Government Affairs & General Updates
August 8, 2023
1. Even with budget bill in place clock is still ticking on unresolved issues. A Sept. 30 deadline looms in resolving remaining issues to finish work on the $44.5 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2023-24. This is the date at the end of the third fiscal quarter when a deposit is made in the Rainy Day Fund serving as a revenue cushion in the event of future state revenue shortfalls. The Sept. 30 date is based on a 2002 state law regarding the Budget Stabilization Fund. The transfer could be $500 million as budget negotiators reportedly intended last June or could climb to an estimated $900 million depending upon the delayed passage of the Fiscal Code and related bills that are part of the budget package. The size of the transfer could have an impact on future budgets, a legislative branch spokesman said Monday.
2. Lawmakers propose bills to protect rights of homeowners who want to dry laundry on clothes lines. Free the clothes lines! A state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would bar homeowners associations from banning the use of clothes lines. "For some individuals, drying laundry outdoors is an inexpensive solution to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Unfortunately, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) often ban outdoor clotheslines and drying racks, citing the unsightliness of the practice as damaging to the orderly appearance of these communities," said Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Montgomery, in a cosponsor memo released in July. "This legislation, a companion to Rep. (Lisa) Borowski's House Bill 1179, would ensure residents who live in a condominium, cooperative, or planned community the right to dry laundry using a clothesline or drying rack outdoors. The legislation would allow HOAs to limit the use of these items to backyard areas to maintain the aesthetic appearance of the community. Clotheslines and drying racks could also be prohibited from hindering public access or creating a fire or safety hazard at the property." Currently, twenty other states have laws protecting the right to dry clothes outside. HB 1179 was introduced in May and has not moved out of committee.
3. Federal legislation would extend section of the tax code U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would permanently extend Section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 199A, which was adopted as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is set to expire in 2025. The legislation would allow for up to a 20 percent pass-through income deduction for small businesses organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, S-corporations, trusts, or estates. It also applies to income from qualified REIT dividends and income from publicly traded partnerships. Most small business are structured as a pass-through. The purpose of Section 199A was to promote equity between small businesses and larger corporations. The Main Street Tax Certainty Act has the support of the Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee and has nearly 100 cosponsors. The bill has the support of business organizations in Smucker’s Congressional district including the Pennsylvania Chamber. “The Main Street Tax Certainty Act would help support millions of American small- and individually owned businesses during a critical time in our economic recovery,” Luke Bernstein, PA Chamber president and CEO, said. “These companies are the backbone of our economy, employing the vast majority of private-sector workers. The passage of the Main Street Tax Certainty Act will foster economic growth and help Pennsylvania’s small businesses, S-corporations, and sole proprietorships remain competitive while overcoming the long-term financial impacts of the pandemic.” Read More
4. Steel city startups are set to send new tech to the moon Think of the space industry in the U.S., and places like Houston, Cape Canaveral, Florida, or Huntsville, Alabama, likely spring to mind. But how about Pittsburgh? No? Well, a collection of state and local officials and business leaders from the Keystone State are looking to change that. The space industry is set to grow dramatically. The sector could be worth as much as $1 trillion worldwide by 2030, according to researchers at McKinsey & Company. And Pittsburgh is hoping to cash in. Known as the steel-making capital of the world, this city of more than 300,000 people wants to join the likes of China and India in flexing its muscles in space. This all is with a view to support the federal government’s goals, like launching satellites for internet and other communications and maintaining its dominance in space. And like NASA, Pittsburgh wants to play its part in helping return people to the moon and explore Mars. The Keystone Space Collaborative, a regional organization that works to promote space industry businesses and talent in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, announced in June that it would form a space and innovation district in Pittsburgh. The importance of academia is apparent with the growth of Astrobotic, which company CEO John Thornton said is “Pittsburgh's neighborhood space company.” The company was founded by a group of academics at Carnegie Mellon to win the Google X Lunar Prize that called for privately funded teams to land a lunar rover on the moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit high-definition video and photos back to Earth Read More
5. How a bitter battle for SNAP benefits in the farm bill affects you When House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden successfully negotiated a debt ceiling deal with stricter work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, it was not the end of the policy debate surrounding the massive social safety net. “Let’s get the rest of the work requirements,” McCarthy said at a press conference after the House passed the debt ceiling deal. The popular food assistance program is gearing up to become a major point of contention in the closely divided House as lawmakers work to hammer out a farm bill, a must-pass legislation approved roughly every five years that addresses agricultural to conservation to nutrition policy. The bill's 2018 version is set to expire Sept. 30 and it is unclear if lawmakers will be able to pass a new version before that deadline. Food assistance programs make up nearly 80% of the massive spending bill, which spent $867 billion in 2018. This year’s farm bill could run roughly $1.5 trillion according to the Congressional Budget Office. With a Republican-controlled House eager to cut spending wherever possible, the farm bill could be another target for GOP lawmakers eyeing budget cuts. Ahead of when lawmakers return to Washington from the August recess, Democratic lawmakers are already digging in when it comes to support for the farm bill. Read More