Legislative Update – July 16, 2020

Legislative Update – July 16, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf announced tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses statewide, as well as new limits on indoor gatherings this week.

Governor Wolf signed an executive order authorizing state agencies to conduct administrative proceedings remotely. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help reduce unnecessary in-person contact that can spread the virus, the Executive Order will allow state agencies to conduct administrative proceedings including meetings and disciplinary hearings of the 29 occupational licensing boards and commissions under the Department of State. The executive order takes effect immediately and allows administrative proceedings to occur by phone, video or online. Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to implement this executive order.

The Senate and House were in legislative session this week.

The Senate passed House Bill 2463, sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), unanimously this week which requires state agencies to respond to Right to Know requests. In June, Governor Wolf required the restarting for processing of open records requests under the Right to Know Law. The bill is on its way to the Governor.

The Senate State Government Committee amended House Bill 1780, sponsored by Rep. Lee James (R-Venango) this week, which now ensures that Section 506(d) of the Right to Know Law applies to volunteer fire and EMS companies requiring agencies to obtain records from entities they contract with.

The Senate State Government Committee passed House Bill 1069, this week which requires government agencies to make meeting agendas available to the public prior to all public meetings. The bill awaits action in the Senate. PNA met with various legislators and other stakeholders to remove their opposition from the bill.

The legislature approved two proposals, Senate Bill 1166, sponsored by Senator Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and House Bill 196, sponsored by Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) that would change the state Constitution to limit the length of emergency declarations and begin electing Supreme Court justices and other state appeals court judges by region instead of statewide. However, as proposed constitutional amendments, each measure would have to pass in each chamber twice in consecutive legislative sessions before being put before the voters in a statewide ballot referendum. That means the earliest voters could see it on the ballot would be in 2021.

Senator John DiSanto (R-Dauphin), Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee has introduced SB 1222, which provides a flexible menu of options for local governments to use in complying with current requirements to advertise and provide public notice in print newspapers. Representative Jason Ortitay (R-Allegheny) has circulated a co-sponsor memo. PNA opposes this concept.