Issues

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Recovery for Pennsylvanians

State Representative Jessica Benham is fighting for the Pennsylvania Rescue Plan to cut cost of living, and invest your tax dollars into public health infrastructure and preparedness, support for families, workforce development, and investments in businesses. 

Read more about the PA Rescue Plan. 

Protecting Our Democracy

Jessica supports a ban on gifts to elected officials, limits on contributions to political candidates, and full disclosure of all spending meant to influence the outcome of elections. She supports a redistricting commission to draw fair lines for Congressional, State House, and State Senate districts. She supports legislation to ensure transparency, public input and clear, enforceable criteria for redistricting. Jessica will fight for election day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and more opportunities for early voting. Jessica also supports rule changes within the General Assembly so that bills with clear bipartisan support receive a vote in committee and both chamber floors, instead of potentially being left to die without a vote in committee. 

Affordable & Dignified Healthcare for All

Jessica believes that all Pennsylvanians deserve access to quality healthcare that is free at the point of access and is fighting to protect the Medicaid expansion that has benefited over 3,000,000 residents. She is also fighting for people with disabilities and seniors to receive long term health care supports and services in the dignity of their own homes.

Jessica Benham helped pass a law to ensure people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions can’t be denied life-saving medical procedures. In Harrisburg, she is working to ensure that all Pennsylvanians impacted by coronavirus get access to the care they need without surprise billing.

 
 
 
 

Increasing Public Safety in Our Communities

Jessica Benham has brought back millions of dollars in investment in public safety in our communities, including for violence prevention, victims services, and public safety facilities throughout the district. Moving forward, she is committed to bringing back more state dollars to invest in violence prevention and public safety in House District 36. 

 

She understands that we need to address the root causes of violence, ensuring economic opportunity and stability for families, providing for well-funded education and after school programming, and investing in our business and residential districts. 

Representative Benham is a proponent of commonsense legislation like comprehensive background checks, extreme risk protection orders, firearm safety training, and safe storage laws. 

Climate Change and Infrastructure

Jessica has acted locally to combat climate change, flooding, and landslides, leading water management projects in Cobden Street Park and Arlington Park. In Harrisburg, Jessica has ensured the state invests in stormwater management and the reduction of fossil fuel pollution.

Jessica is working together with Organized Labor to hold oil and gas companies accountable for the ways they treat workers and their disregard for environmental regulations. Fines shouldn’t just be the cost of doing business.

Jessica has brought together everyone’s voices, including workers and communities hit hardest by pollution, for difficult conversations about energy production and the environment. These are well-paying jobs that support many families in our district, and we also must protect our environment for the generations to come - Jessica rejects the idea that jobs and environment have to be at odds. 

Jessica has seen the disproportionate impacts of worsening landslides and flooding in our community. She has heard resident concerns and will advocate for strategic and significant investments in our local infrastructure. Jessica believes that increased state investment in expanded water management, especially along the Route 51 corridor, will provide the protection that residents need and deserve.

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Fully Funding Our Education System

Jessica has heard from local residents on how the state has cut their funding for public schools, forcing local school boards to increase taxes to avoid cutting services. House District 36 is home to incredible public schools, and Jessica will ensure the state pays their fair share to keep these schools strong. As we recover from COVID-19, Jessica will ensure that we are not balancing budgets on the backs of school children. Jessica will protect our schools from budget cuts and ensure that our teachers and students have the resources they need for remote and in person learning. 

All children should have access to high quality early childhood education. Children who access high-quality early learning experiences are far more likely to succeed in K-12 school and in life. Early education should be public, free, and inclusive for all students, including children of color, children with disabilities, and children of families who are immigrants and refugees. Jessica will work to ensure that early childhood programs and educators have the state resources and supports they need to provide high quality early education to all children. Increasing state investment in district-run early childhood education is critical for our kids, but also for their parents to be able to work – allowing them to provide for their family and contribute to our region’s economy.

 

Substance Use

South Pittsburgh is the center of the opioid epidemic in the Greater Pittsburgh region, with substantially more deaths from overdose than any other area, which has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jessica believes the state must invest in evidence-based approaches to substance use, addressing both the underlying causes and the immediate impacts on our neighborhoods.

Substance use disorder needs to be treated as an issue of public health, not of criminalization. We need to fund programs to divert people from incarceration to community based treatment programs. We need to work with our local providers to increase the number of beds available in treatment facilities for people who have public or no insurance.

Jessica has also introduced legislation that would provide for free college at our state universities for kids in kinship care, a situation in which family members are caring for the young person because their parent is unable to do so. This is common in our community because of substance use issues. Jessica believes these young people should be given every opportunity to succeed.  

Reimagining First Responders

Our government has asked police officers to be the first responders to situations where they are not well-equipped or effectively prepared to be, whether that’s in responding to the needs of a homeless person, someone experiencing an overdose, someone in a mental health crisis, or any number of other scenarios that our police are required to respond to every day.

We are now in a moment where activists, public figures (including our Pittsburgh police chief), citizens, and more are condemning police brutality. We are being called to imagine a world that includes alternative first responders, like EMTs, social workers, trained mediators, and so on.


Legislators in the Pennsylvania State House have proposed a series of bills that can be implemented at the state level. Jessica would support this package of legislation, including:

  • Modify definitions in statute for the use of deadly force.

  • Reform interdepartmental police hiring by requiring law enforcement agencies to keep detailed personnel records surrounding an officer leaving a job.

  • Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any incident of deadly use of force involving a law enforcement officer.

  • Reform the certification and decertification process for police officers.
     

Legislation at the state level is only part of the solution, and we require action at every level, from school boards and local borough, municipal, and county councils to the federal government.

 
 

Workers' Rights

Jessica knows that Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is the lowest of any state in our region, and believes all jobs should pay enough that people are able to afford living expenses. Jessica is pushing for a higher minimum wage, protect the rights of workers to unionize and collectively bargain.

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Criminal Justice Reform

Jessica is working to end mass incarceration by addressing school-to-prison pipeline, which includes decreasing suspensions, increasing the number of counselors and implementing restorative justice practices in our schools. Jessica supports the elimination of cash bail and is against mandatory minimum sentencing. Jessica is working to fund programs that divert people from prisons into community settings.

Reproductive Justice

Jessica knows that pregnant people are the best ones to make decisions about their health, and will fight to make sure that choice isn’t restricted by harmful laws that take away from the rights of pregnant people. That's why she's endorsed by Planned Parenthood PA PAC and EMILY's List. Jessica also supports implementing solutions to higher rates of maternal mortality among Black women and policies that make it easier to raise children, like universal Pre-K, early childhood programs, and paid sick and family leave. Her statement on the leak of the draft SCOTUS decision regarding Roe v. Wade can be found here: https://www.benhamforpa.com/scotusroevwade

 
 

LGBTQ Rights

No one should be at risk for losing their jobs or homes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Jessica serves as the first out female member of the LGBTQ+ community in the PA state legislature and will protect the civil rights of our LGBTQ residents to ensure that everyone can live safely and freely in our state.

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Disability Rights

As a person with a disability herself, Jessica knows the many barriers to accessibility that exist in Pennsylvania. She has fought for the rights of people with disabilities during her appointment to an advisory board overseeing the Office of Developmental Programs, the department which oversees services provided to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in PA.

Accessibility starts early – Jessica supports early childhood programs that meet the needs of all children, including kids with disabilities. She supports legislation ensuring that Pennsylvania schools are well-resourced by state dollars so that local property owners don’t bear the increasing weight of the costs of special education. Kids with disabilities are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, so Jessica supports an increase in funding for school therapists and counselors, to address school pushout.

Jessica is also fighting for the individuals providing services to kids and adults with disabilities to be fairly paid, because the work that those individuals do is valuable. Jessica supports fully funding our Medicaid waiver programs so that kids and adults with disabilities can receive the services they are entitled to under the Olmstead Supreme Court decision. Jessica is fighting for paid family and sick leave, so that workers can take time off to care for themselves or their family members.

Employment rates for people with disabilities remain low, which is why Jessica supports increasing programs for high school students with disabilities to emphasize employment, increasing funding for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and increasing incentives for businesses to hire people with disabilities. Jessica also supports ending the practice of sub-minimum wage.

Jessica supports reform our carceral system so that people with disabilities are treated more fairly. For example, about 80% of the population of the Allegheny County Jail has a disability – Jessica supports targeting more funding toward programs focused on diversion and community treatment, ultimately resulting in justice for people with disabilities and saving taxpayer money.

Pennsylvanians with disabilities have the same desires and rights as Pennsylvanians without disabilities, and Jessica will continue to do everything in her power to ensure that their rights are upheld.