What’s New in Harrisburg: Education, Pensions and Infrastructure

In Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and our affiliate unions are working hard for all working people in our Commonwealth. State Legislation has a tremendous, direct impact on our lives. As we head into budget season, we’re keeping a close watch on worker legislation for you.

Here’s a bit of what happened this week:

Education

Passed by the House last month a 111 to 85 vote HB 800 would expand the state’s school voucher program by $100 million and allow for automatic funding increases in the program in future years. On June 5, the Senate Education Committee voted by 6 to 3 in the bill’s favor.

Pensions

HB 1283 has as its declared intent putting protections into state law for pension plans that have been shifted out of the protection of Federal Law and into a Group Annuity. This so called “de-risking” process, as it is referred to by proponents, puts at risk the very workers who have invested in their pensions their entire working lives. This bill was marked to be up for final passage in the House on its Supplemental Calendar, but labor ended up dissuading enough Republicans from voting “yes” that the leadership opted against running the bill.

Misclassification

As a means to saving money, employers often misclassify employees as independent contractors, thereby depriving workers of better pay and benefits. This also puts law-abiding businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Although much of such misclassification is already illegal, the practice remains widespread. HB 716 would curb this abuse by creating a joint agency task force on employee misclassification.  The task force will investigate the practice and develop and implement a comprehensive plan to reduce misclassification in Pennsylvania.

Workers’ compensation

The Uninsured Employers’ Guaranty Fund (UEGF) provides workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers whose employer violated the law and did not provide workers’ compensation coverage. HB 83 would amend the Workers’ Compensation Act to require that a claimant working for an employer that was not providing workers’ compensation coverage be required to provide a form of evidence (e.g. check stubs or bank records) verifying their wages in order to be eligible for the wage loss benefit.  On June 7, the House Labor & Industry Committee reported the bill on a party-line vote.

Restore PA Introduced

Restore PA is a major new infrastructure initiative funded by the monetization of a severance tax. Billed as being a program that will “help catapult Pennsylvania ahead of every state in the country in terms of technology, development, and infrastructure,” Restore Pennsylvania will invest $4.5 billion over the next four-years in significant, high-impact projects throughout the commonwealth. Specifically, Restore Pennsylvania will provide funding to completely bridge the digital divide in every community in Pennsylvania, provide funding for flood prevention, establish a disaster relief trust fund to assist individuals who suffer losses that are not compensated by the likes of FEMA,  provide grants to municipalities moving forward with Pollutant Reduction Plans, provide funding for infrastructure that helps build manufacturing facilities and other downstream businesses[1], and increase resources for addressing blight, provide funding for Transportation Capital Projects.


[1] Downstream operations are “oil and gas processes that occur after the production phase to the point of sale.” 

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