In this month’s column, Rep. Emily Kinkead discusses the legislation she’s collaborating on to protect frontline workers during the continued COVID-19 pandemic, find a fix to the high cost of prescription medication, offset student debt, and address climate change and landslides.

Photo: Office of Rep. Kinkead

I’ve been hard at work to make meaningful changes in Pennsylvania to benefit both our district and our state. I wanted to tell you about a few of the bills I have introduced to do just that.

First, I am picking up where my predecessor left off. I re-introduced his legislation to guarantee our frontline workers unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation benefits if they are forced to quarantine or are hospitalized. Workers who are unable to come to work for these reasons would not be forced to use their sick, vacation, personal, or other accrued time. Instead, they would qualify for unemployment compensation for the duration of their incapacitation or inability to work, and they would also qualify for workers’ compensation for all medical costs related to infection or exposure. It is imperative that we acknowledge the hazards these workers face while doing their jobs and ensure they receive the benefits they deserve.

Additionally, I hear often about the unbearably high cost of lifesaving prescription medication and the need to do something — anything — to fix it. I have introduced legislation with Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne) to direct the state Department of Health to study the potential savings of importing more affordable medicines from Canada. This bill is the first step in designing a potential prescription drug importation program in Pennsylvania when the study shows significant cost savings for consumers. It’s time that the needs of our residents are put first. With new federal regulations allowing state importation programs, this is a great opportunity for Pennsylvania to help residents cut their medication costs.

Pennsylvania has the highest rate of student debt per capita. I have introduced “A Degree with a Guarantee” legislation with Rep. Mary Isaacson (D-Philadelphia) that would allow those who graduate from our community colleges with an associate degree to be granted automatic admission to one of our 14 state universities as juniors. This would provide for incredible cost savings for students, allow more flexible learning options, and allow those who desire to retrain more ways to do that.

Climate change is only getting worse, and we must do more to address it now. Accordingly, I have introduced the Energy Transition Recovery Act, which would direct funds from the sale of carbon allowances sold at auction through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to methods designed to curb those emissions by 2050. Pennsylvania is expected to become a member of RGGI by 2022. In March, the governor announced the Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy, part of the GreenGov initiative, which I fully support, and my legislation complements that effort by making a significant impact in lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

Finally, our region is plagued by landslides and too often the damage caused is not covered by existing insurance programs. It is no surprise that southwestern Pennsylvania has the highest concentration of landslides, but they can occur in other parts of our state after extreme bouts of rain or snow. That is why I have been working with my colleague, Rep. Perry Stambaugh (R-Perry) on a bill that would establish a landslide insurance and assistance program within the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to ensure residents can buy this critical coverage for minimal cost and are property protected from the devastation and destruction from landslides.I remain committed to working for you on these and many other issues and will continue to keep you up to date. Please know that you can reach out to my team and me by calling 412-321-5523 or by emailing RepKinkead@pahouse.net – we’re here to help!

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