Legislative Bulletin

See All Issues from January 2018 forward​​​​​​​.

 

 
Number 25
December 6, 2019

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

 

 


 

717-526-1010

EMS TASK FORCE RELEASES REPORT   

CCAP's EMS Task Force released its final report and recommendations during the Association's Fall Conference in late November.

Emergency medical services (EMS) in Pennsylvania are in crisis, affirmed by findings of multiple studies and most prominently in the 2004
SR 60 report, and reaffirmed in the report of the legislature's SR 6 Commission, released in 2018. In late 2018, the CCAP membership expressed a need to explore whether counties could help address the issues the reports raise, with a focus on EMS. The Association assembled the CCAP EMS Task Force, charging it with reviewing the causes and issues and to make findings and recommendations, all in context of determining whether counties are positioned to play any role in assuring reliable provision of this vital public service.

The Task Force recommendations include reference to the relevant SR 6 recommendations, the related policy considerations and a discussion of opportunities for counties to contribute to the solution. Broad topics include retention and recruitment, reimbursement rates, funding, coverage, service models, risk reduction, EMS Act and regulations, technology support, and training requirements. It does not call for county assumption of the service, but instead focuses on means by which counties can assist municipalities and service providers.

The Task Force report is available at
www.pacounties.org by selecting Resources and Reports under the Government Relations tab. The Task Force will remain constituted through 2020 so that members can begin to work on implementation of its recommendations.

 

ADDITIONAL ELECTION REFORMS SIGNED INTO LAW

On Nov. 27, Gov. Wolf signed another set of election reforms into law, just weeks after the enactment of major, substantive changes to the Election Code in Act 77.

Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield) originally introduced
HB 227 to standardize the thresholds for petition signatures needed to nominate a candidate for school board from a minimum of 100 to a minimum of 10. While the underlying language remained in the bill, following the November general election the Senate adopted several amendments to address concerns raised by the use of new voting equipment in some counties.

Specifically, the amendment offered by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) on the Senate floor removes language from the Election Code requiring numbered, detachable ballot stubs, which are torn off before a ballot is fed through a scanner. In addition, the language requires counties to provide supplies to each polling place that will assure voters are able to mark their ballots and then insert those ballots into the scanners in secret.

As amended, the Senate and House unanimously approved the legislation, which became Act 94 of 2019. It took effect immediately.

 

STEIN CHALLENGES EXPRESSVOTE XL VOTING EQUIPMENT       

A motion has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asking the court to rescind the certification of the ES&S ExpressVote XL voting system.

The motion was filed on behalf of Jill Stein, who brought the lawsuit that resulted in a settlement agreement requiring the replacement of existing voting systems in Pennsylvania with voter-verifiable paper trail equipment by the April 2020 presidential primary. Stein alleges in the motion that the use of the ExpressVote XL system is a violation of that agreement because it tabulates votes by counting bar codes printed by a machine on paper, rather than counting handwritten marks made by voters themselves or made by ballot-marking devices that count the marks corresponding to the candidates and questions.

About 200 voters filed a petition in July seeking reconsideration of the state's approval of the ES&S system, also in part on the basis of its use of the bar code. The petition alleged security flaws and noncompliance with certain Election Code requirements. Contractor SLI Compliance conducted the re-examination with PA Department of State oversight, and the result maintained the certification of the system for use in the commonwealth.

Philadelphia and Northampton counties had purchased the ExpressVote XL system and deployed them in the Nov. 5 general election. Cumberland County also plans to begin use of the system in the 2020 primary election, and other counties have the system under consideration. The commonwealth has until Dec. 12 to respond to the motion.

 

NEW PENNDOT SECRETARY NOMINATED; RICHARDS MOVES TO SEPTA

Gov. Wolf recently announced that he would nominate Yassmin Gramian as secretary of the Department of Transportation (PennDOT), with the imminent departure of secretary Leslie Richards to take the post of general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

Richards, a former Montgomery County commissioner, will take the helm at SEPTA in January 2020. She is also the first planner to lead the Authority.


Gram
ian currently serves as the Executive Deputy Secretary of PennDOT, and will assume the role of Acting Secretary effective Dec. 6. Her appointment will be subject to confirmation by the state Senate. 

 

UPDATES TO STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR CHILD ABUSE

On Nov. 26, Gov. Wolf signed into law three bills to address child sexual abuse in the commonwealth, following in the wake of a grand jury report issued more than a year ago.

The key piece of legislation,
HB 962, introduced by Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) and now Act 87 of 2019, will give future victims of child abuse more time to file lawsuits, extending the timeframe for victims to seek civil recourse against institutions from age 40 to age 55. In addition, sexual abuse victims age 18 through 23 would be permitted to bring a civil action until they attain the age of 30 (current law gives them two years), and a criminal action within 20 years after the date of the offense, compared to the 12 years under prior state law. In addition, Act 87 removes governmental immunity for child sexual abuse cases where the abuse was caused by negligence of a local agency.

Relatedly, the General Assembly also approved
HB 963 in November, which would amend the state constitution to create a two-year window of time for retroactive lawsuits by victims whose statute of limitations has already expired. As a constitutional amendment, the bill would need to be approved again with the same language in the coming 2021-2022 session, and then approved by Pennsylvania voters via referendum.

Another new law, Act 88 of 2019 (
HB 1051, Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery) increases the penalty from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree for the ongoing failure of a mandated reporter to report continuing child sexual abuse. Further, Act 89 of 2019 (HB 1171, Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne) specifies that any current or past confidentiality agreement with child sexual abuse victims is void and unenforceable if it includes a provision that bans communications with law enforcement.

 

SENATE APPROVES MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE 

The Senate recently approved legislation that would increase Pennsylvania's minimum wage for the first time since 2009, as part of a compromise with Gov. Wolf to rescind pending regulatory amendments to expand overtime pay eligibility.

Pennsylvania's current minimum wage is set at the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.
Senate Bill 79, introduced by Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, was amended by the Senate Labor and Industry Committee to increase that amount over the next several years, to $8.00/hour effective July 1, 2020; $8.50/hour effective Jan. 1, 2021; $9.00/hour effective July 1, 2021; and $9.50/hour effective Jan. 1, 2022.

The amendment also added language requiring the minimum wage and overtime requirements in the state to remain consistent with federal rules until at least 2023, leading Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Gerard Oleksiak to withdraw pending regulatory changes that were scheduled for consideration by the state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission. The final rule had been released on Oct. 17, and would have raised the salary threshold for non-exempt employees to receive overtime pay from the current $23,660 to $45,500 by 2022.

Following a 42-7 vote by the Senate, SB 79 now moves to the House of Representatives where its future is unclear. In the meantime, the federal Department of Labor is moving forward with its overtime rule changes, which would increase the threshold to $35,568 beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

 

2020 JUDICIAL SALARIES 

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has published the judicial salaries that will take effect on January 1, 2020, in the Nov. 23, 2019, issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The listing sets the annual salary of a judge of the court of common pleas, against whose pay the district attorney salary is also established, at $186,665. The full listing of judicial salaries is available at http://www.pacodeandbulletin.gov/Display/pabull?file=/secure/pabulletin/data/vol49/49-47/1730.html.

 

2019 COUNTY PRIORITIES STATUS REPORT   

In January 2019, CCAP members identified seven priorities for 2019, including funding for voting systems, human services funding and system reform, broadband expansion, and preventing substance abuse and drug overdose, among others. An update on counties' progress on these priorities has been posted at www.pacounties.org, accessible by selecting Priorities under the Government Relations tab.