Rep Brian Sims speaks to South Philly about midterm democrat success

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Sims of the 182nd district delivered updates unfolding in Harrisburg.

Last week, representative Brian Sims of the 182nd district met with Bella Vista residents to give updates unfolding in Harrisburg as a result of the midterm elections. (GRACE MAIORANO/South Philly Review)

South Philly residents gathered at Palumbo Recreation Center last week where Brian K. Sims, Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 182nd District, delivered updates regarding the state legislature in light of the recent midterm elections, including his own victory against independent candidate James McDevitt.

Sims, the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania, emphasized to the crowd of a few dozen his growing positivity for the state’s future, as well as the country, considering the influx of minorities, including people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ community, who clinched victory a few weeks ago in a predominantly red commonwealth.

The discrepancy of representatives significantly decreased, as after the 2016 election, the house of representatives was comprised of 121 Republicans and 82 Democrats, yet after the 2018 midterms, these figures changed to 110 and 93, respectively, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

“I’m actually really optimistic about what’s going to happen in the legislature next year… Up until the first Tuesday of this month, “ he told Bella Vista neighbors, “the Pennsylvania legislature had the widest disparity ever between the party in control and the party that is not.”

Sims stressed that in recent years, especially over the last two years since the 2016 presidential race, Pennsylvania attempted to pass some of the most hardcore conservative legislation in the country.

Last year, for example, a bill circulated that attempted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, which is four weeks earlier than the current law. Although the bill was eventually vetoed by Gov. Wolf in December 2017, Sims says the 20-week mark was a calculated decision by a “conservative think tank,” because 21 weeks is around the time of gestation when genetic testing on a festus can be performed and results might require it be aborted.

Another bill placed a ban on health care for transgender children. The ruling would have negatively influenced children receiving health benefits related to their gender identity, and considering this was presented as a proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, the motion would have particularly affected low-income individuals, according to Pennsylvania General Assembly House Bill 1388.

Sims strongly attributes such right-wing labors to Republican representative Daryl D. Metcalfe of the 12th legislative district, who is the chair of the State Government committee, which oversees civil rights in Pennsylvania.

In January, when the new legislative session starts, Metcalfe hopes to become chair of either the state’s judiciary or education committee, according to Sims, who encouraged the South Philly crowd to reachout to Mike Turzai, the state’s Speaker of the House, who oversees chairing appointments.

“I am very, very fearful that if this particular person takes over either of those two committees, it will be disastrous — either for our schools or for our court system,” Sims said.

Notwithstanding these concerns, Sims feels positive about the new class of representatives. He underscored that historical victories that unfolded across the state have not only mathematically helped potential liberal policies but the caliber of such policymakers is powerful.

“It was a big wake-up call for me that the quality of the people that I work with matters as much as the numbers, and this last year, or this last November, we elected a whole bunch of very good Democrats to the state House,” Sims said.

He highlighted newly-elected Summer Lee of the 34th district of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who was the first African American woman to ever win a seat in the General Assembly from the western half of the state.

Sims also mentioned newly-elected Malcolm Kenyatta, an openly gay North Philadelphian, who won the 181st District.

Not only have more minorities risen to positions of power, but the shift in blue was especially apparent in the southeastern region of the state, gaining more Democratic representation not only in Philadelphia but in the city’s immediate suburbs, including Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties.

For instance, Jordan Harris, who represents the 186th legislative district, was recently named as the minority whip in the state House, and Joanna McClinton, a Southwest Philadelphia resident representing the 191st House district, was elected as both the first woman and African American to chair the the state House Democratic Caucus.

“I am as excited about the fact that they are African American as I am about the fact that they are Philadelphian,” Sims said. “Our government has been generally operating under this idea that Philly just needed to be treated so separately from everybody else. Even though, I think we’re the best incubator of good ideas in the entire state.”

Sims and his audience discussed the imbalance of resources and funding Philadelphia bears and receives compared to the rest of the state. According to Sims, the city is responsible for one-third of the state’s discretionary budget. He says, for example, in Pennsylvania towns that don’t have their own police force and use state troopers instead, Philadelphia carries the finances.

Ideally, this new class will not only foster fairness for Philadelphians but, for Sims, will introduce legislation along the lines of his latest bills, which he plans to present in early 2019.

The first is a comprehensive sexual education bill that would require mandatory curriculums across the state, which would not only increase academic awareness on the subject but would cultivate healthy relationships of all kinds. The other is a ban on conversion therapy, stripping the licenses of medical professionals who practice the methods if the bill passes.

“There is a case to be made that American democracy, up until this point, has, for the most part, been reserved for a small number of wealthy white people, and while we can point to a few exceptions to that rule, it has, by in large, been a rule and that rule did not bear out this last election cycle,” Sims said. “We elected more women, we elected more people of color, we elected more people that know what the price of milk is, than anytime in U.S. history.”

Follow Grace on Twitter at @GraceMaiorano