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Government Outreach -September 13, 2023

Government Affairs & General Updates
September 13, 2023

1. House committee approves bill that would keep speed cameras in work zones. The House Transportation Committee approved legislation that would eliminate the sunset date for a program authorizing speed cameras in work zones. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee in June and is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee, ahead of a potential final vote in the chamber. Senate Bill 748 would remove the sunset dates for programs authorizing speed cameras in both work zones and along Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia. The full House approved legislation in June that would eliminate the sunset date for the program allowing speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. That legislation, House Bill 1284, would also allow city officials to place speed cameras on other roads in Philadelphia. Proponents said it makes sense to allow speed cameras on other streets to catch drivers who are avoiding Roosevelt Boulevard. The Senate has not acted on HB 1284. The Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera program will sunset in December unless lawmakers act to extend it. The work zone speed camera program will expire in February unless lawmakers extend it. House Bill 1662, which was approved unanimously by the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, adds protections for motorists driving through work zones.

2. House panel hearings differing views on housing restrictions intended to bar sex predators from living near schools and day cares. A House committee heard differing views Tuesday on legislation to impose housing restrictions to keep convicted sexually violent predators from living in proximity to children congregating at schools and day cares. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on House Bill 77 to prohibit these offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of a public school, private school, parochial school, pre-school and day care facility. Under current state law, sex offenders convicted of a sexually violent offense must register with state police for life and provide verification of residence under Megan's Law, but face no restrictions on where they reside. The Pennsylvania State Police reported in 2021 there were nearly 2,500 violent sex offenders in Pennsylvania.

3. Pa. business growth ranking revealed - New research revealed that Pennsylvania ranks 38th on the list of the best states for business growth. Business consulting firm Venture Smarter analyzed data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics to discover the business growth rate in each state based on the number of establishments in December 2021 compared to December 2022. According to the data, Pennsylvania listed 375,765 businesses in December 2021. By December 2022, that number rose to 391,856. The increase of 13,715 businesses represented a change of 4.3 percent, 13th worst in the U.S. Georgia topped the list with a business growth rate of 13.50 percent. In December 2022, there were 397,515 business establishments compared to 350,189 in December 2021. Virginia and Washington rank second and third with business growth rates of 10.5 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively. Completing the top ten are Montana (10.2 percent), Vermont (10.2 percent), Michigan (9.8 percent), South Carolina (9.6 percent), North Carolina (9.2 percent), Colorado (9.1 percent), and Hawaii (9.1 percent). Washington ranks as the worst state in the country for business growth at minus 16.8 percent. Read More

4. School funding expert estimates state's short-changing schools by more than $6 billion. A Penn State expert told members of the state's Basic Education Funding Commission that the state is short-changing schools to the tune of $6.2 billion. Matthew Kelly -- a Penn State professor who provided expert testimony during the school funding trial that concluded with Commonwealth Court decreeing that the state's school funding system is unconstitutional - provided an updated adequacy estimate during the Basic Education Funding Commission's first hearing on Tuesday. His review found that while most school districts in the state don't get as much state school aid as they should 157 are "deeply underfunded" with a shortfall of $4,000 per student or more. Those districts account for 40% of the state's students. And the majority of the funding shortfall impacts the state's poorest districts, serving 20% of the state's students. The commission is holding another hearing today with further sessions planned through the fall.

5. ‘Warehouse’ growth worrying environmental groups - The online shopping industry, and the multi-billion dollar logistics and distribution network at its core, depend on Pennsylvania’s roads, land and workers for its warehouses. And yet, environmental groups say that zoning ordinances for these facilities fall short, leaving the state’s land, air and water vulnerable to destruction. That’s why PennFuture created a framework for local officials to consider what they say closes loopholes developers exploit to build properties larger than envisioned under existing rules. Roughly 3,300 fulfillment centers – for companies like Amazon, UPS and Chewy – exist across Pennsylvania, employing more than 54,000 people, according to state data. Critics say along with the economic success of the facilities comes traffic congestion, noise, drainage concerns, air pollution and land degradation. The PA Chamber of Business and Industry, however, believes the model ordinance forces local officials to “choose between important environmental safeguards or essential investments that create jobs, enhance communities, and enhance our way of life.” “There is always a need to balance commerce with conservation and environmental protection, but this proposal does not strike that balance,” said Michael Plummer, the chamber’s director of public affairs. Read More

6. Pennsylvanian sworn in as the first woman to serve as U.S. Archivist  - Pennsylvania native Colleen Shogan was sworn in as the 11th Archivist of the United States on Monday, marking the first time a woman has been appointed to oversee billions of the nation’s records and artifacts since the role was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Shogan, dressed in white to honor women’s suffrage, a movement she’s fought to memorialize with a monument on the National Mall. “The suffragists didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, so they aren’t on these murals behind me. But their contribution to the vitality of our democracy is no less meaningful,” Shogan said during remarks under the grand dome of the National Archives rotunda. “Along with many other inspiring leaders in American history, they believed in the principles enshrined in these documents and claimed them as their God-given natural rights. The fulfillment of those rights, which continues today, is why these documents aren’t simply pieces of parchment. They are living promises to hold our government accountable.” The swearing-in was ceremonial, as Shogan started on May 17. Read More

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