General Assembly picks up where it left off. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly debated the power of the executive branch during most of the 2020 calendar year. Much of the debate focused on the power of the Governor to impose restrictions during a declared natural disaster. Many of the adopted proposals last session were not passed into law.

But, the General Assembly is trying again. This week the Senate passed a measure that would amend the PA Constitution limiting the timeframe of future gubernatorial disaster declarations. The amendment is the most recent effort from Republican lawmakers to rein in gubernatorial powers that they feel have been abused throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation passed along party lines (28-20) and would limit gubernatorial disaster declarations to 21 days, requiring any extensions to be approved by the legislature. The amendment, which would need to be approved by voters before taking effect, would mark a significant shift from the state’s current law, which allows governors to designate emergencies for 90 days and extend them at will.

We will see where this all leads this time around.

New Senate Transportation Chairman conducts P3 Hearing. Newly appointed Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria) convened a public hearing this week as one of his first acts of business this session. The hearing was to examine PennDOT’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Bridge Tolling Initiative that was adopted by the State P3 Board back in November. The hearing has two main organization testifiers—PA Motor Truck Association (PMTA) Chairman Mark Giuffre and Interim President Joe Butzer as well as PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. The hearing lasted about an hour and Chairman Langerholc did say that future hearings on the topic may be scheduled. The Senate may consider a resolution, Senate Resolution 6, that would essentially veto or void the actions taken by the P3 Board in November.

Industry members were able to watch a presentation by PennDOT on Jan. 7 to learn more about the P3 Bridge Tolling Project. GO HERE to watch that presentation.

To view the Senate hearing GO HERE.

Special Elections set for May 18. Two special elections are now set to determine who will replace two deceased members of the General Assembly. Rep. Mike Reese passed away on Jan. 2 and represented the 59th Legislative District in Westmoreland and Somerset counties. Senator Dave Arnold passed away on Jan. 17 and represented the 48th Senatorial District in Lebanon and Dauphin counties. Both special elections will take place in conjunction with the Primary on May 18. The political parties in these respective districts will now go through a process to determine who will represent them as candidates in these elections.

Other News and schedule ahead. The state House and Senate return on Monday for three days of scheduled session. The highlight on the agenda is the annual Budget Address by Governor Tom Wolf. It is expected that Wolf will lay out the fiscal year blueprint for the General Assembly to consider for the FY 2021-22 year.

Also, Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland) was named by the House Republicans as the new Caucus Chairman. Dunbar replaces Reese to that leadership post.