Legislative Bulletin

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Number 24
November 20, 2020

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

 

 


 

717-526-1010

FY 2020-2021 STATE BUDGET    

Work on the remaining seven months of the FY 2020-2021 state budget is expected to wrap up on Nov. 20, which is the last scheduled day of voting session for both the House and Senate as this Bulletin goes to print.

In late May, the General Assembly approved a temporary budget to fund the commonwealth on a five-month basis through the end of November, until the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic became clearer. While those first five months provided generally flat funding across most line items, the state's Independent Fiscal Office projected in late October that even if the state were to flat fund the remaining seven months, that would still leave the state with a $2 billion shortfall.

With that in mind, the House and Senate returned for a rare post-election session to take action on the budget before the end of the 2019-2020 session that concludes on Nov. 30. On Nov. 19,
SB 1350 (Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh) was amended in the House to include a supplemental general fund budget for the current fiscal year to cut the total FY 2020-2021 state budget by about 2.2% from the FY 2019-2020 spending level. However, it does not contain any across-the-board cuts.

While still awaiting details, reports indicate that the budget will be balanced through a combination of better-than-expected revenue collections for the current fiscal year, drawing on the state's Rainy Day Fund and transfers from other off-budget special funds. Some of the largest expected fund transfers would come from the Worker's Compensation Security Fund, the Recycling Fund, three PENNVEST Funds, the Underground Storage Tank Fund and the Medical Marijuana Program Fund, plus a number of smaller-amount transfers, including $5 million from the State Agricultural Conservation Easement Fund. Also, as this
Bulletin goes to press, it is expected that the remaining $1.3 billion in federal CARES funding will also be used for state budget expenditures related to COVID-19, likely to pay salary expenses for public health and safety employees. While under Act 24 of 2020 counties would have received any CARES funding unexpended by the state as of Dec. 1, if the remaining funds are appropriated through the state budget, no additional funds would be allocated directly to counties beyond the original $625 million allocated to the County Relief Block Grants.

Senate Bill 1350 needs a vote in the full House and a concurrence vote in the Senate to go to the Governor's desk. Additional details and analysis will be available on CCAP's Budget News
web page.      

 

ELECTION LEADS TO CHANGES IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND CONGRESS

Based on the unofficial results of the 2020 election as of the writing of this Bulletin, there will be at least 31 new members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly when the 2021-2022 session convenes next January. Final resolution on one Senate race remains - between incumbent Sen. James Brewster (D-Allegheny) and Nicole Ziccarelli (R) in the 45th District - in which Sen. Brewster held a lead of about 28 ballots at press time, but a court challenge by Ziccarelli will decide if any of the ballots are ineligible and whether that changes the outcome of the race.

Otherwise, the Senate will welcome at least six new legislators. Nikil Saval (D) will fill the seat previously held by Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) in the 1st District. John Kane (D) won his race in the 9th District against incumbent, and former Delaware County council member, Tom Killion (R-Delaware), while Amanda Cappelletti (D) was successful in her primary challenge to 17th District incumbent Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) and prevailed in the General Election. Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D) successfully won her bid for the 19th District to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of former Chester County commissioner Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester). Rep. Chris Dush (R) will also move to the Senate to fill the 25th District seat vacated by the retirement of President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson). In the 37th District, Devlin Robinson (R) won again incumbent Sen. Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny).

The current party split in the Senate is 28 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and 1 Independent. Depending on the results of the race for the 45th District, Republicans could potentially gain one seat. There are seven county alumni in the Senate.

In the House, several districts flipped party and, notably, Carrie Delrosso (R) prevailed in a tight race in the 33rd District against incumbent House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny). Should the unofficial results hold, Republicans will strengthen their majority by three seats overall in the House, shifting the balance from a 109-93 Republican majority, with one vacancy, to a 112-91 Republican majority.

For counties, this means 27 counties will see at least one new House or Senate member in their delegation; six counties will have at least one new member of their state Senate delegation, 13 counties will have a new House member in January and eight counties will have both new House and Senate members. A full list of newly elected General Assembly members can be found on CCAP's
Legislative Action Center.

Pennsylvania congressional incumbents maintained their seats in all 18 districts across the commonwealth. This continues the even split of nine Democrats and nine Republicans representing Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives. None of Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seats were up for re-election this cycle. 

 

HOUSE, SENATE SELECT NEW LEADERS  

On the heels of the 2020 General Election, the Republican and Democratic caucuses of the Pennsylvania House and the Republican caucus in the Senate also selected their new leadership teams for the 2021-2022 legislative session which begins in January. In particular, former Westmoreland County commissioner will ascend to the role of Senate Majority Leader, while Rep. Joanna McClinton (Philadelphia) will be the next House Democratic Leader. Both are the first women to hold these leadership roles in Pennsylvania.

The Senate Republicans elected Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre), the current Majority Leader in that chamber, to take over as President Pro Tempore with the retirement of current President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson). Additionally, Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) will maintain his role as Majority Whip and Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) remains Senate Appropriations Chair. The Senate Democratic Caucus re-elected Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) as Floor Leader, Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) as Whip and Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) as Appropriations Committee Chair.

In the House, Speaker of the House Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), who took over the role on the retirement of previous speaker Mike Turzai earlier this year, will remain Speaker in the upcoming session, and House Majority Leader Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) will also remain in that position. Former Clarion County commissioner Rep. Donna Oberlander will again be Majority Whip, and Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) will also return as Appropriations Committee Chair. In addition to Rep. McClinton election, the 2021-2022 House Democratic leadership will see Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) return as Whip and Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) as Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair.

 

SHERIFFS FEE BILL NEARLY COMPLETE

On Nov. 19, the House unanimously approved SB 1193 (Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh), which increases the fees that fund reimbursements to counties for required sheriff and deputy sheriff training. Currently, this training is funded through a surcharge on all legal papers served by sheriffs' offices, which has not been increased since 2000. As requirements for training have expanded, revenues have not kept pace. Training costs and reimbursements have exceeded revenues for years, and tough budgeting decisions have been made including reduction and cancellation of trainings and suspension of spending reimbursements for deputy sheriff training to counties. The increase to this fee in SB 1193 is a meaningful step toward helping counties cover the cost of mandated programs. As the Bulletin went to print, the bill was in position to receive a potential concurrence vote in the Senate on Nov. 20, which would then send the bill to the Governor's desk.

 

ELECTION AUDIT RESOLUTION ADVANCES

During the final days of the fall session, the House approved a resolution to provide for an audit and gathering of data related to the 2020 General Election. Specifically, HR 1100, introduced by Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), specifically calls for the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), a legislative services agency, to conduct a risk-limiting audit and to work with counties and the Department of State (DOS) to provide data on the 2020 General Election, similar to the process completed under Act 35 of 2020. The LBFC report is to be submitted to the House within 60 days of the General Election.

Both the House and Senate State Government Committees have also signaled their intent to call for hearings on the conduct of the 2020 General Election in the coming weeks and months.
Counties, as the entities that administer our elections, must be at the table for any conversations to create changes to the state's election laws and processes. CCAP also continues to urge the convening of the Election Law Advisory Board, which was created earlier this year for the express purpose of studying election-related issues and offering recommendations, and would bring the General Assembly, administration, counties and other stakeholders to the table to develop positive, effective election policy. The Association's full statement on the need for meaningful improvements to the state's election policies can be found here.

 

2020 CCAP PRIORITIES STATUS UPDATE

In January 2020, CCAP members identified five priorities for 2020, including increased funding for mental health services, solutions to the emergency medical services crisis, county property tax reform, rural broadband expansion, and adult probation funding. An update on counties' progress on these priorities can be found here.