Pension Reform Stalls in House

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

An opportunity for a substantive pension reform measure to reach Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk puttered out last Wednesday night, as House legislative leaders determined that there were not enough votes in that chamber to pass legislation that had earlier been reported from a conference committee. Prior to the House’s announcement that the pension reform bill had stalled, the legislation was approved by a conference committee made up of House appointees Reps. Mike Tobash, Warren Kampf and Dan Frankel; and Sens. Jake Corman, Joe Scarnati and John Blake.

The report, which cleared the committee by a 4-2 vote, would have instituted the option of new hybrid defined benefit, defined contribution plans, or a straight defined contribution plan, for new state and public school employees. After it became clear that the measure would not be taken up by the House for a final vote, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, admitted that the chamber was three votes shy of getting the 102 votes needed to approve it, with no support from any Democrats. And while Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan told reporters that the governor “remains committed” to achieving pension reform, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, seemed hard-pressed to believe it. “”This governor provided zero [Democratic votes] – to me that’s unprecedented, if he truly wanted it,” Corman said.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, the House referred the conference report on S.B. 1071 back to the conference committee, setting up a potential scenario in which the legislation could again be considered during the few post-election session days that are scheduled in November.

Candidates Provide Positions on Business Topics

Candidates for State Representative for the 107th and 109th districts have provided responses to business-related questions in advance of the November 8th General Election. The questions were developed by the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau and sent to all of the registered candidates. Their responses are provided unedited except being aggregated and formatted for consistency of presentation.

Responses from the candidates for the 107th District are available here.

Responses from the candidates for the 109th District are available here.

State Legislature Wrapping Up Session

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

State House and Senate lawmakers are in Harrisburg this week as part of a busy two-week session period wherein they are expected to wrap up legislative action for the 2015-16 session. The PA Chamber remains focused on working with lawmakers toward getting a comprehensive public pension reform measure to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 1071, which has been sent to a yet-to-be-appointed legislative conference committee, could see action this week. Other business-related legislation that could potentially be considered includes proposed reforms to the state’s Unemployment Compensation system relating to seasonal workers, and a measure that would bring more transparency to the process by which state contracts are negotiated with private attorneys.

Business Coalition Urges Flexibility in Overtime Rule Mandates

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The PA Chamber led a statewide coalition of associations and industry groups last week in sending a letter to lawmakers on the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, urging their support for legislation that would help to mitigate the impact of federal overtime requirements – particularly as new, more challenging rules are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1, 2016.   Senate Bill 1360 was authored following a joint public hearing this summer, where employers and representatives from the nonprofit, health services and higher education communities all described how the rule will lead to higher costs. For some, this could mean converting employees from salary to hourly, more burdensome record-keeping, a tighter work schedule and fewer training opportunities. The bill aims to help employers manage federal overtime rules by allowing for accommodations to these requirements that are not yet covered under Pennsylvania law – e.g., letting employees maintain salary status through use of a “fluctuating work week,” offering flexibility in the definition of compensable “hours worked” and qualifying certain employees as exempt.

“The new rules will be effective soon and while there is nothing state lawmakers can do with respect to the federal rule itself, Senator Baker’s bill will help in a meaningful way those nonprofits, human service agencies, educational institutions and others in your district who will be impacted,” the coalition letter stresses.   In related news, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a broad coalition of business groups in filing a legal challenge to the overtime rule, arguing that the Department of Labor exceeded its statutory authority in issuing the regulation and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

In addition to the private groups’ suit, a coalition of 21 states filed a challenge at the same time reinforcing the range of entities that will have severe problems complying with this regulation. “The [U.S.] Chamber is grateful to be joined by a coalition of states and state attorneys general who are committed to improving economic growth and career opportunity, and to defending the rule of law,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits for the U.S. Chamber.

911 Consolidation Expected to Save Costs and Improve Safety

Columbia and Montour counties are working toward the consolidation of 911 systems to save costs long-term and improve emergency response. As Montour County is implementing GIS mapping as part of the consolidation, some businesses and residences will have address changes. Despite this inconvenience and the possibility of associated costs, the Chamber Board supports the process.

The counties have been discussing consolidation for many months as a way to save costs associated with periodic equipment upgrades. In Montour County, the lack of GIS mapping can lead to confusion and delayed response time for emergency personnel, particularly in more rural areas. Considering the goal of improving response time and safety, the Chamber Board voted unanimously to support the consolidation last Tuesday.

Address changes are not anticipated to be implemented until at least April, 2017. Affected residences and businesses will be notified by the County. The Post Office will also recognize the old and new address for those impacted for a period of one year.