Members of the state General Assembly are set to return to Harrisburg next week, marking the start of the fall legislative session. Between now and the end of December, the House and Senate currently are scheduled to be in session for 21 and 18 days respectively.
COVID-19 will continue to be a frontline issue, with the Wolf administration’s response to the pandemic a constant source of contention with Republican majorities in the legislature. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, has joined other plaintiffs in filing a lawsuit challenging the administration’s recent school mask order. Earlier this week, the House Health Committee requested that the Commonwealth Joint Committee on Documents review and make a ruling on the school mask mandate. More details can be found in this WGAL article.
Also on the docket for the fall is an in-depth review of state regulations. In the early days of the pandemic, a number of state regulations were temporarily waived as businesses across the Commonwealth and state government adapted to changing work environments. Lawmakers are expected to review the various regulations to determine whether updates are needed or if any regulations should be permanently suspended.
Senate Republicans are moving forward with a forensic investigation of the 2020 General Election, as well as a review of the state’s Election Code. The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee – which has been tasked with spearheading the probe – voted this week to issue a subpoena to the Department of State for various election records. As noted in this Associated Press article, the Wolf administration and legislative Democrats have been vocally opposed to such an effort.
While not technically a policy issue, another area of focus will be the redistricting process and the redrawing of the legislative maps. Every 10 years, following the release of the U.S. census results, the state legislature is charged with redrawing the lines that make-up state House and Senate districts, as well as the districts for Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation. As a result of stagnant population growth, the Commonwealth will lose one Congressional seat – going from the current 18 to 17. Per the state constitution, the congressional maps must be approved by the House and Senate and signed off on by the governor. A new dynamic was added to this historically contentious process when Gov. Wolf issued an executive order this week creating the Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council. The six-member committee is charged with engaging the public and reviewing other states redistricting procedures in order to make recommendations to the governor regarding the proposed maps. More information on the executive order can be found here.
Other items that are likely to come up throughout the session include: updates to the state’s unemployment and workers’ compensation laws; policies related to drug and alcohol and mental health issues; potential changes to the state’s campaign finance laws; as well as charter school reform and other education-related issues.
PCCJR will renew its push to enact covid liability protection for businesses and health care. PCCJR is also working with legislators to introduce and enact legislation concerning the Unfair Trade Practices/Consumer Protection Act. Stay tuned for more information once legislation is introduced.