While the Pennsylvania House and Senate were not in legislative session last week, state budget talks continued to make headlines as Senate Republicans and the Shapiro administration offered conflicting accounts of the negotiations.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) sent a letter to House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), in which he said the Senate would not return to session until there was an agreement on other legislation needed to implement the budget. His letter outlined a number of programs funded in the budget that require authorizing legislation to be operational.
In response, Bradford called on the Senate to return to session to sign the budget bill so that it could be sent to the governor. Details remain scarce on when the budget will be formally enacted, as the Pennsylvania Constitution requires the Lieutenant Governor (as presiding officer of the upper chamber) to sign it in the presence of the state Senate, which is not scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 18. The House is set to return Sept. 26.
Before adjourning, however, House lawmakers two weeks ago passed a bill that aims to expand the PA Human Relations Act.
The House of Representatives voted to pass H.B. 1394. This legislation, known as the CROWN Act, seeks to amend the PA Human Relations Act to prohibit “discrimination based on a person’s hair type, hair texture, or hairstyle” according to the bill’s cosponsor.
The PA Chamber has expressed concerns that the bill’s language has broader implications and sets an ambiguous standard that could lead to unintended consequences, including complicating the ability of employers to enforce certain health and safety workplace policies.
(CLICK HERE for our memo summarizing these concerns).
Lawmakers actually approved an amendment suggested by the PA Chamber related to health and safety standards; however, this language was later removed by a subsequent amendment. The House ultimately passed H.B. 1394 and the bill is now pending in the Senate where the PA Chamber will continue to work with lawmakers to address employers’ concerns.