Rep. Kinkead reviews her past year in office, bills supported
District 20 News: State Rep. Kinkead
It’s hard to believe that 2023 is almost over. I’ve been working hard as a state legislator in Harrisburg and here at home over the last 12 months, but it is truly a labor of love. From fighting for legislation in Harrisburg to move Pennsylvania forward, to hosting community resource events here at home, it brings me great joy to work as a lawmaker. I consider it a tremendous honor to represent the 20th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and I’m proud of everything my team and I have accomplished this year.
My proudest moment this year may have been seeing one of my bills become a law for the first time. I worked diligently alongside state Sen. Wayne Fontana to draft S. B. 202, which was signed into law by Gov. Shapiro in early July. This new law streamlines the process land banks in our region must go through to acquire abandoned and blighted properties, and it’s already helping reduce blight across Allegheny County and beyond. In a divided legislature like Pennsylvania’s, getting a bill passed by both the House and Senate is a monumental task but we did the work to gather bipartisan support for the bill to send it to the governor’s desk. I can’t thank Sen. Fontana enough for his partnership in getting this legislation across the finish line.
Another achievement that I am incredibly proud of from this year was helping to secure free school breakfast for all K-12 public school students through the state budget. Over 146,000 students in Allegheny County now qualify for free breakfast at our public schools. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I get a unique opportunity to question leaders of our state departments and agencies about what their priorities are in the budget and encourage them to make changes based on what I believe is in the best interest of the Pennsylvanians I represent. While I continue to work for a budget that invests more aggressively in public schools and provides universal school meals to students, free breakfast is a big step in the right direction to helping reduce food insecurity and increasing school performance among Pennsylvania children. I will continue working with state Sen. Lindsey Williams to advance H.B. 180 and S.B. 180, our bills to create a universal school meals program in the Commonwealth.
In April, I partnered with Rep. Mary Isaacson to introduce H.B. 897, a bill that would require schools within the State System of Higher Education to apply credits earned at a Pennsylvania community college toward a parallel bachelor’s degree program. And in June, the House passed the bill unanimously. Many Pennsylvania community college students leave Pennsylvania to pursue a bachelor’s degree rather than attending our state universities because of the complicated and unpredictable process of attempting to transfer college credits. I believe this legislation would encourage more community college students to consider transferring to a PASSHE school and ultimately create a more affordable pathway to a four-year degree for Pennsylvania students. Unfortunately, like most bills passed by the House, H.B. 897 has sat untouched in the Senate since it moved out of the House.
Expanding access to dental care is another issue I have focused on this year. I worked with Reps. Valerie Gaydos and Gina Curry to introduce H.B. 1417, a bill that would restore Medicaid coverage for root canals and other essential dental services. Teeth are not luxury bones but steep cuts in 2011 have created a situation where poor people must choose between their health and their teeth; everyone deserves access to basic health services like root canals. I am excited that this legislation has bipartisan support behind it and am hopeful that we will be able to move this through the Senate next year.
And speaking of essential legislation, I hosted two town halls this fall with Rep. Gaydos to discuss our landslide insurance bill, H.B. 589, with community members. We are working hard to get this bill passed so that people in our region will have the option to buy insurance from the state to protect their property in the event of a landslide. As we all know, landslides are an ever-growing problem in our area and when commercial insurance fails to protect our citizens, the government needs to step in. We did that 60 years ago when we created the mine subsidence insurance fund and it is past time to do it again for landslides.
Back in the 20th Legislative District, my staff and I held several free community events, helping connect our friends and neighbors to state programs. We kicked off the year with an open house in my new office location in Bellevue. This spring, we hosted a paper shredding event with Ross Township Department of Public Works. We also toured the various senior high rises in the district, assisting our seniors in applying for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate and senior ConnectCard programs. We tabled weekly at the Bellevue Farmers’ Market this summer. During Urban Ag Week in July, we hosted my first annual Seeds in the City Urban Ag luncheon where more than 90 local agriculture stakeholders attended to learn about programming and resources. My office also partnered with state Sen. Lindsey Williams to host our third annual senior resource fair, where more than 400 seniors showed up to receive free flu shots and other free resources. My office also participated in multiple trunk-or-treat events around the district. It feels tremendous to play a small part in helping our community members live life to the fullest by hosting and attending events like these.
I am grateful to have a dedicated and talented team of staff members running my office and managing the many aspects of serving our community from a state legislator’s office. Without them and the wonderful work they do, I would not be able to serve you at the capacity I do. In 2023, I’m proud my office assisted nearly 2,000 Pennsylvanians with issues ranging from unemployment and state tax concerns to PennDOT issues with licenses and peeling license plates.
While the year is soon over, the work of elected officials is never done and I am excited to continue serving the community in 2024. You can contact my office any time for help with state-related matters by emailing Rep-Kinkead@pahouse.net or calling my district office at (412) 321-5523. Please don’t hesitate to reach out — my team and I are eager to help you in any way we can.