Legislative Update: June 24, 2021

Legislative Update: June 24, 2021

The House and Senate are in voting session every day this week in an effort to complete the fiscal year 2021-22 state budget by Saturday.

Senate confirmations

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Noe Ortega and Jennifer L. Berrier as the respective secretaries of the Departments of Education and Labor & Industry. Ortega had served as acting education secretary since Oct. 1 of last year, when he replaced Pedro Rivera, who left state government to become president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster. Ortega had served as deputy secretary and commissioner for the PDE Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education. Berrier became acting secretary upon the retirement of Jerry Oleksiak on Dec. 4, 2020. Prior to that, she was deputy secretary of safety and labor management relations at DLI.

Budget status update

A trio of bills relating to the fiscal year 2021-22 budget is moving through the Legislature this week. SB 255, the general appropriations bill passed by the Senate last week, is now in the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1348, the planned vehicle for the state budget Fiscal Code directing how General Fund revenues are spent, is in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both are nearing third consideration and a final vote. HB 1006, the potential Tax Reform Code budget-related vehicle that passed the House last week, is in the Senate Finance Committee. The current fiscal year ends June 30; the 2021-22 year begins July 1.

Election bill to Senate

After hours of debate on Tuesday, HB 1300 passed the House by a vote of 110-91. The legislation to significantly overhaul the state election system is moving quickly through the Senate and is now in that chamber’s Appropriations Committee. PNA offered amendatory language on the legislation, which was amended into the bill.

Meeting agenda, wasted vaccine bills among advancing legislation

SB 554, a bill requiring that agendas be posted prior to, and made available at, public meetings, received second consideration in the House today and is expected to move to the Governor’s desk this week. The legislation that passed 49-0 earlier this month in the Senate has the support of PNA. Following is the status of other advancing legislation previously outlined in Legislative Update:

  • SB 559, which provides greater access to public records during a disaster declaration. The bill unanimously passed in the Senate on Monday has moved to the House. The bill specifically focuses on records related to wasted COVID-19 vaccines; PNA offered amendatory language for even greater transparency, which was added to the bill, and is supportive.
  • HB 1010, which shifts the responsibility for publishing constitutional amendments from the secretary of the commonwealth to the Legislative Reference Bureau, or a successor legislative agency. The bill was approved by the House in May was reported as committed from the Senate State Government Committee this week and is on the Senate calendar.

Bill to make collective bargaining agreements public

On Monday, Sen. Patrick Stefano (R-Fayette/Somerset/Westmoreland) reintroduced SB 789 (formerly SB 339 in the 2019-20 legislative session), which would provide for public notice of collective bargaining agreements prior to their approval. Those agreements and documents presented by the public employer or received from the employee organization in the collective bargaining process would be public record subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

Election monitoring

Rep. Gary Day (R-Berks/Lehigh) introduced HB 33 on Monday. The bill would require the commonwealth to assign the task of data, statistics and analytics to the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency to monitor elections for statistical anomalies and provide probable precincts that should be investigated to the Legislature and the county district attorney. Such reports and notifications would be concluded before election certification and available via a Right-to-Know request.