Legislative Update: May 28, 2020

Legislative Update: May 28, 2020

Senate and House Session

The Senate and House were in legislative session this week. The House passed the general appropriations budget, House Bill 2387, sponsored by House Appropriations Chairman, Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) by a vote of 103-99 on Tuesday, which will fund the state through the first five months of Fiscal Year 2020-2021. The temporary spending plan of $25.8 billion uses funding based off the current year’s numbers. The bill passed in the Senate today, by a vote of 44-6, which would fund the state starting July 1st through November 30th, the last day of the two-year legislative session. Later in the year, lawmakers will develop a budget for the last seven months funding the state from December 1st through June 30th.

The House Aging and Older Adults Committee passed House Bill 2437, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) which provides for transparency of long term care facilities affected by COVID-19. The bill requires the PA or county Department of Health to publish the number of COVID-19 cases as a percentage of the total number of residents each long-term care facility has reported to the Department and the protocol for isolating positive cases.

The House State Government Committee passed House Bill 2465, the Business Waiver and Denial Disclosure Act, sponsored by Rep. Brett Miller (R-Lancaster) this week which amends Title 35 to require the granting or denying of any waiver, exclusion or other exception to be posted publicly within 24 hours during an emergency declaration.

The House Finance Committee amended House Bill 2386, sponsored by Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) which inserts new language establishing the Business Interruption Insurance Assistance Program under the Department of Community and Economic Development to assist Pennsylvania businesses with the acquisition of business interruption policies.

The House Health Committee amended Senate Bill 1110, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and the bill is currently on the House calendar. The bill amends the Disease Prevention and Control Law (DPCL) adding language providing under a proclamation of disaster emergency by the governor that is based upon a communicable disease, the secretary of health or local health authority shall release, within 24 hours of receiving information of a confirmed case of a communicable disease, individually identifiable health information to 911 centers, law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, coroners and emergency medical services personnel in each county of the commonwealth.

The House passed House Bill 2505, sponsored by Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams, Cumberland) unanimously last week, which amends the Administrative Code, providing for COVID-19 record retention. The bill adds language requiring an executive agency, a member, employee, officer of an executive agency, a contractor, an employee officer or owner of a contract executive agency to preserve all records in their possession relating to certain records as provided in the legislation for a period of 10 years after the declaration of disaster emergency issued by the governor is terminated.

The House has been moving a package of legislation related to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) this week. House Bill 2171, sponsored by Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie), Chairman of the House Education Committee, amends the Public School Code, requires the PASSHE Board of Governors to develop policies and procedures by which the board may create, expand, consolidate, transfer or affiliate an institution or college. It also requires the Chancellor to conduct a review and analysis of the relevant institutions or colleges using metrics listed in the legislation, including consultation with stakeholders and public hearings. House Bill 2172, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), provides for sovereign immunity status and government instrumentality PASSHE among other things. House Bill 2173, sponsored by Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks) states that student education records maintained in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the system or university are not be subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

The House passed House Bill 2463, sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), unanimously, which requires state agencies to respond to Right to Know requests. Read the CNHI article and Rep. Grove’s press release. PNA sent out a Member Alert on this issue. This week, Governor Wolf said the state is looking to restart the processing of open records requests under the Right to Know Law.

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

The Office of Open Records has put out guidance relating to the Sunshine Act and Right to Know Law in light of the Coronavirus as well as a PowerPoint presentation.