Legislative Bulletin

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July 30, 2021
www.pacounties.org

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

COUNTY PRIORITIES SPOTLIGHT: SESSION PROGRESS REPORT

While counties have spent a lot of time during the 2021-2022 legislative session focused on our top legislative priorities, especially elections reforms, there also many other legislative issues important to counties. Since January, members of the General Assembly have introduced more than 2,300 pieces of legislation and CCAP is tracking more than 30% of those bills for potential impacts to counties. To date, 15 of those bills affecting county government have been signed into law, including establishment of the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) and Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), providing for $145 million and $569.8 million in funding for COVID impact relief, respectively, district attorney vacancy clarifications, American Rescue Plan funding provisions and clarifications, the FY 2021-2022 state budget, tax sale bidder pre-registration, Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act and amendments to the Sunshine Act providing for public meeting agendas.

Over the past seven months, CCAP and its members have provided input and testimony on legislation to 27 House and Senate committees, as well as the full House of Representatives and Senate. This includes sending legislative memos on 23 pieces of legislation, testifying at seven hearings and submitting written comments for seven other hearings covering policy issues like broadband, elections, human services, public worker safety and tourism.

While counties have made strides on many policy fronts, including maintaining funding for county human services in the FY 2021-2022 budget, there is more work to be done on county priority issues, including elections reforms, broadband development and increased funding for community mental health programs.

CCAP continuously heard the impact of county grassroots efforts in advocating for policy changes counties needed. Your input and voice as a locally elected official are critical to inform policy. Share your powerful stories and bring your data showing the good work your county has achieved and also the vital need for increased resources. Whether virtually or back in-person, ensure your legislators hear your perspective clearly and often, and continue building local relationships with your fellow elected officials. We must remind leaders at every level that investment and cooperation are in the best interest of all of our constituents throughout the commonwealth.


ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCES NATIONAL OPIOID SETTLEMENT

On July 21, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a $26 billion settlement to resolve claims that the three largest U.S. drug distributors and drug maker Johnson & Johnson contributed to the deadly opioid epidemic across the nation. Reports indicate Pennsylvania’s share is anticipated to be $1 billion, provided over a number of years.

The distribution of the funds from the settlement to participating states will be based on a formula will be applied that is likely dependent on the number of local governments that opt to participate in the settlement, and thus relinquish efforts to pursue any of their own opioid lawsuits. Agreeing to the settlement appears to release all other claims against defendants, and counties or municipalities that do not sign on would be prohibited from receiving any of the settlement money from the state. The settlement also requires the drug companies to take steps to prevent a future opioid crisis.

This Johnson & Johnson settlement announcement comes after Shapiro announced earlier in July that Pennsylvania would receive $225 million from a $4.5 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, to settle lawsuits among several states.

Amendments to the commonwealth’s Fiscal Code under
Act 24 of 2021, enacted in June, created the Opioid Settlement Restricted Account, and granted the authority to determine the appropriation of any funds the state receives from a settlement of its claims in opioid-related litigation solely to the General Assembly.

 

NACO SUBMITS COMMENTS ON TREASURY’S FINAL RULE FOR FISCAL RECOVERY FUND

On July 16, NACo submitted comments on the U.S. Treasury’s Interim Final Rule (IFR) for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund established under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). NACo compiled more than 1,000 comments, questions and recommendations from counties across the country to develop its response, which center around three primary recommendations. First, counties ask for additional flexibility for recovery funds to ensure the nation’s preparedness and responsivity continues. NACo also asked for further clarity on eligible uses of recovery funds to ensure counties comply with Treasury’s goals and intentions of the IFR. Finally, counties recommended the IFR incorporate additional eligible uses for recovery funds that will help support local and national recovery.

Local governments are using these critical recovery funds to invest in public safety, vaccine distribution, housing and rental assistance, local economic support, economic and workforce development, broadband expansion, social safety-net services, hospitality and tourism development and hazard pay for public employees. NACo’s comments are aimed at ensuring counties have the ability to make plans and invest funding in a way that will help spur an equitable economic recovery across the nation.

 

GOVERNOR WOLF ANNOUNCES KEY STAFF CHANGES

After an announcement in June, several new staff members have taken on key roles in the Wolf administration. Gov. Wolf’s chief of staff Mike Brunelle stepped down in June after serving since 2017 to take a position in the private sector. Elena Cross, previously deputy chief of staff to the governor, has taken over the chief of staff role starting on June 26. Cross brings experience serving in the administration, on both the Wolf campaign and transition team and prior campaign experience to her new role.

Another notable change within the administration is the announcement that Budget Secretary Jen Swails is stepping down from the role she has held since 2019, also departing for a position in the private sector. Replacing Swails on July 31 will be Gregory Thail, who previously worked as special advisor to the budget secretary and other roles within the Wolf transition team and administration.

 

2021 CCAP PRIORITIES STATUS UPDATE

In January, CCAP members identified five priorities for 2021, including elections reforms, specifically pre-canvassing and mail-in ballot application deadlines, broadband expansion, solutions to the emergency medical services crisis, protect funding for county human services and increased funding for community mental health services. An update on counties' progress on these priorities can be found here.


VOTING MATTERS

In mid-July, each CCAP member received via email a voting matters packet with items to be considered at the Tuesday business meeting of the upcoming CCAP Annual Conference at the Hershey Lodge in Dauphin County. The agenda packet included proposed policy resolutions and bylaws changes, along with information on officer elections. The site selection for the 2026 Annual Conference, which usually takes place at this time, has been postponed until the CCAP Fall Conference. The resolutions will be deliberated during the conference and then submitted by electronic ballot to the full CCAP membership within 10 days of the conclusion of the Conference for final adoption, while bylaws changes will be voted on during the business meeting.​