Government Affairs & General Updates
September 26, 2023
1. Alternatives to college are creating a new career pipeline - There may be no issue in Pennsylvania that’s more bipartisan than workforce development. During a time when the commonwealth is navigating through a storm of interconnected challenges – an aging population, workforce shortages and a rapidly evolving economy, just to name a few – policymakers have largely rallied around initiatives to invest in and train the next generation of workers, whether it be in the trades, in health care or in technology. As an example, even in 2023 – a year in which state lawmakers have yet to put the finishing touches on the state budget – they still managed to approve $23.5 million for workforce training and vo-tech programs, as well as an additional $6 million for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programming. Workforce development initiatives can take a variety of shapes – from apprenticeship programs and career and technical institutions to on-the-job training. Alex Halper, vice president of government affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said collaboration between schools and educational institutions, businesses and the public sector can often wield the best results when it comes to meeting workforce challenges. Read More
2. Majority chairman of House Health Committee rolls out legislation to end indoor smoking ban exemptions. Fifteen years after Pennsylvania enacted a law to ban indoor smoking in most workplaces, a veteran House Democratic lawmaker is pushing legislation to extend the law to include currently exempt casinos, bars and private clubs. The sponsor of House Bill 1657, Health Committee Majority Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, held a public hearing last week on the bill. The testimony indicates a split between public health organizations, some workers groups and business groups over some provisions of the legislation. Frankel's bill would end the exemption of casinos, bars and private clubs under the 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act and expand the definition of smoking to add e-cigarettes. It would allow smoking only in personal residences, outdoor spaces not defined in the bill and vehicles not used for daycare services. HB1657 defines workplace as a place of employment, occupation, business, trade, craft, professional or volunteer activity and include work areas, private offices, employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms, classrooms, employee cafeterias, hallways, construction sites, temporary offices and work vehicles. Frankel said the bill's goal is protect workers from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke.
3. House GOP member introduces bill that would bar candidates from running for two public offices simultaneously. A House Republican on Monday introduced legislation that would bar candidates from running from two public offices simultaneously. In a cosponsor memo, state Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, pointed to the dysfunctional beginning of the legislative session earlier this year as evidence for the need for House Bill 1709. "Last year, two individuals were elected to the House of Representatives but were also elected to higher office at the same election. By choosing to accept the higher offices, those two legislative seats were left vacant, requiring an expensive special election to fill them. Those two vacancies also contributed to the unfortunate months-long delay in organizing the House of Representatives and tending to the business of governing the Commonwealth," Diamond said in the cosponsor memo. "In full disclosure, I have appeared on the ballot for more than one public office twice - in the 2004 general election and the 2022 primary election. While assuming the role of candidate, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the practice. I was wrong about that. As witnessed earlier this year, a successful run for two different offices can not only leave certain constituencies without representation, but can also contribute to chaos in governance," Diamond said. Former Reps. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, and Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, were elected to the offices of lieutenant governor and U.S. representative, respectively, creating vacancies when they resigned their House seats. Majority control of the House wasn't clear until the end of February because of those vacancies. Meanwhile, the House remains gridlocked because of the resignation of former Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, who was re-elected in November, but is now running for Allegheny County executive. Her successor, Lindsay Powell, also a Democrat, was elected last week.
4. Gaydos calls for action on legislation requiring agency information-sharing in light of Shapiro's automatic voter registration decree. A House Republican on Monday said her legislation to require information sharing between the Department of State and PennDOT and other state agencies should be given consideration in light of the governor's move to implement automatic voter registration for people who get or renew their driver's licenses. House Bill 970 would ensure that when a resident changes their voter registration address or registers to vote that the Department of State would transmit the information from voter registration applications and address changes to both state and local agencies, such as the Department of Transportation for driver's licenses and car registration, and taxing authorities, such as local municipalities. "State and local government agencies often struggle with keeping up-to-date with data across agencies that is associated with each resident in the system. This is a better way to provide convenience and efficiency to our citizenry, as well as government agencies, thus ensuring that all records automatically match." Said Valerie Gaydos, R-Allegheny. "The bill would also allow agencies providing services to determine if someone still meets residency requirements for services provided and received should they change their address," Gaydos added.
5. Same geology, same drilling, different resource: Geothermal interest simmers in Pennsylvania A friend once told Brian Regli that “we, Pennsylvanians” prefer to get our energy from the ground, not the sky. Mr. Regli, now the executive director of critical investments with Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office, recently considered where that leaves us: a state rich in natural resources, peppered with holes in the ground, home to a skilled oil and gas industry in the middle of an energy transition. “Boy, if we could figure out how to make geothermal work in Pennsylvania ...” he said. Geothermal energy, which uses heat from the earth to make electricity or warm buildings, has not been a hot topic in Appalachia in past years. It may not qualify as hot today either — although interest in repurposing abandoned oil and gas wells, or even drilling and fracking new wells to produce carbon-free energy, is certainly simmering. “There is a global understanding that, ‘Hey, we got a lot of holes in the ground. Can we create revenue”’ from something that would otherwise be a liability, Mr. Regli said. So far, the efforts to develop this industry in Pennsylvania have been mostly verbal. But in recent months, a non-profit organization called Project InnerSpace has been reaching out to public officials, academics, and oil and gas interests in Pennsylvania, pitching a transition from fossil fuel extraction to geothermal energy using the same workers and, potentially, the same infrastructure. Read More
6. Q&A with PA Chief Transformation and Opportunity Officer Ben Kirshner Few people know what it’s like to step into a newly created position within an organization – and even fewer know what it’s like when that position is developed to facilitate and promote business operations across an entire state. In Pennsylvania, that responsibility falls on Ben Kirshner, the Chief Transformation and Opportunity Officer. Gov. Josh Shapiro created the Office of Transformation and Opportunity through executive order as one of his first moves in office, and opted to put Kirshner, a digital marketing expert and businessman, as the state’s business czar. Kirshner, who founded Elite SEM – now known as Tinuiti – spoke with City & State on his new role and how he’s tangibly impacting businesses both big and small in the commonwealth. "A one-stop shop is one of four areas of focus for our office," Kirshner said. "This was in light of Pennsylvania not having the most aggressive financial incentives for businesses compared to other states. One of the things I learned as an entrepreneur is that mindset behind the one-stop shop – to really kill them with kindness and bring deal excellence to the commonwealth. In light of us maybe not having the financial incentives, they get speed, predictability, and timely responses that can make all the difference in the world." Read More.