BY: DAVID G. GREINEDER, IOM, ABC KEYSTONE DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
In January, ABC Pennsylvania’s leadership team put forth a strong legislative agenda that included proactive goals to enhance our political influence. As a reminder, those goals were to:
- Support and lead efforts to reform the state apprenticeship system;
- Support efforts to reform the criminal justice system;
- Support pro-business changes to the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act (Act 72);
- Oppose efforts to tax the Marcellus Shale;
- Build relationships with elected officials at all levels of government;
- Build alliances with like-minded organizations;
- Recruit advocates for appointments to governmental committees and boards.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed our timelines and tactics around these efforts. We are totally committed to the goals and will not lose sight of them in the future, but the future is unclear. Along with COVID-19 issues, the top priority of elected leaders in Harrisburg has been preparing a 2020-21 state budget. At the end of May, the Legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, a $26 billion budget that flat-funds education programs for a full twelve months and most other statewide programs for five months. The Legislature passed, and the Governor approved, appropriating $2.6 billion of the $3.9 billion in federal pandemic relief for first responders, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other COVID-19-related programs. The remaining $1.3 billion was placed in reserves.
There continues to be a lot of unknowns on how the Legislature will work out unresolved fiscal issues for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. The challenges are great: Current estimates suggest deficits are projected to be between $4-5 billion, and of that, approximately $2 billion may fall in the July and August time frame because of the changed tax-filing deadline. Additionally, negotiations need to be completed before November 30, which is the end date for both the current spending plan and the legislative session. Leaders could work over the summer depending on what statewide revenues look like at that time. ABC will continue to monitor the situation and will engage lawmakers on issues of importance, such as taxation and other regulatory matters.
Now the good news:
Despite the crisis, ABC Pennsylvania’s government affairs program has been active and has made a difference. We strengthened relationships with associations in sharing information, resources, and intelligence. Our grassroots advocacy network has grown by nearly 50 percent. We topped 1,100 calls and emails into the Governor and Legislature on issues of concern.
And last, but not least, we formed a COVID-19 Construction Safety Task Force that developed a comprehensive document to provide guidance, best practices, and standards for construction professionals to incorporate into their COVID-19 safety plans. The task force participants include experienced safety experts across all five ABC Pennsylvania chapters who generously shared their collective resources aimed to protect employees and jobsites from COVID-19. ABC Pennsylvania’s safety plan has been used as a model through ABC National and has been shared with government leaders as they prepare guidelines for the construction industry. I want to thank members of the task force for lending their expertise and wisdom on this nationally recognized resource.
While we do not know the fate of our specific legislative priorities, we do know we have had an impact since this crisis began. I would encourage us to look back at the power our voice had over this timeframe. My challenge to all ABC members is to not just match but enhance the “loudness” of our voice when it comes time to advance legislation important to our industry. It does make a difference.
Thank you for your membership. Stay safe, stay informed, and stay engaged.
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Posted June 1, 2020