Legislative Bulletin

See All Issues from May 2019 forward​​​​​​​.

 

 
April 9, 2021

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

COUNTY PRIORITY SPOTLIGHT: HUMAN SERVICES
Protecting funding for county human services continues to be a priority issue for counties. Pennsylvania counties deliver crucial human services on behalf of the state and federal government – services that protect our most vulnerable citizens, among them children suffering from abuse, those fighting substance abuse addictions, individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities, and seniors in need of long-term care. 

However, even though mandates and caseloads continue to increase, state funding support has been unable to keep up with demand. Counties continue to deal with the daily challenge of serving the ever-growing needs of their residents, such as the significant increases in workloads to county human service agencies, the toll of the opioid epidemic on families and their children and the lasting, unknown impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pennsylvania’s residents and communities. Yet, counties must also face the reality of ever-stagnant state funds to address those needs.

Ongoing state commitment is vital to supporting these critical programs, particularly as the financial and economic environment remain uncertain. While both the state and counties will benefit from one-time federal aid dollars in the coming months, it is not prudent to use these funds to supplan the state's investment in human services programs over the longer term. 
The state-county partnership in service delivery must again be prioritized – including a commitment to additional and sustainable funding for all county human services programs and assurances of continued funding to essential services in the event of any future state budget delay – before the safety net becomes so frayed it can no longer support those who need it most.

CCAP ISSUES LETTER ON JUDICIAL COMPUTER BUDGET ISSUE
On March 29, CCAP sent a letter to members of the General Assembly expressing concern over the future of the Unified Judicial System (UJS). The Governor’s proposed FY 2021-2022 budget would make this the fifth consecutive year that the UJS would be flat funded. To compound the issue of level funding, Act 42 of 2018 continues to divert $15 million annually from the Judicial Computer System (JCS) to the Commonwealth General Fund for other purposes.

Continued level-funding of UJS and use of funds from JCS for other purposes has ongoing negative impacts for counties. The cumulative effect of five years of flat funding for court operations and diversions from JCS threatens the ability of the AOPC to continue to provide statewide case management systems to various levels of court at no additional cost to the counties.

Ultimately, if these detrimental funding diversions continue, AOPC/IT will be forced to shut down all modules (criminal, dependency and juvenile delinquency) of the Common Pleas Case Management System (CPCMS) and other services. This will result in loss of essential functions of the county court system without time or resources for replacement. Further, if counties are forced to replace the comprehensive system locally, the continuity that the current system provides would be lost. Counties are advocating for sustainable state investment in UJS to provide for the continuation and maintenance of this necessary statewide judicial infrastructure
. 

COVID LIABILITY PROTECTION PASSES HOUSE 
On April 6, the House of Representatives approved legislation with amendments that would provide temporary COVID-19 related liability protection for local government entities, health care providers, businesses, educational institutions and others by a vote of 107-94.

As originally introduced,
House Bill 605, sponsored by Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams), would require compulsory arbitration for claims alleging personal injury or death relating to exposure to COVID-19. An amendment offered by Rep. Ecker on the House floor also added language to provide the liability protection, provided that there was no gross negligence, recklessness, willful misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. This would provide needed reassurance to facilities that acted in good faith, such as county nursing homes, long-term care facilities or children and youth agencies, that continued their vital operations while following state and federal guidelines with, at times, little or no access to personal protective equipment during the course of the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

Similar legislation was approved by the General Assembly in 2020, but was vetoed by the governor. Now, HB 605 moves to the Senate for consideration
.

IFO OFFERS MARCH REVENUE COLLECTIONS UPDATE
On April 1, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its March revenue update, showing the collection of $4.84 billion in March, $284.2 million above the IFO’s original estimates released in January. This was largely attributed to higher than expected personal income tax, corporate net income tax and inheritance tax collections. In addition, overall General Fund collections for FY 2021-2022 of $28.71 billion to date are currently $551.7 million (2%) above estimate.

Other revenue sources also saw increases over projected estimates, including the sales and use tax, motor vehicle collections, inheritance tax collections, bank shares, cigarette, realty transfer and gross receipts tax collections. Non-tax revenues totaled $118.8 million, 30% above projections for March, due almost entirely to licenses and fees collections, which were $23.2 million more than expected. Fiscal-year-to-date non-tax revenues are $825.3 million and surpass the estimate by 4.7%
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TAX SALE REGISTRATION BILL PASSES HOUSE 
On April 5, the House approved HB 264 (Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon) by a vote of 185-16, which would require each county to have prospective tax sale bidders register before each sale and certify that they do not have delinquent taxes or outstanding code violations. The bill was amended in committee to narrow the timeframe for the close of the registration process to 10 days prior to a sale, rather than 14 days as the bill was originally drafted.

Because tax sale properties can attract buyers with a history of code violations or other blight issues and current law provides for a process to address any problems post-sale rather than through prevention, some counties have been proactively implementing their own pre-registration processes. This assists them in assuring that only eligible purchasers can bid on the properties and has proven successful, and HB 264 would capture this best practice in statute.

However, while counties generally support this concept, they request that the legislation offer more flexibility by allowing, rather than requiring, the creation of a pre-registration system, since counties’ specific challenges and circumstances vary statewide.

This bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

ACT 13 REPORTS ARE DUE APRIL 15 
Local Government Unconventional Gas Well Fund Usage Reports required under Act 13 of 2012 will be due to the PUC by April 15, 2021. All Local Government Unconventional Gas Well Funds received in 2020 must be reported. Details about the usage reports, including all necessary information regarding the online and paper reporting systems, can be found in CCAP’s recently updated Act 13 Frequently Asked Questions or on our Act 13/Shale Gas Resources web page. Reports can be filed electronically via the Act 13 Reporting website or via paper form.

CCAP RESOLUTIONS PROCESS
Throughout the month of June, CCAP policy committees will be holding their annual conference call meetings to consider resolutions amending the Pennsylvania County Platform, in anticipation of a membership discussion and vote in conjunction with the CCAP Annual Conference in early August. County officials are encouraged to begin reviewing the Platform now and to send any proposed resolutions to CCAP Government Relations staff at PACountiesGR@pacounties.org, or to discuss them with CCAP policy committee chairs.