John Kruger

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Between the Lines March 2020 issue

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We got a very loud reminder of how important it is to stay alert to what goes on in Harrisburg during the first week of February.

In New Hampshire on Feb 5th, a bill (HB 1621) sponsored by Representative Skip Cleaver of Hashua NH, to have the universal helmet law for all motorcyclist as well as scooter and moped riders adopted was brought before the house transportation committee.  This in the “Live Free or Die” state?

During his speech, he talked about the billions of dollars that could be saved if helmets were required nationwide, including his own state. (We have all heard that before!) He said “This bill is about traffic safety, saving lives and avoiding serious injury” He acknowledged this was a tradeoff between safety and people’s freedom. Many feel this bill is in response to last year’s tragic accident that killed 7 bikers.

Several other legislators rose to oppose this saying ”Helmets don’t save lives, education does!” or “We don’t need a legislative body taking our rights away” and even “It’s our choice, What’s the next bill going to be? Having us wrapped up like the Michelin Man?”

Now where did those opposing legislators get those fine words?? Maybe it was from the 300 + motorcycle enthusiasts that were at the public hearing for this bill to protect their rights, to have there opinions known, to have their voice heard!

We must stay vigilant or else our voice will be lost in the constant “noise” in and around our capitol.  To this end you will notice in our Lobbyist article, we had a meeting with Senator Tomlinson’s staff to see if we can work HB 26 (adding motorcycles to the PA Lemon law) out of committee. We will be meeting again with his staff as well as the representatives from the motorcycle dealers who wrote to oppose this bill. They did acknowledge our efforts have been dually noted. They definitely noticed ALL the lemons and even asked us to please hold off on sending any more as they have heard you loud and clear. Mark, Wendy and I will keep the “squeeze” on this bill.

Ride fast, ride safe, ride free                      

Wojdak Government Relations Update

Not only are we your new lobbyist, Steve, Mark and Wendy are now officially members of A.B.A.T.E.  We want to thank you for allowing us to be a part of A.B.A.T.E.’s most recent Leadership and Legislative Seminar.  It was a great opportunity for us to get to know the members we represent and the issues that are important to A.B.A.T.E. We look forward to building a strong relationship with your organization. 

A.B.A.T.E Legislation Update

Legislation of interest to A.B.A.T.E is listed below.  Wojdak Government Relations is working with our allies in the House and Senate to move these bills from committee and ultimately to the Governor’s desk.

HB 26 – Rep. Pam Snyder’s bill to amend the Automobile Lemon Law to include motorcycles.  The last action on the bill was on February 26, 2019 when it was referred to Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.  On January 28, 2020, John Kruger, Wendy Hoover and Make Richards met with Senator Tomlinson’s staff to restart negotiations on HB 26 and discuss a plan to try to get this bill out of the Consumer Protection Committee.  The meeting was very cordial and we agree to work together on compromise language.  We also agreed to set up another meeting to include Senator Tomlinson and representatives from the motor cycle dealers association.  We are also talking to other Senators and asking them to specifically speak to Chairman Tomlinson about moving this bill.

HB 634 – Rep. Mark Keller’s Motorcycle Procession Bill.  The last action on the bill was when it was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.  On January 16, 2020, Mark Richards and Wendy Hoover participated in a meeting with House and Senate staffers.  During this meeting it was clear that the Senate is serious about moving this bill but also acknowledged that HB 643 would not get through the Senate in its current form.  Many suggestions and ideas on compromise language that would be acceptable by all parties were traded by the group.  The staff people then agreed to put draft language together for another meeting in February.  At press time that meeting has not been scheduled.  However, we expect to meet again within the next few weeks.

SB 62 – Sen. Judy Ward’s legislation to reduce the disability requirement to receive a severely disabled veteran license plate from 100% disability to at least 70% disability.  This bill was set on the Senate tabled calendar on March 27, 2019.

SB 732 – Sen. Camera Bartolotta’s legislation to add grass clipping to the list of items which cannot be spread on to a roadway or highway.  The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 7, 2019 and remains in the Committee.

2020-21 General Fund Budget

The House and Senate has recessed until early March in order for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to conduct in-depth budget hearings on each state department.

On February 4, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf proposed his FY 2020 – 2021 state budget. The proposed General Fund budget totals $36.056 billion, or $1.460 billion (4.22%) more than the prior year. The budget again makes investments that address the state’s opioid epidemic, workforce development, education, all while attempting to address government efficiencies. Governor Wolf’s proposal also requests an expansion of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) - by $1 billion – to include grant availability for school-based lead and asbestos remediation.

Additionally, Pennsylvania’s current budget – FY 2019-2020 is on track to spend about $800 million more than was estimated when it was enacted, thus causing the governor to request a supplemental appropriation of close to $750 million as part of the FY 2020-2021 budget. Approximately $588 million of this supplemental appropriation will go to pay for current year Department of Human Services expenditures.

Key themes and provisions within the budget proposal include:

Investing in our children – education increase at all levels - $25 million Pre K; $5 million increase in Head Start; $100 million in basic education; and $25 million in special education. A major piece of the governor’s education proposal is the repurposing of approximately $200 million from Pennsylvania’s Race Horse Development Trust Fund to support financial assistance to full time PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) students.

Making Pennsylvania a better place for workers and businesses - the governor renewed efforts to increase the state’s minimum wage immediately to $12 per hour and then incrementally to $15 per hour by July 2026; proposes to decrease the corporate net income tax (CNIT) rate from 9.99% to 8.99% on January 1, 2021, with further reductions over time to achieve a CNIT of 5.99% by 2025.

Building the nation’s strongest workforce – invests more than $20 million in new manufacturing and technology jobs; increasing the baseline of a teacher’s starting salary to $45,000 per year.

Keeping Pennsylvania safe – invests $10 million - $6 million statewide and $4 million specifically for Philadelphia – to prevent gun violence; providing fair funding for local police coverage with a fee for every person residing in a municipality without local police coverage.

Protecting the most vulnerable – invests more than $25 million in efforts that would support initiatives related to patients requiring ventilator care, expanding legal services to low income individuals, ID/autism services, reduce senior waiting lists, and combating food insecurity.

General Assembly Reaction

Following Gov. Wolf’s FY 2020 – 2021 budget address there were differing viewpoint on the proposed budget:

The Senate Republicans released a statement that they “are encouraged that the proposal does not include broad-based tax increases. However, we are concerned about $1.5 billion in additional spending and more than a billion dollars in new borrowing in the governor’s proposal. We believe Pennsylvanians deserve a state budget that is fiscally responsible and sustainable.”

The Senate Democrats responded with a post that stated “We believe that there's a lot to be pleased about with Governor. Tom Wolf's proposed 2020-21 budget. The Governor has once again proposed a responsible budget that invests in important programs and highlights policy changes that can benefit the lives of every Pennsylvanian across the Commonwealth.”

The House Republican leadership released a statement: “From high-achieving, safe schools, to growing jobs and providing opportunities for every Pennsylvanian to thrive in family-sustaining careers, we share many of the same goals Gov. Tom Wolf talked about today. However, we believe that the best way to achieve these goals and turn them into a reality for all our citizens is not just with new government programs, more spending and additional debt.”

The House Democratic leaders praised the FY 2020-2021 budget proposal, saying it closely tracks the Democratic Caucus’ own policy agenda, the Plan for Pennsylvania. “Governor Wolf is showing the way to make Pennsylvania a better place to live, learn and work. House Democrats are matching his vision with our plan for affordable health care, quality schools, good jobs, a safe and healthy environment, and justice for all people.”

House members not seeking reelection (as of February 7)

Representative Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware)

Representative Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks)

Representative Garth Everett (R-Lycoming)

Representative Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield)

Representative Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill)

Representative Marcia Hahn (R-Northampton)

Representative Mark Keller (R-Perry)

Representative Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny)

Representative Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery)

Representative Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery)

Representative Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny)

Representative Justin Simmons (R-Northampton)

Representative Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill)

Representative Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery)

Representative Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny)

Representative Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks)

Representative Justin Walsh (R-Westmoreland)

Representative Ted Nesbit (R-Mercer)