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.
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.
& 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
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
NACO SUBMITS COMMENTS ON TREASURY’S FINAL RULE FOR FISCAL
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.
ANNOUNCES KEY STAFF CHANGES
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.
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
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.
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.