Shusterman In The News

October 29 2019
DLN
Shusterman drafts legislation to fight food insecurity

WEST CHESTER—State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, will introduce legislation that seeks to address food insecurity and excessive food waste throughout the commonwealth.

House Bill 1999 seeks to explicitly add legal immunity to the donations of past-date foods through the Donated Food Limited Liability Act.

“More than 1.5 million people right here in Pennsylvania are food insecure, meaning that at some point within the year, their access to healthy, nutritious food is limited,” Shusterman said. “Meanwhile, as a country, we do not eat about 40 percent of the food we produce, which results in 63 million tons of food waste annually. If we could recover and redistribute even a fraction of this, we could feed the hungry Pennsylvanians who need it most.”

Shusterman said her legislation would encourage businesses and organizations to donate foods that they would otherwise discard because of it being past its labeled date. Shusterman added that since these dates are typically not indicators of safety, but of freshness, donors would be free from liability.

“Food that is disposed of solely due to its labeled freshness date could easily be going to those who need it most,” Shusterman said. “My bill seeks to bring this issue to light and put the idea that food that is past its labeled date is inedible to rest. This misconception is a huge contributor to food waste throughout the country, and my bill would help correct this and ultimately reduce food waste.”  Source

October 25, 2019
DLN
Package of bills to support volunteers first responders passes House

PAOLI—State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, announced that several bills which would benefit Pennsylvania’s volunteer firefighters and EMTs passed the House of Representatives this week.

The package of 23 bills includes legislation that would enact tuition assistance and loan forgiveness as well as increase access to mental health care after suffering from trauma for volunteer first responders.

“Since the 1970s, the number of volunteer firefighters fell from over 300,000 to below 38,000. As legislators, we need to acknowledge this and realize that we must do more to help those who serve our communities before it’s too late and no one is there to help us,” Shusterman said.

The following bills in the package have been approved by the full House. Many others are set for upcoming consideration.

◾HB 269: Excludes an eligible surviving spouse or minor children of a first responder from paying a realty transfer tax.

◾HB 732: Exempts volunteer service providers from the Pennsylvania realty transfer tax.

◾HB 1673: Would allow volunteer fire relief money to be used for retention of existing volunteer members.

◾HB 1705: Authorizes school districts to enact a tax credit against the property tax liability of active volunteers of a fire or EMS company.

◾HB 1773: Creates the Tuition Assistance for Active Volunteers Program for first responders.

◾HB 1780: Exempts volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance companies from the Right-to-Know Law

◾HB 1786: Targets loan forgiveness to indebted college graduates who are active members of an emergency medical services agency, volunteer fire company, or volunteer rescue company.

◾HB 1816: Raises Volunteer Loan Assistance Program loan limits by 10 percent.

◾HB 1839: Authorizes counties to enact a tax credit against the property tax liability of active volunteers for a fire or EMS company.

◾SB 146: Makes online training more readily available to current and prospective first responders. Has passed both the House and the Senate.

“Our volunteer EMTs and firefighters fight to save the lives of their fellow community members that they typically do not even know, that is what it truly means to be a hero,” Shusterman said. “This should not be a thankless job, and I’m proud to support these efforts to repay them for their hard work and dedication to the people of Pennsylvania.”    Source

 

October 23, 2019
Facebook

I’m appalled at the horrific hate crimes we’ve seen in Chester County, targeting individuals living with a physical or intellectual disability. Too often these actions end with a slap on the wrist. We must protect our most vulnerable neighbors by passing legislation that would rightfully increase the punishment for attackers and make sure they’re held accountable.

September 24, 2019
Facebook
The bottom line: taking General Assistance away from our most vulnerable neighbors is down-right cruel. Now, I’m working to pass a new plan that would create emergency relief by sharing emotional stories of those who need this help the most.

Sept. 24, 2019
delcotimes.com
Ribbon-cutting held for Paoli train station project; Dinniman calls for Amtrak to move on other stations

TREDYFFRIN — Mass transit officials, disability rights groups and local politicians celebrated a major milestone in the evolution of the Paoli train station Monday. After many years of planning and two years of construction, Amtrak and SEPTA marked the completion of the Paoli Station Accessibility Improvements Project with a ribbon cutting.

The $48 million taxpayer funded project upgraded the 66-year-old station with a new center train level platform, a multi-story pedestrian overpass, elevators, ramps and other improvement to make the station fully ADA approved and accessible to all users.

Some 201,572 Amtrak passengers and approximately 740,000 SEPTA passengers pass through the station annually. The Paoli Thorndale line is SEPTA’s most used regional rail line with Paoli being the busiest station on the route and 78 trains passing through a day.

Among those invited to the event was Rocco Iacullo of Disability Rights Pennsylvania, a group which sued Amtrak over the lack of handicap access at the Paoli and Exton stations in 2014.

“Freedom Valley Disability Center in Newtown Square came to us about the lack of accessibility but that’s the old story this is the new story,” said Iacullo waving to the new station. “We reached a settlement to make sure there is access to platforms, restrooms and elevators.”

“Together, SEPTA and Amtrak partnered to make modifications that bring this facility into compliance with Department of Transportation Accessibility standards and the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said State Rep. Melissa Shusterman of Tredyffrin. “These types of projects are what set our district as a leader in Pennsylvania time and time again.”

“This is the start of something big for SEPTA customers, Amtrak riders and the community alike,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel. “There was always a vision for a much improved Paoli station but not always funding. So I am thankful for a federal earmark that allowed SEPTA to jump start the design efforts several years ago. Having that design ready was really key to launch this project quickly. At a time when federal money was tight, this was a critical first step in getting the project to move.”

“This is all changing because of the partnerships you see before us today,’ said Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator Theresa “Terry” Garcia Crews. “Amtrak, SEPTA and PennDOT have all partnered together to make this a fully accessible station.”

Jennie Granger, Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation at PennDOT said the Wolf Administration is committed to building ridership on the Philadelphia to Harrisburg train line which she said contributes to the region and the state’s economic vitality.

“It is our pleasure to be part of the revitalization of the five Chester County train stations, not only Paoli but Parkesburg, Coateville, Downingtown and Exton,” Granger said.

State Senator Andrew Dinniman also looked west to the other Chester County stations and called on Amtrak to move forward in Downingtown, Coatesville and Parksburg.

“This is indeed a good day,” Dinniman said. “Do you see the apartment house being built right behind you, such apartments are being built near the Exton and Downingtown stations as well? It’s about economic development.”

Dinniman then implored the Amtrak officials sitting next to him to action.

“I urge Amtrak with every fiber of my body, get the others done. We waited year after year in Coatesville and Parkesburg and Downingtown. We’re delighted by what’s happening in Paoli, we’ll be celebrating this fall in Exton. But our poorest communities, Coatesville and Parkesburg, have not had anything done. Disabled people are not just here in Paoli, they are not just in Exton, they are not just in the wealthiest of our communities. They are in the poor communities as well.”

“In Downingtown, we will have the apartments and infrastructure done before the train station is even there,” Dinniman said. “I don’t mean to be ungrateful, I am very grateful for what has been done but I’d also not be doing my job representing all my constituents if I did not make this appeal. We need to get it done.”

“We have a commitment to all of our citizens. Do we believe in accessibility or we don’t? Do we believe in economic development or we don’t?” Dinniman asked.

Dinniman pointed out that Act 89 funding, which the station projects depend on, runs out in less than three years and might not be renewed due to concerns about turnpike tolls which is where some of the funding comes from. Act 89 is a Pennsylvania transportation bill signed into law in 2013 by then Gov. Tom Corbett to fund road projects, bridge repairs, and public transit.

“When it (Act 89) runs out, so does the money for these projects,” Dinniman said. “We have the money from Act 89 and the federal government for Parkesburg and Coatesville, but if we don’t make some progress in the next three years, no one knows if that money will be renewed.”

“We certainly appreciate the Senator’s support and his passion for this project and other projects,” said Thomas Mortiz, Amtrak Asst. Vice-President for Infrastructure Access & Investment. “We work closely with SEPTA and PennDOT and federal funding partners. An issue that often comes up is the prioritization of projects. We’re supporting SEPTA in their prioritization of station projects. We’ve had a number of stations both in this area as well as closer to Harrisburg that have been in design and construction for improvements.”

Moritz went on to say that Amtrak is doing their best to advance with those projects, but each has its own issues from funding to design to community issues.

“We’re supportive of all the projects the Senator mentioned” Moritz said. “I do understand his concern about the state funding.”

“This is a fabulous day, I could not be more excited to be here,” said Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline. ”I’ve been involved with this for 12 years but it has been going on a lot longer. I see folks here from the Paoli business community. “

Kichline then commended former public officials that were in attendance including former Tredyffrin supervisor Judy DiFilippo, former state Rep. Paul Drucker and former Corbett administration official Stephen S. Aichele for their efforts over the years in moving the project ahead.

SEPTA’s Knueppel said the next phase of the project for Paoli would be the replacement of the North Valley Road bridge. The third phase includes an Intermodal Station Complex complete with an additional high-level platform on the outbound side, passenger amenities, bus depot facilities and a 600-plus space commuter parking garage.

Knueppel said Act 89 will be critical for completion of that project.  Source

September 17, 2019
Facebook
Too many take their lives using a gun – in several cases they are teens, veterans, and individuals who appear to be living healthy fulfilling lives. My brother-in-law committed suicide after struggling with anxiety & PTSD. I’m back in Harrisburg, standing with Moms Demand Action – PA to help keep firearms out of the wrong hands & prevent tragedies.

September 11, 2019
Penncapital-star.com
‘People can’t afford to bathe themselves’: What life is like for Pennsylvanians who lost cash assistance

Dalia is working toward some big goals, including securing a place to live.

That got harder on Aug. 1, when General Assistance ended for a second time.

Dalia is a former beneficiary of the state-run program, which provided a $205-a-month stipend to more than 12,000 people with disabilities, in treatment for addiction, and fleeing domestic violence. This summer, the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to eliminate it as part of a budget bill signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Currently, Dalia’s waiting for a Social Security disability determination. But without any income, she can’t get a lease or enroll in most rental assistance programs.

Right now, she’s a resident of Project HOME, a homeless services and anti-poverty organization in Philadelphia. The Capital-Star is withholding her last name to protect her privacy.

August wasn’t the first time Pennsylvania ended General Assistance. It was first eliminated in 2012 by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled Legislature, then restored in 2018 after the state Supreme Court ruled the original bill was improperly passed.

During the 2019 debate, Republicans asked why Democrats hadn’t introduced a bill to bring back the program, if it was so crucial. People who lost General Assistance told the Capital-Star they squeaked by with the help of friends and churches, while advocates said many more disappeared further into the margins.

The question now: Will that dynamic play out again?

In the lead-up to General Assistance’s elimination in August, the state Department of Human Services promoted via social media the state’s 211 helpline. The number, which connects people to health and human services assistance, was also included on letters recipients received about the end of the program.

“Since the General Assembly passed a budget eliminating General Assistance in June, the Department of Human Services has worked closely with our partners throughout the commonwealth to ensure that accurate and helpful information is reaching recipients of General Assistance,” department spokesperson Erin James said via email. “One key resource in this effort is 211. To the best of our ability, we are connecting people with available resources and making the nonprofit community aware of the potential for increased need.

The General Assistance program will end on Aug. 1. No GA cash assistance will be dispersed after July 31. Call 2-1-1 to connect to local services that may be able to help.
• More info: Call the DHS Helpline @ 1-800-692-7462 (1-800-451-5886 TDD)
• Online: http://bit.ly/32OOmNZ 

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Between mid-July and early September, the state hotline fielded 145 calls, texts, and other contacts from people who self-identified as former recipients, Kristen Rotz, president of the United Way of Pennsylvania, told the Capital-Star. Last year, the United Way-run helpline received about 200,000 contacts per month.

“We’re not asking everyone who calls,” Rotz said.

The top requests from former recipients were for utility assistance, rent payment assistance, and personal grooming and supplies.

“We had expected going into this that those would be common needs,” Rotz said, citing anecdotal evidence from recipients and advocates. “We worked with DHS to be very clear in the communication strategy that there are not community-based organizations that provide cash.”

Dalia said she used her General Assistance payments to pay for transportation, soap, laundry detergent, and pads. She’s now relying on Project HOME to fill in some of those gaps.

But as Rotz noted, resources are limited and some assistance, like help with rental payments, isn’t available in all 67 counties.

A lawsuit and legislation

That need for cash was stressed by proponents of General Assistance during the elimination debate. But it was also used by Republican opponents as a reason to get rid of the program.

“If you’re essentially handing out $200 a month that can be spent on anything, we don’t know what it’s being spent on,” Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland, said in June.

A vote on Dunbar’s bill in the state Senate erupted into all-out chaos after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman violated chamber rules by allowing Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, to read a story from a General Assistance recipient.

The bill ultimately passed the House 106-95 and the Senate 26-24, with six Republicans in both chambers voting no and one Democrat in the House voting yes.

Wolf said he favored keeping General Assistance, but signed the bill after it was amended to reauthorize and expand a key Philadelphia hospital assessment that delivers millions of dollars in revenue.

In July, the Philadelphia-based firm Community Legal Services and Disability Rights Pennsylvania sued the state to restore the program. Their request for a preliminary injunction was rejected by Commonwealth Court.

In the first go-round, it took five years for Community Legal Services’ original lawsuit to be resolved by the state Supreme Court. A group of activists don’t want to wait that long again.

On Aug. 21, members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, many wearing “Poor People’s Army” T-shirts, staged a sit-in at a public library in downtown Philadelphia.

“People can’t afford to bathe themselves, buy trash bags, take public transportation, do any of these basic things,” Cheri Honkala, a North Philly activist who founded the campaign, told the Capital-Star.

Honkala and the group have been holding meetings to discuss the end of General Assistance since August. Inspired by “The Public,” a film about a group of homeless people who occupy a library during a brutally cold night, a few dozen people gathered in the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia and said they would not leave until the program was brought back.

Instead, Honkala said they received citations from police for refusing to leave.

“We’re all pleading not guilty … and planning to shake things up,” she said.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be like the ambulance drivers and go through the red light in an emergency,” Honkala added, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr. “Well, that’s what’s happening now.”

In the House, Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, and Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester, are advancing a bill to create a new cash assistance program to serve the same populations. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Muth.

“We did a lot of work of educating people about the fact that this program could be cut,” Kenyatta said, noting that his office held a town hall with Project HOME. “At least in my district, I feel like people were educated. So it wasn’t a shock, even if it is still a problem.”

Kenyatta said the No. 1 need he’s heard in his office is for transportation assistance. Having grown up poor himself, the freshman lawmaker said he doesn’t understand where the constituency is “for cutting veterans and domestic abuse survivors off from getting $150 to $200 a month.”

“But what is the constituency saying? Yes, please take away this minuscule amount of money,” he said.

Kenyatta said he’s had conversations with Republicans who are open to a replacement program. His goal is to bring their support — and the needed votes — to the bargaining table with House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster.

“I know that that’s a heavy lift. I know that, frankly, that’s going to be difficult to achieve,” he said. “[But] people have to go home to their voters in a couple of months and answer the question, what did you do for the least of these?”

Dalia said she appreciates the lawmakers who are “still fighting for us.”

“The $200 a month, it works. It helps a lot,” she said. “It does change people’s lives.”  Source

August 21, 2019
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We must do better! It’s unacceptable that people living with autism or intellectual disabilities must wait for care. I joined the PA House Democratic Policy Committee to discuss reducing the home- and community-based services’ wait list and ensuring these individuals receive help when they need it.

August 7, 2019
phoenixvillenews.com
Chesco state legislators call for gun session

WEST CHESTER — Members of the General Assembly whose districts include portions of Chester County are urging Gov. Tom Wolf to call a special joint session of the legislature to address gun violence and extremism in the wake of two mass shootings within 13 hours of each other last weekend.

“We cannot afford another preventable tragedy in our own backyard,” said state Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-157th, of Schuylkill about the need for legislative action Tuesday in a press release. “What happened in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, can be avoided here in Pennsylvania, so instead of wallowing in this seemingly never-ending cycle of tragedy, let’s end it.

“We can go into session right now and pass legislation that would make it more difficult to put guns in these people’s hands,” she said.

Shusterman joins other Democratic state legislators including state Reps. Carolyn Comitta, D-156th, of West Chester, Danielle Friel-Otten, D-155, of West Whiteland, Christina Sappey, D-158th, of Malvern, and state Sen. Katie Muth, D-44th, of Royersford in calling to Wolf to bring the topic to a special session. Comitta and Friel-Otten are members of the PA Safe Caucus, which encourages legislation to halt gun violence.

PA Safe Caucus wants the special session to consider legislation in the House and Senate that would address access to guns for people at risk of violence to themselves or others, close the loophole for gun background checks, and to ban assault weapons.

In a press release issued by the House Democratic Communications Office, Shusterman noted that most public opinion polls reveal that most Americans support mandatory background checks on gun purchases, as well as other safety legislation.

“When two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history happen within the same news cycle you know our nation is in a dark place. It is clear that we as a society have become numb to such events,” Shusterman said.

“I’ve heard the cliché ‘tragedies show us the best humanity has to offer’ regarding these shootings, and it’s starting to unnerve me. It seems to be part of the script following every mass shooting. It seems to be a way to minimize the terror of the actual shooting and instead put the focus on the recovery that should never have been necessary.

“My colleagues and I have over 25 pieces of legislation that have not been passed out of committee that could put Pennsylvanians’ safety before an industry’s profits. The time is now to put an end to these hateful acts of violence. I urge our leaders to call the legislature to Harrisburg and not stand idly by.”

J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf, said the governor is not necessarily opposed to a special session. However, Abbott said without “commitments to allow votes on critical reforms that will save lives, there is no guarantee of action.”

“What is desperately needed is broader recognition that change is necessary to protect all Pennsylvanians,” Abbott said. “Gun violence is a crisis that shows itself not just in mass shootings like Tree of Life, El Paso or Dayton, but in community gun crimes, suicides by gun and domestic violence.”

Meanwhile, one Republican who has sponsored gun control legislation in the past and who represents residents of eastern Chester County, urged caution concerning bringing together legislators attempting too wide a focus. State Sen. Tom Killion, R-9th, of Middletown, is one of a few moderate Republicans sponsoring that measure-colloquially known as a “red flag” bill.

“You start trying to do too much, then you end up with nothing,” he said. “If I can get this done, I’ll be quite happy.”

Killion noted that one of the key reasons last session’s domestic violence bill received enough bipartisan support to pass was that its sponsors compromised with the National Rifle Association so that the group would remain neutral, instead of opposing it.

Shusterman encouraged her constituents to call the Republican majority chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Rob Kauffman, at 717-705-2004 and ask him to schedule hearings on gun violence prevention legislation, and to call House Speaker Mike Turzai at 717-772-9943. Source

August 6, 2019
mychesco.com
Shusterman Calls for Legislative Special Session to Address Gun Violence

Shusterman Calls for Legislative Special Session to Address Gun Violence

PAOLI, PA — State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, is one of several House Democrats urging Gov. Tom Wolf to call a special joint session of the legislature to address gun violence and extremism in the wake of two mass shootings within 13 hours of each other last weekend.

Shusterman, accompanied by members of the PA SAFE Caucus, called for a special session to consider legislation in the House and Senate that would address access to guns for people at risk of violence to themselves or others, close the loophole for gun background checks, and to ban assault weapons.

“We cannot afford another preventable tragedy in our own backyard. What happened in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio can be avoided here in Pennsylvania, so instead of wallowing in this seemingly never-ending cycle of tragedy, let’s end it,” Shusterman said. “We can go into session right now and pass legislation that would make it more difficult to put guns in these people’s hands.”

Shusterman and members of the PA SAFE Caucus noted that most public opinion polls reveal that the most Americans support mandatory background checks on gun purchases, as well as other safety legislation.

“When two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history happen within the same news cycle you know our nation is in a dark place. It is clear that we as a society have become numb to such events,” Shusterman said. “I’ve heard the cliché ‘tragedies show us the best humanity has to offer’ regarding these shootings, and it’s starting to unnerve me. It seems to be part of the script following every mass shooting. It seems to be a way to minimize the terror of the actual shooting and instead put the focus on the recovery that should never have been necessary.

“My colleagues and I have over 25 pieces of legislation that have not been passed out of committee that could put Pennsylvanians’ safety before an industry’s profits. The time is now to put an end to these hateful acts of violence. I urge our leaders to call the legislature to Harrisburg and not stand idly by.”

Shusterman encourages her constituents to call the majority chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Rob Kauffman, at (717) 705-2004 and ask him to schedule hearings on gun violence prevention legislation, and to call House Speaker Mike Turzai at (717) 772-9943.  Source

August 4, 2019
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
Facebook

Woke up to another massacre.

We can go into session right now and pass legislation that would make it more difficult to put guns in these people’s hands.

My colleagues and I have over 25 pieces of legislation that have not been passed out of committee that could put Pennsylvanians safety before an industry. Please call Rep. Rob Kauffman at (717)-705-2004 (he’s the Majority Chair of the Judiciary Committee) and ask if he will schedule hearings on gun violence prevention legislation. And/or call Speaker Mike Turzai at (717)-772-9943. Lets be the example and make the change right here in Pennsylvania.          Rep. Ben Sanchez  CeaseFirePA  Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

July 3, 2019
pahouse.com
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
phillyvoice.com
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.

STATE REP. MELISSA SHUSTERMAN
Source

June 25, 2019
penncapital-star.com
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
Facebook

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
Phoenixvillenews.com
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
Facebook

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
Facebook
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
Facebook
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!
No photo description available.
May 22, 2019
pahouse.com
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
Facebook

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
Facebook 
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
Facebook
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
Facebook
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
Facebook
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
philasun.com
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
DLN
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
DLN
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
Facebook

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
Facebook

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.

No photo description available.

 

March 29, 2019
penncapital-star.com
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.
Source

 

March 22, 2019
Rep. Melissa Shusterman
Facebook

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
Facebook

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
DLN
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.
Source

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
pahouse.com
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.
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February 25, 2019
TRIBLive
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

Carnegie
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Rep. Melissa Shusterman
February 25, 2019
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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
pahouse.com
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
Facebook
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
Facebook
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
plsreporter.com
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
pahouse.com
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
pahouse.com
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
nbcphiladelphia.com
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
Facebook
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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