City Council focuses on abortion rights during first Fall session

City Council
City Council President Darrell Clarke is the main sponsor of a bill to provide a tax credit for volunteer hours.
Metro file

City Council, down four members who resigned to run for mayor, opened its fall session Thursday with a slate of proposals, including a tax credit for volunteer hours and a package to protect access to abortion.

Legislation was also introduced to shift Philadelphia’s curfew and to hold hearings to examine reports that teenagers and young adults were paid late or not at all for city-sponsored summer jobs.

The tax credit would allow city residents to apply for a $5-an-hour rebate for time spent volunteering toward their property or wage taxes, up to $1,000 and not exceeding their total tax bill.

Under the bill, authored by Council President Darrell Clarke, those looking to give back would only be able to apply the credit to one of their taxes.

“Over the summer, we watched so many volunteers doing things to benefit their neighborhoods – with no compensation expected or received,” Clarke said in a statement. “We wanted to be able to do something for these volunteers, and to inspire more volunteer community service across Philadelphia.”

Four pieces of legislation were introduced at Thursday’s virtual meeting to bolster abortion access following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania up until 24 weeks of pregnancy; and some of the bills address concerns that states outlawing or restricting the procedure could pursue legal action against patients receiving care in Philadelphia and local providers.

The legislative package would prevent sharing of information that could be used to identify patients seeking reproductive care; create the ability for people sued for legal abortions that occurred in Philadelphia to respond with legal action; and add “reproductive health autonomy” to a list of protected classes for workplace discrimination.

In addition, a sweeping resolution would guarantee that city funding is not used to aid investigations or lawsuits involving the criminalization of abortion in other jurisdictions.

“Philadelphia will be doing all we can to protect all those who seek to exercise their legal rights within our city,” Councilmember Helen Gym said Thursday.

City Councilwoman Helen GymMetro file

Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson also offered a bill to permanently extend changes made to the city’s curfew over the summer.

In June, during Council’s last meeting, lawmakers approved changing the curfew from midnight to 10 p.m. for 16 and 17 year olds through Sept. 29. The legislation introduced Thursday would continue that arrangement indefinitely.

Times for younger children — 10 p.m. for 14 and 15 year olds and 9:30 p.m. for 13 and under — will remain the same under the proposal.

Much of the legislation, including the tax credit and abortion-related bills, must go through a hearing process before a final Council vote.

Members did approve a resolution Thursday to hold hearings about payment issues affecting Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady summer jobs program after reports surfaced in the Inquirer.

Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who sponsored the legislation, said he had heard from parents on social media and called the missing payments “an embarrassment.” The hearings on the program have not yet been scheduled.

Council will return to City Hall next week for an in-person meeting for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.