Saturday, January 11, 2020

PA Capitol Report: Senate, House Kick Off 2nd Half Of 2019-20 Legislative Session

The Senate and House were in ceremonial session for one day last week to formally start the second half of the 2019-2020 legislative session.  All the bills start off where they were left last year. Here are a few highlights from last week’s activities--
5 Special Elections
A total of five special elections have been scheduled in the next few months to fill vacant Senate and House seats--
January 14-- Special Senate Election to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Folmer in Lebanon, Dauphin and York counties. Click Here for more.
February 25-- Special House Election to fill Rep. Johnson Harrell’s seat in Philadelphia.
March 17-- Special House Elections to fill the seats of resigning Reps. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), Justin Walsh (R-Westmoreland) and Todd Nesbit (R-Mercer).  They were all elected to other county positions.
2 New Committee Chairs
The resignation of the three House members caused House Republicans to shuffle around committee assignments--
-- Rep. Tom Murt (R-Montgomery) was appointed as Chair of Human Services Committee.
-- Rep. Gary Day (R-Lehigh) was appointed as Chair of Aging & Older Adult Services Committee.
10 Members Retiring
Here’s an updated list of members retiring-- so far--
Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware)
Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson)
Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) [New]
Rep. Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill)
Rep. Marcia Hahn (R-Northampton)
Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry)
Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery)
Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) [New]
Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Northampton)
Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery)
The Allentown Morning Call reported Republican and Democratic lawmakers are again pushing to change how legislative districts are drawn to prevent gerrymandering after the 2020 Census.  Click Here for more.
Attorney General’s Race
For anyone thinking of challenging Attorney General Josh Shapiro for reelection, the Associated Press reported he starts his reelection year with more than $3 million in his campaign bank account, about 40 percent of what he spent to get elected in 2016. Click Here for more.
Republicans running or thinking of running against Shapiro include Marc Scaringi, one time U.S. Senate Candidate and aide to former Attorney General now federal judge Mike Fisher and Heather Heidelbaugh, a former Allegheny County council member and Pittsburgh attorney. Click Here for more.
New Mail-In & Absentee Ballots
On Friday, the Department of State issued instructions on how to take advantage of the new “no excuses” mail-in ballots and absentee ballot request deadlines adopted into law last year.  Click Here for the instructionsClick Here for more.
Budget Hearings
The FY 2020-21 budget hearing schedules are now complete with the formal release of the House Appropriations Committee schedule last week.
The Senate Committee released their budget hearing schedule before Christmas.
The countdown now begins to the Governor’s budget address on February 4.
$552 Million Break For Business
On January 8, Gov. Wolf announced Pennsylvania businesses will see a reduction in their unemployment compensation (UC) tax rates, saving an estimated $552 million this year.  The rates are at their lowest in 40 years. Click Here for more.
The PA Gaming Control Board reported last week 20 video gaming truck stop sites are now up and running.  A total of 100 video gaming terminals have generated over $1.2 million in tax revenue so far.  Click Here for more.
Property Tax Reform Vote
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said he would like to see a vote on school property tax reform this year and pointed to the plans developed by the bipartisan Senate-House School Property Tax Work Group.
All the plan options developed by the Work Group involve raising taxes on individuals-- Personal Income and Sales taxes-- to make up for lost property tax revenues.  Click Here for more.
Cell Phone Tax For Broadband
One idea floated at the PA Farm Show this week by agriculture groups is a new $.75 to $1.00 monthly fee on cell phones to pay for local projects to extend broadband service in the state.  Rural parts of Pennsylvania are especially hurt by the lack of high-speed Internet service. Click Here for more.
What’s Next?
The House returns to voting session January 13, and according to the House Republican Majority Leadership, we will see action on these bills and issues--
The House will be in session the following week-- on January 21 and 22-- after the Martin Luther King Holiday.
The Senate doesn’t return to voting session until January 27.
[Posted: January 11, 2020]

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