By Alexandra Fabian, manager, government relations, and Peter Calcara, vice president, government relations
This past year was truly one for the books, full of both highs and lows. The PICPA government relations team and its key standing committees played a vital role in shaping the debate on tax and related policy initiatives in Pennsylvania throughout 2016. As a technical resource and strategic partner with state lawmakers and regulatory agencies, the PICPA and its 22,000 members are an important voice in Harrisburg’s public policy arena.
The year in Harrisburg began with much uncertainty as the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget fight had unprecedently dragged into the new year. With no budget in place for the fiscal year that began in July 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf went before a joint session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in early February 2016 to lay out his budget and legislative priorities for the next budget year as negotiations were ongoing for the previous budget. As the legislature began their annual budget hearings the impasse dragged on. In March, the lawmakers presented Wolf with another 2015-2016 budget.
While the governor wouldn’t sign the Republican $30.3 billion plan, he let it become law without his signature or the accompanying fiscal code, which he vetoed. His decision ended one of the longest budget impasses in modern times. Come June, the Pennsylvania legislature found itself in the midst of another heated budget debate. Luckily, the clouds of gridlock that previously existed dissipated just in time for the budget to pass hours before the June 30 deadline. The $31.63 billion spending bill for fiscal year 2016-2017 made significant investments in education and allocated funds to combat heroin and opioid addiction. Lawmakers left much undone on the revenue side, but they returned to finalize it in July with a $1.3 billion revenue package. Included in the package was a provision sought by the PICPA and its Committee on State Taxation, which added a new section that will provide a process to file amended reports for corporate net income tax (Act 84 of 2016).
The legislature returned in the fall with few session days to finish a lengthy agenda, including two of PICPA’s legislative priorities, Senate Bill 1018 and House Bill 245, which were approved by both chambers just days before the legislature adjourned on Nov. 30. Senate Bill 1018, which modernizes the CPA Law, was signed by Wolf and is now Act 157 of 2016. HB 245, which addresses practitioner issues with Act 32 of 2008, the earned income tax collection reform law, was unexpectedly vetoed by Wolf. His surprise action was disappointing, but the PICPA will work to have this protaxpayer bill reintroduced in the new session. The PICPA’s fight to protect taxpayers from aggressive tax collectors must continue.
Another bill championed by the PICPA and signed into law amends Pennsylvania Title 15 by replacing the existing laws on general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies with uniform laws. The PICPA was part of a diverse group of organizations – including the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses – who sought passage of House Bill 1398, now Act 170 of 2016.
One of the most contentious election seasons of all time, on both the state and national level, came to a head this fall. Following the 2016 Pennsylvania elections the PICPA had much to celebrate. Four CPA legislators — Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Pike, Wayne), Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), and Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster) — maintained their seats in the state House, and CPAs Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) and Michael Corr (R-Montgomery) joined them, winning their bids for the state House. CPA- PAC, the PICPA’s political arm, played a significant role in the 2016 elections. Over 95 percent of the candidates supported by CPA-PAC were victorious in their elections, including Attorney General-elect Josh Shapiro, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, and Treasurer-elect Joseph Torsella.
It also was an extremely busy year for the PICPA government relations team, who in coordination with its four standing committees (State Taxation, Federal Taxation, Legislation, and Local Government Auditing and Accounting) reviewed and commented on numerous federal and state legislative proposals as well as regulatory initiatives.
As 2016 came to a close, the PICPA joined a group of business and health care organizations as a founding member of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform. Coalition members include the National Federation of Independent Business, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, and the PICPA. The new PCCJR is dedicated to improving the state's civil justice system by elevating awareness of problems and advocating for legal reform in the legislature and fairness in the courts. The coalition will work together with other advocates for civil justice fairness – to ensure our elected officials understand the extent of the problems and the importance of acting now to address them.
The PICPA government relations team sends a weekly Legislative Update newsletter and holds free update webinars throughout the year. As you prepare for 2017, here’s a look back at the top five Legislative Update stories of 2016:
If you are interested in staying apprised of the happenings in Harrisburg and want notice of upcoming webinars, you can sign up here.
The new legislative session begins Jan. 3 with a new set of players, new challenges, and new opportunities to move forward. The House has the largest Republican majority since 1957-1958, and the Republicans now hold a veto proof supermajority in the Senate. There are many opportunities to get involved in PICPA’s government affairs activities throughout the year. Whether it be through a donation to the CPA-PAC (the only PAC that specifically represent the interests of CPAs in Pennsylvania), participating in our Key Contact Program, or by attending our annual Day on the Hill event each spring.
We urge you to consider the important role you can play in advocating for your profession.
Happy holidays from the PICPA government relations team!