Shusterman In The News

July 3, 2019
Reps. Shusterman and Kenyatta team up to return emergency relief program for those hurt by elimination of General Assistance

HARRISBURG, July 3 – With the General Assistance program and the lifeline it provides to more than 11,000 Pennsylvanians set to expire on Aug. 1, state Reps. Melissa L. Shusterman and Malcolm Kenyatta are introducing legislation to provide emergency relief to those previously receiving General Assistance.

“We must help our most vulnerable citizens,” said Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery. “Our neighbors who relied on the roughly $200 a month General Assistance provided are veterans and their caregivers, victims of domestic violence, adults receiving substance abuse treatment and grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

“The benefits of the program for our neediest neighbors far exceeded the cost,” Shusterman said. “That’s why Representative Kenyatta and I are introducing legislation to create a new Emergency Relief fund.”

Funding for the Emergency Relief program would come from the state’s general fund.

Kenyatta, D-Phila., said he and Shusterman plan to visit one another’s districts and hear from the people who’ll be hurt when the General Assistance program ends.

“Those who stand to lose out when General Assistance ends are real people,” Kenyatta said. “We want to hear their stories and see their faces. We want them to know we will do all we can to help them achieve stability and self-sufficiency, and we believe an Emergency Relief program is a way to give them a hand up.”

For now, the lawmakers are finalizing the bill language and will request action on it when the House returns to session in September.

According to Kenyatta, similar legislation is being introduced in the Senate.     Source

June 26, 2019
State rep: General Assistance in Pennsylvania is a financial lifeline
$200 monthly check helps most vulnerable afford basic necessities, Shusterman writes

A few days ago, House Republicans voted to eliminate a state program that provides roughly $200 per month to Pennsylvania adults who are temporarily or permanently unable to work. This General Assistance program costs $50 million per year and helps more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians.

While $200 a month may seem insignificant to some in the legislature, it serves as a financial lifeline to our commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.

Adults with temporary or permanent disabilities, those caring for a severely ill or disabled loved one, adults in full-time substance abuse rehabilitation programs, displaced domestic abuse survivors and people waiting for their social security benefits to kick in, these are the populations that benefit from receiving $200 a month.

These cash grants increase quality of life and allow for “dignity purchases,” in other words, the everyday things that we take for granted. In fact, this $200 is spent on necessities such as transportation, housing and toiletries. It keeps a roof over people’s heads, the lights on, and food on the table.

General Assistance is one of the cheapest and more effective human services programs in Pennsylvania.

Many of my colleagues welcome a $200 per diem to live and work comfortably during their time in Harrisburg, a practice that I have personally chosen to reject. Simply put, there is an irony here that is difficult to ignore. Surely, if $200 is justifiable when considering the comforts and needs of legislators, $200 a month for our most vulnerable citizens is a no-brainer.

Our local community and faith-driven organizations have made their voices heard on this issue. I stand with organizations like Chester County Food Bank, Women’s Law Project, Keystone Research, PA Budget & Policy Center, Beth Israel Congregation of Chester County, Disability Rights PA, PA Catholic Conference, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of PA, and a full list of nearly 150 others in the fight to protect General Assistance. No Pennsylvanian should have to struggle with providing necessities for themselves and their families.

I ran for office because I wanted to make our state better for my constituents here in the 157th and all Pennsylvanians. I believe strongly in my role as a legislator to improve society, provide equality of opportunity, and fight for the most vulnerable citizens of our state. The elimination of General Assistance goes against all of that. It is an attack on the Pennsylvanians we should be most focused on helping. General Assistance helps people through the most difficult periods of their lives and allows them to stabilize themselves economically and rise out of poverty, generating huge economic benefits for our state. We should be supporting this program, not defunding it.

For Pennsylvanians struggling to obtain the bare necessities, $200 can make all the difference in the world. Not only do House Republicans want to completely defund this program, but they have also refused to move the money spent on General Assistance to any other state assistance program. This is wrong. We should be helping struggling Pennsylvanians, not hurting them.

I stand firmly against the elimination of General Assistance. I will not turn my back on the people struggling in our state. I urge Governor Wolf to veto this bill.

Melissa Shusterman is the state representative in the 157th District covering parts of Chester and Montgomery counties.


June 25, 2019
Pennsylvania House passes $34 billion budget proposal without widespread Democratic support

With support from most Republicans and some Democrats, the Pennsylvania House passed a $34 billion budget spending plan Tuesday afternoon, 140-62.

The budget, agreed on by House and Senate GOP leadership and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, includes no new taxes and $160 million in additional funding for public education — $40 million less than the governor’s February ask.

Total funding for basic education is now at $6.7 billion, a historic high for the state. But debates over where the funding goes and whether it is enough to prevent rising property taxes remain a heated debate.

“It very nicely aligned with all of our legislative agenda items … since the beginning of the year,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said of the budget.

It includes increased funding for workforce development programs — including farm workers — as well as boosts for certain state technical schools, like Thaddeus Stevens College in Lancaster.

The spending plan, which still awaits action by the Senate, also increased funding to rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters by 10 percent each, matching an earlier pushfrom the General Assembly to aid survivors.

In total, the fiscal blueprint represents a 1.8 percent increase in spending — including cost overruns in state human services spending — compared to last year. Compared to the last official budget, the $33.997 billion spending plan is closer to a 5 percent bump in expenditures.

The spending plan makes no allocation for the General Assistance program, which provides cash payments to individuals with disabilities and in addiction treatment. The budget also does not assume an increase in the minimum wage, a source of much angst during the multi-hour debate.

Currently, the state minimum wage is $7.25, the federal minimum, and it hasn’t been increased in a decade. The Independent Fiscal Office, the state fiscal watchdog, projected a $12 increase would increase the wages of 2 million workers, cost 33,000 jobs, and lead to an additional $40 million in tax revenue.

Democrats frequently took to the floor and started legislative maneuvers to keep a hike — one that Wolf himself had called for in his budget address in that very chamber in February — on the agenda. Budget hearings also frequently turned into debates over the minimum wage.

However, Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, gaveled down lawmakers when they tried to turn the conversation to a wage increase.

Stephen Caruso@StephenJ_Caruso

House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris motions to table the budget to allow leaders to negotiate a minimum wage increase.

Stephen Caruso@StephenJ_Caruso

Turzai is mad. “We have the budget vote in front of us, and it’s a serious vote,” he said, adding it. “You don’t get to continue to make motions…to continue to discuss the minimum wage.”

See Stephen Caruso’s other Tweets

Republicans were also quick to point out that the budget boosted or maintained funding for many social programs even without a tax increase. Wolf himself staked out no new taxes in his budget address.

Stephen Caruso@StephenJ_Caruso

Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland, gets up and starts by asking “know what else is not in this budget? Tax increases.” Democrats boo and ask for a point of order, as hes still talking about what’s not in the budget.

Stephen Caruso@StephenJ_Caruso

“I would ask the gentleman to focus on the expenditures” and existing budget blueprint, Turzai says to Rothman. Rothman then quotes Gov. Tom Wolf who received a standing O from R’s for his no new tax statement on this budget.

See Stephen Caruso’s other Tweets

After the debate, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, said Turzai “made a mistake” by selectively enforcing the House rules to close off conversations around an increase. A spokesperson for Turzai did not reply to a request for comment by press time.

Wolf has backed the budget proposal. A spokesperson for the administration said Monday that it met the governor’s objectives to invest “in all levels of education, build on our progress to have the nation’s strongest workforce and help children and their families at early periods of development, while making large deposits in the Rainy Day Fund.”

But the lack of a wage increase clearly turned off many Democrats — nearly 60 percent voted against the budget. Those who voted for it were often members of leadership, or from the western half of the state.

“There are some very, very good things in the budget,” Dermody, who voted yes, said of his vote.

Democratic Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia and another yes, added that “I am a leader, and that’s why I took the vote I took.”

In addition to the minimum wage and General Assistance, other provisions — such as a lack of funding for census outreach and controversial shifts in environmental funding — led to widespread unrest in the Democratic ranks.

Their opposition led to heated internal discussions Monday night, where Democrats from across the state and spectrum expressed frustration with the proposed budget. From urban Pittsburgh to the Philly suburbs, many Democrats — especially first-year lawmakers — felt the budget was a poor deal that didn’t reflect the values they ran and won their elections on.

Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester, told the Capital-Star that she didn’t “care if [leaders] shove in six good things” to a subsequent deal. If it was without a minimum wage increase or environmental funding, “it’s not enough.”

Dermody said the Democratic nays made “it known to everyone that’s here and the people of Pennsylvania that we have a caucus that cares very deeply about these very important issues, and they are going to vote their conscience and their district.”

The lack of action on minimum wage also bothered state activists, like John Meyerson — a former labor activist who now leads the Raise the Wage PA.

The coalition of some 80 labor, community, and faith organizations has one main goal — a $15 minimum wage for all workers.

Meyerson told the Capital-Star that, even as he organized events through the last few weeks, he saw an opportunity to increase the wage “slip away.”

He blamed intransigent House Republicans for keeping the issue off the negotiating table, but added that Wolf “was in a stronger position than he seems to think he was in” to force the issue after winning a landslide reelection.

Now, his eyes — and the eyes of many in the General Assembly — are turning to the fall for a shot at the wage increase.

“We’re not going away,” Meyerson said. “And we are going to continue to organize and agitate through the remainder of the week and the summer” to pass a wage increase.

“Delay is not defeat,” he added.

The budget now moves to the Senate, where leadership said it’s expected to pass Thursday.

Negotiations continue on the budget-enabling code bills, which serve as instruction manuals for the spending plan.   Source

June 25, 2019

I can’t support a state budget bill that strips funding from programs that help protect the environment and ensure we have access to clean air/water, fails to promote a fair minimum wage, and neglects to put our children first. I voiced my frustrations on the House floor and proudly voted NO!

June 17, 2019
Shusterman won’t draw paycheck until state budget passes

WEST CHESTER—State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, announced Monday she will suspend her paycheck until a budget is passed as the state legislature commences budget season.

“If my constituents don’t go to work, they don’t get paid, and I hold myself to the same expectation. I do not deserve to get paid unless I execute my job duties and serve my community, period,” Shusterman said.

Throughout June, state legislators will be in the Capitol every week to complete the state budget. However, the budget process officially began in February when Gov. Tom Wolf delivered his budget address to the General Assembly. Budget proposals from the governor are rarely fully adopted, but they do form the foundation of what will be debated during weeks of budget hearings in the House Appropriations Committee.

During these hearings, Republican and Democratic members may ask questions of the administration. These hearing occur in both the state House and Senate.

Following discussions, leaders from all caucuses and the administration work to find a compromise that will both cover Pennsylvania’s bills and responsibly invest in our future.

“At times, budget season can grow cumbersome because we can stay here well into the night debating. However, it is our job to work together to reach an agreement. If we can’t do that, then we should not be getting paid because we aren’t doing what we were elected to do, which is serve our communities,” Shusterman said.

The fiscal year ends June 30, but the budget may be passed before or after then.  Source

June 10, 2019

No matter who you are or where you work, NO ONE deserves to fall victim to sexual harassment! Throughout my career in the TV and film industry, I’ve experienced these blatant acts of sexism in the workplace on several occasions. I’m proud to be part of an initiative that would update our laws to protect ALL Pennsylvanians.

June 3, 2019
If you have a disability, you should be able to hold a job, leave your home as you please, and be a contributing member of your community. I proudly joined Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation PATF to echo this message and commend them for their ongoing dedication to provide opportunities for individuals like my cousin Lily who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and a vision impairment. We must break down barriers and ensure people with disabilities have access to the technology needed to help them succeed.
Click photo to view video

May 30, 2019
My first 150 days in office have kept me busy! I could not have done it without my staff and the residents that we serve. I thank you all for your engagement, your impassioned participation, and your continuous feedback. It is my duty to make sure your voice is heard in Harrisburg. Onward and upward!
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May 22, 2019
Shusterman’s job bill clears Commerce Committee

HARRISBURG, May 22 – A bill authored by Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, aimed at creating thousands of jobs in the life sciences, advance technology and manufacturing industries has passed the House Commerce Committee.

“This legislation would help businesses in these rapidly growing fields stay afloat and create a lot more job opportunities in Pennsylvania,” Shusterman said.

According to Shusterman, H.B. 719 would help businesses within these industries thrive by providing them with loan guarantees through Pennsylvania’s Second Stage Loan Program under the agreement that recipients must keep their practices within Pennsylvania.

“We must make sure that the program contains the right parameters to ensure guarantees are being delivered to Pennsylvania businesses who commit to Pennsylvania, who commit to the people living, working and raising families here,” Shusterman said.

Due to the lack of bank history among businesses in these fields, Shusterman said banks are often reluctant to extend lines of credit or working capital to businesses in these fields, which commonly causes them to fail during their critical developing years.

Pennsylvania’s Second Stage Loan Program offers guarantees for bank loans to second stage manufacturers, advanced technology, and life sciences companies in business for two to seven years.

The bill was sent to the full House for consideration.   Source

May 15, 2019
Pennsylvania Capitol-Star
How the House’s Democratic women owned the debate over Down syndrome abortion ban | Wednesday Morning Coffee

(*This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Rep. Sara Innamorato’s last name. It has also been updated to correctly reflect the fact that Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, was telling the story of her sister’s decision to bring a challenging pregnancy to term, not her own. The Capital-Star regrets the error.)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

We’ll get this out of the way up front: We’re relatively certain that men spoke during Tuesday’s state House debate over a bill banning abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

But what they had to say was of absolutely no consequence — even after the bill cleared the House on a 117-76 vote (For the sake of the completists among you, the bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate appeared far from assured Tuesday in the face of a guaranteed veto from Gov. Tom Wolf).

In every way that mattered, the debate over a bill that went to the fundamental principles of personal freedom, choice, and bodily autonomy belonged exclusively to the women in the 203-member chamber, who, while they make up just a quarter of its total membership, spoke with a clarity of intent that was striking in its intelligence and sheer humanity.

And it belonged particularly to the chamber’s Democratic women.

That’s no more true than in the case of Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, who found herself facing calls for her resignation just a week or so back for some ill-chosen remarks about pipeline workers.

On Tuesday, Otten, speaking with quiet directness, relayed the searing, and deeply personal, choice *that her sister made to bring a baby son, who was born without an arm and with a serious heart problem, to term.

“I have watched my baby gasp for breath. I have watched as his heart arrested and they performed CPR on him in front of me,” Otten said —taking on the voice of her sister — of the long, sleepless nights spent at the child’s bedside. And as she spoke, every heart in the room, particularly among those who were parents, silently broke.

“I’m a tireless advocate and the mother of a child with special needs,” she said. “Every choice I’ve made has been that — a choice.”

And that was the point that Democratic women made again and again — that the Legislature had no role to play in what is, in the final analysis, a decision involving a woman, her doctor, her partner (if applicable), and whatever deity to whom she happens to bend a knee (or not).

Otten’s deeply personal story found echoes in remarks from Democratic Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler, of Philadelphia, and *Sara InnamoratoD-Allegheny, and Melissa Shusterman, of Chester County.

“You cannot imagine all the intimate, nuanced decisions a woman must go through to come to a decision about an abortion,” Innamorato said, crystalizing the debate in an instant. “You’re voting against liberty and the ability of a woman to make the decision that’s best for herself, her family and her future.”

Speaking after InnamoratoShusterman added that, by approving the bill, the majority-male, majority-white, majority-Republican chamber was sending a clear signal that “women cannot be trusted to make decisions,” about their own bodies, and that 203-members of the General Assembly somehow knew what was best for “6.5 million women in Pennsylvania.”

And after she was thoroughly and gratuitously dissed  during floor debate last week, it seemed like House Speaker Mike Turzai, a co-sponsor of the ban bill with York County Rep. Kate Klunk, went out of his way to make sure that Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, got her turn at the microphone.

Smart move, that.

There were even some touching stories from such Republicans as Rep. Sue Helm, R-Dauphin, a ‘yes’ vote on the ban, who spoke with a kind of grandmotherly affection about a young family member with Down syndrome. Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne, also a “yes” vote on the ban, and who went on her own deeply personal journey last year, spoke with affection about being an adopted mother.

The stories and arguments from the House’s women lawmakers piled up and up, until they rendered the rhetorical contortions of the chamber’s male members effectively irrelevant.

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, offered some impassioned arguments. And then he kind of blew it by banging on about an entirely advisory opinion from the Legislative Reference BureauHouse Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, joined the fray as well by trying to rebut Frankel on the LRB opinion.

But after OttenInnamorato and ShustermanHanbidge, and other Democratic women members, it all just felt like noise. It just reinforced the complete absurdity of the notion that an overwhelmingly male legislative body has even half a clue about what’s best for women or their bodies.

And it underlined the fact, brought up so eloquently by the chamber’s Democratic women, that the ban bill wasn’t about ensuring disability rights or protecting kids with Down syndrome, as Republicans argued on the floor Tuesday.

It’s just about finding some ridiculous pretext to legislate abortion out of existence because the courts — at least for now and however precariously — aren’t cooperating.

So, yeah, women might make up a quarter of the House’s membership on paper. On Tuesday, they were the majority.   Source

Rep. Melissa Shusterman

May 14, 2019

Do not be fooled. This bill is not about protecting individuals with disabilities. HB321 is the first of many steps on the road to stripping women of healthcare options. A legislator’s place is not in the doctor’s office. We cannot stand by and allow our patient/doctor relationships to be destroyed.
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
May 9, 2019
This week in Harrisburg, I had the privilege of joining Pennsylvania Auditor General to discuss firearm safety, mental health, and suicide. I look forward to using the information revealed in his report to explore this issue further.
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
May 7, 2019
I can’t imagine how devastating it is for a woman to lose a child during pregnancy. We should have no say in this tragic experience let alone punish doctors for not responding in a specific manner. I was a strong NO VOTE on legislation that would allow lawmakers to be part of such a personal conversation.
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
May 6, 2019
It’s a no brainer: victims of discrimination should be able to effectively seek justice against their abusers. I rallied with advocates to expand hate crime protections for EVERYONE, including those with intellectual and physical disabilities. We won’t tolerate hate against ANYONE!
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
April 30, 2019

***Legislative Transparency Update***
I vote ’no’ to House Bill 1055. I feel that many in the majority here in Harrisburg are avoiding real issues and just making up problems. The creators and supporters of the bill are creating more bureaucracy to combat their fear of important regulation. And this will cost over 1,000,000 dollars (estimated 2 year cost) for an office that only makes recommendations. Lacks common sense.

Additional Info
House Bill 1055
Fiscal Note

April 19, 2019
Lawmakers, PennEnvironment announce ‘Zero Waste PA’ package to address single-use plastics, litter and a ‘throwaway’ society

HARRISBURG– House lawmakers joined PennEnvironment recently to announce a package of bills aimed at addressing single-use plastics, pervasive issues of litter and the various environmental harms caused by a “throwaway” society.

Legislation in the “Zero Waste PA” package works to address issues created by a disposable society including single-use plastics such as straws, plastic bags and Styrofoam takeout food containers, electronic waste, funding Pennsylvania’s recycling programs and more.

“We can no longer ignore the growing waste problem that is threatening our environment. My colleagues and I have introduced a package of bills that, together, address this problem from a number of angles,” said Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery. “By encouraging the use of more naturally biodegradable materials, addressing issues with the way we recycle, and finding ways to support environmentally friendly practices, we can help preserve our planet for future generations.”

“Every day, unwitting Pennsylvanians are barraged with products that we’re expected to purchase and use, and then throw away. Only, there is no ‘away,’” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “Instead, it ends up in landfills where it can cause water pollution, in incinerators that cause air pollution, or blowing around in our neighborhoods in the form of litter. Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our environment, neighborhoods, rivers and oceans for centuries to come.”

The measures that would be addressed in the package include:

• Prohibiting food establishments from using polystyrene containers to distribute prepared foods. (Rep. Tim Briggs)

• Dissuading litterers and illegal dumpers by increasing the fines and penalties for those caught illegally throwing away their garbage. (Rep. Donna Bullock)

• Prohibiting establishments from offering plastic straws except upon the customer’s request. (Rep. Mary Jo Daley)

• Increasing the disposal fee for municipal waste landfills from $4 per ton to $8 per ton to help support important conservation and environmental protection programs. (Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler)

• Increasing the recycling fee that landfill operators pay from $2 per ton to $5 per ton on waste received at their landfills, the first increase in 30 years. (Rep. Mary Isaacson)

• Authorizing counties that have recycling programs to collect a recycling and waste management fee of up to $4 per ton, to be used to create and maintain new or existing recycling programs, programs to clean up illegal dumping sites or litter, and/or programs for alternative energy. (Rep. Patty Kim)

• Significantly diverting organic waste from our landfills and incinerators and spurring a market for organic waste composting (Rep. Danielle Friel Otten)

• Establishing a statewide cigarette filter upcycling initiative, where a 20-cent, partially reimbursed deposit on each pack of cigarettes sold in Pennsylvania would be used for collection centers and safe reuse. (Rep. Chris Rabb)

• Ensuring that producers of plastic packaging take responsibility for the decisions they make by requiring that they cannot sell or distribute plastic packaging in Pennsylvania unless they are part of a recycling program to take it back. (Rep. Melissa Shusterman)

• Providing for a fee of two cents on each non-reusable plastic bag used by purchasers of consumer goods at retail establishments grossing over $1 million annually to support recycling. (Rep. Brian Sims and Rep. Jared Solomon)

• Creating a 5-cent beverage bottle and can deposit program in Pennsylvania. (Rep. Wendy Ullman)

• Encouraging the use of reusable water bottles by requiring that newly constructed state buildings, as well as existing state buildings undergoing renovations to water and pipe infrastructure, install water bottle filling stations. (Rep. Perry Warren)

• Addressing Pennsylvania’s failing electronic waste recycling law by taking from best practices implemented in other states to make Pennsylvania’s law effective. (Rep. Mike Zabel)

In the coming months, the lawmakers will be building co-sponsorship support for these measures and holding local events in their districts related to the package.   Source

April 12, 2019
Rep. Shusterman appointed to chair tourism committee

WESTCHESTER — State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, was appointed Democratic chairwoman of the House Travel and Tourism’s Subcommittee on Arts and Entertainment.

Shusterman’s experience in media and entertainment extend beyond this recent appointment. Prior to representing the 157th Legislative District, she worked as a director/producer for a variety of notable networks; and eight years ago started her own production company.

“I am excited to join this subcommittee as we work toward bringing Pennsylvania back as an entertainment powerhouse,” Shusterman said. “Our goal is to entice more television, film and other entertainment productions to invest in the commonwealth in order to create jobs for residents, increase tourism, and encourage overall local business patronage. We are committed to supporting arts and entertainment opportunities that will generate a massive economic impact on our state.”

The subcommittee reports to the Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, which is responsible for overseeing legislation pertaining to the state’s large tourism industry; has jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; and operates additional subcommittees on Recreation and Travel Promotion.    Source

April 10, 2019
Rep. Shusterman appointed to Intellectual Disabilities and Autism caucus

WEST CHESTER — State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, Wednesday announced her appointment to the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus.

“Early diagnosis, proper treatment and day-to-day care management are just some of the challenges families and caretakers of those with intellectual disabilities must face,” Shusterman said. “Our responsibility as legislators is to advocate and provide support through state resources and help to remove the stigma associated with intellectual disabilities.”

April marks the 49th anniversary of Autism Awareness Month, where it is estimated that 1 in 59 children is affected in the U.S. Data has shown approximately 6.5 million people in the U.S. have an intellectual disability, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life.

A freshman legislator, Shusterman will join another fellow freshman, Rep. Brandon Markosek, D-Allegheny, who was recently appointed co-chair of the caucus.

“I am thrilled to work with Representative Markosek and know that with fresh ideas and our commitment to the subject matter, we will make a difference in bringing awareness around this issue and enhance protections for Pennsylvanians,” Shusterman said.

Markosek previously served as a community outreach representative for Sen. Jim Brewster, and held several state Capitol posts in Harrisburg, as well as other government positions prior to representing the 25th Legislative District. In addition to his passion for the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus, Markosek noted his previous work experience will be an attribute to help understand the positioning of agencies that support programs under this issue.

“As we recognize Autism Awareness Month in April, I am proud to become a member of the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus — a group that understands the impact this issue has on families and strives to make it a priority all year-round,” Shusterman said.  Source

Rep Melissa Shusterman
April 10, 2019

Proud to stand with my fellow representatives today as we roll out #ZeroWastePA, a comprehensive bundle of legislation that will push PA forward and work towards a sustainable future for the Commonwealth. The time is now, we can do this.

Click on photo to view video
April 9, 2019
Press Release
Shusterman appointed to Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus

HARRISBURG, April 9 – State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, today announced her appointment to the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus.

“Early diagnosis, proper treatment and day-to-day care management are just some of the challenges families and caretakers of those with intellectual disabilities must face,” Shusterman said. “Our responsibility as legislators is to advocate and provide support through state resources and help to remove the stigma associated with intellectual disabilities.”

April marks the 49th anniversary of Autism Awareness Month, where it is estimated that 1 in 59 children is affected in the U.S. Data has shown approximately 6.5 million people in the U.S. have an intellectual disability, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life.

A freshman legislator, Shusterman will join another fellow freshman, Rep. Brandon Markosek, D-Allegheny, who was recently appointed co-chair of the caucus.

“I am thrilled to work with Representative Markosek and know that with fresh ideas and our commitment to the subject matter, we will make a difference in bringing awareness around this issue and enhance protections for Pennsylvanians,” Shusterman said.

Markosek previously served as a community outreach representative for Sen. Jim Brewster, and held several state Capitol posts in Harrisburg, as well as other government positions prior to representing the 25th Legislative District. In addition to his passion for the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus, Markosek noted his previous work experience will be an attribute to help understand the positioning of agencies that support programs under this issue.

“As we recognize Autism Awareness Month in April, I am proud to become a member of the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Caucus — a group that understands the impact this issue has on families and strives to make it a priority all year-round,” Shusterman said.   Source

Rep. Melissa Shusterman
April 8, 2019

HB962 Extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims. Today, it was voted out of Judiciary. This is a step forward for a vulnerable population that needs our help. Let’s give victims more time to sue their perpetrators. It’s the right thing to do.

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March 29, 2019
Making animals perform in public is inhumane and outdated. It’s time to fold up the circus tents for good | Opinion

By Melissa Shusterman

In the past few years, Pennsylvania has made admirable strides toward improving the lives of animals. Among other things, we’ve cracked down on the puppy mill industry, strengthened animal-cruelty laws and now allow police and other public safety professionals to rescue pets locked in hot cars.

Unfortunately, many animals in Pennsylvania are still neglected, and suffer regularly from mistreatment and abuse — namely, the wild animals that are forced to entertain the public in circuses and traveling shows.

These animals live a life of constant confinement and misuse. They don’t perform because they want to, they perform because they are forced to, often through physical torture and mental anguish. Many of them live their entire lives and die never having seen anything other than the inside of a cage, boxcar, truck trailer, or circus tent.

Public scrutiny and an increasingly enlightened understanding of the physical and mental suffering circus animals endure have forced some larger circuses to shut down for good (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and Cole Bros.), and eliminated animal acts in others (Circus Vazques and Kelly Miller Circus).

But hundreds of smaller circuses are still traveling and operating in the U.S. The animals trapped in these circuses suffer away from media scrutiny and, too often, free from meaningful oversight.

The “care and training” these wild animals endure for the benefit of our entertainment too often amounts to little more than ritualized abuse and torture, as they are carted from town to town, restricted to small, unnatural enclosures and punished with malnourishment, beatings and other physical and mental torture. 

Most Americans understand that wild animals should not be kept and treated this way. Some states have already started to act.

Recently, New Jersey passed a ban on using many species of wild animals in traveling shows, and Hawaii prohibits the import of wild animals for such use.

It’s time to end this traveling spectacle of inhumane cruelty and animal mistreatment in Pennsylvania.

I have introduced legislation that would ban the transport of wild animals, such as elephants, tigers and lions, bears, primates, kangaroos, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, zebras, seals, sea lions, and sharks, for public performances. The bill would not impact permanent and educational installations such as zoos, wildlife refuges and animal parks.

This is not just an animal-cruelty issue, it’s also a public safety issue.

Wild animals are unpredictable, and that makes their use for public entertainment risky. Since 1990, hundreds of people have been injured by wild animals used in circuses and other traveling shows.

At a time when more entertainment options than ever are available to us, the primitive practice of taking wild animals out of their natural habitat, carting them from place to place on trucks and trains, and forcing them to perform for our entertainment against their will is inhumane and outdated.

It’s time to put a stop to it.

State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, a Democrat, represents the 157th House District, which includes parts of Chester and Montgomery counties. She writes from Harrisburg.


March 22, 2019
Rep. Melissa Shusterman

Today I am starting a new social media campaign in the hope of increased transparency. I will post a short blurb about a piece of legislation I am either prime sponsoring or cosponsoring.

Today I will start with one of my promises. I promised to propose “No Budget? No Pay!” legislation. It is a simple premise. If us legislators cannot pass a budget on time our pay is halted until a budget is passed. This will get to the heart of the issue and hopefully alleviate partisan gridlock.

Just like how you must go to work to get paid, we too must fulfill our duties to receive pay. On top of this when legislators are quibbling over a budget real people and important organizations are negatively impacted. This same bill has received bipartisan support in the past but has been unable to pass.

It is my hope that my fellow legislators will put aside their self interest in the interest of effective government. The bill number is HB-385. To see additional information on my bill please click the link.

Rep. Melissa Shusterman

March 18, 2019

Thank you to my colleagues for passing my House Resolution to designate this Thursday, March 21 as Rosie the Riveter Day in PA. I had the honor of having two Rosie the Riveters, Mae Krier and Ruth Wilson, as my guests in Harrisburg. We would not have won WWII if it weren’t for these courageous women. They didn’t get the recognition they deserved back then, but we made sure they got it today!


March 12, 2019
Chesco, Delco lawmakers urge Wolf to halt Mariner pipeline operations

Mariner East 2 pipeline project

WEST CHESTER — Pennsylvania lawmakers representing 11 House and three Senatorial districts across Chester and Delaware counties have signed a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf asking him to impose a moratorium on the transmission of natural gas liquids products through the Mariner East pipeline system until the mandated protocols are in place for local responders to properly manage a pipeline emergency.

Chester County Emergency Services and local school districts along the pipeline, including Downingtown Area School District, Rose Tree Media School District and West Chester Area School District have requested Energy Transfer Partners’ subsidiary SPLP to provide its Emergency Response Plan for the Mariner East project, which the responders and school districts need to complete their comprehensive All Hazards Emergency Response Plans and fulfill their statutory requirements under Title 35 of state law.

The letter urges Wolf to preserve the health, welfare and safety of constituents who live, work and raise their families in the high-consequence areas of Chester and Delaware counties within the impact radius of Mariner East. The pipeline also runs through Berks County.

“We have pipelines currently transporting highly volatile products through our communities, and our local first responders are not able to adequately plan their emergency response or mitigate our risk because the operator has failed to cooperate with repeated requests for their Emergency Response Plan,” said state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester County. “Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco are risking a catastrophe, which is a criminal offense.

“I am grateful to my colleagues for their collaboration on this request. The bipartisan support for this moratorium underscores how important it is to take every possible step to ensure the safety of our communities and our first responders.”

The letter was signed by the following state representatives Rep. Steve Barrar, R-60 of Concord; Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester; Friel Otten, D-155 of West Whiteland; Rep. Kristine Howard, D-167; Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26; Rep. John Lawrence, R-13; Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown; Christina Sappey, D-158; Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-157; Rep. Dan Williams, D-74; and Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, as well as state Sens. Andy Dinniman, D-19; Katie Muth, D-44; and Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore.

Mariner East spokesmen did not return a call for comment as yet.

The company is building and operating the controversial Mariner East project, transporting volatile liquid gases across the full width of Pennsylvania, from the Marcellus Shale region to a facility in Marcus Hook.

Residents have opposed the project for years, saying the pipeline never should have been routed through densely populated neighborhoods, in close proximity to schools and senior centers.

Mariner East 1, which is a decades old smaller pipe that has been retrofitted to carry the new materials, has been shut down for weeks since a sinkhole formed in a Chester County neighborhood for the second time.

Mariner East 2 came online the last week of December, albeit not in the form Energy Transfer originally proposed. Mariner East 2 was proposed as a 20-inch pipe, but because of constant delays and other problems, Energy Transfer plugged in a hybrid version of several smaller pipes to fill in the gaps. Completion of the full Mariner East 2 pipeline now likely will not take place until 2020.

Mariner East 2x remains under construction.

In February the state Department of Environmental Protection halted all permits for the Mariner East 2 project, saying Energy Transfer had failed to take proper actions after an accident that caused an explosion in western Pennsylvania.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan last month announced he was launching a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East 2, noting his belief that state officials had not adequately protected citizens rights and safety. He now is impaneling an investigative grand jury to hear testimony from witnesses and review documents.

March 7, 2019

This issue isn’t about taking from responsible gun owners and hunters. It’s about giving people commonsense reforms that will save lives and protect innocent families. I hosted today’s PA House Democratic Policy Committee hearing to find legislative ways to rid our communities of this senseless violence. We want to thank people from both sides – community members, veterans, current gun owners – for supporting our efforts to find middle ground on an issue that impacts the entire commonwealth.


March 5, 2019
Shusterman introduces bill to help create jobs and boost Pennsylvania’s economy

HARRISBURG, March 5 – State Rep. Melissa Shusterman introduced legislation today to ensure that Pennsylvania’s economy is boosted by a state loan guarantee program that assists early and mid-stage businesses.

House Bill 719 would ensure businesses using the Second Stage Loan program will create more job opportunities in Pennsylvania, and would ensure that businesses that receive loan guarantees are not only located in Pennsylvania, but stay in Pennsylvania.

“The Second Stage Loan Program provides vital assistance to help businesses grow and thrive, and we want to make sure we’re boosting Pennsylvania’s economy, too,” said Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery. “I was elected to bring commonsense legislation to Pennsylvania. This bill would provide a stronger economy and create sustainable jobs in my district and around the state.”

The Second Stage Loan Program is a loan guarantee administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority that guaranteed loans made by commercial lending institutions to life science, advanced technology, or manufacturing businesses. The program provides banks with an extra measure of security to encourage them to provide early stage companies with working capital.


February 25, 2019
Letter to the editor: Commit to 100 percent renewable energy

I want to thank the following Pennsylvania House representatives for co-sponsoring Rep. Chris Rabb’s House Bill 2132, to transition Pennsylvania to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. If passed in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, it will add 380,000 good-paying jobs to Pennsylvania’s existing 60,000 clean-energy jobs, while saving all of us more than $12,000 per year, by 2050.

This well-thought-out bill is currently co-sponsored by Patrick Harkins, Adam Ravenstahl, Austin Davis, Carol Hill-Evans, Jeanne McNeill, Steve Samuelson, Thomas Murt, Danielle Otten, Carolyn Comitta, Melissa Shusterman, Gene DiGirolamo, Sara Innamorato, Elizabeth Fiedler, Austin Davis, Steve McCarter, Tina Davis, Stephen Kinsey, Jared Solomon and Greg Vitali.

I have contacted my representative, Anita Astorino-Kulik, to request that she quickly join them. If you do not see your representative listed here, please join me in contacting him/her with an urgent request that they co-sponsor this historic bill to benefit all current and future Pennsylvanians.

Mary Zuccaro


Rep. Melissa Shusterman
February 25, 2019
Harrisburg Legislative Update

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am proud to inform you that MARSY’s LAW, protecting victims of crime and bringing more rights to victims, passed out of Judiciary Committee as well as other laws protecting victims.

More information below.

The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee voting on a handful of bills aimed at protecting victims of crimes from abuse and violence. Four of the five bills easily made it out of committee. However, one bill that would add victim’s rights to the Pennsylvania Constitution was debated for about a half hour before ultimately being passed out of committee.
Pennsylvania is currently one of nine states that does not provide constitutional protections to the rights of crime victims. Mary’s law, also known as HB276.
“We very much give rights to those that are accused, as we should,” said Representative Sheryl Delozier. “But what we need to recognize is, the victim is victimized by the crime and then re-victimized by the system when their voice is not heard.”
Mary’s Law already passed the General Assembly last session but needs to pass once more. Then, it will be put on the ballot this November for voters to decide if the state’s constitution should be changed for victim’s rights.  View video here

February 8, 2019
Legislators respond to DEP decision to suspend review of Energy Transfer permits

HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – State Reps. Carolyn Comitta, Danielle Friel Otten, Kristine Howard, Leanne Krueger, Christina Sappey and Melissa Shusterman met with Gov. Tom Wolf and his staff last week to address the growing problems with Energy Transfer’s Mariner East project.

Today, those representatives have issued the following statement regarding news that the Department of Environmental Protection has suspended review of permit applications and other pending approvals for Energy Transfer due to noncompliance:

“We applaud the unwavering efforts of community members who continue to make their voices heard and draw attention to serious hazards and areas of oversight that need improvement.

“The action taken by the Department of Environmental Protection today is a step in the right direction.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to have a seat at the table for our communities and we look forward to continued collaboration with our state agencies and the governor’s staff to put the interests of the people of Pennsylvania first and foremost. There is still a lot of work to be done and we will use every tool available to us to make our community’s voice heard.”

The same six representatives sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission earlier this week, urging action related to a recent sinkhole along the Mariner East 1 pipeline. The letter can be found hereSource

January 30, 2019
Rep Melissa Shusterman

You sent me to Harrisburg to serve you and your family. However, special interests are standing in my way, preventing me from doing my job. I’m fighting to change that.


January 29,2019
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
Enough is enough! We can no longer have this amount of gun violence across Pennsylvania. It’s time to take action, protect our communities, and pass commonsense gun reform.

January 29,2019
House members propose rule reforms to change how the House runs

A group of bipartisan House members joined in the Capitol Media Center Tuesday afternoon to announce a package of rules that they are introducing to help with what they believe will make the House of Representatives more transparent and accountable.

The proposed rules reforms include:

  • Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Philadelphia) and Rep. Joe Webster (D-Montgomery) – Ensuring votes are taken in committee on popular bills.
  • Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) – Makes the rules voted in on Jan. 1st temporary for 75 days until a committee studies, gathers public comment and recommends changes.
  • Rep. Steve Samuelson (D-Northampton) – Requires bills with 102 or more co-sponsors will go straight to the floor without amendment.
  • Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester) – Gives every member of the House a chance to get a priority bill debated in committee.
  • Rep. Joe Webster (D-Montgomery) – Ensures the makeup of House committees reflects the makeup of the full house.
  • Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D-Delaware) – Gives the legislature 24 hours to learn about changes to a bill before a vote is taken.
  • Rep. Robert Freeman (D-Northampton) – Requires a committee in possession of a bill that is the subject of a discharge resolution procedure to report the bill to the House Floor for consideration without amending the bill or recommending it to be re-committed to another committee.
  • Rep. Wendy Ullman (D-Bucks) – Requires that any bill that has been amended in committee after it has received second consideration by the full House, to be sent back to second consideration by the House.
  • Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Philadelphia) – Makes sure the definitions of parliamentary procedures used during debate are applied evenly and in a nonpartisan way.  Source

January 28, 2019
Shusterman appointed to House Judiciary, Tourism, Aging committees

HARRISBURG, Jan. 28 – State Rep. Melissa Shusterman today announced she was appointed to three House committees, including the powerful Judiciary Committee.

Shusterman was also appointed to serve on the Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, and the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.

“I am honored to be placed on the Judiciary, Tourism and Aging committees. I was elected to be a leader for my community, and these committee assignments give me the ability to affect change and provide the transparency that my constituents expect,” said Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery. “I will use these assignments to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan way to meet the needs of my community.”

The Judiciary Committee reviews bills related to law enforcement and corrections, and the committee provides oversight for a number of state agencies including the Pennsylvania State Police, Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The Tourism and Recreational Development Committee oversees legislation pertaining to the state’s large tourism industry and has jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Shusterman is committed to historic preservation and the important role it plays in the tourism industry.

The Aging and Older Adult Services Committee reviews bills that affect senior citizens in Pennsylvania and works with the Department of Aging.

Shusterman took office Jan. 1 to represent the 157th Legislative District, serving Chester and Montgomery counties. She was recently named a deputy whip for the House Democratic Caucus, the first freshman to earn the title.   Source

January 17, 2019
Shusterman named Deputy Freshman Whip

HARRISBURG, Jan. 17 – State Rep. Melissa Shusterman was named Deputy Whip for the House Democratic Caucus, the first freshman legislator to earn the title.

“The freshman class of representatives is full of extraordinary leaders,” said Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery. “It is a strong and diverse group. I look forward to using this role to work with my freshman colleagues and listen to them so we can achieve our goals together.”

Shusterman was appointed by House Democratic Whip Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila.

“Pennsylvanians sent a historically diverse group of first term legislators to Harrisburg,” Harris said. “I look forward to working with Representative Shusterman to integrate the freshman members into the House as we push forward an agenda to benefit citizens across the commonwealth.”

The whip is considered the second-in-command in the caucus and is responsible for making sure that Democratic members attend session and generally understand the specifics of legislation and procedural votes in the House. The deputy whips serve to assist the whip on the House floor in ensuring members are present for votes and in tallying support prior to a vote.

“My constituents are looking for me to bring a new level of transparency and reform to our state government,” Shusterman said. “I will use this leadership position to help meet their expectations.”

Shusterman, who took office Jan. 1 as representative for the 157th District, is a member of the Southeast Delegation serving Chester and Montgomery counties.  Source


January 11, 2019
Democratic Politicians Clean Up Pennsylvania National Park Amid Shutdown

Trash is piling up at national parks across the county as the partial government shutdown continues. On Thursday, a group of people, including Democratic lawmakers, gathered to take trash out of Valley Forge National Park. (Published Thursday, Jan 10, 2019 | Credit: Lauren Mayk)
View Video here

January 10, 2019
Rep. Shusterman, fellow state reps and citizens help clean up Valley Forge Park

This morning’s trash pick up at Valley Forge National Park was a huge success because of all of you! Thank you all for joining me to keep the community clean during the Federal government shutdown.

View video here 


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