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Government Outreach -August 30, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
August 30, 2023

1. Senate scheduled to take up unresolved budget legislation today in rare August session. The state Senate is set to return to the Capitol to try to move the General Assembly a step closer to sending the governor legislation needed to implement key elements of the 2023-24 state budget. The Senate sent Gov. Shapiro the state's main $45.5 billion appropriations bill earlier this month. Shapiro signed the bill while using his line-item veto power to reject a provision that would have created a program to provide vouchers for private school tuition for poor families living in poorly-performing school districts. But $1.1 billion in new funding under that state budget is being sequestered as the Democratic governor, Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House face a new round of negotiations to reach bipartisan agreement on the Fiscal Code and other code bills to decide how that money is to be spent. The sequestered money includes such programs as a $100 million Level Up Supplement for poorer schools, $50 million for hospital and health system emergency relief, $100 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars for school mental health grants, $7.5 million of state aid for indigent defense legal services and $10 million for stipends for student teachers. Also still hanging in the balance is state aid for three state-related universities - Pennsylvania State University, Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh. The enabling legislation for that aid fell short of a needed two-thirds majority during House votes in June.

2. Business leaders, legislators address hot-button issue of permitting reform !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Business and labor agreeing can be a rare thing, as PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein has stated. So, too, is the sight of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents joining together on bipartisan legislation. Yet both are becoming commonplace when the topic is permitting reform, a hot-button issue at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s drive to improve its competitiveness and expand economic opportunities for business and workforce. “I think the bottom line is that Pennsylvania needs to be more competitive,” Bernstein said Tuesday in a press conference addressing permitting reform in the state. “We’ve lost 40,000 residents to other states in the last year alone. We rank in the bottom five for businesses leaving. “But here’s the good news: There’s bipartisan consensus in Harrisburg to get generational opportunity for reform across the finish line fast. That will lead to more jobs, that will lead to a stronger Pennsylvania economy. Everyone agrees this is a bipartisan issue, and everyone agrees that cutting the permitting process in terms of streamlining it, we can be more effective. Pennsylvania loses out in critical investments if we have an antiquated, outdated permitting structure.” Bernstein pointed to recent examples of Pennsylvania losing businesses and workers because of its permitting system. U.S. Steel built a $3 billion investment, encompassing 900 jobs with average salaries of more than $100,000, in Arkansas. The state’s governor at the time, Asa Hutchinson, remarked that the next generation steel mills would be built faster in Arkansas than Pennsylvania could permit them.  Read More

3. Legislation would give redevelopment authorities greater role in blight projects. Legislation to give county redevelopment authorities a greater role in reviving blighted properties is gaining some traction. The Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee in June approved Senate Bill 802 sponsored by Chairman Frank Farry, R-Bucks, to create a state low-interest loan program that redevelopment authorities could draw from to finance projects to redevelop blighted residential and commercial properties. A companion House Bill 1347 is sponsored by Reps. Joe Hogan, R-Bucks, and Tina Davis, D-Bucks, in that chamber. The bills seek to take a concept behind a blight abatement program run by the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority and make it available to other county redevelopment authorities.

4. Mastriano announces plan for bill that would require EMS to submit reports to state database tracking overdoses. State senator, and former gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano has announced plans for legislation to require emergency medical services personnel to report overdose incidents to a statewide mapping effort launched by a 2022 law. The 2022 law requires that law enforcement notify the Overdose Information Network about overdoses they respond to within 72 hours, but EMS who respond to the vast majority of overdose cases, are not currently required to submit information into that track effort. The overdose information network database had existed prior to Act 158, but after the law required that police submit information into the system the number of cases logged by the system jumped dramatically. "Since the enactment of Act 158, overdose reporting into the ODIN system has increased by almost 70% compared to this point last year," Mastriano, R-Franklin, said in a cosponsor memo. The system has already logged 7,800 overdoses this year, more than the system logged in all of 2022.

5. Pa.'s state-owned universities now offering Google Career Certificates Students attending Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities can now earn tech industry-recognized certificates during their undergraduate studies through a new partnership with Google, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday. The initiative is intended to move students more quickly and less expensively from campuses into good-paying, high-demand jobs. It also would help employers meet their workforce demands, benefiting the state’s economy, officials said. Members of the general public who are otherwise not enrolled in college also are eligible for the program. To support continuing education, the universities “can also offer credentials to the public through non-credit courses and workshops, giving those who complete the program access to Google’s employer consortium,” officials said in a news release. The public-private partnership between Google and the State System of Higher Education initially will involve eight institutions, including the Western Pennsylvania campuses of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Penn West University (California, Clarion, Edinboro) and Slippery Rock University. The announcement comes as Shapiro and a working group he created examine ways to better deploy higher education resources across the state amid declining enrollment and growing financial stresses on campuses. “It’s time for a blueprint for higher education focused on competitiveness and workforce development, one that is grounded in access and affordability,” Shapiro said during a news conference at Millersville University in Lancaster County. Read More

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