I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of February 3, 2021.
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$912 Million COVID-19 Relief Package Sent to Governor
A comprehensive $912 million relief package to help restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic received final legislative approval on Friday and was sent to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law.
Senate Bill 109 amends the state Fiscal Code to allocate $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance, $197 million for education programs, and $145 million to support Pennsylvania’s struggling hospitality industry as it copes with the devastation created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s mandated closings and restrictions.
The bill would exempt income received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and stimulus checks from taxation under the state’s Personal Income Tax. The measure was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives this week and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.
Governor Unveils Massive Tax & Spend Budget Proposal
Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his proposed $40.2 billion General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 on Wednesday. His proposal includes a massive increase in state spending, a substantial personal income tax rate hike, imposition of Marcellus Shale extraction tax, and elimination of funding for broadband expansion as well as vital agricultural and health programs and services.
The Governor’s proposed FY 2021-22 Budget includes a $3.1 billion (8.2 percent) increase in state spending from the current fiscal year.
The Governor wants to increase the state personal income tax (PIT) rate from 3.07 percent to 4.49 percent (a 46.3 percent hike) as of July 1 to raise $3 billion annually. About one-third of all Pennsylvanians, would see their state tax burden increase under the Governor’s proposed PIT rate hike.
Upwards of one million PA small businesses will have their tax rates increased by 46.3 percent under the Governor’s proposal, since these pass-through businesses (i.e. S corporations, partnerships, etc.) pay business taxes at the PIT rate.
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Senate Approves Bill Providing for Expert Witnesses
The Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would amend the Judicial Code to permit the Commonwealth to call expert witnesses in cases of domestic violence and human trafficking in order to explain victim behavior. Senate Bill 81 provides for expert witnesses in cases of domestic violence and human trafficking.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, along with the following bills that were approved by the Senate on Friday.
Senate Bill 49, which designates a bridge in Johnstown, Cambria County, as the Reverend Andrew William Tilly, Jr., Bridge.
Senate Bill 84, which amends the County Code to state the first assistant district attorney will become the district attorney in the event of a vacancy for Class 2A through Eighth-Class counties until the next municipal election.
Senate Bill 85, which amends the Second-Class County Code to state the first assistant district attorney will become the district attorney in the event of a vacancy for Second-Class Counties until the next municipal election.
Senate Bill 86, which amends Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) to require counties under a home rule charter to follow the procedures for succession under the county codes in the event of a vacancy in the office of district attorney.
Aging & Youth/Health & Human Services
The Senate Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Aging & Youth Committee held a joint hearing on Thursday on the state’s stunted rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Video
The committees heard testimony on the state vaccine distribution plan from representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, hospitals, long-term care advocates and pharmacies.
The hearing included testimony on a wide range of issues, including delays in administering first doses after they have been allocated to the state; abrupt changes in guidance and vaccine eligibility criteria from the state; a lack of information on providers who have available doses of the vaccine, particularly for older Pennsylvanians who are not familiar with new technology; inadequate supply of vaccines from the federal government; ensuring providers adhere to guidance and provide vaccines only to eligible individuals; and expanding vaccine access to rural areas.
Agriculture & Rural Affairs
The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee approved two bills on Wednesday. Video
Senate Bill 36 provides for license fee exemptions for service dogs used by a fire department, sheriff’s office or in the performance of rescue services or medical emergency services. Currently, the fee exemption exists only for any municipal or state police department or agency.
Senate Bill 64 directs a portion of the state-allocated farmland preservation funding to be set aside annually for use by land trusts.
Environmental Resources & Energy
The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved a letter to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) on Wednesday formally opposing a Regulation to have Pennsylvania join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Video
The IRRC is an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is responsible for the review of regulations from nearly all state agencies, boards and commissions before they go into effect.
Rules & Executive Nominations
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee approved two bills on Wednesday. Video
Senate Bill 96 increases the maximum donation amounts to the Veterans’ Trust Fund from $3 to $5 when applying for or renewing a driver’s license, ID card or vehicle registration and from $6 to $10 when applying for a two-year vehicle registration.
Senate Bill 158 provides for medals of commendations for law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel.