WEEKLY REPORT: MEMBERS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TARGETING E-CIGARETTES, ONEPHILLY PAYROLL PROBLEMS

In Al Taubenberger, Allan Domb, Cindy Bass, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, News, William K. Greenlee by PHL Council

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City Council Members Introduce Bill to Limit Sales of e-Cigarettes

Prompted by growing public health concerns about e-cigarettes, including national reports of deaths linked to vaping and at least one known death in Pennsylvania, Councilmember Bill Greenlee (At Large) introduced legislation today that would restrict e-cigarette sales and prohibit stores that sell such products from allowing minors in their stores.

Councilman Greenlee speaking at council sessionGreenlee  introduced the legislation at the request of Mayor Jim Kenney, who held a news conference with the city health commissioner Wednesday and said the city was acting to restrict e-cigarette sales to minors because “the FDA should have regulated e-cigarettes years ago, but they haven’t done anything.”

Greenlee’s legislation, co-sponsored by Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District) and Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) would do the following:

  • Sales of various e-cigarette products would be limited to adults-only stores that require patrons to be at least 18 years old.
  • The targeted products include e-cigarettes with more than 20 mg/ml of nicotine salts, e-cigarettes with certain flavorings, and e-liquids with more than 20 mg/ml of nicotine salts or flavorings sold separately.
  • Adult smokers will still be permitted to buy unflavored, safer levels of nicotine, as well as flavored, higher levels of nicotine at adults-only shops. The measure is specifically targeted to protect the health of young people.

The measure would affect small businesses and major stores like 7-Eleven and Wawa, which both carry e-cig products.

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has declared a “public health emergency” around vaping-related illnesses, and Pennsylvania has confirmed its first death linked to vaping. Pennsylvania has confirmed 25 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, and another 25 likely cases.

Council President Clarke signed on as a co-sponsor told reporters, “I don’t support smoking, and with all the reports and health concerns out there, it’s clear we need to do something.”

What’s Wrong with the City’s New Payroll System?

City employees receiving too much in their paychecks – or too little. Thousands of workers impacted.  After months of glitches, labor complaints. and negative headlines, Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) had heard enough.

Domb introduced a resolution today calling on the City Controller to “investigate and audit the OnePhilly system in light of ongoing problems and inefficiencies which are compromising the City’s basic functions and public trust.”

Domb, who has cultivated a reputation as a fiscal hawk in Council, said in the resolution:

“Since 2015, the following issues with OnePhilly have surfaced:

  • Significant delays in launching the system which was scheduled, under contract, to be completed by December 2015,
  • Payroll errors resulting in litigation from City employee unions,
  • Increases in overtime costs due to miscalculations for thousands of employees who earn time-and-a-half pay,
  • Inaccurate sick time and vacation accruals, and situations in which employees have reportedly been tasked with tracking their own time.”

Domb’s resolution notes the city has paid nearly $50 million to date for the OnePhilly system, and “it still does not work correctly.”

City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said her office is already auditing OnePhilly and would release the results of that audit in January.

In the Aftermath of Gun Violence, Honoring a City Parks and Recreation Worker

Too often the headlines are about another episode of gun violence in Philadelphia. More than a dozen people shot over the holiday weekend in North Philadelphia. An August incident where six police officers were shot in Nicetown-Tioga. And far too often this summer, shootings at playgrounds and recreation centers.

Amid such problems, positive stories still emerge. Yesterday, Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District told one in Council, through a resolution honoring Jeneen Helms, a Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department worker who put herself in harm’s way to help children caught in a cross-fire at a playground in his district. From the resolution:

“On July 13th, Jeneen Helms was ending her shift at Baker Playground in the Overbrook section, when a shoot-out occurred during a community cookout and basketball tournament. Seven people were injured in the shooting. With courage and bravery, Helms rushed to the aid of children and others at the playground at the time of the shooting, making sure everyone remained safe until help arrived. Helms never hesitated about reporting to work the very next day.”

Jones and all members of Council came to the podium to honor Helms, a Shippensburg and Community College of Philadelphia graduate who aspires to be an accountant.

“I believe others would do the same thing to help prevent such tragedies in the future,” Ms. Helms said quietly when Jones asked her to speak.

A Series of Tax Credits to Help Grandparents and Parents Caring for Children

Councilmember Al Taubenberger (At Large) offered four bills that would provide an array of tax credits for grandparents thrust into roles as primary caregivers for grandchildren, as well as parents who place children in day care.

Councilman Taubenberger sitting at desk during a council session“We live in economically challenging times,” Council member Taubenberger said in remarks on the floor. “By and large, wages have not kept pace with inflation, leaving many Philadelphians – especially those with children at home – struggling to make ends meet. Today, I am introducing ordinances that are intended to give Philadelphians with children a meaningful break on their real estate taxes.”

Two of the bills concern grandparents, and would offer real estate tax credits of up to 80 percent of tax bills, with a maximum credit of $3,800 per year, for grandparents forced to become primary caregivers for their grandkids due to various societal ills – joblessness, addiction, mental illness and other problems.

The second pair of bills would offer similar tax credits to parents who place their children in day care and continue working to care for their families.

… Inside the Rail… Honoring a Legislative Giant

On the morning that a longtime, respected member of Congress died of heart and other ailments, two Council members rose to honor the life and memory of Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday at age 68.

First Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown (At Large) and then Cindy Bass rose to honor Cummings and what he stood for. “Cities across the nation lost a champion today…a man of uncompromising integrity in service to our country,” Bass said.

Congressman Cummings represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which includes portions of Baltimore and Howard County. He tussled earlier this year with President Donald Trump, who referred to his district as “rat-infested” at a time when Cummings, as chair of the House Oversight Committee, was openly critical of Trump’s presidency.

Earlier this year, in a widely-quoted remark, Congressman Cummings said: “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019 what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled for next Thursday, October 24th at 10 a.m. in Council chambers on the 4th floor at City Hall.

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