Motor License Fund numbers. The PA Department of Revenue released the August revenue collection numbers this week and some interesting observations should be noted. It was reported that the state Motor License Fund (MLF) received $265.8 million for the month, $0.9 million below estimate. Collections for the fiscal year-to-date (July and August) are $553.2 million, which is $6.4 million, or 1.2 percent, ABOVE estimate. What is even more interesting to note is that these numbers are running ahead of last year when compared to the same point in time (through August 2019), which is pre-COVID pandemic impacts. In August 2019, it was reported that the YTD collections were $452.6 million.
APC continues to monitor these figures to determine if their initial two-year, $800 million impact to the MLF—and subsequently the 2020-21 Letting Schedule—is still anticipated as reported by PennDOT earlier this year.
Back in action. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives returned to active legislative session this week and wasted no time attempting to reverse several initiatives by the Wolf Administration. House Republicans called up a veto override attempt to essentially end the COVID-related regulations put in place earlier this year by Governor Wolf. That effort failed to garner the necessary 2/3 majority to override the veto. Therefore, the regulations remain in place as of now and, in fact, the Governor extended the COVID Emergency Declaration another 180 days. Seems like we’re in for the long haul on this issue.
Elections…how, when, if? How to conduct a safe, fair and accessible election in the midst of a pandemic has been the topic of conversation at the national and state level. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed Act 77 which made several changes to the state Election Code, the main being the allowance of voting by mail. This was showcased during the June Primary Election with mixed results. Many counties reported problems receiving, validating, and timely tabulating the results. Furthermore, final certified election results weren’t even known until August in several closely contested races. This has prompted a spirited discussion among legislators on how to improve the system ahead of the fall General Election on Nov. 3.
This week, in a party line vote, the House passed legislation making several changes to the Election Code. The main proposed change would be to allow counties to open, sort and prepare ballots to be scanned, a process also known as pre-canvassing, the Saturday prior to an election beginning at 8 a.m. Currently, counties can begin the process at 7 a.m. on election day, a timeframe both county officials and the Pennsylvania Department of State said is too short to get mail-in and absentee ballots counted in a timely manner.
The bill makes a number of other changes but is far from becoming law. We reported last week that the state Senate proposed its own legislative proposal on the subject and they are scheduled to reconvene in Harrisburg next week. Both chambers hope to iron out changes in the near future. It is unknown at this time if Governor Wolf supports any of these proposals introduced up to this point.