For my lobbying project, I have chosen to lobby against the Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. Specifically, I would like to see our government in Pennsylvania begin to tighten the restrictions on the Oil Companies and force them to reveal what harmful chemicals they put in the water used in the process. This would be helpful for, not only the citizens who have these chemicals in their water, but workers at water treatment plants who are finding that they don't have enough technology to fix the water that comes to them. This is what I want Governor Corbett to do.
Many groups are asking for the same thing I am. My dad receives numerous emails asking him to sign petitions against fracking. Groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency, who are doing their best to study the effects of Fracking on local rivers. See Epa's Work HERE. Another group, Protecting Our Waters, is organizing protests and mass call-ins to the Governor. A link to their website can be found HERE
However, there are other groups that have high stakes in the Oil Companies and are doing everything they can to keep Fracking as it is now. Big Oil Companies like Cabot Oil and Gas say on their website "345, 000 people employed" and "Landowners paid 30 billion in royalties". But, after snooping around on their website, I found that they aren't as friendly and helpful as they seem. In one of their documents they say that they will gladly screen your tap water upon request however, they will not help you understand your results nor do they say much to how they would fix any damage. The other problem with the opposers of my lobby is that they are involved in the government. In one article it says that Governor Corbett gave authority over Fracking to Walker who was once a CEO of an energy company and owns several trucking businesses (Fracking requires A LOT of trucks). To see this article click HERE.Recently, Governor Corbett did respond to the pleas of lobbyers like myself, he ammended the Gas Act, which would require companies to provide detailed plans on the impacts of every well they make for fracking. This Act can be found HERE.
While I think this is a big step, I still believe we need to act more harshly to radically change the way these companies are running.
Few groups are at higher risk for obesity than Philadelphia children of low socioeconomic status, of which an estimated 51% are obese. Much of the obesity problem among Philadelphia's low-SES kids comes from the fact that they live in food deserts, or areas in which healthy, affordable food is hard to come by. The USDA's handy Food Desert Locator shows various food deserts along the Schuylkill, and a large one in northeast-most Philadelphia.
The first step to lowering this number seems obvious to me: provide Philly's low-SES children with healthier food by having public schools serve more nutritious, less fattening lunches. I'm certainly not alone in my thinking. Michelle Obama's highly publicized "Let's Move!" campaign seeks to lower child obesity rates by providing access to healthy food for all families and helping children become more physically active. In December of 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law, authorizing funding to increase low-SES kids' access to healthy food. The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project seeks to implement science-based guidelines for food and drinks sold in schools, as well as more rigorous food safety guidelines, and ensure that schools have the resources to train cafeteria workers and provide necessary equipment.
The most outspoken opponent of these anti-obesity efforts is probably My Food. My Choice!, which argues that the government is overstepping its boundaries by trying to control what people eat. The group was founded by conservative columnist Orit Sklar, who gained notoriety after suing Georgia Tech for the right to verbally harass gay students. Mayor Nutter also proposed a two-cents-an-ounce soda tax as a way to reduce soda consumption among Philadelphia children, as well as bring in an estimated $77 million. However, after much lobbying by the American Beverage Association, the measure was rejected by the city council.
I think that My Food. My Choice! has a valid concern, but they feel more threatened than they should. It seems to me that they've misinterpreted trying to help people get access to healthier food as trying to cut off access to unhealthier food. The current obesity epidemic is a serious threat to our country, and arguing about what counts as the government infringing on our right to exercise dangerous habits will only prevent us from giving help to those who need it most.
The City Wage Tax is a tax that only four of ten major cities in the United States have. Philadelphia is one of those four cities and the City Wage Tax is something that has driven some from Philadelphia and others to argue against the tax. Currently Philadelphia has high taxes, you can ask anyone. With the City Wage Tax of 3.928% for residents of Philadelphia and 3.4985% for non-residents, the tax is simply another huge bite out of a Philadelphian worker's paycheck. I am lobbying to change the City Wage Tax by having it decreased so that it is not at such a high rate.
I am motivated to change this not only because it is a cut in my parents' paychecks as well as my siblings', but a unnecessarily huge cut in ever Philadelphian worker's paycheck. I understand, like others, that the wage tax has in fact helped pay for the services that this city offers and keep our budget in line a bit, but the taxes are unfair because of the percentage that they take out of salaries. There are people out there that do not have high paying jobs that are getting the same percentage of the tax taken out of their pay as those who do have well paying jobs. Though it may seem "fair" that this percentage applies to everyone, it isn't because of the various amounts of each person's paycheck that it takes out.
In regards to the issue of the City Wage Tax, there are supporters and opponents of the tax. Some obvious supporters are non-profit organizations and places like libraries, the police department, fire department, hospitals, trash collectors, etc. These are supporters of the wage tax because the tax does indeed go towards city services and has in fact been effective in helping the Philadelphia services. The opponents of the tax are primarily the people of Philadelphia because of the large amount of money that the tax takes out of their paycheck. Other opponents of the tax are especially those who do no make enough money and yet they have to pay their "fair share."
Earlier on in my research, I found a bill titled "Amending Chapter 19-1500 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled 'Wage and Net Profits Tax,' by revising certain tax rates and making technical changes, all under certain terms and conditions." What I found most astonishing in the bill was a statement of what the taxes would be over the course of several years. I found a table with the following percentages for City Wage Taxes for Philadelphia each year: https://docs.google.com/a/scienceleadership.org/viewer?url=http://legislation.phila.gov/attachments/11820.pdf
July 1, 2011 = 2.3722%
July 1, 2012 = 2.3578%
July 1, 2013 = 2.3287%
July 1, 2014 = 2.3287%
July 1, 2014 and thereafter 2.2974%
The Philadelphia Revenue Department's website states, "IMPORTANT NOTICE: There will be no change to the Wage Tax Rates on July 1, 2011. The following rates are effective from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011: Residents of Philadelphia 3.9280%" Notice that the taxes are decreasing every year in the bill. These tax rates would not have been so bad, but this table doesn't explain why we are at a City Wage Tax rate of 3.928% for residents. I hope to use this as evidence to help my lobbying against the high City Wage Taxes, even if it may just be a bill and not a law.
There is no current legislation dealing with City Wage Taxes, but I would like to see some legislation to lower taxes in cities such as Philadelphia. However, I do notice that the City Wage Taxes are indeed helpful as I previously stated. In order to ensure that the taxes remain helpful, but not harmful to the people, the taxes should be decreased or a new system put in place. The new system should be in favor of those who do not make a certain amount of income. In other words, the people who are of the lower class or simply do no have the well paying jobs should have a lower wage tax than those who have corporate jobs and have higher income. I feel as though just because the percentage of the taxes apply to everyone, regardless of class or income, people are paying a "fair" share as far as a proportional amount in regards to everyone. The taxes are not "fair" when the poor or not so wealthy have to pay the same percentage simply because of their financial status.
In the end, my topic found me: I was reading Scientific American, and spotted a brief article about the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (PDF here), a bill that would act to control the dangerous chemicals that so often show up in everyday items. The act, introduced by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, would give the Environmental Protection Agency more freedom – and responsibility – to test and regulate chemicals. Currently, under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, the EPA has little power over industry's use of chemicals.
As I researched the Safe Chemicals Act, I found a group, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which strongly supports the bill. The describe themselves as "a nationwide effort to pass smart federal policies that protect us from toxic chemicals". They are pushing hard for reform on the Toxic Substance Control Act, and think that the proposed Safe Chemicals Act would be a major improvement. They want to "hold industry responsible for the safety of their chemicals and products".
The American Chemistry Council is perhaps less enthusiastic, but not against the bill. According to a statement by President and CEO Cal Dooley, the ACC is "strongly aligned on the need to modernize the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act." However, they believe that Lautenberg's proposal "contained provisions that would not have produced the benefits intended by its authors" and "could put American innovation and jobs at risk."
I believe that the Safe Chemicals Act would be a step forward. According to the article in Scientific American, "even extremely low levels of some environmental contaminants may have significant damaging effects on our bodies." This is a serious risk, and I believe that the health and safety of all citizens should be a high priority for the government.