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Last week, the Republican-led Pennsylvania Senate took bold and outrageous steps to push an ideologically extreme conservative agenda that would hurt women, families, and workers.  Their actions overshadowed the real issues that we face right now, most notably, the governor’s budget address, which calls for increasing funding for education, boosting the minimum wage and supporting job creation while responsibly filling a $3 billion fiscal deficit. Instead of focusing on key issues, the Republican majority made it a priority to ram through multiple bills that would move Pennsylvania backwards.

The following measures moved through the Senate last week, all of which I opposed and spoke out against:

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Senator Hughes Floor Remarks on Senate Bill 3
Senator Hughes Floor Remarks on Senate Bill 3

Restricting Women’s Health Choices

The constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Senate Bill 3 reduces a woman’s choice to get an abortion to 20 weeks and outlaws the safest form of abortion. The bill violates a woman’s right to make her own health choices and restricts doctors from performing safe and legal abortion methods. Further, this legislation was pushed through the Senate without any public hearing, which would have given lawmakers an opportunity to hear from medical professionals.

Punishing Sanctuary Cities

Dozens of municipalities, including the City of Philadelphia, have designated themselves as “sanctuary cities,” which means their local law enforcement authorities will not enforce federal immigration orders on individuals in custody who may be suspected of being undocumented immigrants.  Senate Bill 10 would punish municipalities that designate themselves as sanctuary cities by taking away their eligibility for all state funds. In Philadelphia alone, this measure jeopardizes up to $1 billion in critical state funds for construction projects, educational grants, and law enforcement programs, among other important funding opportunities. Also, holding an individual under these circumstances creates a slippery slope into racial and ethnic profiling and civil rights violations.

Senator Hughes Floor Remarks on Senate Bill 166
Senator Hughes Floor Remarks on Senate Bill 3

Stifling Workers’ Voices

Public sector workers have a long history of contributing a portion of their wages toward advocacy efforts that protect their jobs and their rights. Senate bill 166, the so-called “paycheck protection” bill, would prohibit these employees from having political contributions deducted from their wages. This measure is part of a national effort to shut down the voices of our teachers, law enforcement officers, health care workers, laborers and other public sector workers. It would do nothing to protect workers’ paychecks, but rather limit their rights as union employees.

Thwarting Pay Equity

While society has made great strides to address the gender wage gap, many employees still don’t receive equal pay for equal work. Senate Bill 241 is a weakened pay equity bill that would not only not close the pay gap, but it would lessen protections that are now in place in certain municipalities, including Philadelphia. In fact, the bill does not close a significant loophole that hinders an employee’s efforts to take legal action against an employer for pay discrimination. It also does not nearly go far enough to forbid an employer to, as a condition of employment or a reason for termination, keep employees from discussing salaries with one another, a practice known as “pay secrecy.” This bill fails to address gender wage discrimination in a meaningful way and it preempts local municipalities, like Philadelphia, from having their own equal pay law.

Learn more about the issues and provide your feedback on my website at as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@SenatorHughes).

Offices of State Senator Vincent Hughes

4950 Parkside Avenue | Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Phone: 215.879.7777
Fax: 215.879.7778
Senate Box 203007
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3007
Phone: 717.787.7112
Fax: 717.772.0579