Legislative Bulletin

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Number 23

November 9, 2018


Twitter: @PACountiesGR 


An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania









A quarter of the Pennsylvania General Assembly will be made up of new faces when the 2019-2020 session convenes next January, based on unofficial results as of the writing of this Bulletin.

The Senate filled five vacancies, and two incumbents were unsuccessful in their re-election bids, for a total of at least seven new members of the Senate. However, several races were within a one percent margin at press time, including the 6th district in Bucks County between incumbent Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R) and challenger Rep. Tina Davis (D) and the race between Jeremy Shaffer (R) and Lindsey Williams (D) to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R) in the 38th district in Allegheny County. If the unofficial results hold, Democrats will have picked up five seats, narrowing the margin from a 33-16 Republican-Democratic split (with one vacancy based on the Scott Wagner resignation) to a 28-21 split, with one vacancy in the 37th district in Allegheny and Washington counties created by the election of Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R) to Congress.

Several close races in the House at press time could also affect the balance in that chamber. Two House races were within a one percent margin - incumbent Rep. Bud Cook (R) and challenger Steven Toprani (D) in the 49th district in Fayette and Washington counties, and incumbent Alex Charlton (R) and challenger Jennifer Omara (D) in the 165th district in Delaware County - with three others within a two percent margin. In addition, at least one vacancy remains in the 114th district in Lackawanna County following the October death of Rep. ​Sid Kavulich (D); another vacancy would occur in the 141st district if Rep. Tina Davis (D) is ultimately successful in her bid for the state Senate while a third is pending following the recent conviction on political corruption charges of Rep. Vanessa Brown (D) in the 190th district in Philadelphia. Should the unofficial results hold, Democrats will pick up 12 seats, shifting the balance from a 120-79 Republican majority, with four vacancies, to a 110-92 Republican majority with one current vacancy.

or counties, this means 24 counties will see at least one new House member in their delegation, and 12 will see at least one new member of their state Senate delegation, with nine seeing both new House and Senate members.

In the Governor's race, current Gov. Tom Wolf (D) won a second term over Republican Scott Wagner.

Pennsylvania will see a shift in its Congressional delegation next year as well, with Democrats picking up three seats to hold nine of the state's 18 districts. Further, eight members will be newly elected to their positions, including four women for the state's first female U.S. Representatives since 2014. On the Senate side, incumbent Bob Casey (D) won a third term over Congressman Lou Barletta (R).



Two counties had proposed amendments to their home rule charters on the ballot in addition to the state and federal legislative races. In Northampton County, voters approved a question asking if the county's charter should be amended to allow the county controller to engage in other business or occupation. However, Allegheny County voters narrowly defeated a question to establish the Allegheny County Children's Fund, to be funded by an increase of 0.25 mills in the county property tax rate, to improve the well-being of children through the provision of services throughout the county including early childhood learning, after-school programs, and nutritious meals. 



A number of current and former CCAP members appeared on the November 2018 primary election ballot, seeking state or federal office. Complete election results are on the Department of State web page, www.dos.state.pa.us. All results are unofficial as of press time.


Former Chester County commissioner Ryan Costello (R) did not run for re-election for his 6th district seat. In the 7th district, current Lehigh County commissioner Marty Nothstein (R) was on the ballot twice, and appears to have won the special election to fill the remaining six weeks of the current term following the retirement of Rep. Charlie Dent (R) but unsuccessful in his bid for the new term.


PA Senate

Former Delaware County council member Tom McGarrigle (R) lost his re-election bid in the 26th district, while former Monroe County commissioner Mario Scavello (R) and former Mercer County commissioner Michele Brooks (R) won their races in the 40th district and 50th district, respectively. Former Blair County commissioner John Eichelberger (R), who ran unsuccessfully in the primary for the 13th Congressional district, had not sought re-election to his current state Senate seat.


PA House

Several House incumbents who are former CCAP members lacked a challenger in November, including former Mercer County solicitor Mark Longietti (D-7th), former Clarion County commissioner Donna Oberlander (R-63rd), former Centre County commissioner Scott Conklin (D-77th), former Schuylkill County commissioner and CCAP officer Jerry Knowles (R-124th), and former clerk to Lehigh County council Steve Samuelson (D-135th). Other incumbents, including former Perry County commissioner and CCAP president Mark Keller (R-86th), former Greene County commissioner and CCAP second vice president Pam Snyder (D-50th), former Lycoming County commissioner Jeff Wheeland (R-83rd), former Northumberland County Commissioner Kurt Masser (R-107th) and former Wayne County commissioner Jonathan Fritz R-111th) were successful in their re-election( bids.

Former Bradford County commissioner Tina Pickett (R) won re-election in the 100th district over current Sullivan County commissioner Donna Iannone (D), while Adams County commissioner Marty Qually (D) was unsuccessful in his bid for the 91st district seat.



Before the close of the 2017-2018 session, two bills clarifying the levy and collection of hotel taxes were under consideration, with one recently being signed into law.

Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) sponsored
HB 1511 to close a loophole and assure that state and county hotel taxes collected by booking agents - entities such as Expedia or Travelocity that facilitate or collect payments on behalf of a hotel - must be collected on the full amount charged to a customer rather than the discounted wholesale rate. The bill was signed as Act 109 of 2018, and further review is ongoing to determine the scope of the term "booking agent" as well as whether there may be changes in how hotel tax revenues are remitted to the state and counties. The state Department of Revenue is expected to release additional information related to Act 109 in the near future.

HB 1810, introduced by Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) failed to reach the governor's desk before the end of the session. The bill would have ensured that online hosting platforms, such as AirBnb, would provide accurate information about all available room rentals by having them register with the state and provide a list on a quarterly basis of the hosts and hotels conducting business with the platform. That list would then be provided to county treasurers, enabling them to enforce county hotel taxes in a uniform manner, thus leveling the playing field for remittance of county hotel taxes for all room rentals regardless of how the rentals are executed. Butler County commissioner Kevin Boozel testified in support of HB 1810 when it was before the House, and that chamber later approved the bill. The bill was then referred to the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, but did not receive further consideration in the Senate and so will have to be reintroduced in the 2019-2020 session.



Gov. Wolf has signed two bills into law designed to support extended family members who are raising children because of the opioid crisis and other drug and alcohol problems.

One of those bills, Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski's (D-Luzerne)
HB 1539, now Act 88 of 2018, allows certain family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and adult siblings, to seek a court order for temporary guardianship of a child when the parent is in a rehabilitation facility for treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, or has had emergency medical intervention due to drug or alcohol abuse. Those temporary guardians would be permitted to make decisions on behalf of the child, such as those related to medical care or education, without terminating parental rights or forcing children into the foster care system.

In addition,
HB 2133 (now Act 89 of 2018), sponsored by Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks) establishes the Kinship Care Navigator Program in the Department of Human Services. This program will include a website and toll-free hotline to a clearinghouse of resources that will provide information about the supports and services available to grandparents and others caring for children when their parents are unable to do so.



Following a flurry of legislative activity in the fall session, Gov. Wolf signed 89 bills into law in late October. A full list of new acts containing provisions impacting county government is now available at www.pacounties.org on the Legislative Action Center.



CCAP policy committee members will meet Nov. 18 in conjunction with the CCAP Fall Conference, Nov. 18 to 20 at The Hotel Hershey, to develop their 2019 work plans and set legislative priorities for 2019. The Conference also includes a membership voting session on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The agenda includes votes on the Association's 2019 action plan and 2019 dues schedule. The voting information will be emailed to the membership in advance of the Conference.