Due to this week's snowstorm, session kicked off on Wednesday rather than the usual Monday start date. Governor Tom Wolf gave his 2021-2022 FY budget address via video to a joint session of the General Assembly. The Governor's proposal totals $37.837 billion, which is an increase of $3.78 billion over the current budget, or 11.1% increase in spending. The plan aims to remove barriers and cut taxes for working class families while investing billions of dollars into schools and workforce development initiatives. Our detailed summary of the budget can be found here.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee met to consider a letter to IRRC disapproving Regulation #7-559 regarding Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The letter was approved with the Democratic members voting in the negative. In addition, the following committees held public and informational meetings:
- The House Commerce Committee held a public hearing on COVID-19's impact on taverns, clubs, and VFWs;
- The House Health Committee held a public hearing on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution; and
- The House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee held an informational meeting with the Department of Community and Economic Development on state tourism marketing and promotional activities.
Thursday, the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a joint public hearing on the implementation of the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan. The House Finance Committee reported out H.B. 230 (Ryan, R-Lebanon), which would require the Independent Fiscal Office to perform dynamic scoring for proposed legislation with a fiscal impact of $50 million or more.
On the House floor, two bills of note unanimously passed and head to the Senate for consideration: H.B. 203 (Toohil, R-Luzerne), which would establish the Living Donor Protection Act to prohibit insurers from taking actions against an individual based solely on the person's status as a living donor; and H.B. 284 (Metcalfe, R-Butler), which would update and modernize the History Code relating to archives.
Friday, the House sent H.B. 326 (O'Neal, R-Washington) to the Senate. The bill would allow the Pennsylvania National Guard to develop plans for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The House passed S.B. 2 (Ward, R-Westmoreland), which would amend the state Constitution by: (1) limiting the duration of emergency declarations issued by the Governor to no more than 21 days unless extended by the General Assembly through passage of a concurrent resolution; and (2) prohibiting the denial or abridgement of equality of rights because of race and ethnicity. The fate of the amendments will now be in the hands of the voters at the next election.
Lastly, S.B. 109 (Pittman, R-Indiana) reached the Governor's desk. The bill would exclude stimulus checks and the forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the state personal income tax. The bill also appropriates the following COVID-19 relief dollars:
- $569.8 million for the Rental and Utility Assistance Grant Program;
- $150 million in emergency education relief to nonpublic schools;
- $145 million for the Hospitality Industry Recovery Program;
- $20 million for career and technical schools;
- $14 million for community colleges;
- $8 million for charter schools for the deaf and blind; and
- $5 million for the State System of Higher Education.
The Week Ahead
There's no session next week for either chamber. The Senate is back in session on February 22 and the House on March 15.
The Senate Appropriations Committee announced their budget hearing schedule, which will start on March 8.
A full list of committee meetings can be found here:
In Other News
- Kathy Boockvar stepped down as Secretary of State and the Governor will appoint Veronica Degraffenreid as Acting Secretary.
- The Department of Revenue released January 2021 collections.
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