Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rep Mike Kelly compares contraceptive mandate to Pearl Harbor, 9/11

PENNSYLVANIA – Today, August 1, 2012 Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R), an anti-women’s health representative compared this day on which health insurance companies are required to begin covering contraceptive services and preventative care benefits for women, to September 11 and Pearl Harbor. 

"I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day.  The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack," Kelly said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."

But healthcare advocates and women’s rights advocates condemn this statement.

"Republicans are obsessed with undermining women's health," said Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill. "Today is a historic day for 2,121,806 Pennsylvania women who will now have access to birth control, diabetes screening, HIV tests and mammograms," continued Morrill.

As required by the Affordable Care Act for the first time ever, Pennsylvania women will be granted access to potentially life-saving tests and services, without having to worry about costs. No longer will Pennsylvania women be at the disposal of their insurance companies, but will instead be able to take control of their well-being and make decisions to keep them healthy, catch possibly serious conditions at an earlier state and protect themselves and their families from colossal medical bills.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Supreme Court Ruling on Affordable Care Act Victory for Pennsylvania

Today’s Supreme Court ruling makes clear – from both Republican and Democratic Justices – that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.  

This decision will ensure that people with pre-existing health conditions will have the care they need, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans, small businesses will receive tax health insurance credits, thousands of Pennsylvanians will get rebates from their insurers this summer, and millions will no longer have out-of-pocket costs for routine preventive care.

This is incredible news for Americans who can now rest assured that they can continue to get their health care benefits.  Senior citizens remain safe from the donut hole. People still can’t be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions or be thrown at the mercy of insurance companies.  Young adults can remain on their parents insurance until they’re 26.

The most hotly debated topic, the individual mandate means that people who can afford to purchase health insurance will no longer have their healthcare subsidized by taxpayers.  In fact, the Urban Institute estimates that if the ACA were in effect today, 94 percent of the total population would not have to newly purchase insurance or pay a fine. While a small number of people would be affected by the individual responsibility requirement, the overall benefit to the population would be large, in terms of reducing premiums and increasing stability of insurance markets.

It's also important to remember that because of the Affordable Care Act, millions people in Pennsylvania have benefited from the Affordable Care Act in the first two years. 

  • 235,820 Pennsylvanians with Medicare saved an average of $622 on Prescription drugs
  • 1,509,076 Pennsylvanians received at least one free preventative care benefit
  • 4,582,000 Pennsylvanians no longer have lifetime limits on their health plans
  • 64,798 of Pennsylvania's young adults are allowed to stay on their parent's health insurance
  • 3,421,000 Pennsylvanians are now protected by the Medical Loss Ratio rule of the ACA
  • 4,567 Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions now have health insurance
  • Community Health Centers in Pennsylvania have received over $26,800,000 to expand services to communities in need

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act need to hear this message loud and clear and stop their partisan attempts to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans by refighting the same political battles.

It is time for everyone to move forward from these partisan battles and focus on fully implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

View all blog postings at our new site-

Our new interactive blog and website is now live at

All older posts will remain here.  We'll try to republish important posts at the new site too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ALEC’s Legislative Agenda on Education

On American Legislative Exchange Council task forces, corporate lobbyists and special interests vote as equals with elected representatives on templates to change our laws, behind closed doors with no press or public allowed to see the votes or deliberations. ALEC’s education legislation diverts taxpayers’ money from American public school children to for-profit education corporations, strips away the rights of teachers and their ability to negotiate strongly for small class sizes and other practices that help children learn better, and gives more tax breaks to rich corporations and individuals to pay private school tuition, among other things that undermine America’s proud tradition of investing in our future through investing in excellent public education for all of America’s children. ALEC’s education task force has long been chaired by a private school corporation.

Funding Private Schools and Private Profits with the Public’s Money

·      ALEC’s “Family Education Tax Credit Program” creates a tax credit for paying private primary or secondary school tuition and fees. It would also create a tax credit for corporations and individuals that give money to be used as “scholarships” to pay tuition and fees at private schools. This also reduces tax revenue for public services.

·      ALEC’s “Parent Choice Scholarship Program Act-Universal Eligibility” creates a voucher program to use taxpayer funds that would be spent on public schools to subsidize private for-profit, religious, or other primary and secondary schools. This program has no income limit for subsid and therefore all students would be eligible.

·      ALEC’s “Parental Choice Scholarship Accountability Act” helps enable taxpayer money to be used to subsidize for-profit, religious, or other private schools.

·      ALEC’s “Education Enterprise Zone Act” creates a voucher program to subsidize private schools with taxpayer money.

·      ALEC’s “Education Accountability Act” allows a state to override the elected school board, declare schools “educationally bankrupt,” and divert funds to private schools.

Tipping the Scales in Favor of Charter Schools Over Public School Innovations

·      ALEC’s “Charter Schools Act” would allow the state to grant charters to create and operate schools outside of traditional public schools, while also exempting these charter schools from state laws that apply to public schools.

·      ALEC’s “Next Generation Charter Schools Act” allows state taxpayers to subsidize charter schools that compete with public schools, while exempting charter schools from complying with many legal standards and requirements that govern public schools.

·      ALEC’s “Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits” urges more tax cuts for corporations and individuals to subsidize for-profit corporate schools through funding “scholarships.”

Advancing Other Controversial Proposals
·      ALEC’s “Virtual Public Schools Act” requires virtual or online education company courses to be recognized as public schools and require that such companies receive the same per pupil funding as traditional schools that provide classrooms, sports training facilities, lunch, and transportation, resulting in windfall profits for online “schools.”

·      ALEC’s “Parent Trigger Act” would allow a small group of parents to close public school for current and future students, and turn the school into a charter school or require the state to use taxpayer dollars for vouchers to subsidize private tuition.

·      ALEC’s “Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind” supports the Bush Administration’s controversial effort of  using expanded testing of limited subjects as a way to claim public schools are failing and also to effectively limit the teaching of important life skills and other educationally enriching topics not subject to testing.

·      ALEC’s “Common Sense in Medicating Students Act” prohibits any school personnel from even recommending medication for any troubled child to parents, even if the school has experts on staff experienced in making such non-binding recommendations.

Attacking Teachers and Undermining the Power to Negotiate to Help Students

·      ALEC’s “Great Teachers and Leaders Act” changes tenure rules for teachers and allows tenure to be revoked based on limited measures of success without regard to underlying conditions in the schools or environment.

·      ALEC’s “Teacher Choice Compensation Act” requires teachers to opt out of union contracts in order to be eligible for performance-based salary stipends.

·      ALEC’s “Public School Employee Union Release Time Act” attempts to overturn negotiated agreements that allow for certain union activities to be compensated.

·      ALEC’s “Alternative Certification Act” attempts to allow students to be taught by people who have no training in how to teach children and the different ways kids learn at various ages and based on different learning styles. This paves the way for for-profit schools to pay “teachers” less than educators who are actually trained in teaching.

ALEC’s Legislative Agenda on Women and Children

On American Legislative Exchange Council task forces, corporate lobbyists and special interests vote as equals with elected representatives on templates to change our laws, behind closed doors with no press or public allowed to see the votes or deliberations. ALEC’s model legislation harms women and families in numerous ways, including proposals that would roll back no fault divorce laws, limit the regulation of day care centers, make it more difficult for impoverished children to receive the benefits of welfare, limit regulation of toxic and hazardous substances that adversely affect children’s health even more so than adults, bar lawsuits for injuries due to recalled drugs despite the spate of recalls of medicine used by children and young adults, and, among other things, outsource to for-profit companies the collection of child support.

Regulating Marriage and Child Care

·       ALEC’s “Marriage Contract Act” would roll back the clock by decades to the era when a wife or husband had to prove fault, such as adultery or impotence, in order to dissolve a marriage contract.  The bill rejects the concept of “no-fault” divorce, which allows incompatible spouses to dissolve a marriage without claiming the failure was the other’s fault. The bill also specifies that a marriage contract is only between a man and a woman.

·       ALEC’s “Neighborhood Child Care Center Act” exempts entities responsible for providing day care for infants and children from complying with any state regulations other than those regarding fire/safety and health/sanitation if the day care center receives no state or federal funds; such provisions may put more kids at risk of injury from untrained or poorly trained day care workers or from other conditions that would otherwise have been regulated.

Limiting Access to Family Benefits and Relief Programs

·       ALEC’s “Proof of Custody Act” requires that a parent have sole custody to obtain benefits to help care for a child, unless both parents with joint custody apply for benefits for the child. The bill echoes demands of an anti-welfare men’s group, which claimed the bill would prevent welfare fraud.  It denies access to welfare benefits to children when parents have joint custody rights unless both parents apply for benefits and are jointly eligible, without any exceptions for joint custody situations where a parent is not providing required child support, is uncooperative, or not themselves eligible for welfare benefits. 

·       ALEC’s “Privatization of Child Support Enforcement Services” allows a state to privatize the administration, delivery, and/or management of child support enforcement services, injecting a profit motive into the management of child support with no compelling proof that outsourcing such services to a monopoly business with no competition will improve child support collection.

·       ALEC’s “Study of Welfare Benefits of Families in the AFDC Program Act” mandates a study to calculate the total value of benefits provided to poor families, which are often single parent households. Included in the study would be programs such as low-income energy assistance to prevent families from freezing to death, school breakfast and lunch programs that help ensure that children in poverty have nutrition essential to help them concentrate and learn in school, Head Start programs that help prepare low income children for school, and “Women, Infants, and Children” (WIC) benefits that help ensure that babies born in poverty have access to nutrition. The likely aim of the study is to make it easier for opponents of these programs to argue for their elimination.

Endangering Children’s Health

·       ALEC legislation such as the Voluntary Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act, the Private Property Protection Act, the Groundwater Protection Act, and the Resolution to Retain State Authority over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste Act impose disproportionate burdens on children and pregnant women who are particularly vulnerable to environmental toxins.  When these bills are enacted, the resulting increases in pollution exposure and ingestion can lead to premature births, birth defects, childhood asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and countless other health problems.

Imposing in Women’s Health

·       ALEC’s “Parental Consent For Abortion Act” requires written parental consent for a young woman under 18 to exercise her right preserve her privacy, control her destiny, and terminate a pregnancy. If a young woman does not seek or is denied parental consent, she would have to navigate the judicial system to petition a court to waive the requirement. The bill also makes it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion at the young woman’s request, without parental consent or a judicial override.

·       ALEC’s “Guide to Repeal Obamacare,” which would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and numerous other ALEC “model” bills on Medicaid (i.e. “Resolution on Federal Medicaid and Welfare Block Grants”) would adversely affect women, including:
o   Insurance companies will be free to charge women more than men and deny coverage to children and adults with preexisting conditions. The ACA would stop this.
o   Pregnant women in some states would no longer receive full Medicaid benefits because some ALEC provisions would not allow states to provide more benefits than the federal government minimally provides. Enacting such bills may leave pregnant women without access to important medical attention during pregnancy.

·       ALEC’s “Drug Liability Act” and “Punitive Damages Standards Act adversely impact women and children.  The Drug Liability Act bars American families from suing a drug company if medicine kills or injures their child, spouse, or parent if the FDA approved the drug—even though numerous dangerous drugs have been approved by the FDA only to be recalled and many drugs are not adequately tested on sub-populations such as children or women of different ages.  Similarly, the limits on punitive damages act would limit the power of a jury to punish a corporation whose actions or neglect were egregious, and by limiting punitive damages to a multiple of compensatory damages would undervalue to lives of children and women, who may have little or no projected lost income to compensate but whose loss is enormously devastating.

Creating a “Commission on Men”

·       ALEC’s “Act relating to the creation and operation of the Commission on Men” would create a new taxpayer-funded entity to promote “paternal influence” and male family involvement, as well as examine some men’s health issues. The bill was sought by men’s rights groups as a way to promote their political and ideological agenda. 

Pushing Laws That Favor Corporations and the Wealthiest over Working Families

·       ALEC promotes austere economic measures that disadvantage working families while favoring rich corporations and individuals: bills include the Capital Gains Tax Elimination Act, Resolution Urging Congress to Permanently Extend the Bush Tax Cuts, and A memorial to the Congress of the United States, urging Congress to cut the federal corporate tax rate. These and other bills make it harder to raise revenue to provide needed public services for families. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All PA Dems have now disaffiliated from ALEC

The last Democratic member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly with ties to ALEC has announced he is no longer affiliated with them.  This is the 18th announcement of disaffiliation from ALEC by a PA legislator.

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council,  is behind the efforts to pass bills that strip away union rights, scale back child labor laws, attack the regulation power of environmental agencies, suppress voter rights with strict identification requirements, eliminate the social safety net, and privatize public services. ALEC is not just another public policy organization, it is a corporate front group supporting some of the most radical and dangerous legislation in the nation. 

The eighteen legislators come from both major parties, with ten Democrats and eight Republicans separating from ALEC.  All legislators listed as being affiliated with ALEC have documented ties, either publicly stating their prior affiliation or from public documents (Right to Know Law documents, DOS campaign finance reports, or PA Ethics filings).

The defections have come after Keystone Progress supporters sent tens of thousands of faxes, letters and emails to PA Senators and Representatives.  An additional 45 legislators have told Keystone Progress that they have never been affiliated with ALEC.

Here are the 18.  Thank them at  

·         Rep. Harhai, Ted (D) H58
·         Rep. Harper, Kate (R) H61
·         Rep. Keller, William (D) H184
·         Rep. Kotik, Nick (D) H45
·         Rep. Markosek, Joseph (D) H25
·         Rep. Major, Sandra (R) H111
·         Rep. Micozzie, Nicholas (R) H163
·         Rep. Mustio, Mark (R) H44
·         Rep. Readshaw, Harry (D) H36
·         Rep. Petrarca, Joseph (D) H55
·         Rep. Thomas, W. Curtis (D) H181
·         Rep. Turzai, Mike (R) H28)
·         Sen. Boscola, Lisa (D) S18
·         Sen. Corman, Jake (R) S34
·         Sen. Greenleaf, Stewart (R) S12
·         Sen. Pippy, John (R) S37
·         Sen. Washington, Leanna (D) S4
·         Sen. Williams, Anthony (D) S8

Find out where your legislators stands at

PSEA President: Corbett plan is no solution for financially distressed schools

(HARRISBURG, May 22, 2012) – A proposal backed by Gov. Tom Corbett to place Harrisburg bureaucrats in control of financially distressed districts will do nothing to address the financial situations facing these districts, according to the president of Pennsylvania’s largest school employee union.Eveready_sm.jpg

Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said that as implications of Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts continue to grow, along with the number of financially distressed school districts, legislators should be seeking real solutions for these struggling school districts and properly funding them.

He urged legislators to vote “no” on House Bill 1307, which now includes Gov. Corbett’s distressed school district proposal. The bill is expected to be voted out of the Senate Education Committee today.

“There is a serious funding crisis in a growing number of our schools,” Crossey said. “But this bill isn’t a solution.  The problem was manufactured largely by state underfunding in the first place. This bill is a bureaucratic power grab masquerading as a fix, and it leaves these struggling schools guessing about how to balance their budgets and educate their students.”

Crossey pointed out that nearly $1 billion in state funding cuts have contributed significantly to the funding crisis in Pennsylvania’s schools. Across the state, the crisis is growing worse, as school districts deplete their reserve funds and continue to cut staff and programs that work for their students.

“If their state funding hadn’t been cut, these school districts wouldn’t be in crisis,” Crossey added. “Restoring these funding cuts is the solution. Putting state bureaucrats in charge isn’t.”

Initially, the distressed school district proposal would target the Chester Upland, Duquesne City, Harrisburg, and York City School Districts. However, in future years, the State Board of Education would be left with sole discretion to determine which districts are financially distressed. In these districts, state-appointed bureaucrats would be required to fashion response plans, and a state receiver could be put in place to run the districts if their budget crises continue. The bill would also allow these officials to cancel contracts, convert community schools into charter schools, and attack school employees’ collective bargaining rights.

“Some of our school districts are in financial crisis, and we need to find real solutions,” Crossey said. “This bill wouldn’t do anything to solve their problems. It would take away local decision-making and give local parents and taxpayers no voice in how to run their schools.”

Crossey pointed out that the need to restore state funding cuts to the public schools is urgent. “Sounding the Alarm,” a PSEA research report, points out that the financial viability of a significant number of school districts will be threatened by 2014. It shows that a combination of nearly $1 billion in cuts and a toxic mixture of bad state education laws is forcing dramatic cuts to student programs.

“In the next few weeks, legislators have an opportunity to address the school funding crisis,” Crossey said. “The way to do it is to craft a budget that invests in our students. We are looking forward to working with legislators to do just that.”

Crossey is a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 187,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.