Grinding out victories in the Pennsylvania General Assembly is not for those who have an aversion for the rough-and-tumble. A quick inventory of the 2017-2018 session (which closed Nov. 30, 2018) shows that 3,949 separate pieces of legislation were introduced between the House (2,688) and Senate (1,261). Of the bills introduced in 2017-2018, only 276 (7.0 percent) made it through the process and were signed or became law.
The PICPA had a very successful 2017-2018 legislative session. The PICPA initiated three bills that became law and assisted on several other significant initiatives. We also testified numerous times before standing state House and Senate committees, offered technical input on numerous bills and amendments, and provided written comments on various proposed regulations. The PICPA held meetings with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (DOR) and assisted the department in crafting new bonus depreciation forms and instructions. The PICPA also hosted a series of quarterly legislative update webinars, several in conjunction with the DOR.
PICPA’s successes in the state capital are a team effort that combines the day-to-day lobbying and information-gathering activities of PICPA’s Harrisburg-based government relations staff with our tremendous volunteer-led committees that are the heart and soul of PICPA’s advocacy efforts. Without these passionate, committed thought leaders, PICPA’s voice on behalf of our nearly 22,000 members would be significantly diminished. A special thanks must go out to the members of PICPA’s State Taxation, Federal Taxation, Local Government Accounting and Auditing, and Legislation committees, and the CPA-PAC Board (PICPA’s political arm).
Here is a look at some of PICPA’s significant accomplishments this past legislative session:
- Overcame a gubernatorial veto from the previous session (2015-2016) to pass reforms to Act 32 of 2008. Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill (HB) 866 on May 4, 2018. Now Act 18 of 2018, the law marks the culmination of a four-year effort led by Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland) and the PICPA to address inconsistencies and the potential for double taxation on the local income of Pennsylvania residents.
- Led the effort to pass legislation (Act 72 of 2018) that allows depreciation deductions for corporate taxpayers that take 100 percent bonus depreciation for federal income tax purposes. Senate Bill 1056 disallows the federal bonus depreciation deduction from taxable income and provides an additional deduction. The law also reverses Pennsylvania Corporate Tax Bulletin 2017-02, which disallowed all depreciation on certain property.
- Secured the passage of much-needed amendments to Pennsylvania’s Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act. Act 71 of 2017 (HB 1420) raises the thresholds for an audit, review, or compilation of financial reports required to be submitted by charitable organizations. Act 72 of 2017 (HB 1421) clarifies that annual registration statements for charitable organizations must be based on the postmark date instead of the date received at the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations.
- Championed state pension reform. PICPA-backed legislation (Act 5 of 2017) amends pension provisions, allowing new state employees and lawmakers to choose between three retirement options.
- Supported Act 6 of 2018, which allows for the expungement of minor violations from the disciplinary records of CPAs and other state licensees.
- Joined with Pennsylvania State Treasurer Joe Torsella in supporting the Keystone Scholars program, a PA 529 College Savings Program designed to assist families with future higher education expenses.
- Hosted two successful Day on the Hill events, where members from across Pennsylvania came to the state capitol to lobby their lawmakers on various bills of interest to the PICPA.
- Responded to multiple exposure drafts and other pronouncements by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.
- Supported, through the CPA-PAC, the reelection efforts of the five members of the “CPA Caucus”: Sen. Patrick M. Browne, CPA (R-Lehigh), and Reps. Michael T. Peifer, CPA (Inactive) (R-Pike, Wayne), George S. Dunbar, CPA (Inactive) (R-Westmoreland), Keith J. Greiner, CPA (R-Lancaster), and Francis X. Ryan, CPA (R-Lebanon).
- Worked through the PA Coalition for Civil Justice Reform to improve the state’s civil justice system.
- Continued to defend against the implacable threat of a sales tax on professional services.
When it comes to the public policy arena, success can be fleeting. The PICPA can only briefly enjoy the successes of the 2017-2018 legislative session. The General Election brought a whole new set of players whom we will have to meet when the 2019-2020 session kicks off in early January. Our work begins anew.
Peter N. Calcara is PICPA vice president of government relations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Alexandra C. Fabian is PICPA manager of government relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.