sector counterparts, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), co-released with the Keystone Research Center.

Controlling for other factors that influence compensation—most importantly, education—this study provides an “apples-to-apples” comparison showing that the hourly compensation costs of Pennsylvania public-sector employees are a statistically insignificant 2.1% lower than that of private-sector employees. When compared on an annual basis, full-time state and local employees are undercompensated by a statistically-significant 5.4%.

The analysis, Public Versus Private Employee Costs in Pennsylvania: Comparing Apples to Apples, by Labor and Employment Relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University controls for education, experience, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship and disability. The study uses data collected primarily from a comprehensive database that is updated monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. In accordance with standard survey practice, the study focuses on year-round, full-time public and private-sector employees.

Other major findings of the study include:

  • Pennsylvania public-sector workers are more highly educated than private-sector workers: 53% of full-time Pennsylvania public-sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree, compared to 32% of full-time private-sector workers.
  • Pennsylvania state and local governments and school districts pay college-educated workers on average 21% less than do private employers.
  • Public-sector compensation is a model for the private sector, not the reverse, when it comes to promoting American values and improving productivity.

Pennsylvania public employees—like most other American workers—have in fact been victims of the worst national recession since the Great Depression. Severe financial problems as a result of the Great Recession have forced state, county and municipal elected officials in Pennsylvania and other states to make large cuts in spending. As a result, public-sector employment has been slashed by 3,400 jobs in Pennsylvania in the last year, with thousands more workers at risk of job loss in the years ahead.

Want to learn more?

Read the full EPI report

Read a two-page fact sheet

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

After students trigger four federal investigations into exploitation at Hershey’s plant, Hershey’s offers students paid vacations

HERSHEY, PA, August 24, 2011—Just hours after four federal government agencies launched investigations into the exploitation of J-1 student workers in the Hershey’s packing plant—including a surprise inspection of the plant Tuesday by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—Hershey’s directed its subcontractors to offer the students paid vacations.

Early morning Tuesday, OSHA began a surprise inspection of the Hershey’s packing plant in Palmyra, which it continued all day Tuesday and was set to resume Wednesday morning. OSHA also confirmed Tuesday that it had opened a Whistleblower Protection Program investigation into the case.

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division launched its own investigation into the exploitation of J-1 student workers at the Hershey’s plant, and the U.S. State Department scheduled interviews with the students for Thursday, August 25, as part of its own investigation.

Hours after learning of the four investigations, Hershey’s abandoned its claims that it bore no responsibility for the exploitation of J-1 students at its packing plant, and directed its subcontractors to offer the students paid vacations.

Hershey’s offer to the students comes one day before State Department officials were scheduled to interview students about the months of exploitation at the Hershey’s plant that the students spoke out to end.

“For five full days after the students exposed the exploitation at the Hershey’s packing plant and stood up for American workers, Hershey’s played dumb and passed the buck,” said Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance, which helped the students organize. “Then Hershey's learned of four federal investigations into the exploitation of J-1 students at its plant, and within hours, it was offering the students paid vacations.”

“There’s nothing wrong with paid vacations, but a paid vacation won’t cover up the truth: Hershey’s knew, condoned, and benefited from the year-round exploitation of J-1 student workers at its packing plant for years,” Soni said.

“Pennsylvanians know that Hershey’s has pursued a deliberate strategy of outsourcing, downsizing, and subcontracting for the cheapest, most exploitable workers for decades,” Soni said. “Hershey’s has left Pennsylvania workers locked out of living wage jobs, and has left students on a cultural exchange program locked in their plant as captive laborers. That’s Hershey’s record of brutal corporate greed, and no eleventh-hour offer can cover it up.”

CONTACT: NGA Communications Director Stephen Boykewich

Stephen@guestworkeralliance.org, Tel. 718-791-9162

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Policy Gives Consumers Clear and Understandable Information on Health Benefits and Coverage

New Policy Gives Consumers Clear and Understandable Information on Health Benefits and Coverage

Keystone Progress Education Fund released the following statement on the new Affordable Care Act rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury to make health coverage more consumer-friendly.

This new policy finally means that real people will be able to read and understand their health benefits and coverage so that they can make educated decisions when they are buying health insurance. By simplifying the language and ensuring that information is clear and understandable, this policy eliminates much of the existing confusion surrounding health care.

Workers and employers both win with this new rule, which ensures that Americans better understand their choices in health care. With clear choices between plans and benefits, the 180 million health insurance consumers with private health insurance coverage will now be able to make informed decisions about their health coverage.

The rules will ensure that consumers have access to a Summary of Benefits and Coverage and to a uniform glossary of terms commonly used in health insurance coverage upon request and before they buy coverage.

Consumers win with choice and information, and this rule promotes both.

More information about the proposed regulation is available at: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/labels08172011a.html.

To view the proposed template for the Summary of Benefits and Coverage, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/labels08172011b.pdf

To view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or learn how to submit public comment, visit: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/

Other technical information is available at: http://cciio.cms.gov/

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Not so sweet: Hershey’s exploits student workers to avoid paying living wages in Pennsylvania

Godwin is a Nigerian student who heard about a great opportunity to learn about American culture and hone his English skills in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He was excited when he learned he was accepted to part of a special U.S. State Department approved visa program designed to promote cultural exchange and international understanding. He was so thrilled that he would be meeting American people as a guestworker with the Hershey Company that he was willing to pay $4,000 to be part of the program.

Once he arrived in Hershey, his excitement quickly faded as he found himself forced to work long hours packing chocolates instead of working in a public position. Godwin, and hundreds of other international students, found that they not only had to work long hours, but Hershey forced them to live in company housing, after paying $3,000-6,000 for the “opportunity” to work for Hershey. Hershey also charged them other expenses, leaving most of the students with $40 to $140 per week after 40 hours of work with serious health and safety problems at the worksite. (You can see a video of their story here.)

When they complained about their working conditions, the students were threatened with deportation.

But Hershey’s exploitation doesn’t end with the students. Jobs like these used to be living wage jobs with a union contract, earning about $18 an hour.

The students understand that they are being exploited, and they understand that they are being used to hurt working families in the United States. Today, they are courageously risking deportation to stand up for themselves and American workers by organizing a sit down strike inside the plant. They were joined in the sit down strike by community, religious and labor leaders, three of him were arrested.

They have two simple demands:

1) Hershey Company must return the $3000-$6000 that the student-workers paid to participate in a bogus cultural exchange program;

2) Hershey must make these jobs living wage jobs for Pennsylvania workers.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up to an employer who legally controls every aspect of your life. We need you to help the students in their efforts to expose this fraudulent program and get justice for themselves and American workers.

Please send a message to Hershey’s CEO in support of the students by clicking here. Join the brave international students in their fight against this injustice.

You can learn more by clicking here.

In Solidarity,

Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Toomey agrees to town hall meetings after avoiding unemployed all year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, August 17, 2011


“You’ve met with the CEO’s and lobbyists, now meet with real unemployed workers.”

PENNSYLVANIA – After receiving repeated requests to hold a town hall meeting with unemployed workers before the end of the August recess, Senator Pat Toomey’s office announced that he will be holding “open forums” at the end of the month.

The announcement, which was reported in the Morning Call, comes just days after Toomey verbally agreed to meeting with unemployed workers at the request of Dan Haney and Shawn Wygant. Both men have lost their jobs recently and are struggling to provide for their families.

“I’m happy that Senator Toomey has finally honored his promise to hold open forums,” said Haney of Philadelphia, who worked as a pharmacy technician until February of this year when his job, along with approximately 600 of his co-worker’s jobs, was sent overseas. “So far, he has spent the August recess meting with CEO’s and lobbyists. I sincerely hope that he fulfills his promise to include unemployed workers in his open forums. He needs to hear how the policies he supports are only making our situation worse.”

Haney and Wygant, an unemployed worker from Pittsburgh, have been traveling the state asking Toomey to hold a town hall meeting with unemployed workers. They will continue to visit his offices until he agrees that the unemployed will be a large part of his audience at the “open forums.”

“I can’t afford to pay $1,000 to have access to my Senator, like the lobbyists and corporate CEO’s,” said Wygant. “Senator Toomey has spent his time in Washington protecting tax breaks for CEOs and corporations that ship jobs overseas and doing nothing to create jobs for regular people here in Pennsylvania. I want to be able to tell him face-to-face, like he said I would be able to, how his policies are hurting middle class families like mine.”

A link to the Morning Call story can be found by clicking here. A copy of a letter sent to Toomey from Haney and Wygant just yesterday is also attached to this release. The correspondence was in response to the Senator's failure to publicly announce that he had decided to hold a town hall meeting. This was also reported on in the Morning Call as well, and can be read here.

CONTACT: Jessica Walls-Lavelle, 717-724-7570, toomeywatch@gmail.com

Today'sNews Clips, August 17, 2011

News Clips from America Votes

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

News Clips

Colorado: Tancredo forms “super PAC” to raise unlimited money for 2012

From Allison Sherry for the Denver Post

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo filed paperwork to form a new “super” Political Action Committee called the American Legacy Alliance that will raise unlimited funds around the cause of illegal immigration.

Tancredo, a one-time GOP presidential and Colorado gubernatorial candidate, filed the paperwork last week.

Read More: http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2011/08/16/tancredo-forms-super-pac-to-raise-unlimited-money-for-2012/36319/

Florida: Voting record undermines Dems credibility on redistricting, claims GOP

From The Staff for the St. Petersburg Times

We told you on Tuesday that Republicans were targeting Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith for taking a different position on redistricting as a party boss than when he was helping draw district boundaries in the state Senate.

Today, the Florida Republican Party of Florida issued another press release showing that four Democrats joined Smith in voting for the 2002 plan and "to support current legislative lines they now criticize." To be fair, all four Democrats — Skip Campbell, Steve Geller, Al Lawson, and Tom Rossin — are out of office and we haven't heard any of the four publicly criticize the current process. But that's beside the point, Republicans say.

"Florida Democrats have proven they have no credibility when they criticize the redistricting process,” RPOF spokesman Brian Hughes said. "Republicans in Florida have offered a bipartisan process for redistricting; one that respects the law and will include a diversity of representation that reflects the population of our great state."

Pennsylvania: Eyes turn to former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel as his former aides plan guilty pleas

From Charles Thompson for the Patriot News

Just a few weeks before former House Speaker John Perzel and former House Republican staffers are slated to go to trial, three of Perzel’s former aides plan to plead guilty.

Could Perzel follow suit?

While Perzel said in one published report Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to plead guilty, the possibility of a deal might be greater than ever.

Read More: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/08/eyes_turn_to_former_pennsylvan.html

Wisconsin: Wirch, Holperin win Senate recalls; GOP retains 17-16 majority

From Tom Tolan, Lee Bergquist and Georgia Pabst for the Journal Sentinel

The six-month saga that was Wisconsin's state Senate recall movement ended Tuesday with Democrats retaining two seats - and Republicans still in possession of a week-old, razor-thin 17-16 majority.

On the fourth election day of the summer, two Democratic incumbents were victorious. Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover) beat challenger and tea party activist Kim Simac of Eagle River, and Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) easily topped Republican lawyer Jonathan Steitz.

Bottom line: Republicans will continue to control the agenda in the Capitol, but it will be difficult for Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP leaders to get everything they want.

Holperin said he believes his win and that of Wirch showed that voters in both districts supported the move by the 14 Senate Democrats to leave the state earlier this year to delay a vote on the budget-repair bill that limited collective bargaining for public employees. "Maybe it shows that voters indicated they deserved more time to let their voice be heard on such an important piece of legislation," he said.

Read More: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/127914783.html

Aide disputes report, says Ryan still isn't running for president

From Craig Gilbert for the Journal Sentinel

Paul Ryan's office denied a media report Tuesday that the Janesville congressman is actively considering a presidential run.

"His mind hasn't changed," said Ryan aide Kevin Seifert. "He's not planning to run for president . . . There's nothing new to this."

The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine and website, wrote Tuesday that Ryan was "strongly considering" a run and has been discussing the possibility with political strategists in recent months.

Read More: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/127915833.html

Montana: Schweitzer denies interest in presidency in 2016 as he gives out-of-state speeches

From Charles Johnson for the Billings Gazette

HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer is off to speak at Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday, the latest in a series of out-of-state speeches, but he pooh-poohed a national magazine report that he's gearing up to run for president in 2016.

U.S. News & World Report columnist Paul Bedard wrote an article last week headlined, "Buzz Building for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer in 2016."

The author compared Schweitzer, who "brought down the house" at the 2008 Democratic nominating convention, with Barack Obama, who did likewise at the 2004 convention, and Bill Clinton, who bored the audience in nominating Mike Dukakis in 1988.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_89fe08a0-5e1b-5624-916a-f8f7eda57535.html#ixzz1VIFZEUYx

Oregon: Oregon congressional candidate Rob Cornilles missed voting in third of elections since 1998

From Jeff Mapes for the Oregonian

Republican congressional candidate Rob Cornilles has missed voting in nine of the 27 elections held since 1998, according to the Washington County elections office.

That puts Cornilles in stark contrast with the three major Democrats running in the special congressional election for the seat vacated by the resignation of Democrat David Wu.

Election records show that Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton and state Rep. Brad Witt of Clatskanie have not skipped an election

Read More: http://blog.oregonlive.com/mapesonpolitics/2011/08/rob_cornilles_missed_voting_in.html

Maine: Monaghan-Derrig wins Maine House seat in Cape Elizabeth

From Tervor Maxwell for the Portland Press Herald

CAPE ELIZABETH — Democrat Kimberly Monaghan-Derrig defeated Republican Nancy Thompson in a special election Tuesday to win the District 121 seat in the Maine House of Representatives.

Monaghan-Derrig beat out Thompson in a tight race between political newcomers.

The unofficial results, posted by the town shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, showed 1,340 for Monaghan-Derrig and 1,164 for Thompson.

Read More: http://www.pressherald.com/news/democrat-will-represent-cape_2011-08-17.html

Michigan: Durant to enter primary to challenge Stabenow

From Ed Brayton for the Michigan Messenger

Clark Durant, founder of a Detroit charter school, is set to announce that he will run against former Rep. Pete Hoekstra in the Republican primary for the chance to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow for her seat next year.

MLive.com reports:

Detroit charter school co-founder Clark Durant confirmed Tuesday that he intends to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

Read More: http://michiganmessenger.com/51801/durant-to-enter-primary-to-challenge-stabenow

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rep. Matthew Baker Threatens Citizen Activists for Exposing His Ties to Corporate Lobbyists

(HARRISBURG)—Rep. Matthew Baker (R, Bradford, Tioga) has threatened legal action against Keystone Progress for exposing his ties to corporate lobbyists. Baker told one of his constituents that he has discussed legal action with his “legal council [sic].”

Last week Keystone Progress released a report detailing the relationship between many PA legislators and a shadowy corporate lobbying organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In that report (available online here), Keystone Progress revealed how some legislators were using ALEC’s model Bills verbatim, not even bothering to disguise the fact that they were copying what the lobbyists wrote for them.

Baker was one of the legislators whose copying was highlighted in the report.

“This is a dangerous attempt to stifle the truth,” said Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill. “We expected that legislators would not like our report, but we never expected that they would use their power to try to silence the voices of citizens.”

The following is the entire email from Baker:

Thank you for your email [Name deleted for confidentiality]. I am fully aware of the left wing liberal agenda to both demean ALEC and those who consider model legislation or proposals by this reputable and more conservative thinking national organization. Notwithstanding this groups liberal bias against ALEC I will say I have never attended any of their national conferences but do value their expertise in researching what other states have done in terms of legislative proposals. By the way, I am well aware of the misrepresentations of the liberal Progressive group that has taken shots at me and others and hence have referred their self serving ploy and tactics to raise money to our legal council to ascertain if this is a potential ethics or libel issue and if so if it is actionable from a legal standpoint. [Entire email as sent to Keystone Progress member]

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Watch the "Bagel" ad and sign up with Know Your Care to learn more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Many PA bills being written by secretive group of corporate lobbyists

American Legislative Exchange Council writes bills and then gives them to PA legislators who pass them off as their own work

(HARRISBURG,PA)—A new report released today reveals a disturbing level of influence by corporate lobbyists in Pennsylvania. A secretive organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been writing legislation which PA legislators have been passing off as their own work. The bills written by ALEC cover virtually every area of public policy, including healthcare, budgeting and tax policy. The report was written by Keystone Progress, a progressive advocacy group based in Harrisburg.
“We are not talking about legislators following a corporate agenda, there is nothing new in that.” said Eileen Connelly, chair of Keystone Progress. “This is legislation which is used verbatim by legislators who pretend that they wrote these bills.”
Among the bills copied from ALEC’s “Model Bills” website are:
  • HB 42, the “Freedom of choice in Healthcare Act,” introduced by Rep. Matthew Baker (R, Bradford, Tioga)
  • HB 250, the “Council on Efficient Government Act, “ introduced by Rep. Rep. Seth Grove (R, York)
  • HB 1349, the “Regulatory Review Act,” introduced by Rep. Tina Pickett (R, Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna)
The report identifies 23 legislators who are ALEC members, including much of the GOP leadership in the General Assembly. Twenty-two of the 23 are GOP legislators. Only one is a Democrat.
Until now it has been difficult to show the connection between ALEC and corporate takeover of democracy. Last week The Center for Media and Democracy uncovered 800 bills and resolutions that were voted on by ALEC members, showing how its unelected corporate members are given a direct voice on the creation of bills that affect the lives of American citizens every day. The agenda embedded in these bills is about tilting the system into favoring those with money and power. Through de-regulation of industry, voter suppression and setting up barriers to direct democracy ALEC legislation has greatly influenced the political landscape in many states, including Pennsylvania.
These bills align closely with the agenda of the Republican leadership in both chambers. With over 800 bills, it is impossible to compare each to the bills introduced in the PA House and Senate this year without reviewing each ALEC bill and comparing it to similar legislation in PA.
The report may be obtained electronically here or by contacting Michael Morrill (KP Executive Director) at mike@keystoneprogress.org, or Jamie Mondics (KP Healthcare Communiaction Coordinator) at jamie@keystoneprogress.org)

Michael Morrill, Executive Director
Keystone Progress
1500 N. 2nd St., Ste. 11
Harrisburg, PA 17102