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Boscola Bulletin

Policy Committee hears testimony on Air Quality and Firearms Issues

Senator Boscola and Senator Jim BrewsterAs Chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, it is my belief that to be an effective committee we need to hear testimony on a wide range of issues, including controversial and local issues, because these are the issues we work on as legislators in Harrisburg and back home in our respective Senatorial Districts.  Earlier this month, the Policy Committee conducted a joint hearing with the House Democratic Policy Committee in Allegheny County on Mon Valley Air Quality Issues and the following week we heard testimony on proposed Gun Reform proposals on in Philadelphia.

On February 7th, in Clairton, PA, at a hearing requested by Senator Jim Brewster, I was joined by Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, my Senate colleagues Senator Wayne Fontana and Senator Lindsey Williams along with members of the House Democratic Policy Committee, at a hearing held at the request of Senator Jim Brewster to discuss strategies for preserving jobs while improving air quality and community notification standards. The issue took on local significance for the Mon Valley in Southwestern Pennsylvania due a fire at the US Steel plant on December 24, 2018 and the resulting severe pollution issue that hit the region. 

US Steel officials presented testimony regarding the fire and reaffirmed their commitment to work cooperatively to solve emission issues. Additionally, leaders of organized labor described the importance Steel Workers fighting for good jobsof the coke works and how it is crucial to jobs and the Mon Valley region’s economy.

The Joint Policy Committees members also heard from health officials, who discussed the steps they have taken to toughen penalties, widen notification capability and how they are working with state and federal officials. Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department, provided a list of legislative proposals she said would help update and improve pollution and enforcement standards.

We also heard from a local doctor and environmentalists that said the coke plant has consistently had pollution violations. They also said that children in the Mon Valley have asthma issues that are far worse than children in other parts of the state. Some advocates called for placing the plant on “hot idle” until the plant’s pollution control system has been brought up to an acceptable standard. Company and union officials said idling would be unnecessary, lengthy, costly and difficult.

Senators Anthony H. Williams, Tim Kearney, Steve Santarsiero, Lisa Boscola, Art Haywood, Daylin Leach, and Sharif Street

On February 14th, the Policy Committee convened on the campus of LaSalle University in Philadelphia at the request of Senator Art Haywood to hear testimony on legislative proposals here in the Commonwealth and also on legislative action taken in other states to address the gun violence epidemic. Six Philadelphia area Senators and two of our colleagues from the State House joined Senator Haywood and I as we heard from numerous organizations and citizens, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Giffords Law Center, Mothers in Charge, Moms Demand Action and many others.

Policy experts testified that gun violence results in homicide, suicide or accidental death. Policies to save lives through gun reform were mentioned. Items covered included: requiring a gun license prior to purchasing a firearm; safe storage of firearms laws; and ‘Red Flag’ laws that would take away a firearm from someone temporarily because they are deemed a threat to themselves or others.  These initiatives were discussed as ways to prevent deaths by gun violence. Massachusetts was mentioned as an example because it has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the nation.  The low rate was attributed to their safe storage laws and gun license requirements. The advocacy group Moms Demand Moms Demand ActionAction stated that one of their main priorities in Pennsylvania this legislative session would be getting Extreme Risk Protection Order (“ERPO”) law passed in Pennsylvania, which has been introduced into the Senate by Senator Killion (R-Delaware) as Senate Bill 90.

As with all Policy Committee hearings, we will be sharing this information with my colleagues and work together to determine how best to proceed on these important issues. 

The next Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing is tentatively set for March 14th at the request of Senator Dinniman, where we will dive into legislative remedies to address the proliferation of robo-calls even with both state and federal “Do Not Call” statutes on the books.

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

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