While the ongoing state budget impasse and looming FY 2016-2017 budget season to get going soon, one might be led to believe that state lawmakers have put other major priorities aside.
In the coming days, The PLS Reporter will be taking a look at the legislative priorities of Pennsylvania’s lawmaking bodies for 2016.
First up: The priorities of Gov. Tom Wolf.
Entering 2016, Gov. Wolf and his administration will be working toward the three main non-budget-related priorities outlined in his inaugural address: passing minimum wage, anti-discrimination, and medical marijuana legislation.
“[They] are three issues the governor has called on the legislature to pass and send to his desk since his first and second week in office,” said Wolf press secretary Jeff Sheridan.
Speaking about the governor’s desire to see an increase in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour phased in over two years, Sheridan said the governor believes that people who work 40 hours per week or more shouldn’t live in poverty.
“The argument that it wouldn’t help adult workers in Pennsylvania is wrong,” he said. “Over 80 percent of those making the minimum wage in Pennsylvania are adults and those people that work 40 hours or more per week shouldn’t live in poverty and they deserve to make $10.10 an hour.”
As to anti-discrimination laws, Sheridan said it’s ridiculous that in 2016 Pennsylvanians are allowed to discriminate against people based upon their sexual orientation and other characteristics.
“The legislature should pass a non-discrimination bill like they said they were going to do in 2015 and they should do it now,” he stated. “Pass us a non-discrimination bill so we can get these outdated and inappropriate laws off the books so people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace or housing based on their sexual orientation and race."
Lastly, discussing medical marijuana, Sheridan explained the governor has held extensive roundtable discussions on the issue and met with those who would benefit from medical marijuana.
“We should not deny doctor-recommended and scientifically proven medication to patients who suffer from cancer, seizures, and other illnesses,” he said. “We should not deny them from having that treatment.”
Asked if the governor could support Senate Bill 3, which currently awaits action in the House, Sheridan said the governor would have to review any changes made to the bill.
“The bottom line is that medical marijuana in Pennsylvania should be legal,” he said.
One might wonder how the governor—amid one of Pennsylvania’s most contentious and long-lasting budget fights—can convince a legislature not directed by his party to consider these issues.
Sheridan said the legislature “should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
“They said they were going to pass non-discrimination, they said they were going to pass medical marijuana and they didn’t do it. That was all throughout 2015,” he stated.
“They need to do this now. They need to send the governor bills."