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Government Outreach -July 28, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
July 28, 2023

1. ChamberPAC issues endorsements for statewide appellate court races - Congrats to Judge Smail!!!!!!!! ChamberPAC, the bipartisan political action committee of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, today announced its slate of endorsed candidates for statewide judicial office in the upcoming General Election on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. “Pennsylvania’s appellate courts hold immense importance for employers, and the decisions they make have a profound impact on every facet of life in the Commonwealth,” PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein said. “We believe these candidates’ judicial philosophies, decisions, and past experiences will contribute to the integrity of our courts and reflect favorably on the business community.” In the race for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, ChamberPAC has endorsed Judge Carolyn Carluccio. Judge Carluccio was elected to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 2009, where she has served with distinction as the first female President Judge in the county’s history. As a common pleas judge, Carluccio was assigned to sit in the Criminal, Family, and Civil Court Benches and as an alternate Judge to Juvenile Court. Carluccio also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and as Montgomery County’s first female Chief Public Defender. Judge Carluccio is Highly Recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and was endorsed by ChamberPAC during the primary election. In the race to fill two seats on Pennsylvania’s Superior Court, ChamberPAC has endorsed Maria Battista and Judge Harry Smail, Jr. Battista, a former Commonwealth Attorney and Assistant District Attorney for Venango County, has more than 15 years of legal experience in civil, criminal, and administrative law. She demonstrated fairness and impartiality as a hearing examiner and would bring a unique perspective the bench. Judge Smail has served on the Court of Common Pleas in Westmoreland County since 2014. During his tenure, Judge Smail has administered a complex civil litigation docket of a variety of nuanced legal issues, boasting a 97 percent affirmation rate of his judicial opinions. Prior to his joining the bench, Judge Smail spent 17 years as a litigation attorney. Judge Smail is Recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association “based on his extensive background, legal ability, and temperament.” In the race for Commonwealth Court, ChamberPAC has endorsed Megan Martin. Martin’s three-decade career in public service includes legal experience across all three branches of Pennsylvania state government and as an attorney for the United States Navy. Martin served as the Pennsylvania Senate’s Secretary-Parliamentarian for more than a decade, where she managed the legislative process, decided legal appeals, and drafted legal opinions on Right-to-Know Law issues. Martin is Recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, which pointed to her “substantial administrative law experience” in its favorable review of her candidacy. Read More


2. Democrats and advocates criticize shift redirecting $100 million away from adult mental health services and to school mental health. Democratic lawmakers and advocates blasted a budget move by Senate Republicans to shift $100 million away from a proposal to expand adult mental health services and redirecting the dollars to school mental health services. Both chambers of the General Assembly had voted last year to spend $100 million of federal stimulus dollars on adult mental health services and created a special commission to come up with a plan to distribute the money. That commission released its recommendations last fall but the Legislature took no action before the end of the 2021-22 legislative session. This year, the House approved House Bill 849, which would allocate the $100 million by spending $34 million on workforce development; $31.5 million on criminal justice and public safety; and $34.5 million to expand mental health services. The Senate has not taken action on HB 849. Senate Bill 605 - which would divide the money by providing $34 million for workforce development; $25.5 million for criminal justice and public safety and $40 million to expand services - was introduced in that chamber in April and it hasn't moved out of the Health and Human Services Committee either. Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, and Sen. Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, the prime sponsors of HB 849 and SB 605, both said they believe the state should provide funding for more mental health services for adults and for school students. "It should not be an either/or proposition," Schlossberg said.


3. EHB rejects bid by environmental groups to get bonds for conventional natural gas drilling increased. The state Environmental Hearing Board voted to reject a bid by environmental groups to get the state to increase the bond amount paid by conventional natural gas drillers, StateImpact reported. The Department of Environmental Protection had noted that while the current bonding amounts are "insufficient" the board is barred from increasing the amount of the bonds due to a 2022 state law (Act 96) freezing the bond amounts. House Democrats, who held a 102-101 majority in the chamber until Rep. Sara Innamorato quit to focus on her campaign for Allegheny County executive earlier this month, began to move a bill to un-freeze that freeze but the measure didn't come up for a final vote in the chamber before lawmakers departed for the summer.


4. PA Attorney General is among group balking at proposed settlement with 3M over 'forever chemicals.' Pennsylvania's attorney general is one of 22 balking at a proposed settlement with 3M over the drinking water contamination linked to so-called "forever chemicals." The deal announced in June doesn't give individual water suppliers enough time to determine how much money they would get and whether it would cover their costs of removing the compounds known collectively as PFAS, said the officials with 19 states, Washington, D.C., and two territories. In some cases the agreement could shift liability from the company to providers, they said, according to The Associated Press. "While I appreciate the effort that went into it, the proposed settlement in its current form does not adequately account for the pernicious damage that 3M has done in so many of our communities," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta, leader of the multistate coalition. The company, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, manufactures per- and polyfluorinated substances - a broad class of chemicals used in nonstick, water- and grease-resistant products such as clothing and cookware, as well as some firefighting foams. Described as "forever chemicals" because they don't degrade naturally in the environment, PFAS have been linked to a variety of health problems, including liver and immune-system damage and some cancers. 3M has said it plans to stop making them by the end of 2025.


5.  U.S. economic growth accelerates, defying slowdown expectations Faster economic growth this spring raises the prospect of a longer postpandemic expansion despite the Federal Reserve pushing interest rates to a two-decade high. Gross domestic product grew at a seasonally- and inflation-adjusted 2.4% annual rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was faster than economists expected and above the 2% growth in the first three months of the year. Consumer spending cooled but rose enough to drive overall growth alongside much stronger business investment in the second quarter. Those factors combined to buck economists’ earlier expectations that a downturn would start in the middle of this year due to higher interest rates. As inflation falls from historic highs and the labor market remains strong, solid growth adds to the prospect of a soft landing—in which inflation returns close to the Federal Reserve’s 2% target without a recession. “We’ve turned the corner on the risk here, and instead of being heavily weighted to recession, it’s balanced between recession and not recession,” said Amy Crews Cutts, chief economist at AC Cutts & Associates, before the data was released. U.S. stock indexes moved lower Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 237.40 points, or 0.67%. The broader S&P 500 Index declined 0.64% and the tech heavy NASDAQ Index fell 0.55%. The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday by a quarter percentage point to a range between 5.25% and 5.5%, a 22-year high. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said any further increases would depend on whether inflation and economic activity were slowing in line with officials’ forecasts. Read More


6.  Federal legislation would keep tax deduction from expiring U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) introduced legislation that would keep Section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code from expiring in 2025. Section 199A allows for a 20 percent pass-through income deduction for certain small businesses from qualified REIT dividends and income from publicly traded partnerships. “Providing permanency to this critical pro-growth tax policy will ensure small businesses continue to have tax parity with corporations and will strengthen Main Streets across the nation,” Congressman Smucker said. More than 160 organizations support the bill. “The 20 percent Small Business Deduction is set to expire in 2025, and without it, small businesses will have to limit their plans to grow, invest, and hire,” NFIB President Brad Close said. “By making the deduction permanent, small business owners will have the tax certainty they need to make business decisions about their future.” “Small and medium manufacturers, often organized as pass-through entities, are the backbone of the American supply chain,” Chris Netram, National Association of Manufacturers managing vice president of policy, said. “Section 199A allows pass-throughs to deduct 20 percent of their qualified business income, enhancing the ability of small firms to reinvest in their businesses and their workers and increasing the resilience of manufacturers in America. Unfortunately, Section 199A is scheduled to be eliminated at the end of 2025.” Read More

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