Energy - April 4, 2014

Pennsylvania Democrats propose $12 minimum wage

Senator’s Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) and Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) are raising the minimum wage discussion to a new high.  Their recently introduced bill would set the state’s minimum wage at $12 an hour.  Additionally, bill would index minimum wage for inflation and make it illegal for employees who accept tips to be paid an hourly wage lower than the minimum.

The legislation comes on the heels of many other similar state initiatives, as well as reports calling for higher wages.  One such report, released by National Low Income Housing Coalition, found that the average American worker would need to earn $18.91an hour to rent a two bedroom apartment ($16.25 for the Harrisburg-Carlisle area).  Thus far, Delaware, Washington D.C. and Connecticut have all increased their minimum wages in 2014.

A politically favorable move, the proposal to raise the minimum wage is no doubt, at least partially, political.  A Quinnipiac poll released on April 2nd revealed that 50% of voters would support a candidate who wants to raise the minimum wage while only 25% would vote against any such candidate.  It may come as no surprise that both Leach and Stack are candidates for pay increases of their own.  While Leach is running for Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Stack is considered a candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  

PA House bans gifts, Senate may follow

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has banned legislators and their staff from taking cash gifts from anyone but a family. The House Bipartisan Management Committee decided to enforce the ban through the Legislative Code of Ethics rather than go through the process of passing legislation.  The move comes after several lawmakers accepted cash from an informant posing as a lobbyist in a sting run by the Attorney General’s office.  Attorney General Kathleen Kane recently shut down the operation which had been in operation before she took office.  The Senate may follow suit with their own internal rule as early as next week. The House ban specifies only cash gifts be banned, legislators can still accept personal checks, gift cards and money orders.  Ethics laws require disclosure of gifts worth $250.  Some activists have applauded the move but feel it’s not enough and there should be a statutory ban on all gifts and cash contributions.

Senators Lisa Baker, R—Luzerne, and Lloyd Smucker, R—Lancaster, will introduce legislation that prevents any public official from taking “U.S. and foreign currency, money orders, checks, gift cards and certificates, and prepaid debit and credit cards,” from anyone but relatives and the intention has to be clear that it is a personal gift.  Similar legislation has been introduced in the House.  The House move to ban cash was an immediate response to the sting operation.  Members are likely seeing what other information can be gathered before making a move on legislation.