Legislative Update – June 10-11, 2021
Legislative Update – June 10-11, 2021
The House and Senate were in session this week. Both chambers reconvene June 14.
New legislators begin duties
Four new members of the General Assembly took the oath of office this week. They are:
Sen. Marty Flynn, serving all of Lackawanna and portions of Luzerne and Monroe counties in the 22nd District previously held by Sen. John Blake, who resigned to join Congressman Matt Cartwright’s staff. Flynn, a former state representative, was elected to his new post in a special election in May. He will serve as Senate Democratic Chair of the Finance Committee and as a member of Appropriations, Transportation, and the Community, Economic and Recreational Development committees.
Sen. Chris Gebhard, serving all of Lebanon and portions of York and Dauphin counties in the 48th District. A Republican who owns an insurance and risk management firm, he will serve on the Appropriations, Banking and Insurance, Game and Fisheries, Intergovernmental Operations, Urban Affairs and Housing, and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees. He won a special election following the death of Sen. Dave Arnold; Gebhard’s current term ends in December 2022.
Rep. Abby Major, a Republican elected to the 60th District of Armstrong, Indiana and Butler counties. She served three years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst; that time included a 12-month tour in Iraq. She was awarded the National Defense, Global War on Terrorism and Iraq Campaign Service medals, and the Overseas Service Ribbon. She previously worked for former 60th District Rep. Jeff Pyle. She serves on the Aging and Older Services, Children and Youth, Liquor Control, and Urban Affairs committees.
Rep. Leslie Rossi, a Republican and the first woman to represent the 59th Legislative District of Westmoreland and Somerset counties. A small business owner, she will serve on the Children and Youth, Finance, Gaming Oversight, and Urban Affairs committees.
Special election announced
Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) ordered Tuesday a special election to coincide with Pennsylvania’s municipal general election on Nov. 2, 2021, to fill the vacant seat in the 113th Legislative District in Lackawanna County. The seat was vacated when Rep. Marty Flynn (D-Lackawanna) was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate. Candidates for the office will be selected by a process designated by their respective political parties, and the winner of the special election will take office after the results are confirmed.
General Assembly ends disaster declaration
The state Legislature voted Thursday to immediately end Gov. Tom Wolf ’s COVID-19 pandemic disaster declaration. While both chambers approved HR 106 spearheaded by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), some regulatory waivers including a telemedicine authorization will remain in place until Sept. 30. In a May referendum vote, Pennsylvania primary voters expanded the General Assembly’s powers to extend or terminate a governor’s emergency declarations by passing a resolution via majority vote that cannot be vetoed.
Senate: Sunshine agendas
A bill requiring that agendas be posted prior to, and made available at, public meetings passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 49-0. Sponsored by Sen. Patrick Stefano (R-Fayette), SB 554 is now with the House State Government Committee. The bill is supported by PNA.
Senate passes overhauled COVID records bill
An overhauled HB 854 that passed unanimously in the Senate Thursday received a unanimous concurrence vote in the House and was signed into law by Governor Wolf this morning as Act 21 of 2021. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams), provides for COVID-19 record retention by executive agencies. The Senate version changes the period of required retention from 10 years to whatever time period is already in place under a given agency’s record retention policy, among other things.
Expansive voting rights bill introduced
On Thursday, House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) introduced House Bill 1300, the Voting Rights Protection Act, which is scheduled for a Committee vote Tuesday at 8 a.m. Its focus includes early in-person voting beginning in 2025; issues related to unsigned or undated ballots that must be completed by 8 p.m. on Election Day; and giving counties the option to use secure mail-in ballot drop boxes during specific times and at secure locations. The bill also increases access for voters with disabilities. The bill would allow mail-in ballots to be counted starting five days before the election, as opposed to current law that allows the count to begin no earlier than 7 a.m. on Election Day. It would also move the last day of voter registration back to 30 days prior to an election.
Medical cannabis transparency
Legislation that would make permanent some of the temporary changes made to the state medical marijuana law because of the pandemic passed the House on Monday by a vote of 164-38. HB 1024, now in the Senate Law and Justice Committee and sponsored by Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin), also 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.
Legislation: Remote quorums for councils
Sen. Carolyn T. Comitta (D-Chester) announced in a co-sponsor memo Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to allow borough councils to meet remotely by removing The Borough Code requirement that only members physically present at a meeting may count toward a quorum. Similar legislation, HB 1318, was introduced by Rep. Perry Warren (D-Bucks) in April. Additionally, Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) announced in a co-sponsor memo Wednesday that he intends to introduce a bill, crafted in the same spirit, that would apply to councils in the state’s Third Class cities.
Constitutional amendment compliance
On Tuesday, Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) introduced SB 738, which would require the secretary of the commonwealth to post a public and detailed account that shows Department of State compliance with the constitutional amendment process.
Voting system audits
HB 1477, sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) and introduced last month, would provide for county voting system audits. PNA is offering amendatory language regarding public notice requirements.