Government Affairs & General Updates
September 27, 2023
1. Dozens of groups urge House to pass probation reform bill. The state House is on the verge of passing a major probation reform legislation. Tuesday, a group of 125 organizations - including business and social justice groups - called on lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 838. "Every day that passes without this bill, Pennsylvania's probation system fails more people, more families, more communities," said REFORM Alliance Chief Advocacy and Operations Officer Jessica Jackson. "After more than five years of debating probation reforms in Harrisburg, the 125-plus organizations that signed on in support of this bill know we can't afford to wait any longer. This bill will change lives for the better and we have the opportunity to change them now." On the other hand, the American Civil Liberties Union has opposed the legislation calling it "faux" reforms that don't tackle the major problems that will impact most people on probation. The House amended SB 838 Tuesday, meaning even if the chamber passes the bill it must return to the Senate for concurrence. The amendment made changes that included that when setting probation judges should take into consideration whether the individual is enrolled in an educational or vocational training program and that a determination that the individual is a danger should be based "clear and convincing evidence." The amendment also sets limits for how long people can be jailed for technical probation violations and specifies that probation should not extended for non-payment of fines unless there is evidence that the individual has the financial capability to make payments but is refusing to do so.
2. House panel approves bill to provide incentives for businesses to install electric vehicle charging stations. A House committee Tuesday approved legislation by a party-line vote to add infrastructure for charging electric vehicles as eligible projects under Pennsylvania's Property-Assessed Clean Energy Program. Approved 14-11 with Democrats providing the majority, House Bill 1474 would help businesses obtain long-term financing to provide electric vehicle charging at their locations, said Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, the bill sponsor, in a memo. For the second time this year, the panel postponed a scheduled vote on legislation to have a two-year moratorium on issuing state permits for electric generating facilities used by cryptocurrency mining operations. The vote on House Bill 1476 was withdrawn and will be reconsidered at a future date, said a legislative aide to Committee Majority Chairman Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, the bill sponsor. The committee plans to meet next on Oct. 3, said Vitali.
3. Shapiro develops economic development plan Gov. Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that his administration is developing a statewide economic development plan to be ready by year’s end. The governor said the plan will help guide state investment decisions, promote Pennsylvania’s areas of economic strength and look at realigning the array of state economic development incentives and programs. “This will be our Bible,” said Shapiro during an event at PennAir, a manufacturing business in York. He said this will be the first comprehensive state economic development plan in nearly two decades. The aspects of the plan discussed by Shapiro show a desire to prepare Pennsylvania to compete better in a world economy shaped by rapidly changing technologies as well as a revival of some strategies undertaken by previous governors during the past 40 years. Shapiro said a goal of the new plan will be to double down on Pennsylvania’s areas of economic strength. He cited biotech, agribusiness and manufacturing in this regard. Siger mentioned life sciences, robotics and energy as being part of the mix. The economic plan will also focus on continuing to streamline the process for businesses relocating to or expanding in Pennsylvania, encouraging the growth of small businesses and helping to revitalize communities. Siger plans to hold regional listening sessions with business and labor in coming weeks as part of the plan’s development.
4. Advocates push for legislation to reform Pennsylvania’s probation system A group of community organizations has sent a joint letter of support to lawmakers in Harrisburg, urging the passage of legislation which would make changes to Pennsylvania’s probation system. Senate Bill 838 passed the state Senate 45-4 and was unanimously advanced by the House Judiciary Committee in June. It would require courts to hold probation review conferences for probationers, set criteria for when the conferences occur, and establish a presumption that probation would end unless the person didn’t qualify. The signers of the letter are groups that form the Pennsylvania Safety Coalition, and include public safety leaders, advocacy groups, elected officials, and formerly incarcerated people. The REFORM Alliance, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on probation, parole, and sentencing reform in the U.S., has led the efforts to see SB 838 passed. The group was co-founded by rapper Meek Mill, who was sentenced in 2017 to years in prison by a Philadelphia judge for violating the terms of a probationary sentence from ten years earlier. Mill was pardoned by then-Gov. Tom Wolf in January. The House returns to Harrisburg this week, with the House Judiciary Committee set to convene on Wednesday. Read More