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Lack of affordable housing is a critical issue in our city. What are your positions on key issues such as a Homes Guarantee, rent control, and increasing the number of affordable housing options?

Housing has traditionally been an issue controlled and managed in Pennsylvania by local governments.

Philadelphia has seen an extraordinary amount of residential and commercial construction due in part to the city’s 10-year tax abatement on new construction. This construction has created thousands of new apartments, condos, and townhomes. It has generated billions in construction and spurred the creation of thousands of jobs in the construction industry and thousands of permanent jobs. While this construction has been mostly good for Philadelphia, not all Philadelphians have benefited.

That is why I have strongly supported providing affordable housing to all Pennsylvanians and making sure long time residents are not priced out of their homes and neighborhoods.

Since 2009, I have secured over $14 million in affordable housing grants and tax credits for projects in SD. So far, these grants and tax credits have created over 1,100 units of affordable housing and will create hundreds of more units of affordable housing over the next several years.

In September, I announced a $200,000 PHARE housing grant for Fitzwater Homes. This funding will ensure that Trinity Baptist Church Enterprises can renovate 22 units of affordable housing to help low-income residents maintain their homes in the gentrified and high-income Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Trinity Baptist Church is an African American majority church that helps members of the African American community obtain and maintain affordable housing. So in addition to the affordable housing issue, this grant ensures the diversity and integrity of this community remains.

In addition to securing this important funding, I have been researching affordable housing policies to help provide safe, secure housing for all Pennsylvanians. I plan to pursue a package of affordable housing reforms. The proposals will include:

  1. Incentives to start and grow community land trusts,
  2. Utilization of inclusionary zoning,
  3. Include an affordable housing component to existing state CFA programs such as Building PA and the High-Performance Building Program, and
  4. Increasing the availability of affordable rental housing.
  5. Improving tenant rights and preventing housing discrimination.Recently, I voted in favor of two bills that unanimously passed the Senate with the support of the PA Housing Alliance to increase the construction of affordable housing units and to help Pennsylvanians buy their own homes. Affordable housing bills that passed Senate this week. SB 30 provides tax credits to developers who construct affordable housing for people living at or below 30% of an area’s median income. SB 309 allows first-time homebuyers to put up to $150,000 of income into a nontaxable savings account.

Local or statewide rent control is an idea that deserves consideration. But we need to have a robust debate with plenty of input by the public, advocates, and elected officials. AVI was a good idea it was rushed through and now we have to do it again. So the issue of rent control needs to be thought out and developed in a comprehensive way.

Do you believe PA’s current criminal justice system is equitable? Please explain your positions on ending cash bail, mandatory minimum sentencing, PA’s judge selection process, Marsy’s Law, and the death penalty.

Pennsylvania’s current criminal justice system is far from equitable. It is far more likely to impact Pennsylvanians who are already disadvantaged and it functions so far outside the realities of life of the people caught up in it that it becomes nearly impossible to escape.

This is why I have been working with my colleagues in both chambers as chair of the judiciary committee on legislation to transform our criminal justice system. So far, we have passed two justice reinvestment bills which streamline the funding and oversight of county probation and parole to eliminate the wide variations in sentences. We also passed legislation that merges the department of corrections and board of probation and parole to make sure those agencies are doing all they can to rehabilitate offenders and get them back home with as little bureaucracy as possible.

While we worked on these reforms, we also looked at the how the system affects victims and passed legislation which abolishes the statute of limitations for sexual offenses affecting children and enshrined the protections of the Crime Victim’s Act into the state constitution which provides a remedy to enforce the laws protecting the victim’s participation in the criminal justice system.

I am also turning my attention to the probation system and doing all I can to eliminate long prison stays for minor probation violations.

There is of course far more work to be done to make the system more fair and two recent reports have certainly proven that. First, there’s the legislative report on bias within the death penalty which clearly showed that the death penalty system is too biased, racist, and fundamentally flawed to ever be pursued in good conscience in Pennsylvania. The second was the supreme court’s report on cash bail, which identified serious issues of fairness within the system and its effectiveness which showed that in today’s world, lack of information to the court on real ability to pay and the overreliance on cash bail to hold people in jail interminably must be ended.

Pennsylvania faces real threats to our ability to select judges who will review reports like these and start making changes to make the system better. The state house recently passed a bill which masks its true intent of forcing us to have more conservative and Republican judges under the guise of providing more geographical diversity on the bench. This legislation would mandate that Pennsylvania’s best and brightest attorneys who tend to be concentrated in urban areas where the caseloads are higher, would lose opportunities to be judges because they do not come from rural counties which may only have one courthouse and a handful of attorneys but would demand equal representation on the bench. This would be a disaster for criminal reform efforts but also yet another blow to the popular vote to cater to less populated counties. This legislation will likely come up in the senate and I will do all that I can to stand against it and ensure that all our efforts aren’t undone by judicial gerrymandering.

Gun violence is a major public health issue. What is your position on gun control and what would you do at the state level to combat our gun violence epidemic, including universal background checks and imposing liability for gun deaths upon manufacturers?

Gun violence is an epidemic, and for too long the NRA has been allowed to stifle even studying the impact and root causes. The judiciary committee held two days of hearings on gun violence where we heard from all sides and discussed several bills which I cosponsored and support, including the mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms, red flag laws to remove firearms from those with mental health issues, an assault weapons ban, safe storage laws, universal background checks, and allowing municipalities to create their own gun laws.

I sued the general assembly and the governor with other legislators to stop the implementation of the NRA Right to Sue legislation. This legislation, passed by the Republican-controlled general assembly and Republican governor, gave the NRA the right to sue municipalities that enacted gun laws and collect damages. State appellate courts agreed with our coalition and struck down the unconstitutional sweetheart law for the NRA.

I also led the charge in the Senate to close the Florida Loophole, which allowed those that were denied a Pennsylvania permit to carry a concealed firearm to receive a concealed carry permit in Florida and then use reciprocity agreements to force Pennsylvania law enforcement to give them a concealed carry permit.

Unfortunately, the NRA wields great power over the Republican Party and they have prevented any of these proposals from coming up for a vote. We need a change in Harrisburg and a chance to get these proposals to the floor and start saving lives.

Over the last two years, I have raised and donated money to Democratic State Senate Candidates and helped to flip six Republican Districts to Democratic Districts. I will continue to lead and to help change the majority in the State Senate.

How do you plan to tackle the opioid crisis across the city and state? Do you support safe injection sites, such as the one proposed for Kensington?

Here is what I have done at the state level to address the opioid crisis in the city and the state:

The biggest impact was Medicaid Expansion. I voted for Medicaid Expansion which provided healthcare to 650,000 Pennsylvanians. Medicaid Expansion helped over 125,000 Pennsylvanians obtain opioid use disorder treatments.

In addition to the Medicaid Expansion, I co-wrote and cosponsored a single-payer health care bill in 2009, to expand health care to all Pennsylvanians. I cosponsored several single-payer health care bills. I am currently working with Senator Muth to reintroduce a single healthcare payer bill that will help more people get healthcare and opioid addiction treatment.

Starting with the 2016-17 budget and carrying forward in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-2020, there is $15 million in Medicaid funding for 45 Opioid Centers of Excellence around the state. This money is matched by the federal government.

The 17-18 budget included $5 million for naloxone distribution to emergency responders.

The 2018-19 budget included $4.5 million to provide evidence-based home visiting services to families affected by a substance use disorder. The 2019-20 budget built upon that initiative with another $5 million.

Pennsylvania also received two federal (competitive) 21st Century CURES grants for $26.5 million each and another federal SAMHSA grant for $55.9 million.

I support safe injection and harm reduction sites. We need every tool in our arsenal to combat the opioid crisis. I believe that it is critical that safe injection sites have robust community dialogue and input with their host communities. I also believe that safe injection sites must have the support of their host community before starting operations.

Employment was a major issue for Pennsylvanians in 2016 and will be again in 2020. What are your stances on paid family leave, increasing unionization of workers, and reducing poverty in general? What do you see as the cause of Philadelphia’s high poverty rate and will you do at the state level to address this?

There are a number of things we can do to address Philadelphia’s high poverty rate. We need to provide affordable housing to Pennsylvanians and I have a plan to increase the 1,100 units of affordable housing that have been built since I became a state senator. My housing plan is outlined in a previous answer in this document.

I cosponsored Senate Bill 580 to implement statewide paid family leave in Pennsylvania. Giving Pennsylvanians that ability to take care of their family members while still collecting a paycheck and benefits is a key to preventing people from living in poverty.

We need to raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $12-15 an hour and have it adjust annually according to inflation.

We should reform the definition of independent contractors so that gig economy workers have more rights to earn fair wages, to organize with a union, to get health care and other employee benefits.

We should continue to work with great Pennsylvania programs like Ben Franklin Technology Partners and state-sponsored angel investment funds that help to provide critical investments and operational assistance to Pennsylvania’s start-up companies. These companies have shown tremendous growth and created jobs and opportunities across PA and Philadelphia.

A great example of these startups is Nextfab on Washington Avenue in Senate District 1. This business is an innovative maker space. It allows Philadelphians access to 3D printing to create innovative models and products. In addition to Nextfab, BOK is another unique space in South Philly. Housed in a former high school, it houses many small businesses and has helped grow several of these small businesses.

We also need to focus on helping unions to organize. I have supported numerous bills and policies to strengthen unions and to provide workers the ability to join unions. I recently support the Defenders Association and the work of their public defender lawyers and employees to form a union. I supported SEIU 32 BJ efforts to organize building and janitorial workers in many residential and commercial buildings in Philadelphia, and I was an active supporter of efforts to unionize and support fair contracts for airport workers and PASNAP nurses at the former Hahnemann Hospital and Wills Eye Hospital.

For 12 years as your senator, I have fought for good-paying union jobs and projects that would spur economic activity and development.

I advocated for dredging the Delaware River and expanding our ports, and during my three terms as a state senator, I secured $400 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Grants to create new construction and permanent jobs and spur development in Philadelphia.

I fought to crack down on contractors who don’t play by the rules and skirt worker protection laws to make a buck. I voted in favor of Act 72 in 2012 to give the PA Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) the ability to go after bad construction contractors that misclassify employees in order to avoid paying workers comp insurance, prevailing wage, and social security. As you know, avoiding the payment of worker safety nets allows non-union contractors to underbid on projects and steal union jobs. Since 2015, DLI has fined over 700 contractors for violations of Act 72 misclassification and collected over $1.5 million in fines.

In addition to Act 72, I voted against efforts to change or modify our prevailing wage laws and to implement right to work and paycheck protection. I recently voted to require prevailing wage for projects that receive tax credits and I also co-sponsored a bill that requires the payment of prevailing wage to construction workers for any project that receives a state grant or loan.

And from 2013-2016, when Republicans launched an assault on labor and fought to implement paycheck protection and right to work requirements, I stood up and voted against all of these anti-labor assaults.

I also recognize the tremendous work that the building trades perform and the family-sustaining pay and health care they provide to their members. To that end, I supported the creation of the PA SMART grant program that has provided over $20 million to organized labor to improve their training programs.
We also need to continue improvements to Philadelphia’s pre-k through 12 education system and offer students affordable higher education.

We need to give students a safe place to learn. In order to address asbestos and lead contamination in Philadelphia schools, I became a founding member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Fund Our Facilities Coalition.

I cosponsored two bills, Senate Bills 555 and 556 to provide Philadelphia Schools with $125 million to remove asbestos and remediate lead paint through surplus state funds and the general fund.

To create long term lasting funding improvements for Philadelphia schools I co-sponsored Senate Bill 362. This bill will provide $400 million in additional funding each year to Philadelphia schools by phasing in the fair funding formula over the next four years.

I was the lead author of a budget sign-on letter that was signed by all members of the Philadelphia Delegation urging Governor Wolf to immediately fund $170 million in funding for toxic schools, to include a Healthy Schools Initiative to fund enviro issues in the PA Budget, and to implement the Fair Funding Formula to provide Philadelphia with $400 million in additional funding.

Governor Wolf followed the delegation’s advice and announced a $1 billion plan to fund asbestos, lead, mold, and remediation of other toxins from schools across the commonwealth. Scranton, York, Harrisburg, Altoona, and other schools have the same problems with toxic schools. Four schools were recently closed in Scranton due to asbestos contamination. I will not support a budget with funding for toxic schools. That is one of the reasons I voted against this 2019-20 state budget.

Once we give our students safe, healthy and well-funded pre-k through 12 schools, we should help support them through free college tuition at community colleges or public colleges. I cosponsored several bills to provide free college tuition or substantially reduced tuition to students and working Pennsylvania families. I also cosponsored Senate Bill 400 – the Pennsylvania Student Higher Education Lending Protection (HELP) Act. The legislation seeks to help the 1.8 million Pennsylvania residents that carry an average of $36,000 in student loan debt. The legislation helps students reduce their debt by:

Issuing bonds to refinance $1 billion in student debt into more affordable interest rates

Allowing students to apply for a $500 tax credit against the PA Income Tax

Encouraging employers to help employees who have outstanding higher education loans by exempting from state and local taxes payments that employers make to an employee’s 529 savings account, making payments to an employee’s outstanding student loan debt, or applying a cash equivalent to unused carryover paid time off to an employee’s outstanding student loans.

I also cosponsored legislation to create a Pay It Forward Pay It Back (PFPB) program. The PFPB program creates a public fund from which students can borrow money to help fund their higher education. After students graduate and join the workforce, participants would pay back the amount borrowed interest-free through a small deduction from their paychecks (4% deduction). The loan repayments would eventually create a self-sustaining higher education fund.

I also support Governor Wolf’s budget proposal to provide $204 million in tuition assistance to students who attend state system of higher education schools. The assistance would supplement federal Pell grants and PHEAA grants to provide tuition-free education to thousands of students. The proposal requires students to live in Pennsylvania for each year they receive tuition assistance.

There is a national push for states to adopt the gig-work law that was recently passed in CA as AB5, which allows employers to apply for exemptions to recognizing basic employee rights for gig workers. Do you support this law, and if so, how will you navigate the fallout for the many workers who need and want flexible careers and schedules (writers, musicians, photographers, etc.)?

Yes, I support AB5. My staff and I are reviewing the legislation and considering the best way for Pennsylvania to move forward on this issue.

Large wealthy corporations are currently exploiting workers in the gig economy. We should reform the definition of independent contractors so that gig economy workers have more rights to earn fair wages, to organize with a union, to get health care and other employee benefits.

Our schools in Philadelphia are environmentally unsafe, with toxic levels of lead and asbestos. What is your plan to ensure that students have a safe place to learn? How will you ensure the Board of Education is held accountable in their spending on and effectiveness in addressing this issue?

I will work with the mayor and his senior staff and the members of city council who represent portions of the 1st District to ensure that the Board of Education is spending money efficiently and effectively to address toxins in schools. We will collaborate and work together on these issues.

One way we can collaborate is through the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Fund Our Facilities Coalition. I am a founding member.

I recently held a town hall meeting with the PFT leadership to provide teachers and staff of Richmond Elementary school to update them on the conditions of the school.

I cosponsored two bills, Senate Bills 555 and 556 to provide Philadelphia Schools with $125 million to remove asbestos and remediate lead paint through surplus state funds and the general fund.

I was the lead author of a budget sign-on letter that was signed by all members of the Philadelphia Delegation urging Governor Wolf to immediately fund $170 million in funding for toxic schools, to include a Healthy Schools Initiative to fund enviro issues in the PA Budget, and to implement the Fair Funding Formula to provide Philadelphia with $400 million in additional funding.

Governor Wolf followed the delegation’s advice and announced a $1 billion plan to fund asbestos, lead, mold, and remediation of other toxins from schools across the commonwealth. Scranton, York, Harrisburg, Altoona, and other schools have the same problems with toxic schools. Four schools were recently closed in Scranton due to asbestos contamination.

I will not support a budget without funding for toxic schools. That is one of the reasons I voted against the 2019-20 state budget.

The PA Fair Funding Formula still does not address the vast inequities in funding and therefore quality of educational experience between districts. Once in Harrisburg, how would you create more equitable educational opportunities statewide, and how would you address this problem particularly for Philadelphia students? Include your position on charter school funding.

To create long term lasting funding improvements for Philadelphia schools I co-sponsored Senate Bill 362. This bill will provide $400 million in additional funding each year to Philadelphia schools by phasing in the fair funding formula over the next four years. I will also support the full implementation of the fair funding formula. Right now, only new money is distributed using the fair funding formula. That must change. We must distribute all of the K-12 education money through the fair funding formula.

We need to ensure that charter schools and cyber charter schools are properly educating students and are not draining precious resources from public schools. I oppose vouchers and similar programs to give public money to students to attend charter or private schools. We need to ensure that charter schools and cyber charter schools are being paid the actual cost to educate students. Charter schools should not be for-profit entities making profits by educating our students.

There are great public schools in Senate District 1 and throughout Philadelphia. We should do everything we can to support these schools and to provide them with fair funding. That is why the immediate or a four-year phase-in of the Basic Education Fair Funding Formula is so important.

Once in Harrisburg, what will you do to protect a woman’s right to choose and ensure that adequate reproductive healthcare remains accessible in PA?

In our Republican-dominated legislature, we need to think in terms of defense. Women’s health care is under constant attack in Harrisburg – and I have fought against every single effort to limit a woman’s right to choose. Since I was sworn into my first term, in 2009, there have been approximately 17 votes in the Senate to limit a woman’s right to choose, to undermine the US Supreme Court’s decision to constitutionally protect safe and legal abortions, and to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.

One of the ways I’ve fought our Republican-dominated legislature is by sponsoring the escort protection bill requiring a certain amount of feet between protester and patient at a clinic.

I believe that we should pass a law to repeal Act 122 of 2011. This bill sets up unnecessary burdens and mandates that abortion facilities must meet under the ambulatory surgical procedures act. This thinly veiled attack on women’s health was launched under the guise of protecting women from the horrors of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Instead of helping women, this bill placed unnecessary burdens on abortion providers, led to the closures of five abortion clinics and limited access to women’s health.

I led the charge to help flip six state senate seats from Republicans to Democrats in the last two years. Once we get a Democratic majority in one or both chambers, we should work to enshrine the US Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision into the PA Constitution by passing a bill and putting questions before voters to give women the right to make their own health care decisions and the right to have an abortion.

As of today, Maryland is threatening to sue PA for its failure to address water quality concerns, infrastructure funding is limited, state legislatures across the Commonwealth are encouraging renegade municipalities to ignore state regulation on water pollution, and the EPA is allowing cities like Pittsburgh to roll back their clean water policies. How would you balance clean water goals and equity concerns? Would you be willing to support the position of the Republican MD governor on clean water in PA?

We should work collaboratively with our PA municipalities to reduce nutrients that are running off into the Chesapeake Bay. We have made progress but more should and can be done.

Pennsylvania has made some significant investments to address this issue. We have invested over $197 million a year for four years to reduce nutrients going to the Chesapeake Bay. These actions have significantly reduced nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. From 1985 to 2017, phosphorus nutrients entering the Chesapeake Bay from Pennsylvania have dropped by 2.5 million pounds and nitrogen has been reduced by 15 million pounds according to the PA Chesapeake Bay State Improvement Plan.

Many of the largest unions have opposed the Green New Deal. How would you tackle that issue between environmental and labor communities?

We need to have conversations and communications over the Green New Deal and what it means for union workers. The Green New Deal and renewable energy must be an opportunity for the unions and their members to gain jobs. If we do it right, the Green New Deal can replace and exceed the number of union jobs in the fossil fuel industry. It is important to our community and communities across Pennsylvania to ensure that jobs created by the Green New Deal are union jobs filled by the hard-working and highly skilled men and women of organized labor.

Do you support a ban on fracking in PA? If so, what is your solution for income loss and immediate job opportunities for 609,00 people that a fracking ban would create in Western, PA?

The natural gas and oil companies are too powerful and have too many rights in PA. With
fracking-friendly Republican majorities in the state legislature, the votes haven’t been there yet for a full or partial fracking ban. Until we reach that point, my focus has been on holding these companies accountable and winning victories for our environment and public health. That being said, due to the recent federal investigation I would support a ban for now at least, so that the issue of permitting and the integrity of that process can be evaluated.

I voted to protect consumers and landowners by voting against natural gas industry deregulation and the repeal of consumer protections in the fall of 2019 when I opposed SB 790. In 2012, I also voted against the sweetheart package of legislation for the natural gas industry known as Act 13 that trampled on landowner and municipal rights and provided a slew of regulatory and environmental changes that made it easier for gas companies to frack.

The fracking debate could also be rendered moot by passing legislation I co-sponsored to implement Pennsylvania’s version of the Green New Deal – Senate Bill 630 to move Pennsylvania energy production to 100% renewable energy by 2050. This is the major goal of the Green New Deal.

I’m working hard across PA to help Democrats win a majority. I’ll keep fighting against the abuses and excesses of the fracking industry until that time, and I expect to be an important part of the anti-fracking debate when we gain a majority.

Given our minority status and political dynamics in the PA state houses, how have you or will you work to advance your agenda and pass legislation? In the past, how have you made progress with those you did not align with politically?

There are a couple of things we can do to make progress with those that do not align with us politically. One of the things I have done is to develop relationships with senators on the other side of the aisle.

I have worked hard over the past several months to develop support for my parking-protected bike lane bill, SB 565. This bill will save lives by allowing municipalities to build more parking-protected bike lanes. I worked with advocates to lobby Republican transportation chair Kim Ward to build support and to get the committee to unanimously adopt the bill.

By building a relationship as minority chair of the senate judiciary committee with the majority chair of the judiciary committee Senator Lisa Baker, I was able to get the committee to host historic senate judiciary committee hearings on gun laws and mental health issues. We worked together to pass the most comprehensive sexual abuse victim reforms in Pennsylvania history. We are now working together to reform our probation system to end minor parole violators spending long periods of time in prisons.

And I was the lead author of legislation to reform the Local Share Account in the gaming law. My efforts ensured that more casino profits are being given to non-profits and community groups. I was able to get this legislation passed by developing a relationship with and working with the majority chair of the community economic and recreational development committee Senator Mario Scavello. My legislation has resulted in $2 million in casino revenue being distributed to non-profits and community groups in Philadelphia for community redevelopment projects. After the second casino begins operations, the pot of money available for community improvements will grow to $5 million.

The most important thing I can do to address this issue is to flip state senate seats. I’m working hard across PA to help Democrats win a majority. Over the last two years, I have helped to flip six state senate seats from Republican to Democrat.

What measures would you take to protect immigrant communities in Philadelphia and throughout the state? Would you propose legislation stipulating that family separation is an “extreme hardship”?

Yes, I would propose legislation to stipulate family separation is an extreme hardship. I support Mayor Kenney’s work to make Philadelphia a sanctuary city for immigrants. I am also working to help immigrant communities by prime sponsoring legislation to provide drivers licenses and state ids to undocumented immigrants. This is similar to a law in New York State. I am also a co-sponsor of SB 35 to help immigrants obtain a college education. The bill would provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants (DREAMERS).

I agree and support making family separation an “extreme hardship.” Family separation in asylum cases is governed by federal law. It would require a change to federal law to stipulate family law as an extreme hardship. My team and I are reviewing options at the state level to make family separation an extreme hardship.

Do you support the E-verify law? Please explain your position. What will you do to protect our immigrant and undocumented population’s ability to support themselves and their families?

I oppose the use of e-verify and I voted no on two e-verify bills in the State Senate – one in 2012 and one in 2019 that unfairly targeted and would harm immigrants working in the construction industry. The e-verify bills were opposed by the SEIU, Steelworkers Union, and many pro-immigration groups In addition to voting against the e-verify bills I have worked to help immigrant communities in my district through grants and legislation. I provided a $50,000 grant to SEAMAAC that was used to buy food trucks that allowed Southeast Asian immigrants to start their own businesses. Several of these entrepreneurs successfully transformed their food truck businesses into restaurants. They are now successful small business owners in Philadelphia.

I helped obtain a $5 million RACP for the CRANE apartment complex and community center in
Chinatown. The Crane Center also includes medical and law offices to help the immigrant communities in Chinatown.

In addition to grants, I am prime sponsoring legislation to provide drivers licenses and state IDs to undocumented immigrants. This is similar to a law in New York State.

I am also a co-sponsor of SB 35 to help immigrants obtain a college education. The bill would provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants (DREAMERS).

Do you believe that our current economic system works for everyone or that it could be improved upon to ensure quality of life for all Pennsylvanians?

Our current economic system could and should be improved to ensure an improved quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.

For 12 years as your senator, I have fought for good-paying union jobs and projects that would spur economic activity and development.

I cosponsored Senate Bill 580 to implement statewide paid family leave in Pennsylvania. Giving Pennsylvanians that ability to take care of their family members while still collecting a paycheck and benefits is a key to preventing people from living in poverty.

We need to raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $12-15 an hour and have it adjust annually according to inflation.

Large wealthy corporations are currently exploiting workers in the gig economy. We should reform the definition of independent contractors so that gig economy workers have more rights to earn fair wages, to organize with a union, to get health care and other employee benefits.

We should continue to work with great Pennsylvania programs like Ben Franklin Technology Partners and state-sponsored angel investment funds that help to provide critical investments and operational assistance to Pennsylvania’s start-up companies. These companies have shown tremendous growth and created jobs and opportunities across PA and Philadelphia.

We also need to focus on helping unions to organize. I supported numerous bills and policies to strengthen unions and to provide workers the ability to join unions. I recently supported the Defenders Association and the work of their public defender lawyers and employees to form a union. I supported SEIU 32 BJ efforts to organize building and janitorial workers in many residential and commercial buildings in Philadelphia, and I was also an active supporter of efforts to unionize and supported fair contracts for airport workers and PASNAP nurses at the former Hahnemann Hospital and Wills Eye Hospital.

I advocated for dredging the Delaware River and expanding our ports, and during my three terms as a state senator, I secured $400 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Grants to create new construction and permanent jobs and spur development in Philadelphia.

I fought to crack down on contractors who don’t play by the rules and skirt worker protection laws to make a buck. I voted in favor of Act 72 in 2012 to give the PA Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) the ability to go after bad construction contractors that misclassify employees in order to avoid paying workers comp insurance, prevailing wage, and social security. Avoiding the payment of worker safety nets allows non-union contractors to underbid on projects and steal union jobs. Since 2015, DLI has fined over 700 contractors for violations of Act 72 misclassification and collected over $1.5 million in fines.

In addition to Act 72, I voted against efforts to change or modify our prevailing wage laws and to implement right to work and paycheck protection. I recently voted to require prevailing wage for projects that receive tax credits and I also co-sponsored a bill that requires the payment of prevailing wage to construction workers for any project that receives a state grant or loan.

And from 2013-2016, when Republicans launched an assault on labor and fought to implement paycheck protection and right to work requirements, I stood up and voted against all of these anti-labor assaults.

I also recognize the tremendous work that the building trades perform and the family-sustaining pay and health care they provide to their members. To that end, I supported the creation of the PA SMART grant program that has provided over $20 million to organized labor to improve their training programs so their employees can qualify for more work and jobs.

What reforms would you propose to PA’s current tax code? How, if at all, would you improve PA’s inheritance tax?

We need to make PA’s tax code fairer for all Pennsylvanians. We must eliminate the Delaware Loophole and implement combined reporting for corporations. This will ensure corporations pay their fair share.

I support implementing a graduated income tax structure so that those who earn more pay their fair share. Millionaires should pay more in taxes than blue-collar, middle-class families who are struggling to pay their mortgage and send their kids to college.

I support raising the tax on unearned income as a way to increase state revenue without increasing burdens on working people.

I support a natural gas severance tax. I am currently a cosponsor of the Governor’s Restore PA Plan. In public opinion polls, 70% of respondents support a natural gas severance tax. I support a Natural Gas Severance Tax that is in line with severance taxes in other states and provides billions of dollars to support critical infrastructure repairs in Philadelphia and around the state.

I support targeted tax breaks that lead to brownfield redevelopment and the Keystone Opportunity Zone program to provide targeted tax breaks that help to restore parcels in neighborhoods that have been long neglected. Tax breaks can be a good tool to encourage investment and job creation in low-income neighborhoods and places with high unemployment. We should periodically review TD break programs to ensure they are delivering good jobs and good development in neighborhoods that need it.

At the same time, we cannot and should not provide tax breaks to wealthy billion-dollar companies, which is why I opposed HB 1100 recently. This bill would provide $455 million in tax breaks to petrochemical companies to build natural gas cracker plants or fertilizer plants in Northeastern PA.

Election security is a major national and state concern. Philadelphia recently spent $29M on new voting machines. What is your position on the legality and propriety of Philadelphia’s recent voting machine selection process? Do you think Philadelphia should keep or replace the new machines? Please explain your position.

I have worked with Protect Our Vote Philly and other groups to raise concerns about the Philadelphia voting machine procurement and implementation process for the ES&S Express Vote XL voting machines.

Based on the performance of these machines in Philadelphia and Northampton county during the 219 general election, I remain concerned that the voting machines do not offer a truly voter-verifiable paper ballot backup system. I am concerned that the machines are hard for people with disabilities to use. Many people also told me that the font on the machines made it very difficult to verify their vote.

Due to all of these issues, I wrote a letter to Governor Wolf calling on him to encourage all counties in PA to review their voting machine purchases and to reconsider their purchases. If counties would like to buy new machines they could use a portion of the $90 million in state funding to purchase new machines.

Please include a short bio with the following: your job experience, your major endorsements and achievements, your reasons for running, why you think you are well-positioned to represent your community, the top three policy issues you care about, and what you will do in your first 100 days in office – if elected or re-elected.

I was born in Drexel Hill. My grandfather, Andrew M. Farnese, served as president of the Philadelphia Board of Education. I received my law degree from Temple University School of Law in 1994, after earning my Bachelor’s degree at Villanova University. In 2006, I challenged 10-term incumbent Babette Josephs in the Democratic primary for the 182nd District in the State House, losing by just 237 votes. In 2008, following the retirement of Vince Fumo, I ran for the Pennsylvania Senate in the 1st Senatorial District.

I have proudly served as the State Senator for the First Senatorial District for the past decade. In that role I have been at the forefront of some of Pennsylvania’s most progressive policy issues. From supporting LGBTQ and women’s rights and reproductive choice to criminal justice reform to making high-quality, affordable health care available to every person, I am an unapologetic believer in the power of government to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I sponsored a single-payer healthcare bill in 2009, my first year in office, and I also voted to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania to over half a million Pennsylvanians – the single biggest expansion of healthcare in Pennsylvania history.

I am the prime sponsor of SB 614 – making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment, SB 96 and SB 947 – which strengthen Pennsylvania’s hate crimes statutes to provide protection to LGBTQ community members and stiffer punishments for those that harm someone based on who they love, and SB 212 – which prohibits the use of gay and trans panic defense in homicide cases.

I am the lead author of a budget sign-on letter that was signed by members of the Philadelphia Senate Delegation urging Wolf to immediately provide $170 million in funding for toxic schools, include a Healthy Schools Initiative which would fund enviro issues in the PA Budget, and to implement the Fair Funding Formula to provide Philadelphia with $400 million in additional funding. Governor Wolf followed our recommendation and included a $1 billion toxic school remediation plan in his budget.

I am proud to have the early endorsement of SEIU State Council, as well as many colleagues, like Senator Muth, Senator Lindsey Williams, Senator Kearney, Senator Haywood, Representative Sims, Representative Bullock, Representative McClinton, and Representative Isaacson.

Most organizations are still reviewing 2020 candidates, but I expect to build a strong coalition of support as I have throughout my career. I have received this support because these people know that I ran for State Senate and continue to serve as a State Senator because I believe that government is here to help people. I believe that we have the power to protect people from getting married on Sunday and getting fired on Monday, just because of who they love; the power to protect individuals from taking bad sentencing deals just because they don’t have the resources to chose something else; and the power to protect our community and our commonwealth for not just ourselves but children and grandchildren by moving to reusable energy as quickly as possible.