Week Ending Oct. 23, 2020

Oct 23, 2020

State Lawmakers Wrap Up Busy Week of Session

State House and Senate lawmakers wrapped up a busy week in Harrisburg. The General Assembly is now in recess for the Nov. 3 general election.

Nearly two dozen bills were sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for his consideration. While this was the last scheduled week of the 2019-2020 session, lawmakers will be back in Harrisburg on Nov. 10 for caucus leadership elections. More legislative days may be added after the election to address some unfinished business, most notably finalizing a budget for the remaining seven-months of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

In May, the governor and state lawmakers agreed to a $25.8 billion partial-year spending plan for fiscal year 2020-2021, which began July 1. The budget was designed to provide five-months of funding, with a few exceptions, for most state programs and services. Full-year funding for many public education programs, higher education, debt service, and pension payments was allocated in the stop-gap budget. With the budget unfinished, the PICPA remains hopeful that its efforts to address state-level Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness (House Bills 2408 and 2497) will be part of the discussion.

The PICPA will host a Legislative Update webinar in December. Watch for details in the weeks to come.


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PICPA 2020 Pennsylvania Election Guide Now Available

To help PICPA members weigh the candidates on Pennsylvania ballots, the PICPA has prepared a 2020 Pennsylvania Election Guide.

PICPA’s guide provides nonpartisan information on candidates, from the president of the United States to members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate. You will also find information on the candidates for Pennsylvania’s three row offices -- attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer. We even provide information on the members of Pennsylvania’s “CPA Caucus.”

CPA-PAC, PICPA’s political arm, supports many of these candidates. Make an investment in CPA-PAC today.

Remember to vote on Nov. 3.


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Criminal Justice Reform Bill Heads to Governor

Record expungement legislation is on its way to Gov. Wolf’s desk after passing both the state House and Senate this week.

House Bill 440, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), provides an opportunity for individuals to have their record expunged if they have been unconditionally pardoned or fully acquitted of all charges, based on the same conduct or arising from the same alleged criminal incident. Under the proposal, Pennsylvanians will be notified of a potential expungement and have the chance to object and conduct a hearing.

The governor is expected to sign the legislation into law.


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Employee Misclassification Bill Approved by Lawmakers

A bill establishing a joint agency task force to address the misclassification of employees in Pennsylvania awaits Gov. Wolf’s action.

House Bill 716, sponsored by Rep. John Galloway (D-Bucks), would amend the Administrative Code of 1929 to establish the Joint Agency Task Force on Misclassification of Employees. The task force would examine the state's current classification and enforcement system and make recommendations to strengthen enforcement and educate employers and the public about employee classification. 


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Bill Creates New Commerce Court

Legislation that includes a measure to create a statewide commerce court is headed to Gov. Wolf’s desk for consideration. The proposal was championed by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), who amended his proposal (House Bill 332) into Senate Bill 976.

The initiative allows the state Supreme Court to create Commerce Courts in counties across the state to provide uniformity when intricate business legal matters are brought before the courts. These programs have judges dedicated to hearing and deciding business-related cases. The specialized courts would handle complex business cases, including acquisitions, mergers, dissolutions and liquidations, among other items.

In addition, Senate Bill 976 would codify Veterans Courts into law. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Regan (R-Cumberland), would allow Veterans Courts to permit participation by veterans from adjacent counties and allow county Common Pleas Courts that have other problem-solving courts to establish “Veterans Tracks,” programs that utilize some components of a Veterans Court.


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Measure Would Boost Availability of Broadband

Lawmakers approved legislation to boost the availability of broadband by using existing infrastructure to further deploy high-speed internet.

House Bill 2438, sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga), would aid in expanding broadband access by using infrastructure that is already in place for other uses. The bill would allow electric cooperatives to use existing utility poles to place fiber-optic lines if the placement does not adversely affect the value or use of the property. 


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Taxpayers Protection Proposal Finalized

House Bill 885, sponsored by Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny), removes the ability of contracting bodies to accept alternative securities, and limits contracting bodies to the following acceptable options:

  • Performance bonds
  • Federal or Commonwealth chartered lending institution irrevocable letter of credit
  • Funds in an escrow or restrictive account in a lending institution

The legislation amends the Public Works Contractors’ Bond Law of 1967, which requires certain financial securities for public contracts more than $10,000.

A contractor must secure two of the approved financial security options:

  • One equal to 100% of the contract amount, conditioned on the performance of the contract. This is for the protection of the governing body that awarded the contract.
  • One equal to 100% of the contract amount to cover the cost of materials and labor. This is for the protection of the subcontractor against failure to receive payment from the prime contractor.

The Public Works Contractor’s Bond Law of 1967 establishes a uniform and mandatory system governing the requirement of bonds furnished by contractors in the prosecution of any public building or other public work or public improvement, including road work. Under current law, the posting of “any financial security, acceptable to and approved by the contracting body” has enabled projects to go forward at the local level without adequate security.

House Bill 885 is on Gov. Wolf’s desk awaiting his signature. 


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Bills Would Improve COVID-19 Reporting

Two bills to improve the reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania are on their way to the governor to be signed into law. The bills are focused on protecting first responders and ensuring all COVID-19 deaths are reported and investigated properly.

Under Senate Bill 1110, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), the Pennsylvania Department of Health and local health agencies would be required to notify 911 centers of the address of any known positive case of a communicable, aerosolized, and transmissible disease. The legislation would ensure the information is provided to law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, emergency medical services personnel, medical examiners, and coroners when they are called to carry out an essential job function at the address.

In addition, Senate Bill 1164, sponsored by Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair), would ensure county coroners are notified of all suspected deaths in their jurisdiction caused by this virus and other contagious diseases that constitute a health emergency. The bill would ensure coroners can investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding any death and eliminate inconsistencies in how COVID-19 deaths are being reported. 


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House Fails to Override Veto of Restaurant Bill

By a vote of 133 to 69, the state House failed to override Gov. Wolf's veto of a bill that would have loosened pandemic-related capacity restrictions for restaurants in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 2513, sponsored by Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), aimed to roll back several pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants imposed by Wolf in mid-July.

Following the vote in the House, Wolf announced a plan to waive liquor license fees to provide financial relief to restaurants and bars that have faced significant financial impacts during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Wolf noted that he is working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to waive standard licensing fees through 2021 starting on Jan. 1, 2021.


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