Former Obama Advisor Says Time Is Now For Working Family Laws

Sep 20, 2019

On today's program: A former senior White House advisor is on her way to Pittsburgh; how recent headlines about Daylin Leach and Mike Folmer will affect the opening session of the Pennsylvania Senate; a federal policy shift could affect health outcomes for immigrant children; a veteran climate change activist says people should ask more from their governments; and how Pennsylvania students are (and aren't) taught about climate science.

Valerie Jarrett's latest act: women's health and closing voter gaps
(00:00 — 10:00) 

Valerie Jarrett has worn a lot of hats—organizing in Chicago, serving on private boards, running a hospital and advising the Obama family, including a long stint as senior advisor to the President himself. She now serves as president of the board of the national voter registration initiative When We All Vote, co-founded with former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Jarrett joins The Confluence's Megan Harris to discuss her hopes for the 2020 elections, how state and local governments can move the bar on equality and why she's speaking out on family issues like paid sick time, raising the minimum wage and affordable childcare.

"The time is right," Jarrett says. "Women are now over half the population, we're represented in the workforce equally, we're graduating from college at higher rates than men. It's about time that issues that have traditionally been looked at as a nice-to-do for women are becoming a business imperative for both men and women?" 

Jarrett is headlining Adagio Health's second annual Transforming Women's Health Symposium at the Omni William Penn Hotel on Tuesday. 

Pennsylvania Senate reeling into session after controversies
(10:13 — 16:10) 

The Pennsylvania Senate reconvenes Monday with a full slate but not a full roster.

Republican Sen. Mike Folmer will be absent after his resignation Wednesday. He was charged with four felonies stemming from alleged child pornography possession earlier in the week. 90.5 WESA's Katie Meyer says party leaders don't have a timeline for finding a replacement, and they're not sure how Folmer's many iniatives will be affected.

Senate Democrats also renewed calls this week for one of their long-serving members to resign. The caucus released a final report Thursday, conducted by outside firm Eckert Seamans, into sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Montgomery County Sen. Daylin Leach. Investigators say they don’t think Leach broke any laws or violated caucus policy, and Leach says he has no intention of resigning. He is currently fundraising for his reelection campaign. 

Policy change threatens parents of sick kids with deportation 
(17:45 — 22:17)

A decision by the federal government to stop granting medical deferred action requests, which some immigrants who need medical attention for themselves or their children have used to deter deportation, has raised the possibility that parents with kids being treated in the U.S. could be removed from the country.

Keystone Crossroads reporter Laura Benshoff found that ending medical deferred action was not formally announced, but applicants began receiving letters in August stating, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field offices no longer consider deferred action requests,” except for those from certain members of the military and their families. 

Benshoff spoke with families dealing with the consequences. 

Veteran climate activist offers his expertise
(22:21 — 28:13) 

As an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth, Rafe Pomerance was one of the first people to agitate for bipartisan action after reading a 1978 EPA report on coal.

"Warming in the Arctic was predicted in the models that it would be double or triple the global average," he says. "That’s happened. We would lose sea ice. That’s happened. The global temperature would rise. That’s happened. Glaciers would start to melt. That’s happened."

StateImpact Pennsylvania's Susan Phillips spoke with Pomerance about what's missing in modern climate education and what it's been like to watch what scientists predicted decades ago come to pass

Are Pennsylvania students learning about climate change?
(28:16 — 38:23)

In Pennsylvania, teaching climate science isn't required, which largely leaves climate education up to the teacher or a school district. That could soon change; Gov. Tom Wolf announced a plan last week to modernize Pennsylvania's science curriculum.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have already adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which have comprehensive climate change lessons from Kindergarten to 12th grade. The Allegheny Front's Andy Kubis takes a look at where the standards are now, and where they might be going. 

Then hear from Pittsburgh Public 10th grader Kayonia Sowell about her experience learning about climate chance, not from the classroom, but through her summer internship. Sowell says she hopes to educate herself and tell others what she finds.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.