- 1 Updates
- 2 Actions Taken by the State Government
- 3 Elected Officials
- 4 Key Upcoming Elections
- 5 Obamacare / ACA
- 6 Policing
- 7 Immigration
- 8 Voting Rights
- 9 Mass Incarceration
- 10 Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
- 11 Housing/Infrastructure
- 12 Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- 13 LGBTQ+ Issues
- 14 Educational Justice
- 15 Consumer Protections/Workers' Rights
- 16 Climate / Environment
- 17 Disability Rights
- 18 Organizations
- 19 Local News Sources
- 20 Relevant City and County Information
- 2/28/2017: US District Court Judge Mark R. Hornak ruled that Pine-Richland School District cannot enforce a policy barring transgender students from using the bathroom matching their gender identity, claiming the ruling would deny their equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
- 2/23/2017: Philadelphia's School District told local media it would leave transgender protection policies in place, standing against the Trump administration's order to rescind the Obama-era policy prohibiting discrimination against transgender students in schools.
- 2/13/2017: Pennsylvania’s most controversial prosecutor, Seth Williams, announces he won’t run for re-election amid a series of scandals that he says have brought “shame” to the office.
- 1/28/2017: In the aftermath of the implementation of the Muslim Ban, Republican Representative Charles Dent spoke out against the ban: "Dent called on the Trump administration to halt immediately action on the order." He is one of the few elected Republican officials to speak out on the subject matter.
Actions Taken by the State Government
Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice
Important bills proposed by Pennsylvania lawmakers this legislative session that should be supported:
Harmful bills proposed by Pennsylvania lawmakers this legislative session that should be opposed:
- SB 3 / HB 77 would change the current 24-week cutoff for abortions to 20 weeks except in cases of medical emergency, with no exception for rape or incest, and prohibit certain methods of abortion altogether.
- HB 158 and HB 90 "Blue Lives Matter" bills, would include members of law enforcement in hate crime protections.
- HB 436 would require voters to show ID to vote. This would likely reduce the turnout among people of color.
See also the main policy pages for federal legislative tracking.
Executive / Administrative Actions
- Governor: Tom Wolf (D)
- Secretary of State: Pedro A. Cortes (D)
- Speaker of the House: Mike Turzai (R)
Key Upcoming Elections
Click here to find out if you're registered to vote. Register to vote here. The deadline is 30 days before Election Day. Bring proof of identification the first time you vote. No document is required to vote.
- Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D) is up for reelection in 2018.
Competitive House Races in 2018
- Pennsylvania District 6 is a competitive district with the potential to flip to blue. Representative Ryan Costello (R) won the 2016 election with 57.3% of the vote. Clinton won the district in the 2016 presidential election with 48.2% of the vote.
- Pennsylvania District 7 is a competitive district with the potential to flip to blue. Representative Patrick Meehan (R) won the 2016 election with 59.7% of the vote. Clinton won the district in the 2016 presidential election with 49.3% of the vote.
- Pennsylvania District 8 is a competitive district with the potential to flip to blue. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R) won the 2016 election with 54.5% of the vote. Trump won the district in the 2016 presidential election with 48.2% of the vote.
- Pennsylvania District 16 is a competitive district with the potential to flip to blue. Representative Lloyd Smucker (R) won the 2016 election with 53.9% of the vote. Trump won the district in the 2016 presidential election with 51% of the vote.
- Pennsylvania District 17 is a competitive district with the potential to flip to red. Representative Matt Cartwright (D) won the 2016 election with 53.8% of the vote. Trump won the district in the 2016 presidential election with 53.4% of the vote.
- Pennsylvania 197th State House District elections will be held on March 21, 2017.
- Pennsylvania state supreme court elections will be held in 2017: primaries on May 16 and general November 7 (filing deadline March 7).
- Governor Tom Wolf (D) will be up for reelection in 2018.
- Pittsburgh Mayoral elections will be held in 2017: primaries on May 16 and general November 7 (filing deadline March 7).
- District Attorney David Arnold has a record of charging under Pennsylvania’s draconian “drug delivery resulting in death” statute, having used it 11 times since 2012, and 8 times in 2015 alone. Despite being a vocal advocate of its use, he has stated that "I think enough people have been charged that word has gotten around the drug community. Does that convince them not to sell? I don't know if I can go that far."
- Approximately 1,000 DUI cases in Lebanon County will likely be dismissed because a court found that the county’s blood evidence testing was faulty, but Arnold responded that the court’s decision would “not impact any prior convictions, nor will it impact any future cases.”
- In a case involving a former probation officer and a probationer who ended up falling in love and getting married, Arnold personally obtained a conviction against Lewis, the probation officer, for “tampering with public records or information.” At trial, he argued they entered a “collusive marriage” intended to thwart her prosecution and compared her conduct to the “Kids for Cash” Luzerne County bribery scandal.
- Arnold took the anti-immigrant position in the Philadelphia “sanctuary city” controversy, stating that “public safety supersedes any and all political matters.”
- District Attorney Christine Holman has focused on fighting a “war on blight,” a version of broken-windows policing focusing on dilapidated buildings.
- She charged a building owner (a single mom) with a misdemeanor for failure to maintain the house. The defendant said she lacked the money to fix the house and tried to give her building to the count. The county refused, and Holman still prosecuted her. (She was acquitted at trial.)
- Holman continues to pursue marijuana possession cases, and asks for and sometimes obtains prison time. She has argued that marijuana is “absolutely” a gateway drug and has expressed contempt for medical marijuana and its supporters, who include a state senator.
- Holman's well-advertised drug tip line resulted in the prosecution of a woman who was five months pregnant and could not meet the bail amount Holman set, which landed her in jail.
Philadelphia district attorney elections will be held in 2017: primaries on May 16 and general November 7 (filing deadline March 7).
- Pittsburgh city council elections will be held in 2017: primaries on May 16 and general November 7 (filing deadline March 7).
- If there is a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, 933,525 people in Pennsylvania (or 7.3% of the population) are estimated to lose coverage, whereas 956,000 people (or 7.5% of the population) will lose coverage with a partial repeal. (Retrieved 1/26/2017 from ACA Repeal Impact, state-by-state.) This is because with a full repeal, premiums will not increase the way they would under a partial repeal, since insurance companies will be able to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions and won't be required to provide essential health benefits. Not covering preexisting conditions will disproportionately affect people with disabilities.
- The number of uninsured people in Pennsylvania is predicted to be 724,000 by 2021 under the ACA. Without the ACA, that number is expected to rise to 1,452,000, a 100.6% increase.
- Pennsylvania is among the states that lost the ability to place lifetime limits on coverage, because that practice is banned by the ACA; those limits are likely to be reinstated under a full repeal.
- Prior to the ACA's ban on gender-rating, women in Pennsylvania could pay up to 69% more for the same coverage, compared to men; an ACA repeal could bring back that coverage gap.
- Given that a repeal of the ACA would also change payment structures and subsidies, 137,000 jobs could be lost in Pennsylvania. When federal funding is cut, it creates a ripple effect that affects local and state revenue, thus creating losses in economic activity and employment.
- Under the ACA Repeal-and-Delay strategy, young adults in Pennsylvania could pay $785 More in 2018.
- 108 people were killed by the police in Pennsylvania from 2013 to 2016, which is the 44th most per capita in the country.
- Black people were killed at a rate 2.8 times higher than the rate for all people in Pennsylvania.
- In 2013, Pennsylvania had 796,159 immigrants, making up 6.2% of the population.
- There are estimated to be 180,000 undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania, making up 1.4% of the population.
Rights of Non-Citizens
- Pennsylvania does not allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers’ licenses.
- Pennsylvania does not allow undocumented immigrants to attend public college at the same in-state tuition rate as legal residents and citizens.
- In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order (DACA) that defers deportation for children who were brought to the country as children. The action allows them to work lawfully but does not create a pathway to citizenship or give them legal status in the United States. In Pennsylvania, 8,571 individuals have benefited from this executive action.
- 2.6% of K-12 students in Pennsylvania had undocumented parents in 2014.
- Undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania made up 2% of the labor workforce in 2014.
- If all undocumented workers were removed from Pennsylvania, the state would lose $5.3 billion in economic activity.
- Undocumented immigrants paid $150.4 million in state and local taxes in Pennsylvania in 2012.
- Pennsylvania’s state legislature has introduced bills requiring police to check immigration status, but none of these has passed. 
- Several cities and counties, including Philadelphia, have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
- Pennsylvania ranked 9th in refugee resettlement in 2016, with 3,219 refugees resettled.
- Pennsylvania does not permit early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, but it did implement an online voter registration system in August 2015. Since Pennsylvania's voter ID law was struck down in 2014, voters are generally not required to present identification at the polls, though first-time voters may be required to present identification when they first vote.
- Pennsylvania currently has Electronic Registration at DMVs and Online Registration components of Voter Registration Modernization in place. Pennsylvania also has electronic pollbooks in at least one county.
- In Pennsylvania, laws governing how observers can challenge voters at the poll are unusually broad, and that can make them susceptible to abuse.
- In 2014, 87,143 people were incarcerated in Pennsylvania, plus a probation population of 171,970, and parole population of 103,802.
- Of the prison population, 5,104 people were serving life sentences, all but two without parole.
- 2,781 juveniles were in custody in Pennsylvania in 2013.
- In Pennsylvania, a black person was 8.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person in 2014.
- 636 people were incarcerated in private prisons.
- Corrections expenditures in 2014 were $2,359 million.
Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
- Pennsylvania residents who face a tax increase under Trump’s plan:
- Households: 314,000
- Adults and children: 916,000
- Children: 542,000
- In 2015, an average of 918,761 households and 1,826,667 individuals received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) in a given month in Pennsylvania. In 2011, approximately 13% of the population of Pennsylvania was receiving SNAP benefits. The average monthly benefit per Pennsylvania household was $241 per household and $119 per person in 2016.
- In 2016, an average of 144,087 households, including 57,897 families and 105,243 children, received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is direct financial assistance, in a given month. The average monthly benefit for a single parent with three children residing in Pennsylvania was $421 in 2014. Average benefits in Pennsylvania have fallen in value by 34.4% since 1996.
- In 2016, an average of 31,905 women received funds from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a given month.
- In December 2015, there were 24,025 Social Security recipients in the "aged" category who received $397.71 per person on average, for a total of $9,555,000.
- 373,100 low-income households in Pennsylvania spent more than half of their income on housing.
- In 2014, Pennsylvania had 35 units of affordable and available housing for every 100 households categorized as “extremely low income” (at or below 30% of area median income.)
- In Pennsylvania, there were 15,339 homeless people in 2016, which is 2.79% of the total national homeless population.
- Of the homeless population, there were 2,200 families, 1,136 veterans, 805 unaccompanied young adults (18-24), and 1,325 people experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Pennsylvania received $1.5 billion in federal rental assistance funding in 2014.
- In Pennsylvania, more than 219,000 families relied on federal rental assistance in 2014.
- Nearly all Pennsylvania households using federal rental assistance included children, elderly people or disabled people.
- Pennsylvania’s infrastructure received a score of C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2014.
- This study gave the state “good” scores for rail, parks and hazardous waste, and identified wastewater, drinking water, roads and transit as being in “poor” condition.
- In 2013, the Department of Transportation found that 42.2% of Pennsylvania’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 57% of Pennsylvania’s roads were in poor or mediocre condition.
- Driving on these roads leads to an additional $341 per motorist per year in increased vehicle repairs and operating costs.
- Philadelphia received grant funding to expand their bike-share program, with 16 more stations and 17 more miles of protected bike lanes.
Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- Pennsylvania has 32 Planned Parenthood centers.
- In 2015, 15 centers were in rural, medically underserved, or health provider shortage areas.
- On average, there is one Planned Parenthood for 75,188 women of reproductive age.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- Senate Bill 3 has been introduced and passed in the Senate. The bill restricts abortion in the state in a variety of ways: a ban after 20 weeks; restriction in the types of procedures that may be performed; a spousal permission requirement. The bill is currently in the House; Governor Wolfe has promised to veto the bill should it arrive at his desk.
- There were 42 abortion providers providers in Pennsylvania in 2015.
- In 2014, 12 out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age in Pennsylvania had an abortion. The national abortion rate is 14.6.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- There is a 24-hour waiting period required after mandatory counseling.
- Parental consent is required for minors.
- Abortion is prohibited after 24 weeks except in cases of life or health endangerment.
- Medical abortion is limited.
- Private insurance coverage is limited.
- State Medicaid does not fund most abortions.
- TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws exist.
Women and Wages
- In Pennsylvania, 13% of women live in poverty. 39.2% of single mothers live in poverty, as do 9.2% of women age 65 and older.
- For every dollar made by men, women are paid $0.79, which is one cent below the national average of $0.80.
- African American women are paid $0.68 for every dollar paid to white men, while Latina women make $0.56 for every dollar made by white men.
- In one day in 2014, 2,498 victims/survivors were served by Pennsylvania domestic violence programs; 252 requests for domestic violence services went unmet.
- In Philadelphia, 17.3% of students have been physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year, almost twice the national average.
- An estimated 19.1% of Pennsylvania women will experience stalking in their lifetimes.
Religious freedom law
Religious freedom laws protect people's right to practice their religion and limit laws imposing on that right, and were intended to protect religious minorities. However, after same-sex marriage was legalized, conservative states have attempted to enact similar laws with provisions that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. A Religious Freedom Protection Act was enacted in Pennsylvania in 2002 to protect religious minorities. As opposed to more recently introduced legislation with a wider scope, the current law only applies to individuals, churches and tax-exempt organizations.
Pennsylvania lacks nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, adoption, foster care, insurance, credit, and jury selection. It does have protections for state employees.
Pennsylvania also lacks some laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in parenting, including second-parent adoption, surrogacy, foster care, parental presumption for same-sex couples, and consent to inseminate. It does have de facto parent recognition.
Hate crime laws
Pennsylvania also does not include LGBTQ+ people in its hate crime laws as a protected group and doesn't have required reporting of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
Pennsylvania does not have certain laws protecting LGBTQ+ youth, including transgender inclusion in sports, protection from conversion therapy, laws to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education laws, and LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies. Pennsylvania does have school suicide prevention programs in place.
Health and safety laws
Pennsylvania does not have certain nondiscrimination laws protecting the health and safety of its LGBTQ+ citizens, including nondiscrimination protections in the ACA exchanges, trans-inclusive health benefits for state employees, and gender-neutral single-occupancy restrooms. Pennsylvania does have a ban on insurance exclusions for trans health care, gender marker changes on identification documents, and health data collection. Pennsylvania also does have laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in ensuring their health and safety, such as laws that criminalize HIV/AIDS.
- HIV criminalization laws are those that make it illegal for an HIV-positive person to “knowingly expose” another person to HIV—in some states, this means that it is illegal not to disclose HIV-positive status to a sex partner, but many laws criminalize behaviors that are unlikely to lead to transmission. Because the laws focus on disclosure, not actual transmission, they serve no real purpose. All states have other, non-HIV-specific laws that can be used to prosecute transmission of HIV, so these laws just needlessly single out and stigmatize HIV-positive people and reinforce the image of them as “dangerous.” It also allows the saliva or blood of an HIV-positive person to be classified in court as a “deadly weapon.” HIV criminalization laws also disproportionately target people of color, mainly Black people, and gay men.
- Pennsylvania was ranked 10th in per-pupil spending as of 2013, with an average expenditure of $13,864 per student.
- As of 2013, Pennsylvania ranked ninth in teacher pay, with teachers earning an average of $63,521 per year.
- 85% of students in Pennsylvania attend public schools. As is the case in other states, students who attend private schools come from wealthier families, with private school families earning an average 47% higher income.
- As of 2014, public charter school enrollment accounted for 7.4% of total public school enrollment.
- 90% of White students, 71% of Hispanic students, 73% of Black students, and 91% of Asian/Pacific Islander students graduate from high school in four years. The graduation rates for Latino students are slightly lower than the national average, while the other subgroups are on par with the rest of the country.
Consumer Protections/Workers' Rights
- Pennsylvania's minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage, $7.25.
- Pennsylvania has no state law for paid sick leave.
- Pennsylvania has no state law for paid family leave.
- Pennsylvania is a state with no Right-to-Work laws, which means that the state cannot prohibit unions that collectively bargain on behalf of both members and nonmembers from requiring union fees for the services they provide to all workers they represent. They are designed to reduce unions' income and power.
- Pennsylvania is a state with an at-will exemption. "At-will" means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason, without breaking the law. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
- Pennsylvania also has a public policy exemption, meaning that an employer may not fire an employee if it would violate the state's public policy doctrine or a state or federal statute, including refusing to perform an act that state law prohibits (e.g., refusing an employer's request to commit perjury at a trial), reporting a violation of the law (e.g., reporting an employer's fraudulent accounting practices or use of child labor), engaging in acts that are in the public interest (e.g., joining the National Guard or performing jury duty) and exercising a statutory right (e.g., filing a claim under the state workers' compensation law).
- Pennsylvania does allow for implied contract exemptions.. An implied contract can be created in several different ways: oral assurances by a supervisor; or handbooks, policies or practices as written assurances by the employer. This means that if there is no written contract between the employer and employee, that employee may have an exception of fixed term or even indefinite employment based on an employer's statements. As a general rule, courts disregard language promising long-term, lifetime or permanent employment as aspirational and consider the relationship to be at-will.
- Pennsylvania does support the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. Courts have interpreted this in different ways, from requiring just cause for termination to prohibiting terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice.
Climate / Environment
- Almost 41% of Pennsylvania’s electricity generation is nuclear, about 54% is from fossil fuels and the rest is from renewable sources.
- Pennsylvania has 95 sites on the National Priorities List.
- Approximately 2.5% of Pennsylvania’s land is federally owned.
- In 2014, the Black population had the highest air pollution exposure indices—of 73—compared to an overall index of 51 and a White index of 46.
- In 2012, Native American adults in Pennsylvania were most likely to have asthma—14%, compared to 9.5% overall.
- The environmental agency in Pennsylvania is the Department of Environmental Protection.
- Pennsylvania created a climate action plan in 2008, which established the goal of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2000 levels by 2020.
- Pennsylvania has an alternative energy portfolio goal of 18% by 2020.
- 13.9% of Pennsylvania's residents are disabled, compared with the national average of 12.6%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table R1810]
- The employment rate among disabled adults in Pennsylvania is 35.7%, compared to the national average of 34.9%. People without disabilities in Pennsylvania have a 77.3% employment rate. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Tables R1811 & B18120]
- Approximately 16.2% of eligible voters in Pennsylvania have one or more disabilities, compared to a national average of 15.7%.
- Of adults with disabilities in Pennsylvania, 21.8% live in poverty, as opposed to 10.5% of non-disabled adults. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B23024] The poverty rate for disabled children under 5 is 29.0%, as opposed to 21.2% for non-disabled children. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B18130]
- In Pennsylvania, 6.0% of adults between 18 and 64 receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income), compared to the national average of 5.4%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B19056]
- Fair Districts PA, fighting gerrymandering
- Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania's largest and most effective multi-issue progressive organization. We are organizing chapters across the commonwealth, to fight for democracy and economic fairness. From family farms to big cities, we’re fighting for community over greed, justice over racism, and people and planet over big corporations.
- Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center
- Tuesdays with Toomey, calling on Toomey to represent all constituents