State Rep. O’Brien Explains His Plan For Upcoming Legislative Session
At the start of 2017, it was announced that State Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Phila., will serve as Democratic chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session. He is the first chairman from the 175th Legislative District in more than 30 years.
The 175th Legislative District covers the areas in Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Kensington.
“[It’s] humbling and exhilarating. Every step along the way should bring that rush and excitement of getting into it,” Rep. O’Brien told Spirit News upon being named the new chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee. “I will be working to advance legislation to help Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s other cities. I appreciate the Democratic leadership entrusting me with this important position.”
Rep. O’Brien is the incumbent state representative for the 175th District, having first been elected to the General Assembly in 2006. On January 3, 2017, Rep. O’Brien was again sworn into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, unopposed for the 2017-2018 legislative term.
The Urban Affairs Committee oversees bills pertaining to the general governance of Pennsylvania’s cities and most-populated counties, and the operations of housing and redevelopment agencies, municipal authorities — and common-interest ownership communities such as condominiums, real estate cooperatives and planned communities. Additionally, the committee handles legislation related to manufactured housing and economic and community development.
“The committee establishes a link between the state and the cities. For instance, when the commercial areas fell upon hard times and businesses were closing, the state initiated a program called Main Street. The municipality and state targeted an area and brought in the resources needed to revitalize it,” Rep. O’Brien told Spirit News.
Rep. O’Brien plans to continue the positive work of the Urban Affairs Committee and build on the previous successes that the committee has delivered in the past. The committee has a long history of working to develop measures to eradicate blight and stimulate the commercial and residential revitalization of the state’s older communities.
“The economy has been very good to the district over the years. Not so long ago we were dealing with drug houses and nuisance bars. Now those properties are selling for half a million dollars. But we still have portions of the district that need a hand up. I was able to facilitate a project to build low- and moderate-cost housing. I will continue with my passion for urban greening,” Rep. O’Brien said.
Along with being chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee, Rep. O’Brien still holds the responsibility of being the 175th District representative, having many issues he wants to address in the coming legislative session.
According to www.pahouse.com, Rep. O’Brien’s main priorities for the 2017-2018 legislative session include raising the state’s minimum wage, restoring more education funding, building the legislature’s support for opioid addiction treatment and protecting Pennsylvania’s air and water from environmental hazards while supporting clean energy developments.
“An issue that plays an important role on the state and local level is clean and potable water,” Rep. O’Brien told Spirit News.
While the new position as chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee will bring with it challenges, as an experienced state politician, Rep. O’Brien has a solid agenda with strong policies aimed at benefitting and facilitating the progress of urban areas such as Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Kensington in order for them to thrive.
Rep. O’Brien also serves as the vice chair of the State Government Committee and sits on the Consumer Affairs Education and Health and Policy committees as well as the Select Committee on Ethics.
Prior to his election to the House, O’Brien served as chief of staff to his predecessor in the 175th District, Rep. Marie Lederer, for 12 years. He lives in Fishtown with his wife, Rita, a Philadelphia schoolteacher. They are the parents of two grown children. •