The legislature returned to session last week, as Gov. Wolf and the House and Senate continue to negotiate the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. With the June 30 budget deadline looming this week, lawmakers and the administration are working to close out a final agreement on the spending plan and accompanying legislative language, including the tax code.
Last week, as those negotiations unfolded, both chambers advanced several pieces of legislation backed by the PA Chamber, with votes taking place on bills involving civil justice reform, tax reform, unemployment compensation, workforce development, and safely deploying autonomous vehicle technology.
As negotiations progress on the overall tax code, including reducing the corporate net income tax, the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday sent another tax reform bill to the floor. H.B. 385, which previously passed the House unanimously, would allow for deferral of taxes at the state level when property is exchanged for similar property (known as a like-kind exchange), as is currently authorized under federal tax law. In addition, every other state besides Pennsylvania similar treatment to businesses operating in their jurisdictions.
The House unanimously voted for H.B. 2648, which establishes a special prosecutor in the Office of the Inspector General, to investigate fraud and abuse in the unemployment compensation system. The bill will now be considered by the Senate, who also positioned another UC reform bill for final passage. H.B. 129, which establishes remote hearings as the default for unemployment compensation appeals and passed the House last year, was reported to the floor by the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. The bill is expected to receive a final vote by the Senate this week.
On June 21, the House Judiciary reported to the floor along party lines H.B. 2660, a joint resolution supported by the PA Chamber, which, if approved by both chambers of the General Assembly in successive sessions and by voters via referendum, amends the Constitution to authorize the state legislature to establish venue in civil cases. The state Supreme Court Civil Procedure Rules Committee is expected to change the rule for medical malpractice rules reverting back to the old venue rules that encourage forum shopping, many times resulting in cases getting filed in Philadelphia. This resolution would authorize the legislature to establish in statute the rules on venue.
A number of workforce development bills also appeared on the state Senate agenda last week. H.B. 723, which passed the Senate, updates a number of workforce development laws to ensure compliance with federal law and directs the state Department of Labor & Industry to collect data on employment trends that schools can use to develop programs and career guidance for students. The bill now heads back to the House for concurrence. The Senate also advanced S.B. 766 to direct federal stimulus funding to adult education providers to support upskilling programs. This bill may receive a final Senate vote this week.
Finally, on June 20, the House passed legislation establishing standards and safety requirements for the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. H.B. 2398, by a vote of 123-77, will now by considered by the Senate and if passed would position Pennsylvania for additional investment in emerging technologies. The same day, House unanimously passed H.B. 2646, which streamlines certification of career and technical education teachers.