UM legislative advocate reports on 2017 state issues

More state budget cuts that will hurt the poor, climate change and hydraulic fracking that undeniably hurt the environment, expansion of gambling, sanctuary versus detention for undocumented immigrants, nonpartisan fairness versus gerrymandering in state redistricting…the list of crucial issues for the new, 2017-2018 Pennsylvania legislative assembly is long. And the need for keen legislative monitoring and advocacy on behalf of United Methodists perhaps has never been greater.

The Rev. Dai Morgan, of the Pittsburgh area, has been reappointed and funded to continue leading that work in 2017 as Coordinator of UM Advocacy in Pennsylvania. He represents the three UM conferences, Eastern and Western PA and Susquehanna, and reports monthly to their three bishops.

“Perhaps the greatest amount of my time is occupied monitoring actions and activity of the state government,” said Morgan, who addressed all three annual conferences last year. “When appropriate, I meet or otherwise communicate with legislators and other officials. It is frequently useful for me to make connections with special interest organizations.”

A longtime advocate on hunger and other concerns, Morgan meets monthly in Harrisburg with an informal coalition of faith-based political advocates to network and share information, while also representing the UMC on the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

“The issues on which I was most active in 2016,” he reports, “were fracking and the environment, anti-payday loan efforts, ‘Dream Care’ health insurance for undocumented children, and ‘Safe Harbor’ prosecution protection for human trafficked minors.” But he plans to address other issues as well in 2017.

State’s most challenging priority

Creating a balanced state budget is the state assembly’s most challenging priority in this new session, Morgan reports. But a worsening deficit that may exceed $2 billion will make that task most daunting. “Residents—especially the poor—will likely feel the worst effects,” says Morgan, “but all may suffer eventually.”

Strategies being pursued or considered include:

  • Closing several of the state’s 26 prisons, starting with the 135-year-old one in Pittsburgh.
  • Consolidating four state agencies dealing with human services, health, drug and alcohol addiction and aging into one Department of Health & Human Services.
  • Closing or merging some of the 14 state-owned universities that face falling enrollments.
  • Expanding gambling, and resulting taxes and fees, especially with online and fantasy sports gaming.
  • Reducing the assembly’s its own, comparatively large 253-member size.

Moreover, the number of so-called “sanctuary cities” may increase to protect undocumented immigrants by limiting cooperation with federal government deportation efforts. But about 40 mostly-Central American, asylum-seeking families held for over a year in a Berks County detention center may soon find relief in a pending court decision. Morgan has been monitoring that cause, and Bishop Peggy Johnson may lead the weekly prayer vigil held by religious advocates outside the facility on Sunday, March 12.

We will begin posting links to Morgan’s informative (and worth-reading) monthly reports on the Advocacy page of the conference website. Anyone who wants to know more about his work in faith-based legislative advocacy may contact him at daimorgan@comcast.net or 412-595-6011. He is available to speak to churches and at conference and district events. Also, visit and comment on the UM Advocacy PA Facebook page.