One of the Most Unusual Sessions Ever Comes to an End; Fiscal Year Budget Finalized
A two-year session that began with great promise, with a booming economy, and a Governor fresh off re-election, but endured a world-wide pandemic that shuttered businesses, and killed thousands in Pennsylvania, ended with a whirlwind of legislation passed in a rare post-election session week this past month. More than two dozen bills got to the Governor’s desk in November, many of which became law, while others fell victim to the veto pen, which Gov. Wolf has wielded frequently this session. Those bills are described below. Most of the bills passed were either COVID-19 or budget-related, or both. On Friday, November 20th, the State Legislature approved a plan to finalize the Fiscal Year 2020/21 budget. The bill (SB 1350 ) passed by a mostly partisan, 31-18 majority in the Senate and a by slimmer vote margin of 104-97 in the House before being approved by Governor Tom Wolf on November 23rd. The state had only enacted an interim budget approved earlier this year that funded most agencies and programs until November 30th.
The total appropriation for the fiscal year is $35.5 billion with $32.1 billion in state funds and $3.4 billion in federal stimulus dollars, including $1.3billion of unallocated CARES funding. The budget does not include any tax increases or new taxes, but it does include several fund transfers, including $100 million from the Rainy Day Fund.
Other fund transfers include:
- Highway Beautification Fund – $150million
- Industrial Sites Cleanup Fund – $10 million
- Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Fund – $7.5 million
- Job Training Fund – $375 million
- Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund – $5 million
- Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank – $5 million
- Racing Fund – $10 million
- Recycling Fund – $50 million
In addition to the fund transfers, the bill makes some changes to budget lines and programs such as:
- Established a $5 million State Facility Closure Transition Program appropriation
- $3.15 million increase in the Keystone Communities appropriation
- $6.233 million increase in the Local Municipal Relief appropriation
- Cuts significant funding from Capitation ($152 million) and Community HealthChoices ($170 million) as well as a Community Health Choices has a “cycle roll” of $483 million
- Administrative and state-owned facility appropriations are flat funded to FY 2019/20 levels, or the governor’s fall budget request if lower, and reduced for REHP
- Funds programs subject to changes in enrollment and cost at the governor’s fall budget request with some exceptions:
- Assumes a fourth quarter of enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for programs that earn FMAP offsetting General Fund dollars needed ($560 million)
- $3.8 million is included to serve 200 individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism waiting for services
Negotiations for a new COVID stimulus package remain stalled throughout the election, but President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he wants an agreement even before he takes office at the end of January and would also be open to a lesser amount approved by the House earlier this year. That package was for $2.2 trillion.
One bill of particular interest passed in the final days was HB 64, provides that licensees may carry over excess continuing education credits beyond those required for license renewal, to the ensuing licensure cycle. The bill, sponsored by outgoing House Professional Licensure Committee Minority Chair Harry Readshaw, became Act 116 with the Governor’s signature on November 25. The licensing boards will have the power to allow for the carryover, but are not compelled to do so. There has been some concern expressed as to the impact on audits of licensees, and the burden to keep records longer. It remains to be seen now how the Boards will handle this new power.
Unfortunately the list of bills that made it to the Governor did not include HB 2101, which had passed the House unanimously, but was not able to be voted in the Senate despite another unanimous vote in the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. The bill will have to be reintroduced in the new session, and pass both chambers. We believe that the bulk of the hard work in negotiating the bill has been done, and there is great hope that, with the ongoing help from PSPE members, this bill can become law in 2021.
Three bills of interest to PSPE were vetoed by Governor Wolf: HB 1737, which started out as an agrotourism bill, but was amended in the Senate to provide for liability protection for employers and others who followed the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, but were connected to a virus case, and HB 21, which provided for licensing for certified real estate appraisers, home inspectors, and home inspectors-in-training; and SB 790, which set up new regulations for conventional oil and gas drillers, were vetoed by Governor Wolf on November 30. That latter bill contained a provision that would eliminate long-standing requirements that a professional engineer or surveyor approve plans involving drilling or capping of wells. PSPE and PSLS had opposed the bill on that basis. Numerous environmental groups also opposed the bill, for a variety of reasons.
The Session officially ended at midnight on November 30. The 2021-22 session will begin anew in January.
Highway Construction Funding Remains to Be Addressed
An area of great concern that was NOT addressed in the final budget documents was funding for highway projects already in the pipeline. PennDOT had been raising concerns since last spring about its funding levels, but only in the past few weeks have those concerns included potentially shutting down existing projects, if it was not able to borrow up to $600 million to fund the projects. By the end of November, Gov. Wolf and legislative leaders held post-budget discussions on what the Governor terms “a short-term solution” to keep the projects alive. Among the mechanisms being considered is having the state Treasurer move some funds around, to make cash available for PennDOT. Newly elected legislators will return to Harrisburg in January, faced with the burden of finding longer-term funding answers for myriad highway and bridge construction/renovation projects that are essential for transportation, and for creating good-paying jobs as the state continues its climb out of the COVID-19 economic downturn. The COVID-19 pandemic and huge reductions in travel greatly reduced PennDOT revenue. Work stoppages would mean the potential loss of thousands of construction and engineering jobs. As Gov. Wolf heads into the final two years of his final term, transportation funding will be a key issue to address in the short term, and for his legacy. For now, the jobs are still on track, but this bears close watch.
House and Senate Announce 2021-22 Leadership Teams, McClinton, Ward Make History
Fresh off the contentious 2020 fall General Elections, Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) was elected House Democratic Floor Leader, making her the first Black woman to hold the position, and joining Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) as the first women to serve as floor leaders in Pennsylvania legislative history when they begin their tenures next term. McClinton takes over the position from Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), who has served in the legislature for 30 years and as the Democratic floor leader for 10 years. Dermody lost his District 33 seat this month to Republican Carrie DelRosso.
In addition to the new floor leader, House Democrats also changed up other leadership positions. Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) will take over McClinton’s former role as Caucus Chair. Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) will join leadership as the new Democratic Policy Committee Chair. Rep. Tina Davis (D-Bucks) and Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) are new to leadership as well, taking on the roles of Caucus Secretary and Caucus Administrator, respectively. Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) retained his position as Minority Whip, as did Appropriations Chair Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery).
Democrats remain in the minority in both chambers of the legislature following the 2020 General Election. While some races are still too close to call, Republicans will retain their majority for the coming term, which will include decennial redistricting.
Pennsylvania House Republicans elected their new leadership team for the 2021-22 session on November 10, following this year’s general election. The new leadership team remains largely unchanged, with Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland) moving to serve as Caucus Chair following Marcy Toepel’s retirement, and Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) assuming his former role as Caucus Secretary.
The upcoming leadership team consists of:
- Speaker nominee: Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster)
- Leader: Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre)
- Whip: Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion)
- Caucus Chair: Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland)
- Appropriations Committee Chair: Stan Saylor (R-York)
- Policy Committee Chair: Martin Causer (R-McKean)
- Caucus Administrator: Kurt Masser (R-Northumberland)
- Caucus Secretary: Martina White (R-Philadelphia)
“At this point, we are looking forward to the chance of continuing to advance our caucus’s message of fiscal responsibility, limited government and accountability for Pennsylvanians,” Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), said. During Tuesday’s announcement, Benninghoff laid out a few of the House Republican priorities ahead of next week’s session and once the newly elected legislators take their seats in January.
Benninghoff said they will look to disseminate the remaining CARES funding for COVID-19 relief that the state must use before the end of the year. He said he believes that Republicans have been a “good voice” in decision-making related to COVID-19.
Senate Republicans also elected their new leadership team on November 10, elevating current Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) to the role of president pro tempore, while naming Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) the General Assembly’s first female majority leader. The leadership changes were prompted by the retirement of current President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), who is leaving the legislature’s upper chamber after a 19-year career.
Republicans retained their majority in both chambers of the legislature in the fall general elections, flipping one seat in Allegheny County, and losing one in Southeast PA, with Sen. Jim Brewster’s Allegheny County seat still too close to call at this writing. With the election now behind state lawmakers, Corman said it’s time for the lawmakers to set its sights on other priorities.
“We’ve got a lot of issues out there in this country. As I said, the election is over, it’s time for us all to come together and move Pennsylvania forward,” Corman said. Corman cited completing the state budget and allocating federal CARES Act dollars as the chamber’s two main priorities when they returned to session the following week, which they did (see report below).
“There will be challenges,” Corman said. “There’s economic challenges, there are health care challenges, there are challenges of partisanship that we all need to address as a team and we look forward to moving Pennsylvania forward in a way that, no matter where you come from in the commonwealth, no matter what your economic background, no matter what your ethnicity is, that you can be successful in Pennsylvania.”
With her election, Ward will become the first female majority leader in the history of the Senate when the new leadership team takes over on Dec. 1. Ward, speaking after session on Thursday, said that lawmakers have a number of difficult tasks ahead of them.
“We have an economy that is trying to buzz along, we are still faced with COVID-19 challenges to those businesses that are struggling — we have a lot of work to do,” she said.
All other Senate Republican leadership positions will remain unchanged. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) was once again elected chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, while Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) will continue as majority whip. Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) was once again elected majority caucus chairman and Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) was re-elected caucus secretary.
On November 19, Senate Democrats added two women members to their leadership team as well. Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester) was elected by her colleagues in the Democratic Caucus to serve as the Chair of the Policy Committee, replacing Sen. Lisa Boscola (Northampton), and Sen. Maria Collett unseated Sen. John Blake as Caucus Administrator.
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee travels the state holding hearings on legislative matters of interest to its members and constituents. It hears testimony from experts on both sides of those issues and offers the opportunity for members to ask questions before forming policy solutions that will later be introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate.
The following members of the Senate Democratic Caucus were elected to leadership roles in the caucus for the upcoming legislative session:
- Leader – Jay Costa, Jr. (Allegheny)
- Whip – Anthony Hardy Williams (Philadelphia)
- Appropriations Committee Chair – Vincent Hughes (Philadelphia)
- Chair – Wayne D. Fontana (Allegheny)
- Secretary – Maria Collett (Bucks/Montgomery)
- Policy Committee Chair – Katie Muth (Berks/Chester/Montgomery)
State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists November 10 Meeting Notes
The State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists met on November 10, by Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following are the highlights.
- Board President Francis Stanton, PE, presided, and welcomed the members and acknowledged the guests. Stanton then announced the Board would receive a presentation by Melissa Batula of PennDOT on 3D Modeling and the Impact on eSeals. PennDOT intends to be fully electronic by 2025.
- BPOA Commissioner Kalonji Johnson introduced Regulatory Counsel Cynthia Montgomery, who presented a proposed list of crimes that the Board would use as a basis to deny or revoke licensure. The list was pursuant to Act 53 of 2020. The Board considered the list, asked questions, and directed counsel to prepare a document for approval. Johnson also thanked the members, staff and the public for their patience and support during the pandemic.
- Stanton reported on a recent report by the Alliance of Responsible Professional Licensure, regarding portability of licenses between jurisdictions. Stanton noted that NCEES will be considering universal licensure at its upcoming meeting.
- Board Prosecutor Glenn Masser, Esq., presented three cases the Board had considered in executive session.
- Board Counsel Bill Fritz reported on the Seals regulation, noting that the Independent Regulatory Review Commission has submitted comments, including questions. Those comments can be found here: http://www.irrc.state.pa.us/regulations/RegSrchRslts.cfm?ID=3275. Among the comments, IRRC noted inconsistencies with parallel regulations being promulgated by the Architure and Landscape Architects boards. Fritz said he would reconcile the three regs before it is published as final. He asked the Board members to review the reg and comments, and get back to him by Thanksgiving. Fritz also asked the Board to appoint a committee to monitor Act 48 cases. Members Mike Brinkash and James Szalankiewicz volunteered, and were appointed
- Board Administrator Jeannie Bronshtein updated the Board on testing. The PA exam is in final preparation stage.
- The board held elections of officers for 2021. Jim Szalankawicz, PE, PLS was elected president, and Joseph McNally, PG was elected VP.
Next meeting is TBA. 2021 Board meeting dates have not yet been published
The following bills and co-sponsorship memos for bills to be introduced of interest to PSPE were acted on by the General Assembly this past month. The 2019-20 Legislative Session ended officially on November 30. All bills not passed by the General Assembly die, and would have to be reintroduced next session and start the process over.
Budget Related Bills
SB 1350 RE: Supplement to the General Appropriation Act of 2020 (by Sen. Pat Browne, et al)
Provides appropriations from the General Fund to agencies of the executive, legislative and judicial departments for the remainder of the fiscal year July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, and is retroactive to July 1, 2020. Effective immediately.
Reported as committed from Senate Appropriations Committee, read third time, and passed Senate, 11/16/2020 (39-11)
Received in the House and referred to House Appropriations Committee, re-reported as committed from House Appropriations Committee, read laid on the table, 11/16/2020
Removed from the table, 11/17/2020
Read second time and rereferred to House Appropriations Committee, 11/18/2020
Reported as amended from House Appropriations Committee, 11/19/2020
Read third time, and passed House, 11/20/2020 (104-97)
Received as amended in Senate and rereferred to Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, re-reported on concurrence as committed from Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, and Senate concurred in House amendments, 11/20/20 (31-18)
Signed in the Senate and in the House, 11/20/2020
Approved by the Governor, 11/23/2020 (Act No. 17A of 2020)
COVID-19 Related Legislation
A Resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct an audit of the data collection systems utilized by the Department of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introduced and referred to House Health Committee, 11/12/2020
Reported as committed from House Health Committee, 11/18/2020
Amended on House floor, and adopted, 11/19/2020 (202-0)
Discussed during Joint Legislative Budget & Finance Committee Officers’ meeting, 11/23/2020
Environmental Building Standards
SB 619 RE: Spill Reporting Requirements under the Clean Streams Law (by Sen. Gene Yaw, et al)
Amends the Clean Streams Law, in general provisions and public policy, further providing for definitions; and, in other pollutions and potential pollution, outlining provisions requiring notice of discharge endangering health or the environment. Provides that the Environmental Quality Board shall promulgate regulations. Effective in 60 days.
Reported as amended from House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, read first time, and Laid on the table, 11/18/2020
HB 1737 RE: Amends the Economic Development Agency, Fiduciary and Lender Environmental Liability Protection Act establishing limited environmental liability for lenders, fiduciaries, and economic development agencies when environmental contamination was caused by others, providing for limited civil liability unless an agritourism activity provider performs in a grossly negligent manner and causes damage to a participant, and establishes COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, child care providers, health care providers, emergency medical services agencies, educational institutions, clinical laboratories, and individuals employed by those businesses; and makes a related repeal. Provides for definitions, the limitation of economic development agency environmental liability, and establishes the scope of limited liability. Provides that a lender shall not be liable unless the lender directly causes an immediate release of regulated substances. Establishes the limitation of fiduciary environmental liability unless a release was caused by an act or omission which constituted gross negligence or willful misconduct. Provides for defenses to liability for lenders, fiduciaries, or economic development agencies. Provides that nothing in the subchapter shall affect the defenses available under other applicable laws. Establishes apportionment of liability, proximate and efficient causation standards for liability, and severability provisions. Provides for repeal provisions and applicability standards. Establishes notice procedures for limited civil liability of agritourism activity and acknowledgement of limited civil liability agreements for agritourism. Establishes liability protections for manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) absent clear and convincing evidence of recklessness, willful misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. Provides for limited business or government services liability for damage to property or personal injury related to COVID-19 exposure absent a showing by clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence, willful misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. Provides for covered provider liability protection absent a showing by clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence, willful misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. Establishes that the application of liability shall not attach to the employer of an individual who is otherwise immune. Provides that the limitations of COVID-19 liability will not be construed to create a new cause of action, expand a civil or criminal liability otherwise imposed, limit a defense, affect the applicability of a statute affording greater protections, or prevent an individual from filing a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Effective immediately.
Read second time, and Rereferred to Senate Appropriations Committee, 11/18/2020
Reported as committed from Senate Appropriations Committee, amended on Senate floor, read third time, and passed Senate, 11/19/2020 (29-20)
Received as amended in House and rereferred House Rules Committee, re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules, and House concurred in Senate amendments, 11/20/2020 (104-98)
Signed in the House and in the Senate, 11/20/2020
Vetoed by the Governor, 11/30/2020
SB 790 RE: Conventional Oil and Gas Wells Act (by Sen. Joe Scarnati, et al)
Provides for separate regulations for family-owned conventional oil and gas operators. The legislation includes general requirements, including well permit, objections, adoption, identification, inactive status, location restrictions, restorations, reporting, safety, and protection requirements; and provisions regarding enforcement and remedy, penalties, civil penalties, third party liability, unlawful conduct, inspection reports and the Relations to the Coal and Gas Resource Collection Act. Effective immediately.
Re-reported on concurrence as committed from Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, 11/16/2020
Senate concurred in House amendments, 11/17/2020 (29-19)
Signed in the Senate and in the House, 11/18/2020
Vetoed by the Governor, 11/25/2020
HB 21 RE: Certified Real Estate Appraisers (by Rep. Sue Helm, et al)
Amends the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act providing for definitions of certified Pennsylvania evaluator, client, and home inspection, and for standards of the composition and powers and duties of the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers; providing for the application and qualifications of certified real estate appraisers, home inspectors, and home inspectors-in-training and the standard of care used in conducting a home inspection; providing for reciprocity for licensed appraisers, appraiser trainees, or home inspectors from another state, renewals of registration, limitations on renewals, requirements of continuing education for home inspectors, related record-keeping requirements, the board’s authority to enact disciplinary and corrective measures related to licensure, limitations on the board’s authority for reinstatement, reporting requirements for multiple certifications or licensures, civil penalties enacted by the board, and injunctive relief for licensure violations; provides for remedies for home inspections services consumers, requirements of home inspection contracts and reports, and makes a related repeal. Changes related to the fourteen-member composition of the board, disciplinary and corrective measures, and reinstatement are effective immediately, and the remainder of the legislation shall take effect in two years.
Amended on Senate floor, read third time, and passed Senate, 11/19/2020 (40-9)
Received as amended in House and rereferred House Rules Committee, re-reported on concurrence as committed from House Rules, and House concurred in Senate amendments, 11/20/2020 (182-20)
Signed in the House and in the Senate, 11/20/2020
Vetoed by the Governor, 11/30/2020
HB 64 RE: CE Carryover (by Rep. Harry Readshaw, et al)
Amends an act empowering the General Counsel to issue subpoenas for certain licensing board activities, permitting individuals under the purview of the Bureau of Professional and Occupations Affairs Act to accrue continuing education credits in credit carryover.
Removed from the table, 11/18/2020
Read third time, and passed Senate, 11/19/2020 (49-0)
Signed in the House and in the Senate, 11/19/2020
Approved by the Governor, 11/25/2020 (Act No. 116 of 2020)
Copies of all bills of interest can be accessed via the Internet at: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm
Upcoming meetings of Interest
Some House Committee meetings and session can be viewed online at: http://www.pahousegop.com/
Senate Committee meetings and session can be streamed at: http://www.pasenategop.com/
The 2019/2020 Legislative Session Adjourned on November 30, Sine Die. The 2021/22 Legislature will be sworn in officially on January 5. The 2021-22 session schedule has not been announced.
State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists Meeting Schedule
All Board meetings are held remotely via Webex until futher notice. https://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/EngineersLandSurveyorsandGeologists/Pages/General-Board-Information.aspx#.VHNkfFZOk5s
2021 Meeting dates have not been published.
State Geospatial Coordinating Board
1 Technology Park, Commonwealth Technology Center (CTC), Harrisburg, PA 17110
1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
2021 Board Meetings: March 15, June 14, August 23, November 15