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Government Outreach -August 23, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
August 23, 2023

1. Business leaders, lawmakers hope for bipartisan action on permitting reform - Leaders from the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce partnered with two state senators on Tuesday to push for state-level permitting reforms, making the case that a streamlined and more transparent permitting process will keep more businesses and workers in the state and ultimately pay dividends for the state’s economy. The virtual discussion included appearances from state Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill, a York County Republican, and Lisa Boscola, a Democrat representing Lehigh and Northampton counties. Phillips-Hill is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 350, which would make several changes to how permits are reviewed and approved in the state. Among other things, the bill seeks to speed up the timeline it takes to get a multitude of permits approved in the commonwealth. “We have a rare and unique opportunity to address the issue,” Phillips-Hill said. Both Phillips-Hill and Boscola, as well as Luke Bernstein, the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber, said permitting delays have derailed projects that offered a lot of promise for the state. Bernstein pointed to U.S. Steel, which in 2021 chose not to move ahead with $1.5 billion in planned improvements to western Pennsylvania facilities, as an example of one project that failed to materialize due to permitting delays. Boscola concurred. “Whether it's building roads, houses, pipelines, solar fields, energy, broadband – you name it. These delays can often make or break a project,” she said.  Read More

2. Big money, labor central to broadband buildout in Pa. - Expanding broadband internet access across the rural reaches of Pennsylvania requires billions of dollars and thousands of workers. The commonwealth’s action plan newly adopted by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority details efforts needed to make high-speed internet available universally in five years’ time. It was created through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The total cost to build out high-speed internet infrastructure is estimated to approach $2.1 billion. More than half, or $1.16 billion, comes through the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and is part of President Joe Biden’s “Internet for All” initiative. Those funds are to be dispersed beginning in 2024. Additional money is available through a mix of federal and commonwealth funds including $368.7 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and another $200 million from Pennsylvania’s Capital Projects Fund provided by the U.S. Treasury for broadband expansion. Pennsylvania falls below national averages both for internet subscriptions as well as ownership of computing devices, according to research included in the plan. The commonwealth’s diverse terrain and sparse rural population densities are other complicating factors. Large portions of central, western and southwestern Pennsylvania are without reliable high-speed internet. Read More

3. Pennsylvania will allow some out-of-state nurses to practice starting next month - More than two years since it was signed into law, Pennsylvania officials announced Tuesday that the state will take its first step to implement the Nurse License Compact early next month. Starting Sept. 5, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who already have been approved to practice in multiple participating states will be permitted to practice in the commonwealth, according to a news release from the Pennsylvania Department of State. The compact is a multistate agreement that allows registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and vocational nurses licensed in one compact state to practice in any other compact state without acquiring an additional license. Currently, 41 U.S. states and territories are participants." Pennsylvania has been in the process of joining the compact since July 2021, when former Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law. However, the measure lacked the language that the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI needed to have for the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing to get background checks done, submitted and processed, which has stalled putting the compact into place. These hold-ups have led to headaches for nurses from other states who have moved here and tried to practice, with delays of weeks and sometimes months common when they have tried to have Pennsylvania licenses issued. Read More

4. PA 250th committee hears project proposals. A series of twelve legislative hearings this summer to hear proposals for potential projects tied to America's 250th birthday celebration is scheduled to wrap up next week in Lehigh County. The hearings before the America250PA Infrastructure Improvements & Projects Committee are the first step leading to approval of so-called legacy projects designed to improve the infrastructure of historic sites and community attractions and boost tourism during the celebration of the nation's Semiquincentennial in 2026. The definition of what can be a legacy project is broad under a 2022 state law and there's no identified funding source at this stage, but the committee is working towards a Dec. 31 deadline to select favored projects for the program. Act 37 of 2022 created the committee composed of 24 lawmakers from both parties and providing regional representation under the umbrella of Pennsylvania's America250PA Commission established in 2018.

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