Homeland Security Offers Workplace Safety Resources

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has online resources to help businesses and organizations avoid and plan for violent attacks. Know the warning signs of a possible attack through a vehicle ramming, crowded place, or active shooter situation. Informational resources, including action plan templates, are available at DHS’ website.

Thanks to the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency for providing the information.

Grants Available to Organizations From Pennsylvania’s Volkswagen Settlement Funds

As many are aware, Volkswagen was required to donate funds to the government as a result of its diesel emissions violations in 2015. In Pennsylvania, those funds were designated to reducing emissions from diesel engines throughout the state and there are multiple funds/grants that are scheduled to open soon that may be available and of interest to some member organizations. There will be grant money for items such as electric vehicle chargers for multifamily residences, public places and employers. There are also rebates for buses to transition to alternative fuels. 

Some programs are currently closed, but will be opening soon. The PA Department of Environmental Protection is administering these programs, and has set up a website with all of the pertinent information about the various programs and grants available. Any interested organizations or individuals can also sign up to be added to an email list to stay informed about grant application openings and deadlines. 

Governor Wolf Signs Critical Bonus Depreciation Measure Into Law

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

A top advocacy priority for the PA Chamber was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last week.  Act 72 of 2018 (formerly S.B. 1056) reverses a ruling by the Dept. of Revenue that prohibited Pennsylvania taxpayers from taking advantage of 100 percent bonus depreciation when filing their corporate taxes; and also stripped away depreciation benefits in the recently enacted federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

Act 72 removes a serious competitive disadvantage for the Commonwealth, and helps put Pennsylvania on a more level playing field with other states when working to attract jobs and capital.  In late 2017, following the department’s decision to issue the ruling, the PA Chamber became a leading supporter of this important reform and championed it in the legislature, sending several communications to the House and Senate urging for its passage.

After the House unanimously approved the bill and sent it to the governor, PA Chamber President Gene Barr issued a statement commending lawmakers for their swift efforts to bring the Commonwealth more in line with the tax advantages offered in other states.

“At a time when we should be building on the tax reforms enacted on the federal level; the department’s policy change gave Pennsylvania the unfortunate distinction of being the only state in the nation to disallow any form of accelerated depreciation until an asset was disposed of or sold,” Barr said. “We commend the legislature for working quickly to address this issue – which will help to put Pennsylvania on a more level playing field with other states and improve the state’s overall competitiveness.”

U.S. Department of Labor Ruling Will Allow Expansion of and More Options For Small Business Health Insurance Plans

In late June, the U.S. Department of Labor released a ruling that will allow for the expansion of small business health insurance plans. This long anticipated news is very exciting and will give members additional options for health insurance. Several associations and membership-based organizations, including ChamberChoice, have been preparing for this ruling and the opportunity to create new association health plans for many months. Thus far, the response from insurance companies and other service providers is positive, and the goal is for ChamberChoice to begin offering association health plans again starting in September.

This ruling changes the USDOL’s interpretation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s (ERISA) definition of “employer” to allow small businesses to band together to create health plans for their employees with less expensive premiums than previously available for individuals or single organizations in the marketplace. The rule change essentially changes the DOL’s interpretation of ERISA’s definition of “employer” to include “employer association.” This ruling will restore ChamberChoice’s ability to create and sell differentiated ChamberChoice health insurance benefits and pricing for Chamber members – including sole proprietors.

Here is an easy to read document that further explains this change and includes FAQs. 

On-Time Budget Agreement Reached as Gov. Wolf Signs $32.7 Billion Spending Plan

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

For the first time in a long time, Pennsylvania has an on-time budget.  Well in advance of the June 30 deadline, lawmakers and the Wolf administration announced that they’d reached agreement on a $32.7 billion budget for the 2018-19 Fiscal Year, which is $560 million more than the current year’s spend total (a 2 percent increase).  

House Bill 2121 – which passed the House in a 188-10 vote last Wednesday and the Senate in a 47-2 vote on Friday and was signed by the governor as Act 1A of 2018 – is heavy on education funding,  providing an additional $100 million for basic education, $20 million more for pre-K Counts, $5 million more for Head Start, $15 million more for special education, $25 million more for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program and a $30 million increase for the career and technical education appropriation in the Department of Education. The budget will also increase funding to the State System of Higher Education and state related universities by 3 percent.  Another $70 million is dedicated toward school safety ($10 million of which will be allocated to an existing safe schools initiative), which became a priority for lawmakers this year following the mass school shootings in Florida and Texas. There is also more funding to help people with intellectual disabilities receive services and funding to help combat the state’s opioid crisis by granting 800 more families access to evidence-based home visit services.

The Fiscal, Human Services and Public School Codes that accompany the budget were also passed by the legislature late Friday.  These bills, along with the General Appropriations bill, were signed into law by the governor on Friday.  The governor said of the collection of bills in a statement: “This year’s bipartisan budget continues to increase opportunities for all Pennsylvanians and shows the results of our hard work to get our finances under control.”