District 20 News: State Rep. Kinkead
On Feb. 7, voters in Allegheny County elected Joe McAndrew, Abigail Salisbury and Matthew Gergely to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, confirming a Democratic House majority for the second time since the election on Nov. 8. Now with three new Democratic members representing parts of Allegheny County, I’m excited to be back at our state Capitol debating and voting on legislation to move Pennsylvania forward.
Despite not spending much time in Harrisburg over the last two months because of partisan obstruction, my Democratic colleagues and I have remained productive talking to community stakeholders and developing policies to help Pennsylvania families. Specifically, the House Democratic Policy Committee recently held six public hearings and roundtable meetings with local leaders in Allegheny County focusing on topics ranging from union organizing to election reforms to public safety. You can find all the details on these important meetings by visiting Pa-House.com/Policy.
Talking with and understanding the perspective of people involved at the community level is crucial in crafting policies that will actually solve problems. I’m ecstatic to bring insight gained through these meetings to Harrisburg and work with the new Democratic House majority to champion bills in the 202324 legislative session.
Of course, listening to my constituents’ concerns and incorporating them into legislation is nothing new. What is new, however, is that I am now introducing bills under a Democratic majority in the House. Since the majority party in a legislative body has tremendous influence on the progress of individual bills, this means that bills introduced by Democrats have a greater likelihood of seeing a vote in the House chamber and ultimately passing. For the last 12 years, the House has operated under a Republican majority that was notorious for dismissing nearly every bill introduced by Democrats, so this is quite a meaningful power shift for Democratic lawmakers and the millions of Pennsylvanians we represent.
Nonetheless, I am hopeful that we can achieve some progress on issues that are less partisan, like protecting homeowners affected by landslides. Since my first day in office, creating a pathway to help victims of landslides has been one of my top priorities, as there are many residents in Allegheny County who have had their homes, as well as their financial security, destroyed by landslides. I have introduced a new, bipartisan bill with Rep. Valerie Gaydos, R-Allegheny, to create an insurance program specifically for landslide-prone properties. I will do everything in my power to see that this bill passes through the House in the 2023-24 legislative session, and I’m confident Rep. Gaydos will too. Additionally, I see a path forward for my legislation with Sen. Lindsey Williams to provide universal free school meals for all K-12 students, which would end issues of stigma for kids who might not be able to afford lunch and end lunch debt across our Commonwealth.
However, it’s important to understand that our state Senate continues to be under Republican control for this legislative session. In fact, the Senate has not had a Democratic majority since 1993. So if Democratic bills addressing issues like gun violence or reproductive rights pass the House, they would also need to pass through the Senate and be signed by the governor to become law. Unfortunately, with leaders like Doug Mastriano still in the state Senate, I think it is very unlikely we would see the Senate pass any legislation to reduce gun violence or enshrine abortion rights into our state law. But if Republicans in the Senate hope to have their bills passed in the House, they need to come to the table and agree to pass Democratic bills. And that is something that they never had to do with a Republican majority in the House.
While I always love working in my district, meeting constituents and preparing legislation, it’s great to be pushing the ball forward on these issues in Harrisburg. But please remember that no matter where I am, my incredible staff at my district office is available to help you. If you have questions about anything related to the state, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (412) 3215523, email me at RepKinkead@pahouse. net or visit my office in person at 658 Lincoln Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15202. n