Legislative Update: May 27, 2021

Legislative Update: May 27, 2021

The House and Senate were in session this week. Both chambers will reconvene June 7.

Hearing on public notices

Publisher Bob Rolley, left, and PNA President Brad Simpson testify at the hearing on HB 955.

House Bill 955, which provides the option to remove the requirement for public notices to appear in print newspapers, was the focus of a House Local Government Committee hearing Wednesday. Bob Rolley, publisher of the PNA member newspapers Williamsport Sun-Gazette and Lock Haven Express, and PNA President Brad Simpson testified in opposition to the legislation. Opposing the bill in written testimony were AARP Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Grange. Opposition stakeholder groups also included The Arc of Pennsylvania, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, Disability Rights Pennsylvania, NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, PennFuture, Pennsylvania Advocacy Resources, Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association, and the SeniorLAW Center. This is the first step in the legislative process to see whether the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Allegheny/Washington), has enough support for a committee vote. We will keep you apprised of developments. Watch the hearing here.


Report on constitutional amendment gaffe released

Pennsylvania Inspector General Lucas Miller issued a 68-page report Wednesday that found “ ‘internal systemic failures’ were behind the Wolf administration’s bungling of a statewide referendum that would provide legal recourse to survivors of child sexual abuse,’’ Spotlight PA reported. There was no evidence that the failure to advertise the proposed constitutional amendment, as prescribed by law, was intentional or the result of outside pressure. However, Miller’s office noted, the Department of State lacked formal procedures, oversight, training and the communication necessary to make sure that referendums got on the ballot.


Legislation eyes lobbying

House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) announced Wednesday in co-sponsor memos, Part 1 and Part 2, plans to introduce legislation that will focus on transparency and ethical standards in the Pennsylvania lobbying industry. He is working in conjunction with Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) on proposed legislative updates and revisions to The Lobbyist Disclosure Act (Act 134 of 2006).


Vexatious requesters

On May 21, Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford) introduced HB 1457, which allows an agency to petition the Office of Open Records for relief from a requester that the agency alleges is vexatious, or excessive, in his or her requests for public information. The legislation is similar to SB 552, introduced by Rep. Cris Dush (R-Cameron).


Public meetings before sewer/water sales

On May 21, Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks/Lancaster) announced a co-sponsor memo regarding legislation that would require a municipality to have at least one publicly advertised meeting prior to finalizing an agreement to sell or lease a sewer or water system owned or operated by the municipality.


Bill to protect judge information

Sens. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton) and Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks) announced Tuesday in a co-sponsor memo that they plan to introduce legislation to protect the personal information of judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and military personnel. The legislation is spurred by the 2020 targeted attack on the New Jersey home of a U.S. District judge; her son was shot and killed.


Political ad disclaimers

Reps. Tina Davis (D-Bucks) and Regina Young (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) said in a co-sponsor memo May 19 that they will introduce legislation expanding the disclaimer requirements for political advertisements.