Coronavirus Mitigation Takes Hold in the State

As virtually everyone must know by now, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has invaded our state, and our nation. The state and federal governments have taken strong action to “mitigate” and contain the virus, resulting in a total change of life for many Pennsylvanians. As of this writing, Gov. Wolf has enacted stay-at-home orders for 33 counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Forest, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland and York counties. All stay-at-home orders are now extended through April 30.

All individuals in counties subject to this policy must STAY AT HOME except for certain essential activities and work to provide life-sustaining business and government services.

The order has caused significant issues for many employers in industries and occupations across the board. The Department of Community and Economic Development is wading through thousands of applications for waivers from closure. A list of life-sustaining businesses can be found here (updated March 24, 2020).

To request a waiver to keep your location open, please submit this form. All decisions will be communicated by email and will balance public health, safety, and the security of our industry supply chains supporting life-sustaining businesses.

On March 26, Governor Tom Wolf announced that new funding is available to help small businesses impacted by through a new program under the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s (PIDA) Small Business First Fund, the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA).

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) recently authorized the transfer of $40 million to the Small Business First Fund for CWCA. PIDA authorized making $60 million available to provide loans of $100,000 or less to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. Funds are expected to become available shortly. For the purposes of this program a retail or service enterprise is defined as a for-profit business entity that is involved in the business-to-business service, business-to-public service, mercantile, commercial, or point of sale retail sectors.

All loan applications must be submitted through a Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO). For the list of CEDO’s operating within Pennsylvania, please refer to

Businesses seeking guidance from DCED can also contact its customer service resource account at For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should follow and

Construction Is and Isn’t Exempt from State Shutdown

The statewide shutdown by Governor Wolf has been a moving target since the earliest days of the Coronavirus cases showing up in Pennsylvania.  Initially, all construction was exempt, but only a few days later the shutdown list was expanded and construction in general was no longer considered “life sustaining” (however HVAC manufacturing is listed as exempt).  Work by architects, engineers and land surveyors is also shutdown unless the work can be done remotely.

Over the last few weeks clarity has improved as certain types of projects have been recognized as essential based on the nature of the work (e.g. hospitals).  There is also a waiver application process through which individual companies may get an exemption.  Those exemptions were slow coming as the state was inundated with thousands of exemption applications.   Some projects are proceeding based on exemptions.   Recently, the Governor named a few highway projects to continue as part of critical infrastructure.

The confusion and frustration in Pennsylvania has been exasperated in large part because other states (New York, New Jersey, Maryland) have exempted construction almost entirely. In fact, Pennsylvania has the most restrictive construction order in the nation.  That has led to intense lobbing efforts by certain groups to pass a bill to allow all construction to continue.  Home builders and highway construction groups have been the most vocal.  As a result, the Speaker of the House, Mike Turzai is planning on introducing a bill (House Bill 2400) to allow all construction to continue.  The bill is not yet printed but it is likely to be introduced on April 6.  At this time it isn’t clear if the Governor will support such a bill.  If he does, he could expedite the process by simply expanding his exempt list to include construction.  Stay tuned….

House and Senate Amend Rules to Allow for Remote Voting on Bills

As COVID-19 continued its spread throughout the commonwealth, lawmakers returned to Harrisburg the week of March 16 under a completely altered set of circumstances from when they left in February for budget hearings.

Gov. Tom Wolf had issued a ban on visitors, limiting Capitol access to lawmakers, “essential” staff and media. Most legislative staff were asked to work from home.

Lawmakers themselves will now be able to work remotely, with rules passed unanimously March 16 that allow House members to vote via their caucus whips, and instituting a three-hour rule on legislative processes. The new rules also allow legislators to send mailers to constituents about the emergency declaration, something that would be normally barred this close to an election.

The new rules also apply to committee meetings and hearings as well, with lawmakers communicating votes to their relevant committee chair. Measures that can be voted on via proxy must be agreed upon by both parties.

Rep. Roni Green (D-Philadelphia) was sworn in March 17, accompanied by just her two daughters, instead of the usual tradition of including her extended family and friends in the celebrations due to the virus. Green’s swearing-in came in front of a half-full chamber, with most all Democratic members opting to remain in their offices unless absolutely necessary.

As for what legislation is taken up when the bodies reconvened, a multi-bill package that included telemedicine legislation and a bill from Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) that would plow table game revenue into a “a zero interest small business economic injury loan program” run by the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Senate lawmakers will also have the ability to case votes remotely, as well as conduct more business electronically under a resolution passed March 18 to cope with the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania.

The Senate changes are similar to those approved by their House colleagues earlier this week, as lawmakers anticipate legislative responses to the coronavirus pandemic to help support health officials, businesses and bureaucrats.

Senators currently have a limited ability to vote via proxy, although a quorum would still need to be present. The  rule changes would expand that to allow lawmakers to behave “as if the members were physically present at the session of the Senate.”

The changes also allow for remote voting in committee hearings, as well as allow for hearings to be held via conference call or similar technologies. Committees could also be temporarily filled with members for in-person meetings if the need to establish a quorum should arise. Corman said that the provisions would be used in the near term only for legislation related to the pandemic, although that could change if the crisis drags on. Corman specifically cited the need for holding discussions on changing the state’s presidential primary and negotiating the budget remotely.

House Republicans Sweep Three Special Elections on St. Patrick’s Day

Republicans won a pair of special elections in western Pennsylvania and one in Bucks County on March 17, allowing the House GOP to refill its majority that Democrats sought to narrow after three Republican lawmakers resigned to take local posts at the beginning of this year.

In the race to fill Westmoreland County’s 58th district seat, Republican Eric Davanzo cruised by upset-minded Robert Prah Democrats had hoped that Prah, an Iraq-war veteran, volunteer firefighter and director of Military and Veterans Affairs at California University of Pennsylvania, could make a run at returning a traditionally blue district to their column. For over 50 years Democrats had held the seat, until 2016, when Rep. Justin Walsh beat incumbent Ted Harhai to flip the seat. The area went squarely for Donald Trump that year and Scott Wagner defeated Gov. Tom Wolf there by two points in 2018. A union carpenter, Davanzo toed a line during his campaign, touting his ties to building trades while also promoting traditional conservative planks, touting his pro-life and pro-gun bonafides. Job creation was a key part of both candidate’s campaigns.

“I feel that our region has been forgotten about and I think we could do better. Let’s make sure we can give people the tools to succeed,” Davanzo told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

While there were concerns that restrictions announced by Gov. Tom Wolf Monday to crack down on coronavirus transmission would prevent voters from heading to the polls, the Westmoreland County Board of Elections reported turnout of roughly 18 percent. Davanzo and Prah are likely to meet again in November, with both having filed petitions to run in the rescheduled June 2 primaries, and presumably the general election in November.

Democrats hoped to stage an upset victory in the Mercer County-based 8th House District, which has remained in Republican hands for over five decades. Ultimately, it was not to be, as Tim Bonner, an experienced litigator and local government solicitor, coasted to victory over Democrat Phil Heasley, by over 2,000 votes. Bonner will fill a seat previously held by Rep. Tedd Nesbit, who elected to the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas in 2019. The longtime attorney will head to Harrisburg with years of experience counseling school boards and local government entities. He also served for nearly two decades as an assistant district attorney for Mercer County, where he had a 98 percent conviction rate.

Republican Kathleen “KC” Tomlinson won the 18th House district special election held on March 17, defeating Harold “Howie” Hayes, in the contest to fill the Bucks County seat vacated by long-time moderate Republican Gene DiGirolamo.

PUC Recognizes National Safe Digging Month

In conjunction with April’s recognition of National Safe Digging Month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission issued a press release that reminded consumers, businesses and contractors of the importance of identifying underground infrastructure before digging – to help ensure safety – and urged homeowners to delay the beginning of their spring digging projects during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
To view this press release in its entirety, select the following link:

Legislative Activity

The following bills and co-sponsorship memos of interest to contractors were introduced and acted upon in the General Assembly this past month.

Bidding / Contracting
HB 885
  RE: Performance Bonds (by Rep. Valerie Gaydos, et al)

Amends the Public Works Contractors’ Bond Law further providing for duty of prime contractor to provide financial security in certain contracts involving public works and public improvements. The bill requires financial security in the form of a payment bond, performance bond, federal or commonwealth chartered lending institution irrevocable letter of credit or restrictive or escrow account in such lending institution, equal to 100 percent of the contract amount, conditioned upon the faithful performance of the contract in accordance with the plans, specifications and conditions of the contract. Such financial security shall be solely for the protection of the contracting body which awarded the contract. Applies to contracts exceeding $50,000.

Removed from the table, amendments withdrawn, read second time, and rereferred to House Appropriations Committee, 3/25/2020

Budget Related Bills
HB 1822
  RE: Local Government Capital Project Loan Program (LGCPLP) (by Rep. Mark Keller, et al)

Amends the Fiscal Code, in Local Government Capital Project Loan Fund, establishing that the definition of municipality excludes towns with a population with an excess of 15,000 residents, increasing the limitation on the amount of a loan for purchasing equipment to $150,000, and increasing the amount of a loan for purchasing constructing or rehabilitating facilities to $250,000; providing that the interest rate of loans is set at the 10-year United States Treasury rate rounded to the nearest quarter point and that money lent cannot be in excess of 15 years.

Removed from the table, 3/24/2020
Amended on House floor, read second time, and rereferred to House Appropriations Committee, 3/25/2020
SB 1093
  RE: Capital Budget (by Sen. Patrick Browne, et al)

An Act providing for the capital budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021. This act shall take effect July 1, 2020, or immediately, whichever is later.

Introduced and referred to Senate Appropriations Committee, 3/13/2020

COVID-19 Related Legislation
HB 68
  RE: Emergency Unemployment Relief (by Rep. Frank Ryan, et al)

Amends the Unemployment Compensation Law, in contributions by employers and employees, further providing for relief from charges. The bill establishes that the department shall relieve an employer of charges for compensation if the request is filed within 21 days (changed from 15 days). Adds language providing that each employer, whether or not liable for the payment of contributions under the act, shall provide notification of the availability of unemployment compensation to the employer’s employes at the time of separation from employment. Lays out required minimum contents for notices. Adds a new article providing for emergency provisions related to COVID-19. The secretary shall waive provisions of the act to ease eligibility requirements and access to unemployment compensation for claimants whose unemployment is related to the COVID-19 outbreak or the efforts of public health officials to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19. If the department determines that a claimant’s unemployment is related to the COVID-19 outbreak or the efforts of public health officials to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the department shall provide relief from benefit charges for any employer whose account would otherwise be charged under section 302. Lays out guidelines relative to federal law, and for reports by the secretary. The article shall expire on January 1, 2021. Portions of the bill are effective immediately and the remainder is effective in upon publication of notice.

Reported as amended from Senate Appropriations Committee, read third time, and passed Senate, 3/25/2020 (50-0)
Received as amended in House and re-referred to House Rules Committee, re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules Committee, and House concurred in Senate amendments, 3/25/2020 (198-0)
Signed in the House and in the Senate, 3/25/2020

Approved by the Governor, 3/27/2020 (Act No. 9 of 2020)

Cosponsor memos filed
HCO3400 (Turzai) – Allowing Construction Activities to Continue Requires the secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue a waiver to the governor’s COVID-19 business closure order to all public and private construction activities adhering to social distancing measures.

Filed, 3/27/2020

SCO1481 (Arnold) – Allowing Construction Activities to Resume Safe Operations. Requiring DCED to issue a waiver to all public and private construction activities that can adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures.

Filed, 3/30/2020

Environmental Building Standards
SB 1030
  RE: Change to Act 537 (PA Sewage Facilities Act) (by Sen. Gene Yaw, et al)

Amends the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act providing that when proposing a new land development, the applicant must submit and the department shall accept any conventional sewage system or alternate sewage system that meets site conditions present at the proposed new land development. Repeals provisions regarding review of sewage systems.

Read second time, and rereferred to Senate Appropriations Committee, 3/25/2020
SB 1090
  RE: Radon Remediation Act (by Sen. Christine Tartaglione, et al)

Provides for testing for dangerous levels of radon and remediation measures in school buildings, residential buildings, residential homes and commercial buildings; and imposes penalties. This legislation also establishes duties for school directors, landlords, and commercial building owners related to testing and remediation efforts.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, 3/25/2020

Cosponsor memo filed
HCO3392 (Longietti) – International Building Code – Tornado Shelters. Amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code to exclude storm shelter requirements, also known as “tornado shelters,” from all newly constructed public buildings, including renovations and additions.

Filed, 3/25/2020

Local/State Government/Regulations

HB 422 RE: Legislation to Create a Building Code Official “Trainee” Program (by Rep. Sheryl Delozier, et al)

Amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act, in training and certification of inspectors, further providing for training of inspectors and trainee classification. The department may by regulation establish a separate trainee classification for each certification category, which shall be considered optional for all individuals seeking certification.

Read second time, and rereferred to Senate Appropriations Committee, 3/25/2020
SB 1047
  RE: Clarifying Municipal Bonding Requirements for Property Improvements (by Sen. John DiSanto, et al)

Amends the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, in subdivision and land development, providing for completion of improvements or guarantee thereof prerequisite to final plat approval and establishing that the financial security equals but does not exceed 110 percent and that the engineer of the project may retain 10 percent of the estimated cost of the remaining improvements.

Introduced and referred to Senate Local Government Committee, 3/3/2020

Local/Property Tax Reform
SB 352
  RE: Tax Exemption and Mixed-Use Incentive Program Act (by Sen. Judy Ward, et al)

Authorizes local taxing authorities to provide for tax exemption incentives for certain deteriorated industrial, commercial, business and residential property and for new construction in deteriorated areas of communities; provides for an exemption schedule; and establishes standards and qualifications.

Removed from the table, 3/24/2020

Amended on House floor, read second time, and rereferred to House Appropriations Committee, 3/25/2020

HB 1106
  RE: Environmental Permits and Plan Approvals (by Rep. Michael Puskaric, et al)

Amends the Administrative Code providing for environmental permits and plan approvals; making related repeals; and abrogating regulations. The bill adds an article providing for environmental permits and plan approval, which applies to general permits, general plan approvals and individual permits. Part of the state House Republicans’ Energize PA Legislative Package.

Laid on the table, removed from the table, 3/25/2020

Prevailing Wage

Cosponsor memos filed

HCO3324 (Dermody) – Fair Pay or No Tax Credits Expands prevailing wages to corporations, companies, and organizations that benefit from Pennsylvania tax credits.

Filed, 3/9/2020

Worker’s Comp
HB 716
  RE: Joint Task Force on Employee Misclassification (by Rep. John Galloway, et al)

Amends the Administrative Code, in powers and duties of the Department of Labor and Industry, its departmental administrative and advisory boards, and departmental administrative officers, providing for the joint agency task force on misclassification of employees.

Removed from the table, 3/25/2020

Workforce Development

Cosponsor memo filed
HCO3355 (Murt) – Apprenticeship Training Programs – Tax Credit. Provides tax credits for employers that participate in qualified apprenticeship training programs in Pennsylvania.

Filed, 3/13/2020

Copies of all bills of interest can be accessed via the Internet at:

Upcoming meetings of Interest

Some House Committee meetings and session can be viewed online at:

Senate Committee meetings and session can be streamed at:


April               6, 7, 8 (cancelled), 14, 15, 16
May                 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18 (non-voting), 19 (cancelled), 20 (cancelled)
June                 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30
September       15, 16, 17, 29, 30
October           1, 5, 6, 7, 19, 20, 21
November       10

April               6, 7, 8
May                4, 5, 6, 18, 19, 20
June                1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30