Shirley M. Kitchen was elected to the Senate of Pennsylvania on November 5, 1996 and represents the 3rd District. She subsequently won four-year terms in November 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
The second African American woman to be elected to the state senate, Senator Kitchen serves as the Democratic Chair for the Public Health and Welfare Senate Committee. She is also a member of the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Policy, Transportation, Urban Affairs and Housing and Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness. Since 2005, Sen. Kitchen has served as Chairperson of the Philadelphia Senate Delegation.
Sen. Kitchen’s crusade on behalf of the poor and the downtrodden has been a long and fruitful one. She has been a member of groups that battle for daycare funding, ensure housing for low-income families, create community job opportunities and fight against redlining and predatory lending.
In 2005, Sen. Kitchen sponsored a bill giving Pennsylvania National Guard families top priority in obtaining subsidized child care.
Sen. Kitchen was instrumental in creating, in partnership with the Temple University Center for Social Policy and Community Development and the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an adolescent suicide prevention pilot project in North Philadelphia. The program provided education, counseling, and prescription drug treatment (when necessary) for teenagers who are at risk for suicide or mental illness. In 2006, she was honored with the Distinguished Service—Community Impact Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Tri-State Region.
Sen. Kitchen introduced legislation that would provide families who receive welfare benefits with opportunities to seek post-secondary education in order to attain self-sufficiency. She was appointed to a 70-member Task Force for Working Families, which helps Pennsylvania families build their incomes, become better informed about financial issues and safeguard themselves from investment scams. Sen. Kitchen has held numerous seminars on housing, avoiding foreclosure and other consumer financial issues. Sen. Kitchen was also appointed to the Advisory Committee on Geriatric and Seriously Ill Inmates and the Pennsylvania Leadership Academy, which is sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government.
In light of rash incidents where a noose was used to intimidate or send a threatening message to African-American individuals, Senator Kitchen recently introduced “Anti-Noose” legislation aiming to end this practice. Senate Bill 1294 would make it a crime to intentionally or recklessly display a noose or use the symbol in a manner to intimidate or endanger any individual through its display.
In March 2006, Senator Kitchen introduced legislation that would increase penalties for intimidating crime witnesses or victims. Senate Bill 1126 would increase the penalty from a third- to second-degree felony when a criminal uses force or bribery or threatens force to intimidate a witness. Repeat offenders would also face a second-degree felony charge. The penalty for all other cases would be upgraded from a second- to first-degree misdemeanor. Under the current statute, witness intimidation is a first-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, is the case involved is a first-degree felony or first- or second-degree murder. Witness intimidation is a second-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if the case involved is a second-degree felony.
Thanks to Sen. Kitchen, Philadelphia visitors of state correctional facility inmates can receive subsidized bus rates through a program provided by the Pennsylvania Prison Society and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Dedicated to the environment, she brought the Global Action Plan: Green Communities to Philadelphia to educate the public and keep the environment clean and safe for each new generation. Sen. Kitchen was also appointed to the Green Ribbon Commission.
Sen. Kitchen believes that urban modernization is a crucial step toward making Pennsylvania a clean energy leader. At her request, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee held a public hearing in March 2010 in Philadelphia to discuss the significance of urban modernization. The participants offered perspectives concerning modernization in building, infrastructure development and policy initiatives. It is estimated that energy efficiency can meet 30 percent of the total energy demand in Pennsylvania in a cost effective manner, save the state $5 billion a year and create 27,000 new full-time jobs by 2025. Recognizing these benefits, in 2009 Sen. Kitchen authored Senate Bill 21 that would create the Green Work Force Training Program, which would promote job training related to energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.
For the past several years during the winter heating season, Sen. Kitchen, working in partnership with the Energy Coordinating Agency, hosts Energy Conservation Workshops throughout her District, educating her constituents on weatherizing their homes and conserving energy.
Sen. Kitchen provided critical political leadership for over $1 billion in community and economic development for her district, including but not limited to, three (3) supermarkets, strip malls and affordable and decent housing.
Sen. Kitchen also co-sponsored the Pennsylvania Health Center and Clinic Act, which created a grant program designed to improve the quality of care in Pennsylvania’s local health centers and health care clinics. She also fought for more AIDS funding. Sen. Kitchen was also named Honorary Chair of AIDS Education Month, sponsored by Philadelphia FIGHT.
The Philadelphia Senator led the effort in getting more funding for Pennsylvania’s death row inmates so they can receive better legal representation at trial and during appeals.
She is particularly involved in drug recovery treatment for prisoners, second chances for non-violent ex-offenders and affordable prescription drugs for seniors. Sen. Kitchen co-sponsored legislation establishing intermediate punishment guidelines, which allows eligible offenders to undergo drug rehabilitation and other alternative treatment options. Senate Bill 217 passed the General Assembly and was signed into law as Act 112 of 2004.
In January 2006, Senator Kitchen introduced legislation that would slow the revolving doors of prison and make it easier for non-violent ex-offenders to obtain gainful employment. Her Second Chance legislation sought to amend current state law, which allows employers to view and consider applicants’ criminal history information when making hiring decisions.
She is the co-sponsor of Act 134, signed by governor Rendell on Nov. 26, 2008, which allows individuals with summary offenses to request that their local court expunge an offense from their criminal record five years after they completed their sentence.
In October 2008, Sen. Kitchen authored Senate Resolution 367, which authorized a report on the balance of probation and parole officers across the state to make sure that our probation and parole officers have the proper tools to perform their job effectively. The resolution directed the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to identify relevant inequities in funding distribution, caseload assignment, hiring, training and retention, offender supervision levels and frequency of contacts. The Senate approved the resolution.
Raising the state’s minimum wage, affordable healthcare, equal pay for women and increased funding for libraries are just a few of the causes Sen. Kitchen continues to champion.
Sen. Kitchen has served as the Director of Constituent Services for Philadelphia City Council; served in the House of Representatives upon the death of the Honorable Alfonso Deal; and was the executive director of the Ludlow Neighborhood Advisory Committee, a community-based neighborhood rehabilitation group committed to revitalizing Eastern North Philadelphia.
Sen. Kitchen has served as the ward leader for the 20th Ward for over 26 years. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services from Antioch University. She also received certificates in economic development, behavior modification and child care from Temple University. She was born south of the Mason Dixon Line in Augusta, Georgia but calls North Philadelphia home having been raised there. She is the proud mother of five adult children.