As the Commonwealth works to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the PA Chamber is urging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pursue public policies that jump start the economy and provide relief for Pennsylvania’s job creators. Policy recommendations and accompanying legislation is outlined below.
1. Provide Liability Protections for Employers
Provide temporary liability protections for employers and manufacturers of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
2. Permanently Repeal Regulations That Proved Unnecessary During the Shutdown
Review and repeal onerous regulations that proved during the shutdown to not be needed.
3. Educate on Price Gouging
Ensure that consumers and businesses alike have knowledge of what constitutes price gouging. Ensure that businesses understand what steps to take to protect themselves against enforcement.
1. Improving the Treatment of Net Operating Losses
Pennsylvania is one of only two states to cap the amount of net operating losses, which has an especially harsh impact on cyclical and start-up companies. Increasing and ultimately eliminating the NOL cap will improve Pennsylvania’s competitiveness.
2. Tax Credit for Remote Work Costs
Provide tax deductions/credits for costs associated with transitioning employees to a teleworking model, including for purchases of laptops, high-speed internet, phone line, office equipment, etc.
3. Fairness in Equipment Purchasing
Align the Pennsylvania Tax Code with the Internal Revenue Service Code relative to purchasing equipment.
4. Emergency Small Business Grant Program
Provide financial assistance to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic-related business closure or capacity restrictions and were forced to close or curtail their business.
5. Enhance Flexibility and Revenue Opportunities for Restaurants
The restaurant and hospitality industry was decimated by the pandemic and shutdown orders; yet many establishments survived with the help of temporary measures passed to provide more flexibility and revenue opportunities, including selling cocktails-to-go and utilizing outdoor space. Making these provisions permanent would maintain support for an industry still facing significant challenges.4
1. Infrastructure Development
Support efforts to develop and make more efficient and reliable transportation, telecommunications, wireless and utility systems and other infrastructure. Expanded reliance on public-private partnerships will help the Commonwealth meet its infrastructure needs.
2. Protections for Critical Infrastructure
Ensure that construction, manufacturing and other critical infrastructure operations can operate safely and with adequate protections against trespass and/or vandalism.
1. Relax Occupational Licensing Requirements
Make it easier for health care practitioners and other professionals from high priority occupations to work in Pennsylvania by improving licensing requirements.
2. Provide Flexibility for Professional Licensing Renewals
Extend time for renewal of all professional and business licenses and defer renewal fees.
3. Offer Medical Expense Assistance
Provide assistance to help defray the out-of-pocket costs that residents with high deductible health insurance plans may face when seeking treatment for COVID-19.
1. Allow for Remote Judicial Proceedings
Authorize courts to conduct conferences and hearings via teleconference in order to allow for cases to be heard; discourage or prohibit venue shopping to Philadelphia under the pretense that a larger county is better suited to hear cases.
2. Liquor Licensing Reform
Eliminate the statewide cap on restaurant liquor licenses and waive all fees.
3. Waive Permits/Fees for Business Re-Opening
Waive all permits and/or fees that a “new” businesses would be required to apply for and/or pay if the business was forced to close during the pandemic and is seeking to reopen.
4. Expedite Reviews/Inspections for Business
Expedite all required applications, inspections and/or permits for businesses that are seeking to re-open or were in the process of opening prior to the shutdown order.
5. Remote Unemployment Compensation Hearings
Permanently allow for unemployment compensation hearings to take place remotely, unless there is good cause to hold the hearings in-person.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL
1. Third Party Review of Permits
Given diminished staffing and resources, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, other state agencies and county conservation districts should look to partner with the private sector for efficient technical review of permit applications and modifications. The private sector partner should make recommendations to the Department, but final review and approval should remain the responsibility of the Department.
2. Fuel Standards
Waive EPA and state fuel standards to allow flexibility and standardization of the fuel supply across Pennsylvania and enable unused (or winter) blends to sell through.
3. Permit Extensions
Allow extensions of environmental permits for building and infrastructure projects.
4. Third-Party Inspectors
Permit third-party inspectors for PennDOT and DEP permitted projects.
5. Prioritize Permitting
Prioritize DEP permitting for new sources over renewals.
6. Expedite Permit Reviews
Expedite the permit review and approval process through “Deemed Approval” legislation to boost corporate investment.
7. Permit Tracking
Create a more transparent, efficient and user-friendly permit review and tracking process.
8. Regulatory Review and Repeal
Allow for greater legislative oversight and review of state regulations.
9. Regulations During Emergencies
Create a more transparent regulatory process that ensures that the public and General Assembly are given the ability and adequate time to offer input on proposed regulations.
WORKFORCE AND EDUCATION
1. Strengthen Unemployment Compensation Rules
Codify Department of Labor & Industry policy that employees who quit or refuse work without good cause are not eligible for unemployment benefits and reinstate work search requirements as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.
2. Expedite Work Permits
Require school districts to expedite work permits for minors applying for positions in life-sustaining industries experiencing labor shortages.
3. Extend the School Year
Extend the school year into the summer months and allow for longer days to support students’ educational needs, provide before and after school childcare, and allow parents to re-enter the workforce.
4. Tax Credit for COVID-19 Employee Leave
Offer businesses a refundable tax credit to keep employees on payroll, complementing the existing federal paid leave options, in order to care for oneself or an immediate family member who is in quarantine or recovery as a result of COVID-19.
6. Allowance for Non-Exempt Employees
Allow for non-exempt employees to engage in de minimis work activity without counting as compensable hours under overtime laws.
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PPP Loan Forgiveness (Act 1 of 2021)
Exempts loans provided under the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to businesses from state taxation.
CNI Reporting Deadline Change (Act 10 of 2021)
Changes the due date of Pennsylvania corporate tax returns from 30 days after the due date of the federal return to the 15th day of the month following the due date of the federal return.
Emergency Declarations Constitutional Amendment (Approved by voters in the Primary Election on May 18, 2021)
Amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to limit state emergency declarations to a maximum of 21 days, unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly.
Promote Data Centers (Act 25 of 2021)
Provide a sales tax exemption for data center industry equipment purchases.
Flexibility for Food Merchants (Act 29 of 2020)
Provides food merchants who are experiencing labor shortages with workforce flexibility, including waiving the requirement for separate checkout for alcohol sales.
Small Cell and 5G Wireless Deployment (Act 50 of 2021)
Supports the deployment of small cell and 5G wireless infrastructure in Pennsylvania to boost the strength and efficiency of our telecommunications networks during this time when online connectedness is more important than ever.
Prioritize COVID-19 Testing (Act 70 of 2020)
As capacity increases, this law prioritizes testing for employees working in life-sustaining industries.
Property Tax Payment Extensions (Act 75 of 2020)
Provides extensions to property owners on their local property tax payments with a waiver of interest and penalties.
Allow Notaries to Operate Remotely (Act 97 of 2020)
Allows notary publics to conduct their duties remotely. Act 15 of 2020 included similar legislation effective during the COVID-19 emergency declaration, and this law allows for remote notarization going forward beyond the duration of the emergency.
See which lawmakers voted in favor of these and other policies of importance to PA’s business community last session.