The 2021-22 legislative session is officially underway in Harrisburg. Legislative committees have been assigned, bills are being introduced, and floor votes are being taken.
The state Senate voted on COVID-relief legislation (SB 109) to provide $912 million in housing, rental, education and business assistance to Pennsylvanians impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the federal funding – $570 million will go to rental and utility assistance. Money will be allocated proportionally to all 67 counties. In addition, some $200 million will go toward education, with $150.023 million in funding for non-public schools and $47.075 million for Pennsylvania’s discretionary allocation which includes $17.5 million for career and technical centers and $17.5 million dedicated to intermediate units. The measure also creates a Hospitality Industry Recovery Program for grants to hotels, restaurants, and bars. Certified local economic development agencies will be responsible for administering the program.
The state Senate also passed a constitutional amendment to limit gubernatorial disaster emergency powers. Senate Bill 2 states that emergency disaster declarations by the governor would last no more than 21 days. In addition, the declaration can be extended by the governor for additional 21-day periods, but only with the approval by the General Assembly of a concurrent resolution to do so.
If approved by the House, the proposal would go to Pennsylvania voters in the form of a ballot referendum question during the state’s May primary.
Legislation (HB 38) that would establish appellate court voting districts within the Pennsylvania Constitution, may be considered by the state House in early February. The measure would divide the state into nine Commonwealth Court districts, fifteen Superior Court districts, and seven Supreme Court districts, with candidates for those judgeships required to reside in the district they seek to represent on the court. Districts would be drawn with compact and contiguous geographic boundaries, and comporting with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The same language was already approved by the General Assembly last session. A constitutional amendment must be approved by lawmakers during two consecutive two-year legislative sessions before it can be put to the voters as a ballot question.
In anticipation of his February 2nd budget address to the Legislature, Governor Wolf outlined his legislative priorities for the session. While highlighting past bipartisan successes on criminal justice reform, medical marijuana, and mail-in ballots, Wolf said he wanted to begin negotiating anew with the Republican-controlled General Assembly to lower barriers for Pennsylvanians in need of assistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed his desire to increase the state’s minimum wage, pass a severance tax, and the authorize adult-use recreational marijuana. In response to the Governor’s press conference, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward released statements expressing frustration that the Governor was not focusing getting Pennsylvanians vaccinated.
State Senator Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) has delayed budget hearings this winter. The Senate is now scheduled to be in session Feb. 22, 23 and 24, dates that in previous years were used for budget hearings. A revised budget hearing scheduled will be released within the next two weeks.
House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) said he will conduct hearings as originally planned the weeks of Feb. 16th, 22nd, and March 1st. A detailed schedule will be released shortly.
On January 21, the four chairs of the film caucus circulated a memo inviting members of the 2021-22 legislative session to join. Senators Camera Bartolotta and Jay Costa and Representatives Kathleen Tomlinson and Joe Ciresi will lead the caucus this session.
The intent of the Legislative Film Caucus is to:
We will share the names of the caucus members in a later legislative update once members have more time to join the caucus.
On January 27, Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) introduced SB 133. The bill uncaps the film tax credit to further incentivize the TV and film industry to relocate in Pennsylvania. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Co-sponsors of SB 133 include Senators Sharif Street, Maria Collett, Vincent Hughes, Steve Santersiero, Mario Scavello, Camera Bartolotta, Tim Kearney, Amanda Cappelletti and Jay Costa.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org