HARRISBURG – The Senate convened remotely today to pass several bills to keep Pennsylvania moving forward during the COVID-19 coronavirus public health emergency, according to Senate Republican leaders. They said the first-ever remote gathering of the Senate was necessary to pass timely legislation related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The coronavirus response measures included:
- Senate Bill 422, which postpones Pennsylvania’s primary election from April 28 to June 2.
- Senate Bill 751, which updates Pennsylvania’s School Code to waive a number of mandates on schools that cannot be fulfilled under the current circumstances.
- House Bill 68, which provides for emergency changes to the state’s Unemployment Compensation law in response to COVID-19.
- House Bill 1232, which provides additional funding to healthcare facilities to purchase medical supplies and equipment and extends the deadline for certain state and local income tax payments and filings.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25): “Today we have advanced legislation that will help our Commonwealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As this situation continues to change, we remain committed to working together to do what is in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34): “As Pennsylvania continues to navigate uncharted waters, it is important for state government to continue to protect workers, ensure that our schools have directives, and provide assistance to those on the front lines of this public health epidemic.”
Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-27): “I applaud the members of the Senate and House along with the Governor for working together during these challenging times to recognize issues that needed to be addressed and coming to agreement on immediate solutions to them.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Pat Browne (R-16): “Legislation we passed today was vital to help those directly affected by the COVID-19 health crisis and to support our extraordinary health care providers, doctors, nurses and employees who are working diligently and tirelessly to help those afflicted by this dangerous virus. We will continue to work on efforts to support all Pennsylvanians through these difficult times.”
Senate Bill 422 would push back the primary election date to help the state limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The bill would also give county election officials authority to close, relocate or consolidate polling places due to the potential shortage of available volunteers and venues. Volunteers could also be drawn from anywhere in the county; previous law mandated that volunteers had to be from the same election district.
In addition, the bill would allow county election officials to begin processing absentee ballots earlier to ensure election results can be reported earlier, so long as the results are not published or officially recorded. Counties could also continue to use previously printed ballots with the April 28 primary date.
Senate Bill 751 would waive the requirement that all public schools must be open at least 180 days per school year. The bill gives the Secretary of Education the authority to waive similar restrictions for career and technical schools and pre-kindergarten instruction.
The bill would also give the Secretary of Education authorization to increase the number of flexible instruction days that may be used by a school district and waive other requirements for educator preparation programs and assessment exams for career and technical students. It also guarantees that teachers will receive the same compensation they would have received if the pandemic had not occurred.
House Bill 68 would ease eligibility requirements and access to unemployment compensation for workers who have been directly impacted by the coronavirus, including waiving the one-week waiting period for all claimants during the governor’s disaster declaration. Job search and registration requirements for claimants would also be waived under the bill.
The bill also provides automatic relief from benefit charges for any employer whose account would otherwise be charged for weeks of unemployment occurring during the duration of a disaster emergency.
House Bill 1232 would provide up to $50 million of additional funding to healthcare facilities for the sole purpose of buying medical equipment and supplies to address the increased demands that COVID-19 could place on the entire healthcare system. The new money will help ensure healthcare facilities can better meet the needs of patients and staff.
Additionally, House Bill 1232 extends the deadline for individuals who are required to declare and pay estimated Personal Income Tax as well as delays the filing of informational returns for Pennsylvania S corporations and partnerships, estates and trusts. The legislation also authorizes the Department of Community and Economic Development to coordinate with local political subdivisions to extend filing and payment deadlines for the local Earned Income Tax. These deadlines have been extended to July 15, 2020.
In addition, the bill would extend temporary regulations related to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis industry until November 2021.
Kate Flessner – Senator Scarnati
Jenn Kocher – Senator Corman
Matt Moyeer – Senator Browne
Mike Stephens – Senator Gordner