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Government Outreach -January 31, 2024

Government Affairs & General Updates
January 31, 2024

1. Shapiro unveils economic development plan. Gov. Josh Shapiro announced an umbrella strategy Tuesday to foster economic development and create new jobs just a week ahead of his Feb. 6 budget address. The governor said the Pennsylvania Economic Development Strategy will help make Pennsylvania more competitive with other states, guide state investment decisions, promote Pennsylvania's areas of economic strength, revamp state economic development incentives and programs, raise wages and revitalize communities. "This is going to be our roadmap to progress," said Shapiro during an event in Bethlehem. "Pennsylvania has a serious economic development strategy that brings together our private and public sectors, our highly skilled worker and our first-class universities," said Shapiro in a statement. He was joined by several cabinet secretaries. The plan gives priority to helping five key industry sectors -- Agriculture, Energy, Life Sciences, Manufacturing and Robotics and Technology - grow and create jobs. The plan includes spending proposals to be considered as part of the Fiscal Year 2024-25 state budget. CLICK HERE to read more.

2. Hearing to focus on rural population impacts in region A study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania projects the state’s population — now an estimated 12.9 million — to nudge over 13 million by 2030. But the center’s projection, released in December, predicts that the state will lose population between 2040 and 2050, settling just shy of 13.2 million. The study also yields an estimate that Pennsylvania’s population will increase over the next 26 years, but more slowly than the United States as a whole. That means Pennsylvania will continue to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following the 2020 census, the state dropped from 18 to 17 seats in the House, continuing a decline that began in 1930, when Pennsylvania dropped from 36 seats to 34. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors will hold a public hearing beginning at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Lutheran Heritage Room of Thiel College’s Miller Student Center in Greenville to discuss the impacts of the study and its results, as well as how to change the possible outcomes.  Pennsylvania’s proposed population stagnation, especially in rural counties, could impact a wide range of factors, including federal funding for education and transportation and business investment. The center’s projection calls for most of western Pennsylvania — including Mercer, Crawford and Lawrence counties — to decline in population by 2050. Read More

3. Senate panels plan hearing on state data loss episode. A pair of Senate committees have scheduled a joint hearing next week to seek more information about an incident in which computers files were mistakenly deleted by staff in the Office of Information Technology. The hearing before the Senate Communications and Technology Committee and the State Government Committee is scheduled for next Wednesday. Pennlive reported about the data loss week, reporting that bungling by Information Technology staff led to thousands of state police and the State Employees' Retirement System records being mistakenly deleted. Pennlive reported that "at least one state employee was fired and other personnel changes were made in the governor's Office of Information Technology as a result of the January 3 incident involving 77 computer system servers."

4. House member announces legislation that would completely eliminate ban on Sunday hunting. A House member has announced plans for legislation that would completely end the existing limits on Sunday hunting. Similar legislation has already been introduced in the state Senate. The state partially-rolled back the ban on Sunday hunting five years ago. That change has proven to be popular with hunters and the Game Commission has lobbied lawmakers to allow the commission to further loosen the Sunday hunting restrictions. "In 2019, Act 107 was passed to allow the Game Commission to designate three Sundays per year where residents can participate in hunting and fur taking. The Game Commission began approving the three Sundays in 2020; these decisions have remained successful to this day. Regardless, the Game Commission still has limited authority over Sunday hunting despite the governance they have over other aspects of hunting. Moreover, some states that have recently lifted their Sunday hunting bans have reported no adverse impact on their game populations," according to a cosponsor memo from state Rep. Mandy Steele, D-Allegheny. Legislation that would have eliminated the Sunday hunting limits was introduced in the Senate in 2021. The bill was approved by the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee but didn't get further consideration in that chamber. Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, the prime sponsor of the 2021 bill reintroduced similar legislation, Senate Bill 67, earlier this legislative session.

Pennsylvania's path to regulate artificial intelligence As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to keep up with the changes. The state has yet to pass any laws regulating the technology, but Rep. Bob Merski (D) hopes his House Resolution 170 will help Pennsylvania enact informed legislation when the time comes. H.R. 170 would create a committee that studies AI and recommends laws to the General Assembly. There are at least 12 other states that have taken similar routes of creating research committees, many of which have gone on to actually enact laws. “What we’re trying to do with artificial intelligence is stay ahead of the technology with regulations so that in all areas- commerce, education, consumer protection that we make sure we have guardrails in place," said Merski.  There are several Pennsylvania bills already addressing AI in specific ways. H.B. 1663 regulates how artificial intelligence is used in health insurance claim processes. H.B. 1373, another bill from Merski, criminalizes impersonating voices for scams. There are still no federal regulations on AI, though the White House has proposed a 'Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights'. Congress also has several committees and bills formed on the topic. Read More

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