More Budget Details Emerge, Additional Counties Eligible For 'Green' Phase
Some additional details from this week's short term, stop gap budget:

As was reported in yesterday's Capital Buzz , the Pennsylvania General Assembly sent a $25.8 billion stop gap budget to Gov. Tom Wolf , providing some breathing room for state officials as they wait to see the full financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday , the temporary budget is a five-month spending plan that flat funds most state agencies at a level loosely based on last year’s adopted budget, except for education and food security programs, which are fully funded for the entire year.

In addition to the general appropriation legislation and allocating funding for COVID-19 programs, the General Assembly also passed several measures often referred to as the "code bills" that were signed by the governor on Friday. These "code bills" often include other policy priorities of the General Assembly and direct how state agencies are to spend the money provided in the General Fund.

Here are some of the important policy and fiscal changes made to the state's "code bills" as part of the short term budget agreement:

  • Preserves funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs. These programs are important for preventing the start of all tobacco use among youth and young adults and promoting cessation efforts among adults and youth to address all tobacco product use.
  • Preserves funding for Donated Dental Services under the Department of Health. The $150,000 in funding enables the Department of Health to screen patients for free dental care. Dentists across the state then provide over $1.2 million in free care to those patients. 
  • Extends the prohibition on any municipality, or the General Assembly, from passing laws, rules, regulations or ordinances imposing a tax on or banning plastic bags or other containers. The prohibition is extended through July 1, 2021 or 6 months after the March 6, 2020 Disaster Emergency Declaration has expired, whichever is later.
  • Allows wine and beer sales at certain convenience stores to occur at all cash registers, as long as the licensee meets square footage and other requirements. This will allow customers to be able to purchase beer and wine at one single cashier, instead of having to buy food and grocery items at separate registers. Last month, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board rejected proposals that would have authorized single checkout for beer and wine during COVID-19.
  • Reauthorizes the Managed Care Organization assessment for an additional five years, through June 30, 2025, and codifies the current rate of $24.95 per enrollee, per month.
  • Extends the tax assessment on ride share companies operating in Philadelphia, like Uber and Lyft, also known as transportation network companies, until the end of 2022.
  • Waives the $10 million sports betting fee assessed to Category 4 casinos if the casino is operated by an existing licensee who holds an active sports betting certificate. The dispute over the waiver was sparked by a decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board that permitted certain Category 4 casinos to house off-track betting parlors within their facilities. This decision could cost the state upwards of $50 million in revenue.
  • Requires the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to re-auction a vacant Category 4 casino license that became available when the board rejected an application by Mt. Airy Casino to build a Category 4 facility in Beaver County.
  • Expands the definition of “municipality” relating to local match requirements for the Multimodal Transportation Fund to include county, city, borough, incorporated town, township or local, regional, or metropolitan transportation authority. The definition expansion will apply after March 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021. The Multimodal Transportation Fund provides grants to encourage economic development and ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of the Commonwealth.
  • Requires $49.8 million from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) appropriation, which represents the full amount of Pennsylvania Department of Education’s flexible federal CARES Act funding, to be transferred to the School Safety and Security Fund.
  • Authorizes the Secretary of the Budget to transfer up to $300 million from the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to the Property Tax Relief Fund in order to provide a total of $621 million in statewide property tax relief.

Also on Friday, Gov. Wolf vetoed two measures passed by the General Assembly: Senate Bill 1027, which contains several provisions the administration opposed related to regulatory limitations and debt cost oversight, and House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution #1, a resolution that would have overturned the administration's overtime salary threshold requirements.

The quick and somewhat bipartisan effort to complete a short term, temporary budget this week was met with some last minute fireworks late Thursday evening, as House Republicans passed a resolution to end Gov. Wolf's emergency disaster declaration as it relates to the business closure orders. Much of the contention on the House floor Thursday night revolved around a dispute between Republican leaders and House Democrats over the lack of disclosure that a Republican member had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the month. The resolution, House Resolution 836, is now before the Senate for its consideration.
Gov. Wolf announced 16 more counties to move into 'green' phase next week.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Friday that 16 additional counties will move in the "green" phase of his reopening plan on June 5. This includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

When adding to that list the first 18 counties that officially moved into the "green" phase on Friday, Pennsylvania will see more than half of its counties enter the most lenient of phases by next weekend. The original 18 counties moving into "green" on Friday include Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.

In the administration's "green" phase, all retail businesses will be able to reopen , although some businesses, like restaurants and bars, will need to adhere to capacity restrictions, and others, like barbers and salons, must operate by appointment only. Indoor recreation and entertainment centers can also open in green, although with capacity and attendance limits. Some youth sports activities can also resume in the "green" phase, including practices and non-contact competitions.
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Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 693 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide on Friday, bringing the state total to 70,735. In addition, 5,464 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been nearly 367,000 negative cases across the state.

Daily COVID-19 update for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health reported 34,566 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 2,131 deaths, including probable cases, by Friday afternoon. There have been 5,447 hospitalizations and 1,533 ICU admissions.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations and nonprofit consulting assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit .

The Senate stands in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore.

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The House stands adjourned until Monday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m.

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