I am a high school senior at J.R. Masterman hailing from the Point Breeze neighborhood, and a constituent of Rep. Jordan Harris. While I appreciate much of the work he has done so far in fields ranging from education to criminal justice, there are many pressing issues remaining in Pennsylvania, a couple of which I would like to address here and encourage him to focus on.
I had the privilege of voting for my first time last month in the Philadelphia general election; however, there was scarcely anyone present at my polling place aside from poll workers. Evidently, not enough people are exercising this crucial right, as Philadelphia only saw a voter turnout of 22% for November’s election, and a similar percentage in the May primaries. Something must be done to remedy such low voter turnouts, for the good of the city and the state.
I do notice that Harris has strived for improvements with regards to this, through such methods as cosponsoring HB 205 for automatic voter registration, HB 101 for same-day registration and HB 493 for extending the deadline for absentee voting. I hope that by making the voting process more convenient, such measures may increase turnout, but still more must be done to induce citizens to exercise their right to vote. I see in the representative’s work on education reform that he has cosponsored bills ensuring that public school students will learn about important subjects like consent (HB 1489) and conflict resolution (HB 2895); likewise, I think a similar measure would be appropriate to educate high school students on how to register to vote and prepare for elections. I fortunately received education of that nature this year, and I believe it is an essential lesson for all students.
On a different note, another important concern which I expect Rep. Harris to focus on in his future governmental service is environmental protection. The growing danger of climate change threatens our Earth, and Pennsylvania must do its part to ward it off. Harris has shown concern for this important issue, serving as a member of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in past sessions, and I appreciate his voting in opposition to a number of bills designed to remove regulations regarding the oil and gas industries and other pollution.
What I do question is Harris’s past role as co-chair of the Democratic Oil and Gas Caucus; I would expect this sort of thing to indicate support for oil and gas industries. Whatever his intent, I encourage him to advocate renewable energy sources over oil and gas, in order to reduce the effects of climate change. Although Pennsylvania has considerably increased its renewable energy production in recent years, we unfortunately remain behind other states, taking only 23rd place in the growth of solar power generation in the U.S.
I do appreciate Harris’s voting in favor of SB 234, supporting renewable energy in businesses, and his cosponsorship of HB 100, providing for transition to renewable energy. I was also interested by the Pennsylvania Local Solar Program Act (HB 1161), which could help extend access to solar energy, and was pleased to find that he had voted in favor of this as well. I hope
he will continue to support legislation for environmental protection; HB 1080 on renewable energy requirements and HB 1185 on energy efficiency seem to be promising measures which I urge him to vote for when the time comes.
I hope that Representative Harris will continue his efforts on the issues addressed above, for the good of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania overall.
– Zuza Jevremovic