Government Affairs & General Updates
July 24, 2023
1. Counties brace for impact for state budget impasse. With the prospect that the state's budget impasse could drag on for another two months appearing increasingly likely, county leaders are bracing for the impact of having to pay their bills when the state isn't paying its bills. Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach told The Associated Press an impasse lasting a few weeks won't have much effect. But the Legislature is not scheduled to return to session until after Labor Day and, if there is no budget agreement before then, he said, "that's going to create some problems." "No county can go very long without having some serious impact, from a financial standpoint," Leinbach said. No county may be in imminent need of a loan - but every single county budget officer likely knows the cost to borrow will be far more severe than it was in 2015, now that interest rates are higher. In the short-term, counties will see the biggest amounts of state aid held up for county-level caseworkers who investigate child-abuse complaints, such as calls to the state's ChildLine hotline.
2. Lawmaker proposes stiffer penalties for discharging grass clippings onto roadway. A House lawmaker has announce plans for legislation to increase the penalty for driving (or pushing) the lawn mower in the wrong direction. Specifically, the legislation would make spreading grass clippings on the roadway instead of in the yard. This comes as motorcycle enthusiasts have turned to Facebook and, based on a quick Google search, personal injury attorneys have turned to blog posts, to warn about the danger posed by grass clippings on roadways. "During the warmer months of the year, many people may not consider the consequences of grass clippings blown onto roads from lawnmowers, leaf blowers or otherwise. At the same time, our roads are being traveled more and more by people on motorcycles and bicycles. Grass clippings cause the surface of the roadway to become extremely slippery, and motorcyclists have died after sliding on them," said state Rep. Donna Scheuren, R-Montgomery, in a cosponsor memo released last week. Similar legislation was introduced in the state Senate in 2019 but didn't get out of the Judiciary Committee.
3. PA unemployment rate hits record low in June - Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has reached a historic low according to the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I), which released its preliminary employment report from May to June 2023 on Friday, July 21. According to the report, PA’s unemployment rate declined two-tenths of a percent to 3.8%. This the lowest rate on record dating back to 1976. The report also said PA’s civilian labor force — the estimated number of residents working or looking for work — decreased by 4,000 people with resident employment increasing by 10,000 and unemployment fell by 13,000 people. The total number of non-farm jobs also set a record for a sixth consecutive month after an increase of 7,300 jobs, for a grand total of 6,131,900 jobs in June which included job increases in 11 industry super sectors. Total non-farm jobs have gone up by 154,600 since the start of the year with education and health services having the largest volume gain at 49,400 over the year among super sectors. Read More
4. Pennsylvania counties plan to miss big social-services payment as state budget stalemate drags on - Counties in Pennsylvania are preparing to get by without payments for some of the social services they carry out as a state budget stalemate between Gov. Josh Shapiro and lawmakers drags into its fourth week. Tens of millions of dollars for county-level services for substance abuse, child welfare, mental health and the intellectually disabled are expected to be held up in the coming days and weeks, minus some sort of breakthrough in Harrisburg to dissolve the impasse. Big payments to schools also are expected to be stalled in the coming weeks. Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said an impasse lasting a few weeks won’t have much effect. But the Legislature is not scheduled to return to session until after Labor Day and, if there is no budget agreement before then, he said, “that’s going to create some problems.” “No county can go very long without having some serious impact, from a financial standpoint,” Leinbach said. Counties have experience struggling through stalemates, including a record-breaking impasse in 2015 that did not thaw until 2016. During it, county governments and school boards waiting on billions in state aid burned through loans and emptied reserves. Social services organizations — largely non-profits that deliver state-mandated safety-net services administered by counties — shuttered programs, borrowed money and laid off hundreds of workers who care for the state’s most vulnerable populations. County officials say that ordeal taught them to sock away reserves to survive for a couple months, at least, as many try now to figure out how much state aid this impasse will ensnare while they take stock of their cash flow. No county may be in imminent need of a loan — but every single county budget officer likely knows the cost to borrow will be far more severe than it was in 2015, now that interest rates are higher.Read More
5. NFIB report: Minimum wage hike bad for state economy - Drastically increasing Pennsylvania’s state minimum wage could lead to significant job losses, income reductions, and small businesses closures, according to a recent report commissioned by NFIB, an organization advocating on behalf of small and independent businesses. The study, “Economic Impacts of a Proposed Minimum Wage Increase in Pennsylvania,” June 2023, examines the one-vote majority in the state House that plans to more than double the minimum wage rate to $15 an hour. In June, House Bill 1500 was referred to the Committee on Labor and Industry before being passed out of the full House. It would raise the minimum wage by 2026 from $7.25 an hour to $15.00 an hour. The bill also would allow for automatic future, annual minimum wage hikes tied to inflation data the Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry reports. If the bill becomes law, there would be an economic output loss by 2033 exceeding $13 billion, nearly $7 billion from small businesses, and more than 101,000 jobs would be lost, 56 percent from small businesses, according to the report.Read More