VIDEO: The Senate convened in a historic video-conferencing session as a social distancing measure to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. During session, the Senate considered legislation to address concerns raised by the health emergency, including:
Senate Bill 751, legislation that 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, legislation that 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.
Senate Bill 422, legislation that would push back the April 28 primary election date to June 2 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.
House Bill 1232 legislation that 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, HB 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.
PLEASE NOTE: While this video shows gavel-to-gavel action of session today, the portions when the Senate was “at ease” have been edited out for brevity.