Your Chamber advocacy team is working to share legislative updates and continue to advocate for your business in Washington, D.C., Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. We’ve created a round-up of recent activity including Key Takeaways for Your Business and a Detailed Legislative Update. This represents our best knowledge of the situation as of 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 18, 2020.

Chamber members are invited to join weekly legislative update calls hosted by our Advocacy team to hear the latest on COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts at the federal, state, and local level as well as other legislative matters concerning our community.

We also have a COVID-19 Information Hub with up-to-date resources to support your business.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Regional

  • The Chamber, in collaboration with local, state, and county authorities, announced the launch of the Philadelphia Regional Recharge and Recovery Taskforce; an effort to recharge the regional economy as the area begins to recuperate from the impact of COVID-19 and address the need for greater economic empowerment and equity for all citizens.
  • Nearly 200 regional business and civic leaders signed a statement committing to fight for equity, speaking on behalf of the membership of the Chamber and its CEO Council for Growth.

Federal

  • Senate Republicans introduced their version of a comprehensive police reform package, the JUSTICE Act, a after Congressional Democrats released their proposal. Sixty votes are required for passage of the Senate Republican proposal which would require a handful of Democrats to support.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden is narrowing his list of possible running mates after committing to selecting a woman earlier this year. The presumptive Democratic nominee expects to decide on a running mate by August 1.

  • The RNC announced that President Trump will deliver his acceptance speech of the party nomination in Jacksonville, Florida.

  • Former Vice President Biden leads President Trump 49%-41% in the 2020 presidential election according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll.

State

  • This week, the PA Senate held hearings on law enforcement and the state’s criminal justice system. The hearings featured a number of law enforcement and community-based organizations.

  • Last week, Democrats held up a House voting session in an effort to implore legislators to take up criminal justice reform measures.

  • Gov. Tom Wolf has also announced support for measures calling for increased accountability for the state’s police force and signaled he was open to reforming the state’s body camera law.

  • The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed several bills related to police and criminal justice reform. These bills would mandate activities such as law enforcement employment background investigations, trauma-informed police training, and PTSD evaluation for officers.

  • The Chamber and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce issued a letter to the General Assembly in support of the police reform measures.

  • The Chamber hosted Rep. Jordan Harris for a virtual gathering where he discussed topics such as criminal justice reform and the need for increased funding for K-12 education, community colleges, and workforce development training initiatives.. 

  • The Chamber will host Representative Kerry Benninghoff on June 19 for a virtual gatherings.

Local

  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia have nearly reached 24,000 with over 1,500 deaths.

  • City Council gave preliminary approval to a fiscal year 2021 city budget that reduces funding to the Police Department by $33 million, funds important reforms in policing, invests $20 million in affordable housing, another $25 million to reduce poverty and address disparities, and restores funding to the arts and culture community. 

  • A June 22 hearing was announced to address Councilmember Kendra Brooks’ Emergency Paid Sick Leave Bill in the Health and Humans Services Committee.

  • The bill proposes to mandate that businesses provide 14 days of paid sick leave pursuant to emergency declarations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Chamber is engaging our members to consistently contact Councilmembers to discuss the costs this legislation would impose upon businesses that have already been weakened by the pandemic-related business closures and damage caused during the civic unrest.

  • The full legislative update includes contact information for each Councilmember and talking points for these conversations.

  • The Chamber will Councilmember Cindy Bass, Chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee, for a virtual gathering on June 19.

DETAILED LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Regional: Updates from the 11-County Community

Philadelphia Regional Recharge and Recovery Taskforce Announced

On Monday, the Chamber, in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the four other southeastern Pennsylvania counties, announced the launch of the Philadelphia Regional Recharge and Recovery Taskforce, an effort to recharge the regional economy as the area begins to recuperate from the impact of COVID-19 and address the need for greater economic empowerment and equity for all citizens.

Led by the Chamber and its CEO Council for Growth, the initiative will examine precise operating challenges for immediate economic recovery and develop actionable plans that identify practical, short-term solutions to fast-track key industry sector growth, while minimizing continued economic disruption. In addition, the initiative will determine the type and scale of resources necessary to achieve accelerated short and mid-term economic recovery to inform local, state, and federal governments.

The Chamber’s Commitment to Equity

Nearly 200 regional business and civic leaders signed a statement committing to fight for equity, condemning discrimination, calling for equal justice under the law and the end of systematic racism, police brutality, and economic injustice. The statement was also printed in the Wednesday, June 17, 2020 editions of AL DÍA, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Philadelphia Tribune.

Federal: Updates from Washington D.C.

Comprehensive Police Reform in Congress

Senate Republicans introduced their version of a comprehensive police reform package, the Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, a week after Congressional Democrats released their proposal. The legislation boosts data collection on police use of force, increases penalties for false reports, enhances funding for body cameras, and provides funding for de-escalation training.

Senate Republicans have said that they will not take up the House proposal, which is in committee this week. Instead, Republican leaders plan to bring their proposal to the Senate floor next week. Sixty votes are required for passage which would require a handful of Democrats to support. Senate Democrats have criticized the measure saying it does not go far enough, however both sides seem intent to pass a reform package before the Independence Day recess.

Presidential Election Udpate

Former Vice President Joe Biden is narrowing his list of possible running mates after committing to selecting a woman earlier this year. Said to be among the short list of possible selections are Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama Susan Rice, Congresswoman Val Demings, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The presumptive Democratic nominee expects to decide on a running mate by August 1, about two weeks before the Democratic National Committee convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced recently that President Trump will deliver his acceptance speech of the party nomination in Jacksonville, Florida. The speech was originally slated to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, but Democratic Governor Roy Cooper would not allow large crowds to occupy the indoor arena based on health guidelines and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to contractual agreements, the RNC will still be required to hold some formal portion of the convention in Charlotte.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 49%-41% in the 2020 presidential election according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll.

Questions? Contact Anselm Sauter (asauter@chamberphl.com) for more information about federal legislative affairs.

State: Updates from Harrisburg

Pennsylvania Senate Hearings on Criminal Justice System

This week, the Pennsylvania Senate held hearings on law enforcement and the state’s criminal justice system. The hearings featured a number of law enforcement and community-based organizations.

Wednesday’s hearings featured Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Kevin Steel, the district attorney of Montgomery County, David Sunday, Jr., the district attorney of York County, and other law enforcement officials. Representatives of the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union also participated.

Last week, Democrats held up a House voting session in an effort to implore legislators to take up criminal justice reform measures. Gov. Tom Wolf has also announced support for measures calling for increased accountability for the state’s police force and signaled he was open to reforming the state’s body camera law. Senators are considering a measure to create a database for police personnel issues and legislation to mandate independent investigations for police killings. Currently, those investigations are conducted by the local police or district attorney’s office.

House Panel Passes Police Reform Measures

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed several bills related to police and criminal justice reform.

House Bill 1841 would require an applicant’s previous employer to disclose employment information to a law enforcement agency that is conducting a background investigation of an applicant. The bill was amended (Amendment A06225) to create a repository in the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) for records of law enforcement officers, so that hiring decisions can be made with access to more complete information regarding the prior employment of a law enforcement applicant.

House Bill 1910 was passed with Amendment A06222, which would require MPOETC to train police in trauma-informed care, specifically PTSD, and require officers get evaluated by a licensed mental health professional for PTSD under several conditions, most notably within 30 days of the use of lethal force.

The committee also amended Senate Bill 637 (Amendment A06146), changing the legislation’s language to mirror the language of House Bill 1477, which passed the full House in December 2019. The bill places restrictions on how licensure boards and commissions can issue denials and revocations on the basis of the applicant’s criminal history.

Last week, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce issued a letter to the General Assembly in support of the police reform measures and have long supported efforts to ease barriers to credentialing requirements for returning citizens.

Chamber Hosts Rep. Harris for Virtual Gathering

As part of its Legislative Leaders series of virtual gatherings, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia hosted Democratic House Majority Whip Rep. Jordan Harris (Philadelphia). Rep. Harris discussed a range of topics from criminal justice reform, the need for increased funding for K-12 education, community colleges, and workforce development training initiatives. Rep. Harris said that while the legislature passed a five-month budget, much work remains to be done to rethink how resources are allocated which requires a new, creative way of thinking on the part of lawmakers. 

Upcoming State Virtual Events

Questions? Contact Liz Ferry (lferry@chamberphl.com) for more information about state legislative affairs.

Local: Updates from Philadelphia’s City Hall

COVID-19 Case Data

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced 64 additional confirmed cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia since Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 24,655. The Department of Public Health confirmed 8 additional fatalities in Philadelphia during this period. This brings the number of residents who have succumbed to the virus in Philadelphia to 1,503. Of the total deaths, 773 (51%) were long-term care facility residents.

Fiscal Year 2021 Budget

City Council gave preliminary approval to a fiscal year 2021 city budget that reduces funding to the Police Department by $33 million, funds important reforms in policing, invests $20 million in affordable housing, another $25 million to reduce poverty and address disparities, and restores funding to the arts and culture community. 

  • Policing 

The budget, recommended for approval today by Council’s Committee of the Whole, reduces funding for the Police Department by $33.3 million – which is $14 million more in reductions than Council and the mayor agreed upon last week. 

The reduction in police spending calls for the following reforms inside and outside of the department: 

    • Body cameras for police officers 
    • Implicit bias training for police 
    • Engage mental health professionals for police-assisted diversion 
    • Equity Manager for the police force 
    • Transfer funding for crossing guards ($12.3 million) and public safety enforcement officers ($1.9 million) to Managing Director’s Office (MDO) 
    • Create a Deputy Inspector General for police-related investigations (in MDO) 
    • Fund a Police Oversight Commission ($400,000 to MDO) 
    • Additional funding for the Public Defender ($1.2 million)  
  • Additional Investments 

The budget recommended for approval by the Committee of the Whole includes: 

    • New Normal Budget Act. $25 million in the budget is earmarked to address health care needs, healthier food options, affordable housing, anti-poverty efforts, job training, and other measures to address the disparities laid bare by COVID-19 and the unrest in Philadelphia following George Floyd’s murder. 
    • Quality, Affordable Housing. An increased investment of $20 million for the Housing Trust Fund. 
    • Adult Education. $1.45 million for Adult Education. 
    • Arts and Culture funding. $1.35 million in funding slated for elimination due to COVID-19’s impact has been restored, through the Cultural Fund and African-American Museum 
    • Criminal justice reform.  $825,000 in funding for Re-Entry Services 
  • Revenues 

The Non-Resident Wage and Net Profit Tax will increase to 3.5019%, still below the rate for Philadelphians of 3.871%. This slight increase goes along with a decision not to seek a reduction in the Resident Wage Tax, as previously planned. Together, these changes should generate $17.2 million in FY21. For a commuter earning $50,000 a year, this would increase his/her wage tax by $27 a year, or $1 per pay period. The tax increase will sunset after one year.

The Parking Tax will increase from 22.5% to 25% to generate an additional $8.5 million in FY21.The tax increase will sunset after one year. Council also approved a plan to create a “Good Parking Jobs for Philadelphia Review Committee” as an agency of Council, with nine mayoral appointees, two of whom shall be members of Council. If the Committee determines to Council’s satisfaction that the parking industry is supporting the development of stable jobs for workers, it is Council’s intent beginning in fiscal 2022 to reduce the parking tax, with the goal of reducing the rate to 17%.

  • Pension Debt Restructuring 

The Kenney administration proposed, and Council agreed, to a pension bond debt restructuring that will generate savings of about $80 million in FY21. 

  • Fire Department spending 

The administration proposed, and Council agreed, to hold the Fire Department to its FY20 level of funding, an economizing move generating $5 million in savings.

City Council Stated Meetings

Last week Council’s Stated Meeting was held on June 11, 2020. View bills introduced during the session »

The remaining Stated Meetings for this session are as follows:

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020
  • Thursday, June 25, 2020

Information on how to give public comment at stated meetings of City Council can be found at phlcouncil.com/offering-public-comment-at-council-sessions-temp.

Emergency Paid Sick Being Considered in Committee

On Monday, a hearing was announced for June 22, 2020 at 2:30pm in the Health and Humans Services committee to address Councilmember Kendra Brooks’ Emergency Paid Sick Leave Bill. Originally introduced May 1, 2020 the bill, cosponsored by Councilmembers Gym and Gauthier, proposes to mandate that businesses provide 14 days of paid sick leave pursuant to emergency declarations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following its original introduction, the Chamber and the African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, and DE sent a letter to all members of Council highlighting the untimeliness the legislation and the costs it would impose upon already extremely weakened businesses. The Chamber will be sending another letter to Councilmembers and the Mayor with consistent messaging. We will be additionally offering public comment during the legislative process.

In light of these events, the Chamber is engaging our Local Legislative team, Council Connectors, and other stakeholder organizations and encouraging all to consistently contact Councilmembers in this regard.

Messaging is centering around the following:

  • Advancing this legislation when businesses are hoping to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent destructive demonstrations will add insult to injury and could very well mean the death knell of  many of the city’s local businesses that have survived to date.
  • Especially at this time, we need to be incentivizing businesses to stay in the City. If a business is being forced to start over due to recent events, why would they choose to stay in Philadelphia with these added impediments?
  • Sick leave was not envisioned to be a benefit paid in lump sums to all employees at a specific time. Businesses generally plan that a few workers will be out over manageable periods of time, allowing other staff to continue running the business in the absence of workers that are out. Should a COVID-19 emergency reoccur, under this legislation businesses would have to, once again, pay lump sums immediately following the emergency declaration, while their businesses are shut down.
  • It would seem untenable that the City will have the resources to pay additional sick leave to government employees given its current financial status.
  • The City would be better served with “inclusive growth” policies that assist businesses to stay afloat and assist workers.

Members of the business community are encouraged to reach out to Councilmembers directly to communicate how these actions could impact your business:

Locate which Council District in which your business is located »

As there are only two Council Sessions remaining in the Spring term – June 18 and June 25 – the only way the bill could pass this session would be for the Council President to add an extra session on July 2.  As of now no such a hearing has been scheduled.

City Council Committee Hearings Schedule

Finance

Monday, June 20, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. | View the full agenda »

Of particular interest: Bill 200347Amending Chapter 19-3200 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Keystone Opportunity Zone, Economic Development District, and Strategic Development Area,” to provide for additional extensions of certain benefits, for the purpose of facilitating economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health and Human Services

Wednesday, June 22, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. | View the full agenda »

Of particular interest: An Ordinance amending Chapter 94100 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces,” to establish leave time for public health emergencies, modify existing provisions concerning the paid sick leave, and make technical changes, all under certain terms and conditions.

View a full list of Council’s Committee Hearings »

View information on how to give testimony at public hearings of City Council committees »

All Stated Meetings and Public Hearings will be held remotely using Microsoft Teams and can be viewed on Xfinity Channel 64, Fios Channel 40, or online at: phlcouncil.com/watch-city-council

Upcoming City Hall Connectors Virtual Gathering

Questions? Contact William Carter (wcarter@chamberphl.com) for more information about local legislative affairs.

WE’RE HERE FOR YOU, YOUR TEAM, AND YOUR BUSINESS

The constantly changing nature of this public health crisis requires continued engagement with public policy developments. We invite you to reach out to our advocacy team directly with your questions: 

Chamber members are invited to join weekly legislative update calls hosted by our Advocacy team to hear the latest on COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts at the federal, state, and local level as well as other legislative matters concerning our community.

We also have a COVID-19 Information Hub with up-to-date resources to support your business.