Thank You for Your Continued Support in 2020 and Beyond
The PICPA government relations team thanks you for your commitment to our advocacy efforts throughout the 2020 year. As this trying year unfolded, the PICPA continued to provide the Wolf administration, our state lawmakers, and the public with the strategic leadership and technical expertise that only CPAs can provide. You played a significant role in contributing to these successes, and for that we say thank you!
As always, we aspire to build upon our successes and make each year better than the last. We are excited to report that 2020 was a very successful year for our advocacy efforts despite the many challenges that surfaced, and we could not have done it without you. The role you, the 20,000 members of the PICPA, play in advocating for your profession is invaluable. We are optimistic about the successes the new year will bring, and we thank you in advance for your continued support.
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Legislative Victory Achieved Despite Strange Times
The 2020 year began with a flurry of excitement: a presidential election topped the ticket of a highly anticipated election cycle and an ambitious agenda was set in motion by the PICPA government relations team. We were ready to take on the year … and then the unforeseen happened. A global pandemic shut down the country for weeks and consumed much of the Pennsylvania legislature’s attention, making the prospect of achieving other measures near impossible.
As our state went into lockdown and myriad questions arose, the PICPA government relations team did not let up. We realigned our priorities and worked with Gov. Tom Wolf’s office to declare CPAs “essential” after an initial ruling to the contrary. We fought to extend important individual and corporate tax deadlines to buy practitioners time to manage an increasingly complex workload. We organized Q&A sessions with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to ensure your questions did not go unanswered. We remained in constant communication with leaders from these regulatory bodies to provide you with additional clarity and guidance.
We also spearheaded legislative efforts through House Bills 2408 and 2497 to ensure that loans forgiven under the federal Paycheck Protection Program are exempt from state personal income tax. While neither bill made it across the finish line, they will be reintroduced this year as the legislative process begins anew. Rest assured, we will continue fighting to pass these measures.
Just as the 2019-2020 Pennsylvania General Assembly was winding down, an unexpected victory was achieved. State lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Wolf on Nov. 30, 2020, that would authorize state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow a carryover of excess continuing education credits. Now-retired state Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny), longstanding chair of the House Professional Licensure Committee, was the chief architect and legislative champion of the measure. Readshaw introduced similar legislation in each of the past two sessions (2015-2016 and 2017-2018) only to fall short on passage. This past session, both the House and Senate voted unanimously in favor of his bill, and Wolf signed the legislation on Nov. 25. It takes effect Jan. 24, 2021, and the PICPA will reach out to the State Board of Accountancy for regulatory details.
This year was unlike any other, catapulting us far from “business as usual.” But despite the challenges, we were able to achieve victories. We look forward to 2021 and are excited to continue working with our allies in the general assembly to achieve sound fiscal policy during these uncertain times.
Check out a full summary of the year’s advocacy resources.
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The Certified Public Accountant Political Action Committee (CPA-PAC) is a bipartisan, member-managed organization representing CPAs in public practice, industry, and government, as well as new and veteran members of the profession. CPA-PAC is the only PAC to specifically represent the interests of Pennsylvania CPAs.
The CPA-PAC plays a critical role in providing support for the election of candidates for statewide office in the state House and Senate, governor, attorney general, auditor general, and state Supreme Court justices. The CPA-PAC may also disburse funds to caucus committees, political party committees, and state organizations that may support PICPA’s legislative priorities.
In 2020, 203 seats in the Pennsylvania House, 25 seats in the state Senate, and three row offices were up for reelection. Thanks to generous contributions from PICPA members and firms, we raised just over $214,000 in voluntary contributions.
Your funds went to support about 100 candidates. Of those supported, 81 won, 6 lost, and 12 were not up for reelection in 2020. This year, $171,300 was disbursed to support the campaigns of candidates who endorse positions favorable to PICPA members. Disbursements were also made to the ChamberPAC and campaign finance committees for both parties. Contribution requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and addressed in a bipartisan manner.
As always, CPA-PAC supported our five current or former CPA legislators: Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Pike), Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster), Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), and Rep. Ben Sanchez (D-Montgomery). All will be returning to Harrisburg next year. In addition, CPA Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny) has joined the group in 2021. Sen. Pat Browne, CPA (R-Lehigh), was not on the ballot this year. These legislators are often our strongest allies in promoting and protecting the CPA profession.
While CPA-PAC’s and PICPA’s on-the-ground lobbying provides a critical one-two punch in achieving legislative success, it is very important to note that they are separate and distinct activities. CPA-PAC supports legislators who do not always vote the way PICPA would like them to. Long-term success in government relations is dependent on an organization’s ability to have a dialogue with members from all political persuasions, even after things don’t go your way.
Additional information will be provided in the 2020 CPA-PAC Annual Report that will be issued this spring.
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Virtual Town Halls Forge New Paths Forward
This spring we reported that we were exploring possible successors to PICPA’s long standing Day on the Hill program that is usually held in Harrisburg in May. It was not easy moving on from something that has been a part of the organization for so long, but the COVID-19 pandemic helped to force our hand. It became apparent that advocacy means changing direction and following new paths to success, especially since many of the previously traveled paths were no longer accessible. So, the PICPA government relations and chapter relations teams hosted a series of virtual town hall meetings in all 11 PICPA chapters this summer.
Our Legislator Town Hall series gave members throughout Pennsylvania an opportunity to hear from elected officials in an informal setting. Members were able to connect with leaders at the federal and state levels and ask them questions. Our guests this year included state Sens. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), John Blake (D-Lackawanna), John Gordner (R-Columbia), Scott Hutchinson (R-Venago), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks). From the state House, we hosted Reps. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh), and Jesse Topper (R-Bedford). We were also joined by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16th District). Kelly is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan mix of legislators included members of leadership, chairs of key tax writing committees of the state legislature, and rising stars in the General Assembly.
Advocacy takes many shapes and forms, but the one component that is critical to its success is the interaction between an organization’s membership and policymakers. This is important at both the state and federal levels of government. The bottom line is this: policymakers want to hear from their constituents, and they really want to hear from CPAs because you have your pulse on what is happening in our communities. To view a few of the Town Halls, see the Past Webinars section of our Advocacy Overview page.
We thank all the members who participated in our pilot virtual Legislator Town Hall series and encourage you to attend our next series of legislator town halls to be held at the end of February. Stay tuned for more information!
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PICPA Contributes to Big Victory in Federal Stimulus Package
On Dec. 21, 2020, Congress released the text of a $900 billion bill that includes additional pandemic relief. A lot still needs to be reviewed, but a few key provisions impacting small businesses and the profession are immediately apparent.
In particular, one big win is that PPP loan-related business expenses will be tax deductible. The PICPA joined with our fellow state CPA societies and the AICPA to educate our congressional delegations on the importance of this measure’s inclusion.
The recommendations provided by the profession were fair, reasonable, and practical, and they address the issues that taxpayers and tax practitioners are currently struggling with daily. Additionally, the measures the PICPA advocated for will help the IRS manage and reduce an already overwhelming backlog of mail that has slowed operations and led to unnecessary compliance actions against taxpayers.
While there is still much work to be done, we are pleased that some relief has been granted.
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New Session Starts Off Solemnly
Jan. 5, 2021 was swearing-in day for 202 members of the state House and 24 members of the state Senate. (Senate Republicans did not swear-in Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster of Allegheny County due to ongoing legal challenges in his reelection race against Republican Nicole Ziccarelli.)
The day is usually a festive one, particularly for newly elected legislators who are surrounded by family and supporters. This year’s ceremony was a noticeably solemn event due to COVID-19 restrictions. The swearing-in of members was conducted in shifts by both chambers to limit the number of people physically present on the floor of each chamber.
Additionally, the state legislature mourned the sudden passing of State Rep. Mike Reese. Reese was reelected Nov. 3 to represent the counties of Westmoreland and Somerset in Western Pennsylvania, and was subsequently elected to serve as chair of the party’s caucus. He was first elected to the seat in 2008. The PICPA sends our deepest condolences to Rep. Reese’s family.
As we look ahead to the legislative session in front of us, there are several legislative measures we are tracking and several goals on our legislative wish list. We are holding out hope that later this year we will return to some semblance of normal, but we are also prepared to roll with the punches and continue to adjust to the times.
As we embark on 2021, we are optimistic about the future. Undoubtedly there will be challenges, but by standing together we will thrive.
We wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and safe 2021!
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