CCAP CALLS FOR ELECTION REFORMS, RELEASES REPORT
Jan. 14, CCAP released a preliminary report
and recommendations, outlining its top priorities on reforming the
Pennsylvania Election Code. CCAP strongly urged the General Assembly and administration
to work closely with counties to create positive, effective election policy.
implemented the newly approved no excuse mail-in voting created by Act 77 of
2019, in the midst of a global pandemic. Though the feat was challenging,
counties administered fair, accurate and secure elections for both the
primary and general elections in 2020, and the experiences highlighted the
need for additional election reforms that can improve election
support two main statutory changes: additional time to pre-canvass mail-in
ballots and moving the mail-in ballot application deadline. Providing
counties with additional pre-canvassing time before Election Day will allow
them to prepare and process many mail-in and absentee ballots before Election
Day so that tabulation can occur on Election night or shortly thereafter.
Counties raised concerns for several months prior to Nov. 3 that
without additional time to pre-canvass, election results would likely be
delayed, causing confusion despite counties' best efforts, a prediction which
unfortunately proved accurate.
counties seek to move back the mail-in ballot application deadline to 15 days
prior to an election to allow enough time for the ballots to travel through
the mail system. This change will reduce uncertainty of whether a voter's
ballot arrived back at the county in time and, therefore, reduce the number
of voters coming to the polls to vote by provisional ballot on Election Day
because they are unsure if their mail-in ballot was received.
believe that these two changes will alleviate many, if not most, of the
challenges experienced during the 2020 elections. Furthermore, counties
recognize that the law must be updated in other areas to address outstanding
issues such as drop boxes, secrecy envelopes and curing ballot mistakes.
Counties seek to work in direct partnership with the General Assembly and the
administration on any policy changes being considered in order to assure that
changes are clear and can be implemented consistently statewide.
COUNTY PRIORITIES TO BE ANNOUNCED
As another year begins, Pennsylvania's counties have
selected five legislative priorities for 2021, each of which highlights CCAP
members' commitment to core county responsibilities and ultimately to the
people and communities in Pennsylvania.
CCAP Board members will officially announce the 2021
priorities via virtual press conference on Jan. 19 at 1:00 p.m. (Note day and
time change from the previous Bulletin). CCAP will be sending out a
special edition bulletin highlighting the priorities. Additional information
and resources, including fact sheets on each priority, will also be available
at www.pacounties.org on
the Priorities webpage.
IFO ISSUES IMPACT FEE ESTIMATES
The state's Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) has
released estimates of shale gas impact fee collections for calendar year
2020, which producers will remit in April 2021. Based on production data and
recent natural gas prices, the IFO is estimating that collections will be
$144.9 million, representing a $55.9 million (28%) decrease from actual collections
in 2020 (CY 2019 fees), and follows a $53.6 million decrease from the year
before that. The decreases are attributed primarily to a lower fee schedule,
noting the average price of natural gas was $2.08 per MMBtu means that the
impact fee schedule decreased by $5,000 per horizontal well compared to CY
2019 because the price dropped below $2.25. Also impacting the decrease are
the net impact of aging wells that pay lower fees and wells that become
exempt offsetting fees from new wells. 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.
REVENUE TRENDS REPORT RELEASED
In early January, the
Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released a preliminary revenue
trends report, looking at state revenue performance for December 2020, as
well as fiscal-year-to-date trends. The report notes that despite longer-term
concerns over the state budget, December general fund revenues came in at
$3.7 billion, $465.8 million (14.5%) more than originally anticipated.
The IFO speculates that increase is attributable to stronger than expected
corporate net income tax (CNIT) collections (up 16.6% above estimates for the
year-to-date total), which the IFO suggested is related to the non-taxable
status of forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans under recent federal
legislation, and one-time transfers in the final FY 2020-2021 budget, which
were not in original estimates.
Personal Income Tax
and the Sales and Use Tax also came in higher than anticipated at $90.4
million for December 2020. Realty transfer, liquor, cigarette, gaming
and inheritance tax collections all came in above year-to-date estimates as
Despite this good
news for state revenues, Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne
(R-Lehigh), has estimated a $3.5
billion deficit for next year. State Budget Secretary Jen Swails also
highlighted the financial hardship the state is in during her mid-year
briefing, estimating the budget will finish out with a mere $3.7 million
surplus. Such differences in predictions come from uncertain impacts of the
COVID-19 pandemic, including decreasing gas tax revenues and in-person
shopping, but increased spending in the real estate market and online sales.
With unknown impacts of recent federal stimulus to Pennsylvania's overall economy
and no certainty on future stimulus packages, the state's future financial
picture is further complicated.
The Governor is
expected to present his FY 2021-2022 budget proposal on Feb. 2, setting off
budget hearings and negotiations ahead of the start of the new fiscal year in
the IFO will release its long-term
economic and budget outlook for FY 2020-21
to FY 2025-26 on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. The presentation will provide a revenue update for the current fiscal year and
assess the implications of recent economic trends for future budget surpluses
NEW OFFICE OF OPEN RECORDS DIRECTOR
Jan. 11, Gov. Wolf announced his new appointment to director of the Office of
Open Records (OOR), Liz Gerloff Wagenseller, who most recently held the
position of chief of staff for departing Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Former director Erik Arneson's six-year term expired this past week.
On a related note, the OOR is in the process of promulgating procedural
regulations under the Right-to-Know Law and released an updated
draft of its regulations on Dec. 30, the first draft revision since March
1, 2017. Through these regulations, the OOR intends to provide greater
clarity of the requirements of both agencies and requesters. Once the
regulations are posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, there will be a 30-day
public review and comment period, though there is no definitive timeline on
when the public comment period will begin as the review structure for
regulations is fluid. CCAP will notify members when the comment period
For more information, visit www.openrecords.pa.gov.
HOUSE SPEAKER ANNOUNCES NEW COMMITTEE CHAIRS, SPECIAL ELECTION
Speaker of the House
Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) has named new committee chairs for the
2021-2022 legislative session. Of note to counties, Rep. Frank Farry
(R-Bucks) will chair the House Human Services committee, previously held by
former Rep. Tom Murt. He will be joined by Democratic chair Rep. Angel Cruz
(D-Philadelphia). On the House Health Committee, Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren)
will continue as chair and her Democratic counterpart will remain Rep. Dan
Frankel (D-Allegheny). Rep. Gary Day (R-Lehigh/Berks) was re-named chair of
the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, with former CCAP member
Rep. Steve Samuelson (D-Northampton) continuing as Democratic chair. The
House State Government Committee will be chaired by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York),
who served as interim chair during the final months of 2020. He is joined by
Democratic chair Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware). Speaker Cutler also named
Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Somerset) as the chair of the House Local
Government Committee, while Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Northampton) will continue to
serve as chair for the Democratic side.
Cutler announced a special election to fill the seat left vacant in the 59th
District with the sudden passing of Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland). The
special election will coincide with the Primary Election on May 18.
NACO ACCEPTING INTERIM POLICY RESOLUTIONS
National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference will be held
in virtually this year in March. While details are forthcoming, NACo invites
submissions for interim policy resolutions. NACo's ten policy steering
committees will meet virtually during the conference to consider adoption of
interim policy resolutions that will guide NACo advocacy until the Annual
Conference in July. All
resolutions must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Feb. 8.
regarding the upcoming conference and interim policy resolutions are
available on the NACo website.