Legislative Bulletin

See All Issues from November 2017 forward​​​​​​​.

 

 
Number 21
October 11, 2019

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

 

 


 

717-526-1010

COUNTIES SHARE INPUT ON EMS   

CCAP president and Chester County commissioner Kathi Cozzone recently had the opportunity to discuss ways to modernize emergency medical services (EMS) before a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Delaware County.

Cozzone, who is also a member of CCAP's EMS Task Force, joined a panel with George Crowding, deputy director of Chester County's Department of Emergency Services and Alpha Fire Company (Centre County) chief Steven Bair to talk specifically about the intersection of local government and local response. She shared that in 2019, counties adopted a resolution to study the crisis in EMS services, make recommendations on legislative and operational solutions and determine an appropriate role for counties in assuring the provision and sustainability of this critical service. While the resolution does not call for counties to take over service provision, it calls for exploring the supports counties can provide given their ties to other county emergency management and human services programs.

CCAP's EMS Task Force has been studying these issues for the past year, and while the final report has not yet been released, Cozzone told the committee that the starting point was the legislature's SR 6 report, with their work including review of retention and recruitment issues, reimbursement rates, funding, service coverage and service models, community risk reduction, technology support and training requirements. Recommendations to help municipal partners and community providers meet the pressures on the EMS system will be finalized and presented to the CCAP membership at its Fall Conference in November.

Cozzone's full testimony is available on CCAP's Legislative Action Center by clicking on Legislative Testimony.

FINAL FEDERAL OVERTIME RULE RELEASED

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its final rule to increase the salary threshold for professional non-exempt employees to receive overtime pay.

Under the rule, the salary threshold for overtime pay will be increased from $23,660 annually ($455 per week) to $35,568 per year ($684 per week) beginning Jan. 1, 2020, meaning those who earn between $23,660 and $35,568, and who meet certain job requirements, will be newly eligible for overtime pay.

In addition to increasing the salary threshold, the final rule will also permit bonuses and incentive payments to be used to satisfy up to 10% of the salary level, but would not change the job duties criteria nor institute automatic updates or increases to the salary threshold. DOL indicated instead that it would propose updates to the salary threshold every four years through the rulemaking process.

While the threshold in the final rule is lower than the threshold of $913 per week that had been proposed by the Obama administration in 2016, in January 2018, Gov. Wolf's administration announced its intent to implement changes to the state's overtime eligibility rules for employees that would mirror the proposed federal 2016 rule. The proposed state regulation was open for public comment in mid-2018 but no action has been taken to move forward since then.

CCAP RELEASES MARIJUANA REPORT       

On Oct. 4, the CCAP Marijuana Task Force released its report and recommendations related to potential impacts associated with any legislative efforts to legalize recreational marijuana.

The creation of the Task Force in early 2019 was prompted by the Wolf administration's announcement that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman would be undertaking a statewide listening tour to gather public input on the possibility of legalization.

After hearing from a wide variety of stakeholders, including other state associations of counties, to learn about different approaches to and outcomes of legalization and commercialization of recreational marijuana, the Task Force proposed two policy resolutions for consideration by the CCAP membership, which call for the disconnect between state and federal law to be resolved before the state makes any further changes to its laws, and opine that counties must have a seat at the table for any legislative discussions that may occur. Those resolutions were adopted in August 2018 and provided guidance for the Task Force to create a report with more specific recommendations.

The recently released report provides more specific recommendations based on the broad policy direction of the resolutions, with the flexibility to adapt to any legislative proposals that may come up. In general, the Task Force concluded that any effort to decriminalize marijuana must be done statewide and must apply uniformly in all counties, that counties must be actively involved in any policy discussions that take place in the legislature, and that more research is needed to fully understand the long-term impacts on physical and behavioral health.

The 2019 resolutions can be found on the CCAP website under the Government Relations tab on the Policy page, and the report and supporting documents can be found under the Government Relations tab on the Resources and Reports page.

LT. GOV RELEASES MARIJUANA LISTENING TOUR REPORT

Following listening sessions in all 67 counties, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Gov. Wolf released the final report and proposed next steps on legalization of marijuana in late September. The listening tour prompted counties to create a task force to explore the issue as well, with their recommendations released on early October (see previous article in this Bulletin).

The Lt. Gov's report, which summarized more than 44,000 comments from the tour and online submissions, indicated a majority of attendees in all but a few counties supported legalization of recreational marijuana. A county-by-county breakdown of support and opposition is available, as well as the most common arguments for and against legalization. At the same time, the Governor and Lt. Governor called on the General Assembly to approve legislation that would decriminalize non-violent and small marijuana-related offenses, and to also begin seriously debating and considering the legalization of recreational marijuana. The report also recommends seeking a path to restorative justice through the expungement of past convictions of non-violent and small marijuana-related crimes.

In response to the Lt. Governor's report, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate made it clear that they have no plans to pursue legalization of recreational marijuana, citing ongoing concerns related to the state's opioid epidemic and public safety as well as potential impacts to Pennsylvania's medical marijuana industry.

GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES EXPEDITED PARDONS FOR MARIJUANA CONVICTIONS

His administration plans to have the state Board of Pardons expedite applications for pardons from those with low-level marijuana convictions, Gov. Wolf announced on Oct. 3. The plan is consistent with a call to action issued by the Governor and Lt. Governor following the release of a report on a statewide listening tour on legalization of recreational marijuana.

State Board of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood said that offenses eligible for an expedited review will include possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use or with the intent to distribute, as well as distribution of a small amount (but not for sale). In addition, the eligibility list includes paraphernalia-related offenses, criminal conspiracy and other convictions relating to a marijuana-specific conviction the Secretary deems appropriate for expedited review, as well as felony convictions for the possession of marijuana. Flood reiterated that the Board of Pardons must still vote to approve or deny any application it receives through the expedited process.

DCED HOUSNG ACTION PLAN OPEN FOR COMMENT

The state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is preparing the 2020 Housing Action Plan as part of the state's Consolidated Plan for 2019-2023. The plan analyzes the needs of the non-entitlement areas of the state related to housing, including special needs, community development, homelessness prevention and economic development. The analysis assists in the creation of a unified strategy for housing, homelessness and community development programs, including the necessary linkages for building successful neighborhoods and communities. The Annual Action Plan is submitted to the federal Housing and Urban Development agency as the annual application for federal funds the commonwealth administers, including the Community Development Block Grant, the HOME Investment Partnership, the Emergency Solutions Grant, and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

DCED encourages public input in the process, and comments about topics related to the plan can be submitted to RA-DCEDcdbghomequestions@pa.gov through Nov. 22.

CONTINUING RESOLUTION KEEPS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OPEN THROUGH NOVEMBER

President Trump has signed a stopgap spending measure to keep government agencies open through Nov. 21, largely funding agencies at their current level while giving lawmakers seven additional weeks to develop full-year federal appropriations bills for FY2020. The continuing resolution also provides another short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until the same date.

Although the House has passed most of its FY2020 funding bills, much of that work was done before overall spending had been agreed upon. The Senate held off on appropriations work until the Bipartisan Budget Act was signed into law in late July, which addressed deadlines for the federal debt ceiling and budgetary spending caps, waiving those caps for two years.