State Budget Remains Unfinished While Civil Justice Under Siege in the House

Fractures between the legislative and executive branches of state government continue to create roadblocks in finalizing the 2023-24 state budget. The fiscal year officially ended on June 30, but lawmakers have failed to reach agreement on key policies leading to finger pointing and an uncertain path forward. A budget was eventually passed but due to disagreements over deals struck between the Senate and the Governor, it remains to be seen when the Senate will reconvene for the official signing of the House passed budget bill so that it can go to the Governor for signature.

During the busy legislative period of June through early July, civil justice was under attack by a number of pro-plaintiff, liability expanding, bills and amendments running in the legislature.

Foremost among these were two False Claims amendments offered to HB 876. Rep. Rob Kauffman also filed his alternative language to False Claims, backed by PCCJR. HB 876 did not receive second consideration so the amendments were not voted on prior to adjournment.

Working with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, PCCJR was successful in preventing a vote in a Senate committee on SB 22 which contained a private cause of action provision. Private causes of action are often unnecessary and only duplicate administrative enforcement already contained in legislation. These amendments are gifts to the trial bar and allow for excessive and unnecessary litigation.

PCCJR also opposed a private right of action provision in HB 1465. Rep. Barb Gleim filed a PCCJR supported amendment to remove the private right of action provision. The amendments were not voted prior to legislative adjournment.

PCCJR wrote to the House Labor and Industry Committee opposing an amendment by Representative Dawkins that added a private right of action to HB 181. Unfortunately, the amendment was adopted by the committee. PCCJR is working with a House member to offer an amendment removing the private cause of action should HB 181 run in the House.

HB 1140 was listed for a vote in the House Insurance Committee in June. This bill also contained a private right of action provision. PCCJR wrote to the committee opposing the private right of action portion of the bill. The bill was not reported from committee prior to adjournment.

HB 1479 is legislation requiring the adoption of accessibility standards for websites of public entities. PCCJR supports an amendment drafted by Representative Brad Roae to provide safe harbor from liability for public entities who are in compliance with the standards. Public entities and private entities alike should not have to face liability when in compliance with government regulations and standards. HB 1479 did not run on the floor of the House prior to adjournment.

PCCJR was hard at work monitoring these legislative developments and working with House and Senate members to remove or vote against provisions harmful to business and health care. All of these bills could be brought up for votes when the legislature returns to session in the fall. PCCJR will be hard at work educating legislators and opposing detrimental legislation as we push our pro-civil justice reform agenda.

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