Legislative Update: July 1, 2021

Legislative Update: July 1, 2021

After reaching a budget agreement, the General Assembly has recessed for the summer. The Senate plans to reconvene Sept. 20 and the House on Sept. 27.

Wolf signs budget, vetoes election reform package

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Pennsylvania’s $40.8 billion general fund budget. The fiscal year 2021-2022 spending plan that begins today was approved by the House and Senate on Friday. This year the state will spend about $1.04 billion of the $7.29 billion it is receiving in federal coronavirus aid. Remaining funds will go into reserves. The budget does not include any of the tax increases proposed by the governor earlier this year.

Also on Wednesday, Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed HB 1300, omnibus legislation introduced by House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) to significantly overhaul the state election system.

New agenda law a victory for open government

A bill requiring that agendas be posted prior to, and made available at, public meetings was signed into law by Gov. Wolf on Wednesday. SB 554, introduced by Sen. Patrick Stefano (R-Fayette), passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature last month. PNA supported the bill, whose success signals a significant victory for open government in Pennsylvania.

Medical cannabis transparency law

Legislation that would make permanent some of the temporary changes made to the state medical marijuana law because of the pandemic was signed into law by the governor on Wednesday. HB 1024, introduced by Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin), deems the following to be public records and subject to the Right-to-Know Law: permit applications submitted by medical marijuana organizations; the names, business addresses and medical credentials of practitioners authorized to enable patient use of marijuana; information about disciplinary actions taken against a medical marijuana organization or practitioner; and the names of those who review permit applications.

Sen. Toomey addresses Press Club

Two-term U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey talked President Biden’s agenda, the American Rescue Plan, and infrastructure in an address to the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday at the Hilton Harrisburg. Citing administration policies that he said lack a “sense of personal responsibility and have a government program for every need,’’ he also criticized the federal $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed earlier this year with no Republican support and through which Pennsylvania is receiving $7.29 billion. Toomey, a Republican who announced in October he will not run for re-election, said there is a “better than even chance’’ a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal makes its way through the Senate, as noted in a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this week’s Press Club meeting was the first in more than a year. The club’s next luncheon will be held at noon Monday, July 26, at Hilton Harrisburg. Speaker will be Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy L. DeFoor. Cost is $30 per person, with payment required in advance. Make reservations by calling 717-939-1400 or emailing info@papressclub.org.

Ridge leaves hospital

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was discharged Sunday from the hospital where he had been recovering from a stroke suffered June 16, according to PennLive. Ridge, who also served as the first U.S. secretary of homeland security, was transferred to a Washington, D.C., rehab facility where he is undergoing therapy.

 Legislator: End flat-rate per diems

Rep. Brett Miller (R-Lancaster) announced in a co-sponsor memo Friday that he will introduce legislation to end the flat-rate per diems provided to members of the General Assembly and, instead, reimburse members for expenses upon receipt of documentation.

Rep: Continue virtual attendance at county commissioner meetings

Rep. Dan Williams (D-Chester) announced June 21 in a co-sponsor memo that he will introduce legislation to amend the County Code to allow county commissioners to meet remotely under any circumstances, and to clarify that commissioners do not have to be physically present to constitute a quorum – a continuation of pandemic-initiated meeting procedures. In a recent co-sponsor memo, Sen. Carolyn T. Comitta (D-Chester) announced similar legislation for borough councils as reflected in HB 1318, introduced by Rep. Perry Warren (D-Bucks). Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) addressed Third Class city councils in his co-sponsor memo.