Legislative Bulletin

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Number 12
June 5, 2020

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

An e-newsletter of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

 

 

 


 

717-526-1010

GOV. WOLF SIGNS FY 2020-2021 BUDGET    

On May 29, Gov. Wolf signed into law HB 2387, which provides a temporary budget to fund the commonwealth on a five-month basis until the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic become clearer. The plan totals $26 billion in spending, with approximately 42% of most line items based on FY 2019-2020 spending levels. Some human services programs, such as children and youth services, appear to be funded for the full year, along with most education lines and food security lines. A limited number of other lines will receive increases due to increased expenses, such as pensions and debt. Federal allocations were provided for the full year.

The temporary budget provides some continuity to counties over the short-term while the broader impacts of the pandemic and Pennsylvania's disaster response continue to take shape. However, the full fiscal picture remains to be seen and there are no promises of flat or increased for the remaining seven months of the FY 2020-2021 budget. Thus, when the General Assembly returns to these negotiations, expected later this fall, the final budget could still present a different overall picture and level funding for the full year is not guaranteed.

Because the budget picture for FY 2020-2021 is incomplete, counties are encouraged to remain cautious in monitoring expenditures in case cuts occur for the remaining budget months. As well, since the Department of Education - one of the largest expenditures in the state's budget - has already been funded for the full year up front, it will be the remainder of the General Fund budget, which includes many line items affecting county programs, that will be impacted by cuts that may be considered in response to pandemic-related revenue losses.

Additional budget details are available at
www.pacounties.org by clicking on Budget News under the Government Relations tab.       

CARES ACT FUNDING APPROVED WITH $625 MILLION FOR COUNTIES  

Allocations for the federal CARES Act funding were also signed into law in late May. Senate Bill 1108 was amended by the House Appropriations Committee to allocate $2.6 billion of Pennsylvania's $3.9 billion in CARES Act dollars, including $625 million to the 60 counties that did not previously receive direct federal CARES funds. The funding will be distributed through a county block grant program housed in Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and then divided amongst the counties based on population with a $1 million minimum amount per county.

Additionally, HB 2510 was amended in Senate Appropriations to specify how those county block grant funds can be used, in particular to offset the cost of direct county response, planning and outreach efforts. Counties may also use the funds for small
business grants, subgrants to certified economic development organizations, assistance to municipalities, behavioral health and substance abuse services, nonprofits, and broadband development. Since the state legislation differs slightly from the federal law and guidance around the CARES funds, CCAP is working to establish clarity for counties on how these funds may be used.

Additionally, HB 2510 requires any CARES funds unexpended by Dec. 1, 2020, to be redistributed through the County Block Grant program. The remaining $1.3 billion of federal CARES Act funding will also be put into a restricted revenue account to be used at a later date to address additional virus-related costs

COMMISSIONERS AT THE POLLS

A number of current and former CCAP members appeared on the June 2020 primary election ballot, seeking state or federal office. While election results are on the Department of State web page, www.dos.state.pa.us, these results and this report remain unofficial as this Bulletin goes to press.

Auditor General

State representative and former Centre County commissioner Scott Conklin was unsuccessful in a six-way race for the Democratic nomination for the open Auditor General seat. However, he was unopposed for the nomination for the 77thdistrict seat he currently holds.

Congress

Luzerne County council member Harry Haas was unsuccessful in his bid for the Republican nomination in the 8th Congressional district.

PA Senate

Lancaster County commissioner and CCAP Board Chair Craig Lehman was unsuccessful in his bid for the Democratic nomination for the 13th district while former Lancaster County commissioner and CCAP Board member, Scott Martin was unopposed for the Republican nomination to retain his current seat. Erie County councilman Andre Horton was also unsuccessful in his bid for the Democratic nomination for the 49th.

Sen. Judy Schwank, former Berks County commissioner, was unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the 11th district seat she currently holds. In addition, Tom Killion, former Delaware County council member and incumbent in 
the 9th district, Gene Yaw, former Lycoming County solicitor and incumbent in the 23rd district, and Kim Ward, former Westmoreland County commissioner and incumbent in the 39th district, won uncontested races for the Republican nomination.

Incumbent and former Chester County commissioner Andrew Dinniman chose to retire from his 19th district seat.

PA House

Former Washington County Commissioner and CCAP Board member Harlan Shober was unopposed for the Democratic bid for the 48th district seat, as was former Mercer County solicitor Mark Longietti in the 7th district.

Jefferson County commissioner Jack Matson was unsuccessful in his bid for the Republican nomination to fill the open 66th district seat. Lehigh County commissioner Nathan Brown was unsuccessful in his bid for the 131th Republican nomination, while Tara Zrinski, Northampton County council member, was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the 138th district.

In the 50th district, former Greene County commissioner and CCAP second vice president Pam Snyder (D) was unopposed for nomination for her current seat, while incumbent and former Clarion County commissioner Donna Oberlander (R) was unopposed in the primary and will also be unopposed in the fall in the 63rd district. Incumbent and former Lycoming County commissioner and CCAP Board member Jeff Wheeland (R) was unopposed in the primary for his 83rd district House seat.

In the 107th district, incumbent and former Northumberland County commissioner Kurt Masser (R) was unopposed in the primary, and incumbent and former Bradford County commissioner Tina Pickett (R) was uncontested in the primary. Incumbent and former Wayne County commissioner Jonathan Fritz (R) was also uncontested in the primary for the 111th district and is unopposed in the fall election. Both former Schuylkill County commissioner Jerry Knowles (R) and former clerk to Lehigh County council Steve Samuelson (D) were unopposed in the primary for their 124th and 135th district seats respectively.

Incumbent and former Perry County commissioner and CCAP past president Mark Keller (R) chose not to run again for his 86th district seat.

CHILD WELFARE CASEWORKER APPRECIATION WEEK 

Gov. Wolf has proclaimed June 1-5, 2020, as Child Welfare Professionals Appreciation Week in Pennsylvania, and June 8-12 as Child Welfare Service Providers Appreciation Week. The proclamation recognizes the efforts of child welfare professionals serving the commonwealth's children and families, often working long hours in difficult situations to provide every child with safety, permanency and well-being.

House Children and Youth
Committee chair Rep. Karen Boback (R-Luzerne) has also introduced HR 887 and HR 888 in recognition of the respective weeks, with that committee approving the resolutions on May 27. CCAP's affiliate, the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Administrators Association (PCYA), along with the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, also honored their members concurrently with the proclamation and extended their thanks and appreciation for the recognition.

ACTS AFFECTING COUNTY GOVERNMENT 

Concurrent with the passage of the state budget in late May, the General Assembly sent a number of bills to the Governor's desk to be signed into law. A list of new acts affecting county government, including the bill number, the date the bill was signed and a brief summary, is available on CCAP's Legislative Action Center.

IFO MONTHLY REVENUE UPDATE 

On June 1, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) issued its monthly revenue update, comparing 2020 May collections to 2019. General Fund revenues for May were $2.11 billion, reflecting a decline of $510.7 million (19.5%) from one year ago. The IFO estimates that there was a $515 million revenue loss due to the impacts of COVID-19 in PA, and attributable to reduced economic activity, processing delays or delayed due dates, and about $70 million shifting to FY 2020-2021 due to extended tax due dates. The full report is available at www.ifo.state.pa.us.

NACO ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING AND TOWN HALL

Despite the cancellation of the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference, a virtual Annual Business Meeting is scheduled for July 20 at 2 p.m. and Town Hall for July 13 at 4 p.m.. New emergency policy resolutions will be accepted until June 15 and must be submitted electronically to resolutions@naco.org. More information is available at www.naco.org.