The final farewell. After many rumors floating around the halls of the capitol in the past few months, House of Representatives Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) made his final speech before the General Assembly bidding farewell to his colleagues after nearly 20 years of legislative service. Turzai became the Speaker of the House in 2015 and today announced that he will be stepping down and resigning his seat on June 15. Turzai did not run for reelection this term and will now vacate the seat early before the legislative session ends in November causing a special election for this northern Allegheny County district. As a result, the House will return without a Speaker and therefore one will need to be elected for House legislative business to continue. Several names are on the “short list” of those expected to vie for the top post. Among those are current House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York), and House Majority Whip Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre). Regardless of who is elected as Speaker, there will be a domino effect as legislators move to fill coveted leadership posts. Stay tuned for a bumpy ride and we’ll report how this all shakes out in future editions.

Emergency or no emergency. Another major political fight developed this week as the House and Senate passed House Resolution 238, which is a concurrent resolution immediately ending Governor Wolf’s emergency declaration. But things are not that simple…
The issue at heart is whether this concurrent resolution ending the disaster order, passed by both chambers of the legislature Tuesday evening, needs Governor Wolf’s signature to become effective. The governor has said he intends to veto the resolution. House and Senate Republicans believe that the Emergency Management Code allows the General Assembly—without executive approval—to terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. They argue that the Governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency regardless if he agrees with it not.

So, the matter is now heading to the courts to resolve. Senate Republicans already filed a suit in an effort to compel the end of the emergency order based on the passage of the resolution. Governor Wolf has vowed to defend his right to veto or approve legislation in court as well. Stay tuned as this legal battle is bound to be front and center of issues in the Capitol over the next few weeks.

House Transportation Committee meets with PennDOT and Turnpike. Late last week the House Transportation Committee held a COVID-19 hearing with the Department of Transportation and the PA Turnpike Commission. Not much new was learned from PennDOT but we did get a first look at some actions taken by the Turnpike Commission.
Turnpike CEO Mark Compton testified to actions the Turnpike has taken to offset the impact of COVID-19, including the following:

  •  Reassessed an already curtailed 10-year $5.95 billion capital plan to focus exclusively on mission-critical projects necessary to maintain the 552-mile tollway in its current condition. As a result, the pre-COVID-19 FY 2021 capital plan budget of $606.7 million was slashed to $459.7 million, a reduction of about 24 percent.
  • Reviewed expenses associated with the draft FY 2021 operating budget with the goal to attain zero growth over the FY 2020 $432 million budget. Major reductions to the proposed FY 2021 operating budget also include instituting a hiring freeze and offering a voluntary retirement program.
  • Revised the FY 2021 annual Act 44 obligation of $450 million to PennDOT.

APC will be holding its own conversation with CEO Compton and Chief Engineer Brad Heigel next week as part of our Speaker Series. To register for that, go here.