Welcome, We The People-PA activists, advocates, and supporters, to another edition of our biweekly eBlast! We bring you federal and state legislative news and ways to get involved!
Both houses are in session. Here is their schedule and those of committees.
With the election looming, we can expect bills that have sat in committees without action all year to suddenly be put forth for full votes. Almost all will be tied to GOP candidates running in hot races, and many of those bills will be fraught with numerous problems.
House Bill 103: Criminalizing HIV and Other Communicable Diseases
House Bill 103 was passed by the full Senate earlier this week and now goes to Governor Wolf’s desk. This legislation seeks to further criminalize people living with HIV and other communicable diseases. As HB 103 is written, someone could face up to 7 years in prison for simply spitting in the direction of a police officer. If they have a communicable disease, they could be punished with up to a decade in prison. The penalties proposed are wildly disproportionate to the action that HB 103 criminalizes.
This legislation is not about “protecting” the police. Offenses against police officers already carry serious penalties. Rather, HB 103 is about expanding police power to arrest people who come into contact with law enforcement, which will disproportionately harm Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people, as well as LGBTQ communities, who are already over-policed. See our call-to-action below and tell Governor Wolf to veto this bill which would further harm public health initiatives.
Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips Passes the Senate Unanimously
House Bill 1393, the Fentanyl Test Strip/Drug Checking Bill, passed the Senate floor unanimously 50-0 and is now on its way to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk for signature.
Fentanyl-related overdoses increased by 56% between 2020 and 2021 and the substance is driving the increase in total overdose deaths in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Fentanyl testing strips (FTS) are a proven harm reduction tool to help prevent overdose deaths. They allow people who use drugs to test substances for strong and deadly fentanyl, and studies show that 81% of people with FTS routinely tested their drugs before use and that use is often moderated or reduced when a result comes back positive.
Legalizing test strips will allow public health and harm reduction programs to purchase and distribute test strips and prevent people who use them from being criminalized for doing so. This life-saving legislation paves the way for opportunities to grow the harm reduction movement in Pennsylvania, while protecting our loved ones from preventable overdose death.
Proposed Constitutional Amendments
Below, you will also find a call-to-action that addresses SB-106, the bill that has passed in both houses and could add multiple, proposed constitutional amendments to the ballot as early as the 2023 May primary election. The GOP-led legislature knows that placing amendment referenda on the ballot during “off-year” primaries only helps their causes. Historically, these primaries have exceptionally low voter turn-out with most participating voters being Republicans.
It is important to note that to continue branding this attempt as “SB-10” is not to our advantage because in January the bill numbers will change. This will happen during the GOP-led legislature’s attempt to pass it in a second bi-annual legislative session, as required by law for it to get on the ballot. During bi-weekly constitutional amendment calls led by Susan Gobreski over the past few months, the consensus around messaging is to focus on what the GOP-led legislature is doing and how they are doing it, for example: “Midnight Rights Raiders.”
The House is in recess until November 18th. The Senate is in recess until November 8th.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s Student Debt Relief Plan Explained. Are you wondering how and how much this historic act might help you? This is what the program could mean for you and what comes next.
From the Keystone Research Center: What do the recent changes mean to you? Pennsylvanians who are riddled with student debt have been celebrating President Biden’s announcement that $10,000 or $20,000 in student debt will be forgiven for most federal loan holders. However, the US Department of Education recently revised eligibility guidelines, saying that Federal Family Education (FFEL) program loans, which are held by private institutions, and Perkins loans are no longer eligible for relief. Read more about student debt in Pennsylvania.
We have kicked things into high gear this election season. We have conducted our Candidate Training Series for state-level candidates. Yesterday, we concluded our series of virtual candidate forums in select districts, and we have kicked off our candidate endorsers tour with regional, virtual events. These live-streamed events can be viewed on the We The People-PA Action (c4) Facebook Page.
Edited versions of these events can be found on our We The People-PA Action YouTube channel and will also be used for targeted ad campaigns.
Check out our new video — AND — sign our petition and tell Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators that it is time to put our priorities first, not those of wealthy corporations. It is time to give Pennsylvania workers and small business owners the opportunities they need to take care of their families in this tough time and to make large, wealthy corporations finally pay what they owe. Please share with your social media networks.
Capitol Insider Calls (with new Zoom link) happen next Thursday, 11/03, and every other Thursday at 4:30 PM. Sign up for updates and join our Zoom room or watch us on Facebook Live. This is a new link.
2023 Organizing Strategy: We recognize that most of you are busy with getting out-the-vote efforts. Please remember to take some time for self-care because none of us can pour from an empty cup, and you are valued and needed! After this election season is over, stay tuned for updates from us.
We will need your input and participation as we further develop our 2023 organizing strategy. We will be building on our current relationships with organizations, groups, advocates, and activists, as well as inviting others to join us. It is vital to all of us that we supercharge our networking, skills- and knowledge-sharing, and capacity-building efforts.
Voting/Elections Messaging and Creatives from our running list, which includes content from several partners:
- Guide: Messaging and Best Practices for GOTV and Vote-By-Mail (2022)
- VBM Toolkit 2022
- Voter Registration Digital Toolkit
- Digital Toolkit: Freedom to Vote
- Comms2 2022 Voter Education Guide – General Election
- Message Guidance: Defending Drop Boxes in PA
- Protect Our Freedoms Social Media Toolkit
- Complete Your Ballot Toolkit
New releases by the Keystone Research Center & the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center:
Drawing on a few decades of research, this paper shows that banning abortion would severely harm women in the state, especially women of color and women with low incomes. The paper summarizes research showing that the inability to secure an abortion harms women’s physical and mental health, makes it harder for them to secure an education, reduces their prospects for employment and good wages, and is likely to leave them facing hardship, and poverty. The paper concludes that the combined direct and indirect effects of a total ban on abortion in Pennsylvania would reduce wages in the state by $10 billion a year.
The Keystone Research Center has released a new report, presentation, and blog post: “Why Pennsylvania Needs Student Debt Relief: A Look at our State’s Student Debt Crisis.”
The Keystone Research Center has released its annual “State of Working Pennsylvania” report. The report’s overall message: a tight labor market and new union organizing offer new possibilities for Pennsylvania workers. With smart and worker-friendly policies over the next several years, Pennsylvania could enjoy a return to shared prosperity for the first time in decades.
Alert: HB 103 is quickly making its way to Governor Wolf’s desk! Sign on to tell the governor that he must veto this harmful and regressive bill.
HB 103 creates two new, unnecessary, and broadly applicable felony offenses and it subjects people with a communicable disease, such as HIV, to harsher penalties under law. Increasing penalties because someone has a communicable disease is stigmatizing, discriminatory, and harms public health efforts.
Join the PA HIV Justice Alliance, Positive Women’s Network-USA, the Sero Project, the ACLU-PA, and others and sign the letter urging Governor Wolf to veto HB 103. You can sign on as an individual and as an organization. You can read the letter to Governor Wolf here.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania also put together this quick and easy way to contact Governor Wolf by phone and leave a message asking him to veto HB 103. Phone calls are one of the most effective methods of lobbying your legislative leaders, and it only takes a minute! Click here to make a call.
From the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
Late on a Friday night, a week after they were supposed to have gone into recess, with little public notice, legislators passed an extreme package of bills that would alter PA’s Constitution. They don’t want you to know what they did.
It is time to hold our legislators accountable. Our state constitution should not be used to ban rights, to expressly deny the right to an abortion, to take powers away from voters, to give more power to the legislature. This is a stunning lack of transparency and a very bad policy. We must let legislators know they are not serving the people.
Write a letter to your legislator AND call them today to let them know you’re angry about this misuse of government power, and that you will hold them responsible for their actions. Find your legislator’s phone number here.
We hope you found this week’s eBlast valuable, and we appreciate your support and the demanding work you all do in your own areas every single day. Keep on keepin’ on!
Marc, Vivienne, Jay, and the rest of the WTP-PA team
Marc Stier: email@example.com
Vivienne Sinagra: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay Grandis: grandis@stephenherzenberg
We The People – PA is a campaign working to ensure that all Pennsylvanians can thrive. We advocate for bold action from state lawmakers to keep our families safe during today’s emergency—and to build a stronger, healthier, and more just future.
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