An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
COUNTY PRIORITY SPOTLIGHT: HUMAN SERVICES
for county human services continues to be a priority issue for counties. Pennsylvania counties
deliver crucial human services on behalf of the state and federal
government – services that protect our most vulnerable citizens, among them
children suffering from abuse, those fighting substance abuse addictions,
individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities, and seniors
in need of long-term care.
However, even though
mandates and caseloads continue to increase, state funding support has been
unable to keep up with demand. Counties continue to deal with the daily
challenge of serving the ever-growing needs of their residents, such as the
significant increases in workloads to county human service agencies, the
toll of the opioid epidemic on families and their children and the lasting,
unknown impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pennsylvania’s residents and
communities. Yet, counties must also face the reality of ever-stagnant
state funds to address those needs.
commitment is vital to supporting these critical programs, particularly as
the financial and economic environment remain uncertain. While both the
state and counties will benefit from one-time federal aid dollars in the
coming months, it is not prudent to use these funds to supplan the state's investment in human services programs over the longer term. The state-county partnership in service delivery must again
be prioritized – including a commitment to additional and sustainable
funding for all county human services programs and assurances of continued
funding to essential services in the event of any future state budget delay
– before the safety net becomes so frayed it can no longer support those
who need it most.
CCAP ISSUES LETTER ON JUDICIAL COMPUTER BUDGET ISSUE
On March 29, CCAP
sent a letter to members of the General Assembly
expressing concern over the future of the Unified Judicial System (UJS).
The Governor’s proposed FY 2021-2022 budget would make this the fifth
consecutive year that the UJS would be flat funded. To compound the issue
of level funding, Act 42 of 2018 continues to divert $15 million annually
from the Judicial Computer System (JCS) to the Commonwealth General Fund
for other purposes.
level-funding of UJS and use of funds from JCS for other purposes has
ongoing negative impacts for counties. The cumulative effect of five years
of flat funding for court operations and diversions from JCS threatens the
ability of the AOPC to continue to provide statewide case management
systems to various levels of court at no additional cost to the counties.
Ultimately, if these detrimental funding
diversions continue, AOPC/IT will be forced to shut down all modules
(criminal, dependency and juvenile delinquency) of the Common Pleas Case
Management System (CPCMS) and other services. This will result in loss of
essential functions of the county court system without time or resources
for replacement. Further, if counties are forced to replace the
comprehensive system locally, the continuity that the current system
provides would be lost. Counties are advocating for sustainable state
investment in UJS to provide for the continuation and maintenance of this
necessary statewide judicial infrastructure.
COVID LIABILITY PROTECTION PASSES HOUSE
On April 6, the
House of Representatives approved legislation with amendments that would
provide temporary COVID-19 related liability protection for local
government entities, health care providers, businesses, educational
institutions and others by a vote of 107-94.
introduced, House Bill 605, sponsored by Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams),
would require compulsory arbitration for claims alleging personal injury or
death relating to exposure to COVID-19. An amendment offered by Rep. Ecker
on the House floor also added language to provide the liability protection,
provided that there was no gross negligence, recklessness, willful
misconduct or intentional infliction of harm. This would provide needed
reassurance to facilities that acted in good faith, such as county nursing
homes, long-term care facilities or children and youth agencies, that
continued their vital operations while following state and federal
guidelines with, at times, little or no access to personal protective
equipment during the course of the COVID-19 disaster emergency.
legislation was approved by the General Assembly in 2020, but was vetoed by
the governor. Now, HB 605 moves to the Senate for consideration.
IFO OFFERS MARCH REVENUE COLLECTIONS UPDATE
On April 1, the
Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its March revenue update, showing the collection of $4.84 billion
in March, $284.2 million above the IFO’s original estimates released in
January. This was largely attributed to higher than expected personal
income tax, corporate net income tax and inheritance tax collections. In
addition, overall General Fund collections for FY 2021-2022 of $28.71
billion to date are currently $551.7 million (2%) above estimate.
sources also saw increases over projected estimates, including the sales
and use tax, motor vehicle collections, inheritance tax collections, bank
shares, cigarette, realty transfer and gross receipts tax collections.
Non-tax revenues totaled $118.8 million, 30% above projections for March,
due almost entirely to licenses and fees collections, which were $23.2
million more than expected. Fiscal-year-to-date non-tax revenues are $825.3
million and surpass the estimate by 4.7%.
TAX SALE REGISTRATION BILL PASSES HOUSE
On April 5, the
House approved HB 264 (Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon) by a vote of 185-16, which
would require each county to have prospective tax sale bidders register
before each sale and certify that they do not have delinquent taxes or
outstanding code violations. The bill was amended in committee to narrow
the timeframe for the close of the registration process to 10 days prior to
a sale, rather than 14 days as the bill was originally drafted.
Because tax sale
properties can attract buyers with a history of code violations or other
blight issues and current law provides for a process to address any
problems post-sale rather than through prevention, some counties have been
proactively implementing their own pre-registration processes. This assists
them in assuring that only eligible purchasers can bid on the properties
and has proven successful, and HB 264 would capture this best practice in
counties generally support this concept, they request that the legislation
offer more flexibility by allowing, rather than requiring, the creation of
a pre-registration system, since counties’ specific challenges and
circumstances vary statewide.
This bill now moves
to the Senate for consideration.
ACT 13 REPORTS ARE DUE APRIL 15
Unconventional Gas Well Fund Usage Reports required under Act 13 of 2012
will be due to the PUC by April 15, 2021. All Local Government
Unconventional Gas Well Funds received in 2020 must be reported. Details
about the usage reports, including all necessary information regarding the
online and paper reporting systems, can be found in CCAP’s recently updated 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.
CCAP RESOLUTIONS PROCESS
Throughout the month
of June, CCAP policy committees will be holding their annual conference
call meetings to consider resolutions amending the Pennsylvania County Platform, in anticipation of a membership discussion
and vote in conjunction with the CCAP Annual Conference in early August.
County officials are encouraged to begin reviewing the Platform now and to
send any proposed resolutions to CCAP Government Relations staff at PACountiesGR@pacounties.org, or to discuss them with CCAP policy