Rob Vescio

A VIEW FROM THE STATES: Dentons 50 State Network review of the political landscape

Dentons’ Public Policy group has provided a synopsis of the political landscape for each state prepared by members of our Dentons 50 network — experts from all 50 state capitols with a pulse on federal, state and local races in their respective states. We also highlight the states with governors races, attorneys general races and the 22 state chambers considered “battle grounds” with their current majorities.

Governor Wolf signs a partial Pennsylvania state budget for Fiscal Year 20-21

On Friday, May 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed a partial state budget for Fiscal Year 20-21 (FY 20-21). The Fiscal Year begins on July 1, 2020. The budget bill, House Bill 2387, was designed to provide flat funding for most line items for five months. PreK-12 education funding and funding for higher education was extended for a full twelve months. A subsequent budget process is anticipated for November 2020, at which time budget decisions will be more completely informed by the impacts to revenue collections and service needs from the COVID-19 crisis.

The General Assembly sent budget-related code bills to the governor in conjunction with the general appropriations bill. A Fiscal Code amendment, providing for specific programmatic allocations, was also signed by the governor on Friday, May 29, 2020. Most allocations in the Fiscal Code maintain FY 19-20 funding for five months into FY 20-21.

Non-preferred appropriations – appropriations for entities not under direct state control but which receive appropriations of state funds – were also signed by the governor on May 29, 2020. Non-preferred appropriations include funding for entities such as state-related institutions of higher education, expenses related to administering workers’ compensation and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

An Administrative Code bill was vetoed by Governor Wolf on May 29, 2020. The bill would have prohibited state professional licensing authorities from taking action against a Pennsylvania business for operating despite the governor’s shutdown order for non-life sustaining businesses. Wolf’s veto message referred to the bill as “a legislative infringement on executive authority and violates  the separation of powers which is critical to the proper functioning of our democracy.” The bill had also required a comprehensive report on the June 2, 2020, primary election, legislative notification of the governor’s suspension of statutes or regulations due to a disaster emergency and a review of outstanding state debt to identify refinancing options.

Wolf also vetoed a republican-backed resolution which would have abrogated an overtime regulation which was adopted in January 2020. The regulation increased the salary threshold under which employees are to be assumed eligible for overtime pay, resulting in an estimated 81,000 additional overtime-eligible employees statewide. Wolf vetoed the resolution abrogating the regulation on procedural grounds, and also stated that the regulation bolsters the  “increased competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s employers to attract skilled labor, positive economic impact due to increased spending by affected workers, and discretionary time returned to employees…Now, more than ever, Pennsylvania needs the benefits that Final-Form Regulation 12-106 provides to its citizens.”

In addition to the state appropriations to stabilize executive branch functions for five months, Wolf approved three bills to distribute federal CARES dollars to state and local entities. Senate Bill 1108 distributes approximately $2.6 billion in federal funds received by the Commonwealth to executive agencies to address costs incurred due to the COVID-19 disaster emergency. Senate Bill 1122 bill created a $52 million grant program for fire and EMS companies to be supported by federal CARES dollars. House Bill 2510 allocates federal CARES dollars to health care collaboratives, counties, long-term living facilities, museum preservation, economic development corporations, dairy farms, food purchases to the needy, and multiple other purposes.

Amidst final actions on budget-related measures, the Pennsylvania legislature gained national attention when on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, democratic members discovered that a republican member had been diagnosed with COVID-19 a week prior without disclosing the diagnosis to the democratic caucus. Democratic members noted that republicans had conducted contact  tracing, and that other republican members were in quarantine following contact with the infected member. The discovery prompted calls from democratic members for the resignation of republican leaders and for an official investigation of possible misconduct. A republican spokesman defended the caucus’ actions by saying they had followed CDC guidelines.

The House and Senate return to session on June 8, 2020.

Available Pennsylvania Grants as of April 27, 2020

Emergency Solutions Grant – CARES ACT

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020 (CARES Act) provided for a supplemental appropriation of Homeless Assistance Grants under the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) as authorized by McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-77), as amended by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-22) (42 U.S.C.S.§11371 et. seq.) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), has received the first allocation of ESG-CV funds – an appropriation of $19,920,655. DCED’s priority for the use of these ESG funds will be to assist homeless providers and communities prepare for, prevent the spread of and respond to the coronavirus. DCED will use the ESG CARES funding to support applicants who will work to end or prevent homelessness quickly and as efficiently as possible for all vulnerable populations. Eligible applicants include general-purpose unit of local government, including cities, boroughs, and townships, towns, counties, home rule municipalities, and communities that desire to apply “on behalf of” other municipalities. Local governments may apply “on behalf of” nonprofit organizations. Non-profit organizations are eligible to apply only for a regional project as long as it demonstrates a regional need and serving multiple counties. (DCED defines “regional” as more than one county.) The minimum grant is $50,000 and there is no max. There is no match requirement.

Deadline: June 1, 2020. Click here for more information.

Facebook Small Business Grant

Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants to small businesses located in Allegheny County. To be eligible to apply, your business must have between 2 and 50 employees, have been in business for over one year and have experienced challenges from COVID-19 and be or near a location where Facebook operates (Allegheny County is the only eligible area in Pennsylvania).

Deadline: May 8, 2020. Click here for more information.

Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is authorized to provide financial, technical ,and other assistance to state officials in cooperative efforts to organize, train, and equip local forces in rural areas or communities under 10,000 in population to prevent, control, and suppress fires which threaten: Human life, Livestock, Wildlife, Crops, Pastures, Orchards, Woodlands, Farmsteads, Other improvements in rural areas.

Deadline: May 21, 2020. Click here for more information.

Abandoned Mine Drainage Program

Act 13 of 2012 establishes the Marcellus Legacy Fund and allocates funds to the Commonwealth Financing Authority for abandoned mine drainage, abatement, and treatment. Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) is one of the largest sources of stream impairment in Pennsylvania. Billions of gallons of AMD impair over 5,500 miles of streams within the Commonwealth. Grants up to $1,000,000, 15% match. Eligible projects involve the reclamation of Abandoned Mine Well(s), construction of a new AMD site, remediation and repair of existing AMD project sites, operation and maintenance maintaining current AMD remediation sites, establishment of trust fund to ensure ongoing maintenance is achieved, and monitoring of water quality to track or continue to trace non-point source load reductions resulting from AMD remediation projects.

Deadline: May 31, 2020. Click here for more information.

Baseline Water Quality Data Program

Act 13 of 2012 establishes the Marcellus Legacy Fund and allocates funds to the Commonwealth Financing Authority to be used fund state-wide initiatives to establish baseline water quality data on private water supplies. Grants up to $250,000, 15% match. Eligible projects are those that will use accepted scientific principles and practices for water sample collection and analysis to document existing groundwater quality conditions.

Deadline: May 31, 2020. Click here for more information.

Flood Mitigation Program (FMP)

Act 13 of 2012 establishes the Marcellus Legacy Fund and allocates funds to the Commonwealth Financing Authority for funding statewide initiatives to assist with flood mitigation projects. Grants awarded up to $500,000, 15% required match. Projects must be identified by a local government for flood mitigation. Funds can be used for construction, rehab or repair of flood control projects.

Deadline: May 31, 2020. Click here for more information.

Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program (GTRP)

Act 13 of 2012 establishes the Marcellus Legacy Fund and allocates funds to the Commonwealth Financing Authority for planning, acquisition, development, rehabilitation and repair of greenways, recreational trails, open space, parks and beautification projects. Grants up to $250,000, 15% match required.

Deadline: May 31, 2020. Click here for more information.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Grant

The PA Department of Environmental Protection is offering reimbursement to registered sponsors of collection programs for household hazardous waste, electronics, and tires (but not tire pile cleanups). Reimbursement available for up to 50 percent of eligible costs. Eligible costs typically include collection, transportation and management of the wastes plus education programs.

Click here for more information.

Marine and Rail Freight Movers Grant Program

Driving PA Forward is an initiative created to improve air quality in Pennsylvania and transform older, polluting diesel engines to clean technologies. The primary goal of this program is to improve the Commonwealth’s air quality by reducing NOx emissions produced by nonroad equipment like freight switcher locomotives, ferries, and tugboats.

Deadline: June 5, 2020. Click here for more information.

COVID-19 Update – UPMC Announces Groundbreaking Clinical Trial

Our client UPMC announced a groundbreaking clinical trial using various mixes of drugs and utilizing artificial intelligence to quickly find the most effective medicine to address COVID-19. It is the result of UPMC leading an international discussion of this approach to drug trials and the UPMC designed trial will be undertaken at UPMC and simultaneously in 13 other countries. It could yield useful results in weeks or months, not years.

To view recent media, see links below:

We highly encourage you to watch the above Physician Interviews.