Issues

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Healthcare +

Single Payer Healthcare

When politicians talk about healthcare reform, they like to talk about "affordable healthcare coverage." But affording coverage is very different from affording the deductibles, co-pays and fees that are required to actually go see a doctor. Even those who can afford a doctor's visit are seeing their paychecks get smaller and smaller as healthcare costs continue to rise. It's not because doctors are getting more expensive - it's because the healthcare system we have is woefully inefficient.

 

The average doctor spends $85,000 interacting with a multitude of insurance companies each year.  Businesses spend an average of 7.6% of their annual operating budgets on healthcare - not including the staff time spent navigating the insurance marketplace and negotiating plans for their employees. Meanwhile, the insurance industry’s profits are at record highs and their top executives are making millions.

 

There’s a better way. Kareem supports enacting a single payer healthcare system in Pennsylvania that covers everyone while reducing costs on most individuals and businesses. Under this plan, you choose your doctor, receive total coverage for medical care, dental, vision, prescription drugs, and mental and behavioral health services, and no longer have to worry about deductibles or co-pays. By eliminating waste in the system, the state of Pennsylvania will create over 100,000 jobs and save over $17 billion annually - money we can use to educate our children and protect our environment.

 

Mental and Behavioral Health Services

As we seek to improve our current healthcare policy, particular attention must be given to mental health. Traditionally, mental health services are not prioritized as other medical services are. With a severe lack of providers in our district and beyond, our district’s mental and physical health has suffered. This is reflected in the growing opioid crisis, where our current providers do not have the resources necessary to provide care. Kareem believes we must guarantee proper funding for mental and behavioral health care services to meet the needs of the community.

 

Safe Staffing

Kareem supports safe staffing legislation for nurses. Currently in the state senate, SB214 will decrease the patient to nurse ratio to 2:1 on intensive care units and to a maximum of 4:1 in all other units. These ratio limits will decrease the workload of individual nurses, creating new job openings in a burgeoning field, better patient care, and safer work environments for those who help heal us.

Environment +

Air and water pollution are problems throughout the state, with Allegheny County being one of the worst at maintaining healthy standards for its residents. With the federal Department of Environmental Protection seeing its budget cut repeatedly over the past 15 years, it is up to the state of Pennsylvania and progressives like Kareem to protect our natural resources and keep our district a livable place for our families.

 

Renewable Energy

Pennsylvania is on track to reach 18% renewable energy by 2021. Kareem supports plans to reach 100% renewable energy in Pennsylvania by 2035 by promoting the construction of wind and solar power farms, improving energy efficiency statewide, and exploring hydro and geothermal power.

 

Cracker Plants

Pennsylvania paid over a billion in corporate tax incentives to encourage the building of a cracker plant in neighboring Beaver County with the promise of 600 permanent jobs, but these plants put the air quality of the entire region at risk for relatively little gain. With several more scheduled for future construction, now is the time to end construction of new cracker plants.

 

Fracking

Fracking leaks gas and particulates into the air and surrounding groundwater, which puts our loved ones and children at risk of developing a myriad of health problems. We must heavily regulate existing worksites to mitigate these risks and seriously reconsider future fracking sites. He will fight to pass legislation that mandates no fracking sites can be built within three miles of schools, worksites, and general population centers. In addition to the environmental considerations, our state should be compensated for its resources. Kareem will work to institute a severance tax to compensate for the natural gas extraction and an impact fee for the damage done to our infrastructure, which will help fund healthcare and education initiatives in the region.

 

Water

The chemicals used in water treatment in Pittsburgh were switched without any input from the Department of Environmental Protection. These chemicals stripped away the protective coating that had built up on old lead water lines and now many in the region are living with critical levels of lead in their water. While the city has worked to remove the lead lines from the street to the water cutoff, homeowners are still responsible for the costly replacement of the lines leading from the cutoff to their houses. Kareem supports a state-funded grant program to pay for the removal of these private lines and provide safe, drinkable water for every resident in Allegheny County.

Education +

The American public education system is in crisis. After several rounds of defunding and misappropriation of funds at both the state and federal level, public school conditions are going downhill in the state of Pennsylvania. While Republicans believe that the best solution is cutting school budgets and turning your tax dollars over to unaccountable private bodies, Kareem believes that we can do better for our children. Our schools are the pipelines that lead our educated youth to stable, well-paying employment. Attacks on our educational system are direct attacks on the middle class upon which our communities are built.

 

Voucher Programs and Charter Schools

Any school system that is even partially reliant on taxpayer money should be accountable to the residents of the state, and in turn should provide a service in line with our education standards - and have the resources to do so. Our state’s charter school laws must be reviewed and reworked to allow more evaluation and oversight, and charters should be made to undergo regular review and charter renewal within a set time frame much shorter than the currently standing 5 to 10 year time frame. When schools continue to under-perform, they will face closure from the appropriate regulatory bodies. The Auditor General’s office, the office responsible for oversight of charter schools, is chronically underfunded. Kareem will move to restore adequate funding to the office so we can get a more appropriate level of accountability and transparency in their operation. Additionally, Kareem will move to bring cyber school programs currently run by charters under the purview of the relevant public school district, and grant local districts the autonomy to decide for themselves whether or not they need charters without overturn from the state charter appeal board upon rejection.

Similarly, voucher programs represent a misappropriation of taxpayer funds and directly feed the ongoing public education problems facing our state. Kareem opposes all present and future attempts to reallocate public school funds to these unaccountable bodies. School choice can be a positive thing, but not when it comes at the cost of any of the choices meeting the requirements for adequate education services in our state.

 

Community Schooling

Community schooling initiatives allow public schools to operate both as education centers and as focal points for community life - providing valuable services to the area and increasing community cohesion and socialization. Dedicated site coordinators running such programs would pay for themselves several times over by bringing in money from existing nonprofits who otherwise lack coordination. Far from being an initiative that will require large additional revenue streams, this program will largely run by bringing existing revenue sources into community programs to match expressed needs.

 

Fair Funding

In June of 2015, the Basic Education Funding (BEF) Formula was created and unanimously adopted by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission. This data-driven formula works to correct much of the inequity in state education funding by considering overall student populations and factoring in student attributes that impact learning capacity - such as poverty, ESL status, and disabilities. While this reformulation is a step in the right direction, it currently only impacts new funding streams accounting for only 6% of total funding. As state representative, Kareem will support committing the additional state funding necessary to phase in a full implementation of this funding formula. 

Women's Rights +

Ever since they were won, women’s rights have been under attack by conservatives in both major parties. That’s why it is not enough to merely defend the status quo for women - we must push forward to guarantee every woman has the same bodily autonomy and stake in society as men do.

 

Reproductive Rights

As state representative, Kareem will fight against bans on abortion after 20 weeks, protect access to abortion within the current healthcare exchange, and work to ensure abortion, reproductive, and sexual health services are covered when Pennsylvania passes single payer healthcare legislation. This means affordable access to birth control, STI prevention and treatment, and prenatal and pregnancy care.

 

Paid Sick and Family Leave

The burden placed on workers when they must take time off from work for ill health is a universal one, but has disproportionate impacts on women in our workforce and contributes to continued gender inequalities. Women make up almost half of the overall work force, and yet women continue to shoulder two thirds of all family caregiving responsibilities. With these asymmetric social expectations placing an undue burden on working mothers, many women find themselves unable to take the time to properly care for both themselves and their families. With universally expanded paid sick leave, women will no longer face the stress of not having enough sick days to care for themselves and their children. A lack of paid family leave also disproportionately affects women and forces many women to make the unnecessary choice between having a family and furthering their careers. Kareem will work for universal family leave that alleviates these burdensome choices and gives women a fair stake in our economy.

Justice Reform +

Change in our justice system is necessary and long overdue. The “tough on crime” policies of the 1980s and 90s have failed, creating a state of mass incarceration that must be addressed.

 

Opioid Epidemic

Nearly half of all overdose victims in Allegheny County had been previously incarcerated. Instead of locking up our friends and family members who struggle with substance use disorder, we must make professional health resources available to help them. Kareem will work to redirect drug offenders away from incarceration and towards treatment by decriminalizing drug possession, increasing funding to behavioral health programs within the community, and improving access to medication-assisted drug treatments that subdue the user’s response to and withdrawal from narcotics.

 

Police-Community Relations

The same policies responsible for mass incarceration in the U.S. have also transformed police departments nationwide. Many police departments now possess military-grade vehicles and weapons, an escalation in armaments that has, combined with a focus on enforcement of ill-conceived drug laws, created a divide between police and the communities they serve. Kareem supports instituting citizen review boards, which give a meaningful voice to members of the community in how their law enforcement operates, to bridge this divide and ensure that the police work for the people.

Fair Elections +

Fair Districts

For the health of our democracy, we must ensure that voters have meaningful choices and a chance to allow their voices to be heard at every election opportunity - and the only way to ensure that in the long term is through an accountable, transparent, and citizen-controlled redistricting process that prioritizes amplifying the power of democracy over the continued dominance of one party over another. Kareem supports instituting a Citizen's Review Board that will have final approval over the redrawn state districts.

 

Voting Rights

Kareem supports all measures to maximize the ability of people to participate in our democracy, and fight back against systematic disenfranchisement. Absentee ballots often pose an undue difficulty for voters who must travel frequently and on short notice for work - and the burdensome process disincentivizes many from participating in elections. A "no-excuse" absentee ballot measure would allow any registered voter to request an absentee ballot without stating a reason for voting absentee. Kareem also supports automatic voter registration for those who use government services, a transition to open primaries, ranked-choice voting initiatives, and expanded early voting and same day voter registration to maximize voter registration and the ability of registered voters to participate in the voting process. In addition, Kareem supports an open review process for vote counting and recounting - with an extensive paper trail - to increase accessibility, auditability, and transparency in all our elections.

 

LGBTQ Rights +

Kareem is a supporter of the PA Fairness Act, which seeks to enshrine the rights of the LGBTQ community and bring anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people in line with those for any other protected class

Labor +

Bargaining Rights

Labor unions have the right to collect fees from benefiting workers, and an attack on this structure is an attack on the very foundation of collective bargaining power - from which all guaranteed workers rights are ultimately derived. Yet many of our state and federal representatives are eager to deny this fundamental right and leave our workers without recourse when employers demand work under unsafe conditions and without adequate compensation. In this vein, "right-to-work" legislation works to subvert a union’s abilities to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages, benefits, and safe working conditions. It is notable that workers in states that have enacted such laws make on average $1,500 less per year than their counterparts in free bargaining states - and on average they enjoy fewer benefits, are less able to afford higher education for their children, and are more likely to be injured on the job. "Paycheck protection" is a similar attack on workers' rights that disallows workers from voluntarily paying their union dues as a direct deduction from their paychecks - which in turn makes it harder for unions to routinely collect dues from members. Kareem is a strong opponent of all right-to-work and paycheck protection measures.

 

Prevailing Wage

A prevailing wage, as set by regulatory agencies and state departments of labor, enumerates the usual wages and benefits for workers under government contract within a certain field of work in a specified region. By setting an effective baseline rate of compensation for public works projects, a prevailing wage works to stop union shops from being underbid for their work and helps all workers receive an adequate wage for their labor.

 

Safe Staffing

Kareem supports safe staffing legislation for nurses. Currently in the state senate, SB214 will decrease the patient to nurse ratio to 2:1 on intensive care units and to a maximum of 4:1 in all other units. These ratio limits will decrease the workload of individual nurses, creating new job openings in a burgeoning field, better patient care, and safer work environments for those who help heal us.

 

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