The Pennsylvania House of Representatives returned to session last week, advancing legislation dealing with the state budget, infrastructure, energy, retirement, and rail safety. Here is a rundown of what happened last week in the legislature:
House Bill 611
House lawmakers took the first steps in the annual budget process last week by advancing a budget bill out of committee and past second consideration when amendments can be offered. House Bill 611 currently contains Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposal and is now expected to be the legislative “vehicle” for enacting this year’s budget.
While advancing the budget bill begins the legislative process (which requires three separate days in both the House and Senate), the bill is expected to be amended to reflect the final budgetary agreement reached following negotiations between the governor and legislature.
Once that agreement is reached, the House will still need to pass H.B. 611 in order to enact the final, annual budget.
House Bill 1162
On Monday, the House Transportation Committee met to consider House Bill 1162. Sponsored by Rep. Ed Neilson (D-Philadelphia), this legislation would limit expenditures of the state’s Motor License Fund (funded by gas and diesel taxes) solely to the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, and infrastructure projects.
In the past decade, considerable funds from the Motor License Fund have been diverted to the Pennsylvania State Police. House Bill 1162 would gradually phase down these diversions over a four-year period and create a separate funding mechanism for the State Police at the Treasury.
The PA Chamber supports a sustainable, comprehensive funding system for transportation and infrastructure. As such, we supported this measure (CLICK HERE for our memo), which later passed committee by unanimous vote.
House Resolution 79
On Tuesday, the House Consumer Protection, Technology, and Utilities Committee met to consider House Resolution 79. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny), formally urges the Biden administration to site at least one of its planned hydrogen hubs in Pennsylvania.
The federal infrastructure law provides for $8 billion to be invested by the U.S. Department of Energy in hydrogen hubs across the nation. Hydrogen can be used as a low-carbon fuel for various industrial, power generation, and transportation markets.
Given our state’s historic strengths in these industrial sectors, the PA Chamber was proud to support this resolution (CLICK HERE for our memo), which later passed committee by a vote of 20-1.
House Bill 577
On Wednesday, lawmakers voted to pass House Bill 577. Sponsored by Rep. Kyle Mullins (D-Lackawanna), this legislation would establish a state-run, auto-IRA program dubbed “Keystone Saves.” The program would be mandatory for all Pennsylvania employers with five or more employees that do not currently offer their own retirement savings plans.
While the PA Chamber fully supports encouraging citizens to save for retirement, this bill represents a sweeping change for the Commonwealth, our citizens, and the businesses who are required to implement it. The sheer magnitude of this program, which mandates business participation and would manage the retirement savings of millions of Pennsylvania citizens, calls for thorough vetting and discussion to ensure that all proper safeguards have been put in place
We supported amendments to this legislation to shift the administrative burden from employers to the Treasury Department and give businesses the freedom to opt-out of the program; the former amendment passed and was reflected the final bill, while the latter was defeated.
House Bill 577 later passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 106-95. CLICK HERE for the memo we sent House members prior to the vote.