The legislature is back from the summer recess and has started the fall voting session, which lasts through December. Last week, House and Senate Republican leaders held a press conference where they outlined main areas of focus for the reminder of the year. Those priorities include: (1) the Administration’s school mask mandate; (2) election reform; (3) legislative recommendations included in the Auditor General’s report on the pandemic waivers; and (4) legislative measures dealing with the opioid epidemic.
In previous Spokesman articles, you read about the progress the government affairs team has made in calling for an end to discriminatory rules in the apprenticeship training standards. In August and September, ABC chapters were proud to host members of the House Labor & Industry Committee to tour training facilities and participate in a roundtable discussion on our concerns. Those events were a tremendous success and put a spotlight on the unfairness between joint and non-joint rules.
As ABC members are aware, our association has been advocating strongly for changes to state-mandated apprentice-to-journeyworker ratio rules. Under a 60-year-old rule, merit shop contractors are required to have four journeyworkers supervise each apprentice. On the other hand, joint apprenticeship programs have unilateral flexibility in setting ratios through their collective bargaining agreements. We believe two set of standards is unfair and discriminatory.
August is typically a time where state and federal elected officials are on recess and preparing for the fall sessions. While this year is no exception, it does not mean we are taking a break representing your interests. Over the summer, ABC of Pennsylvania staff will be working on internal and externals affairs.
The legislature is in recess through the end of September, which provides time for the government affairs team to prepare for the fall session and map out future strategies. In October, we are planning the first in-person advocacy event since the COVID-19 shutdown. ABC members will have an opportunity to meet directly with key legislators in Harrisburg to advocate for policy priorities that impact the construction industry.
In addition to communicating directly with legislators, it is important that ABC financially support free enterprise candidates. There are important seats up for election in the 2022 cycle, and there is no doubt Pennsylvania will be a key state in determining the majorities in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
It was a busy and impactful June for ABC public policy priorities. The House Commerce Committee advanced House Bill 424, which would prohibit indemnity clauses in construction contracts, by a vote of 23-1. We anticipate the bill will advance to the full House in the fall session. We provided comments on various pieces of legislation that would impact our members. We also supported legislation that would waive federal environmental permits on construction sites of less than five acres. Most significantly, we saw action on legislation (House Bill 536) that would reform the state’s mandated journeyworker-to-apprentice ratio rules, which have discriminated against the merit shop for 60 years.
A new session is well underway, and ABC is making a difference. Along with COVID-19 issues, the top priority of elected leaders in Harrisburg is preparing a 2021-22 state budget and passing legislation that gets Pennsylvanians back to work. Despite the ongoing pandemic, ABC of Pennsylvania’s government affairs program has been highly active. Though we are only six months into the new session, we have made progress on the following issues:
Another primary election has come and gone. Turnout this year was typical of most odd-numbered year elections, with between 20-25% of eligible voters casting ballots. Generally, there were more challenges on the Democratic ticket, and the trend continues where incumbent Democrats lost to candidates farther to the Left. Regarding special elections for open state House and Senate seats, the results went as expected with no flips. The results are in:
In “normal” times, ABC of Pennsylvania holds a ‘Free Enterprise Day’ in April to advocate for policy issues important to the commercial construction industry. As we are all aware, COVID-19 continues to impact our business practices. While the Capitol Building in Harrisburg re-opened to the public in time for the spring session, gatherings are still restricted. Therefore, ABC conducted our first-ever “Virtual Free Enterprise Week,” where ABC members participated in Zoom calls with legislators serving on the House Labor & Industry Committee to educate them on House Bill 536, which would reform the journeyperson-to-apprentice mandate.
In mid-March, the legislature returned from the budget hearing recess to begin the spring session. The government affairs team has been working with the legislature and promoting our public policy agenda, as approved by the ABC of Pennsylvania board of directors. The following updates are a few areas of focus on which the government affairs team is working:
On March 15, the legislature returned from the “budget break” that allowed the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to hold public hearings on the governor’s proposed budget. In the months ahead, the state budget will be negotiated, along with many other priority bills. ABC of Pennsylvania will be pushing to get our priorities added to that list.is proposing to tax the Marcellus Shale, which ABC of Pennsylvania is on record as opposing. Other highlights include:
On February 4, Governor Tom Wolf publicly released his 2021-22 proposed budget. The nearly $40 billion budget will fund the state from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. The budget represents a 12% increase over last year. Not surprisingly, the governor again is proposing to tax the Marcellus Shale, which ABC of Pennsylvania is on record as opposing. Other highlights include: