ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION ONLY
The Legislative Bulletin is being published only via
this electronic newsletter this week. Hard copies will not be provided.
STAYING INFORMED ABOUT COVID-19
As the situation related to
the spread of COVID-19 continues to change on a daily and even hourly
basis, CCAP is gathering the latest information provided by state and
federal agencies. We recognize this is a challenging situation for all of
our counties and will continue to provide information and resources as they
CCAP encourages all
counties to use the CDC and
of Health resources as the most up-to-date and accurate sources of
information and for communicating information with constituents.
As of March 26, all
non-life-sustaining businesses required by the governor's order to close
their physical locations, with ten counties also under a stay at home
order. The latest information and resources from the administration are
captured on a state COVID-19
CCAP has also developed a
web page with information for counties that is updated frequently, while
the National Association of Counties (NACo) website provides
resources related to federal agencies and legislative activity.
PENNSYLVANIA PRIMARY ELECTION POSTPONED DUE TO
Under temporary emergency remote voting rules, the
House and Senate convened this week to approve SB
422 (Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Beaver), with amendments that
will postpone Pennsylvania's primary election from April 28 to June 2,
2020. Gov. Wolf has indicated he will sign the proposal.
In addition to the critical postponement, SB 422
includes other emergency provisions for the primary election that will
allow poll workers to come from any part of the county (rather than just
the election district) and give counties flexibility to consolidate or move
polling places. Counties may also use any previously printed ballots with
the April 28 primary date.
In addition, the legislation includes additional
updates to the Election Code, such as authorization for pre-canvassing of
absentee and mail-in ballots starting at 7 a.m. on election day, rather
than having to wait until 8 p.m., to help mitigate delays in election
results due to expected demand for mail-in ballots. Pre-canvassing includes
opening the outer envelope of the ballots, inspecting the inner envelop
for identifying marks, removing ballots and scanning the ballots, but
not recording or publishing votes. Senate Bill 422 further adjusts the
timeline to challenge applications for absentee and mail-in ballots to 5
p.m. the Friday prior to the election or during pre-canvassing (whichever
is earlier) and extends the time for holding challenge hearings from five
to seven days.
Beginning with the November general election, SB 422
will permit electors to bring their absentee or mail-in ballot, along with
the barcoded envelope, to the polling place and sign a declaration to be
allowed to vote a regular ballot at the polling place. Provisions of Act 77
which only allow an individual who had applied for a mail-in or absentee
ballot to vote by provisional ballot if they came to their polling place on
election day remain in place for the June primary.
FEDERAL CORONAVIRUS LEGISLATION
The U.S. Congress has been negotiating emergency
legislation in response to the rapidly-changing coronavirus pandemic, with
several aid packages already signed into law, including an $8 billion emergency
funding bill, with a $1 billion set-aside for state and local public health
emergency preparedness grants, signed on March 6 and the Families First
Coronavirus Response Act signed on March 18.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: H.R.
6201 requires certain employers to provide employees with
paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons
related to COVID-19; employers will receive tax credits to offset these
costs. Additional details are available at www.dol.gov.
In addition, the Families First Act offers free
COVID-19 testing through a variety of waivers so that testing costs are
covered by either insurance or government programs, expanded unemployment
benefits, and a temporary 6.2% increase in federal Medicaid payments to
states. Almost $1 billion is also appropriated in aid for states for
unemployment costs and a similar amount for emergency nutrition assistance
to families through WIC and other programs.
$2 Trillion Stimulus Package: A third aid package totaling $2 trillion was
approved by the U.S. Senate on March 25 and was expected to be considered
by the U.S. House on March 27, with President Trump indicating he would
sign the measure. This relief package includes $250 billion in direct
payments to individuals and families, with federal aid amounts based on
income level, filing status and children claimed on 2019 (if completed) or
2018 tax returns. This bill also includes $350 billion in small business
loans, $250 billion for unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in
loans for distressed companies, as well as $150 billion for state, tribal
and local aid.
OOR OFFERS RIGHT-TO-KNOW GUIDANCE AMID PANDEMIC
The state Office of Open
Records (OOR) recently issued advisories related to the Sunshine Act and
the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), to assist agencies and requesters with
navigating issues related to the ongoing coronavirus emergency, with an
emphasis on maintaining as much transparency as possible.
For the RTKL, the OOR has provided
guidance on how agencies should handle deadlines for response during an
emergency. The Office has also invoked an indefinite extension on all
incoming appeals to ensure due process and to ensure that all parties have
a full and fair chance to meaningfully participate in the appeal.
In the guidance for the Sunshine
Act, OOR notes that the Sunshine
Act is clear that public meetings should be held at public buildings
with open public participation whenever possible. However, if an official
emergency declaration prevents that from happening, a meeting via
teleconference, webinar, or other electronic method that allows for two-way
communication is permissible in most circumstances. OOR also recommends
that agencies holding a meeting using alternate means record the meeting
and make it available so that the record is available to the public.
More specific information and to
access the guidance advisories can be located on the OOR website, www.openrecordspennsylvania.com.
EMERGENCY LEGISLATION APPROVED
In addition to the primary delay
legislation, the House and Senate approved several other pieces of
emergency legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including sending HB
1232 (Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland) to the Governor's desk. House
Bill 1232 wouldprovide up to $50 million in additional funding to
healthcare facilities for the purchase of medical equipment and supplies to
address the demands that COVID-19 could place on the state's healthcare
system. The legislation also extends the deadline to file and pay state
income taxes until July 15 and authorizes the Department of Community and
Economic Development to coordinate with local political subdivisions to extend
filing and payment deadlines for the local Earned Income Tax to July 15 as
In addition to providing funds for
COVID-19 relief, the legislature approved amendments to House
(Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon) to ease eligibility requirements and access to
unemployment compensation for workers impacted by COVID-19. This includes
waiving the one-week waiting period for all claimants during the disaster
declaration, as well as waiving job search and registration requirements
for claimants The measure further provides automatic relief from benefit
charges for any employer whose account would otherwise be charged for weeks
of unemployment occurring during the duration of a disaster declaration.
PA GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES REMOTE VOTING
The PA House of Representatives met on March 16 to
change its rules to temporarily to allow for remote voting through the
party whip and committee chairs so that House members can continue with
critical business while also observing social distancing measures. Under
these rules, caucus leaders must be present on the House floor and
committee chairs must be present in the Capitol but others may vote
remotely through their respective leadership. The House also shortened the
amount of time needed to move legislation between the House and Senate.
On March 18, the Senate also convened to implement
temporary emergency voting rules, allowing lawmakers to vote remotely
through technology. The rules expire at the end of July or when the
governor lifts his disaster declaration.
Both chambers pledged to limit the conduct of
business to emergency-related measures. After utilizing the new rules the
week of March 23, it is unclear when the House and Senate will convene next
as both recessed Wednesday until called back by their respective chamber
House and Senate session and committee meetings
remain available to the public through live
ACT 13 REPORTS DUE APRIL 15
Local Government Unconventional Gas Well Fund Usage Reports required under
Act 13 of 2012 are due to the PUC by Apr. 15, 2020; this deadline has not
changed. All Local Government Unconventional Gas Well Funds received in
2019 must be reported.
Details about the usage reports,
including necessary information regarding the online and paper reporting
systems, can be found in CCAP's 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.