CCAP ANNOUNCES 2020 PRIORITIES
leaders announced their five legislative priorities for 2020, each of which
highlights counties' commitment to core county responsibilities and to
working in partnership with the state to deliver critical services to the
people and communities of Pennsylvania.
2020 CCAP President and Clinton County commissioner Jeff Snyder, counties
shared that their priorities are led by a call for increased funding for
mental health services, noting that state funding has lagged far behind needs
for too many years. This has made it difficult for counties to keep up with
increasing caseloads or to expand necessary services to meet demand. At the
same time, counties support preserving the Behavioral HealthChoices program,
so that they can continue to provide local mental health services in the most
effective way possible.
addition, CCAP's emergency medical services (EMS) Task Force will be moving
forward with work to seek solutions to the EMS crisis. Under this priority,
the Task Force will focus on implementing the recommendations in its November
such as developing a toolbox to assist counties in bringing stakeholders
together to develop local solutions and legislation that would enable
creation of countywide or multi-municipal authorities for EMS delivery.
county priorities include supporting local taxing options to reduce counties'
reliance on property taxes, as well as working with federal, state, local and
private partners to develop strategies for successful rural broadband
expansion. Finally, as their fifth priority, counties seek increased funding
for adult probation services, which support community supervision options for
non-violent offenders and help counties make smart decisions about the use of
information, including fact sheets on each priority and sample resources for
are available at www.pacounties.org.
GOV. WOLF UNVEILS SUICIDE PREVENTION REPORT
Gov. Wolf's Suicide
Prevention Task Force recently released its initial
report, including a four-year suicide prevention strategy that is the
result of 10 listening sessions held throughout Pennsylvania over several
The task force identified key
themes from its listening sessions, including the need to reduce the stigma
associated with mental health and suicide, which can affect the likelihood of
individuals seeking help or treatment. In addition, the task force noted that
additional resources are needed to emphasize mental health as a public health
issue, and focused on the unique position Pennsylvania's schools have to
utilize suicide prevention strategies and save lives. Barriers, such as cost
of treatment, insurance gaps, lack of data available for policy makers to
make meaningful decisions and mental health workforce issues were also
The release of the task force
report follows the Governor's Reach
Out PA initiative unveiled on Jan. 2, also seeking to expand resources
and reduce stigma around mental health. In particular, this initiative seeks
to strengthen access to mental health care by incentivizing the integration
of physical and behavioral health services, removing barriers to treatment
and raising awareness of the normalcy and importance of seeking mental health
care and treatment.
Counties noted their support
for this effort to expand support of the state's mental health system, and
also called on the administration and General Assembly to work closely with
them to address the mental health system as their top priority
for 2020. Without investments in the current safety net of services, it will
become increasingly difficult to achieve the expansion of services that are
NEW YEAR BRINGS SPECIAL ELECTIONS, NEW COMMITTEE CHAIRS
The state Senate will soon welcome Dave Arnold (R-Lebanon) as
its newest member, after Arnold was elected on Jan. 14 to represent the 48th
Senatorial District. The special election was held to fill the vacancy
following the September resignation of former state Senator Mike Folmer
In the House, Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) has announced
special elections to be held March 17 to fill vacancies in the 8th
(Butler/Mercer) and 58th (Westmoreland) House districts, following
the resignations of Rep. Tedd Nesbit and Rep. Justin Walsh, respectively, who
were recently elected as county judges. A third special election will be held
the same day in Bucks County to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Gene
DiGirolamo, who is now a Bucks County commissioner, while a Feb. 25 special
election will be held to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Rep.
Movita Johnson-Harrell in the 190th district in Philadelphia.
Speaker Turzai also announced that he has named Rep. Thomas
Murt (R-Montgomery) as chair of the House Human Services Committee, which had
previously been held by DiGirolamo. Rep. Gary Day (R-Lehigh) was named chair
of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, replacing Murt's prior
post to that position.
SUNSHINE LAW BILL PASSES HOUSE
House recently unanimously approved HB
1069, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Lawrence), to amend the
Sunshine Act to require local governments to post meeting agendas on their
website at least 24 hours prior to a meeting.
originally introduced, local governments would have been prohibited from
taking action on any item not contained in the posted meeting agenda, except
in case of an emergency posing a danger to life or property, or if the matter
were minor and did not involve expenditure or approval of a contract.
Counties opposed the original bill as it would have severely limited a
county's timely response to public issues and concerns by only allowing
governing bodies to act only on those items listed on the posted agenda.
amendments have since mitigated this concern. The first, offered by Rep.
Garth Everett (R-Lycoming), was adopted by the House State Government
Committee in June to would allow items to be added to the agenda by majority
vote of those present and voting at the meeting. In September, the full House
adopted a subsequent amendment offered by former CCAP member Rep. Jeff
Wheeland (R-Lycoming) that would clarify that an agency could take official
action on a matter added to the agenda, as well as require the agency to post
the edited agenda no later than the first business day following the meeting.
House Bill 1069 now moves to the Senate for consideration.
IFO ISSUES IMPACT FEE ESTIMATES
The state's Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) has
released estimates of shale gas impact fee collections for calendar year
2019, which producers will remit in April 2020. Based on production data and
recent natural gas prices, the IFO is estimating that collections will be
$198.2 million, representing a $53.6 million decrease from actual collections
the prior year. The decreases are attributed primarily to a lower fee
schedule, noting the average price of natural gas was $2.63 per MMBtu - the
first drop below $3.00 since 2016. In addition, the collections for 2018 had
included collections from previously disputed stripper wells and outstanding
payments which will not be collected again in 2019. However, some of this
impact was offset by new wells coming online, since wells pay the highest fee
in their first operating year. The full report is available at www.ifo.state.pa.us.
exact effect on overall revenue collections - and therefore on local
government distributions which will occur around July 1 - will not be known
until after the April 1 collection deadline. Act 13 payment information
will be available at www.act13-reporting.puc.pa.gov in
mid-June, and the PUC will not release estimates or actual payment
information prior to June 15.
PA IN CROSSHAIRS OVER CHESAPEAKE BAY
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has instructed his state's
attorney general to file lawsuits against Pennsylvania and the EPA, alleging
that Pennsylvania's Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) would not be
enough to meet the 2025 deadline for reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and
sediment levels going to the Bay. Other media reports have indicated that
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is considering similar action.
At the same time, 20 members of Congress have also
written a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inquiring
whether the agency will move forward with enforcing Chesapeake Bay pollution
reduction goals on the state jurisdictions and urging EPA Administrator
Andrew Wheeler to take a stronger stance on enforcement.
Pennsylvania submitted its final Phase 3 WIP to the EPA
in late August, addressing how the state will meet
reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus going to local waterways in the 43
counties in the state's portion of the watershed. It establishes countywide
planning goals to help engage local, regional, state and federal partners;
importantly, these countywide goals do not establish any new requirement or
regulatory obligation on county government, but are a way to engage local
stakeholders and focus resources. The state is working with groups of
stakeholders in each of the affected counties to establish countywide action
plans that combine local efforts with statewide actions to achieve the goals.
NACO LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE
The National Association of Counties Legislative
Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 29 to March 4, 2020,
including sessions on a broad range of federal issues. NACo's policy
committees will also meet during the Conference to consider interim policy
resolutions that will guide NACo advocacy until the Annual Conference in
July. All resolutions must be submitted via email to email@example.com
by Jan. 29. Attendees will also have time for visits to Capitol Hill.
The Conference agenda and online registration
information are available on the NACo website,www.naco.org.