Pa. House Advances Critical Bills on Elections, Education Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic
In a historic moment for the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives held its first legislative session day with new procedural rules adopted earlier this month that allow for members to vote on bills and amendments remotely. The rules were put in place to help the legislature continue its mandate while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delaying Pennsylvania's primary election until June

During Tuesday’s session, the House advanced important legislation to address critical issues that are a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As was reported yesterday in Capitol Buzz, legislative leaders and the Wolf Administration agreed on a plan to delay the state’s primary election from April 28 until June 2. The agreement also contains additional election reforms needed to address the current state of affairs in Pennsylvania, including adding language that would allow county election officials to close and consolidate polling places without the usual court approval, and begin processing absentee ballots earlier.

The bill is expected to face a final vote in the House on Wednesday.

Emergency School Code for the Pandemic 2020

The House Appropriations Committee approved a measure that would make several changes to the state’s Public School Code in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Senate Bill 751, which initially only dealt with creating a new evaluation system for state educators, was amended by the committee to create the Emergency School Code for the Pandemic of 2020. This new section would provide flexibility in instruction for schools and address important financial issues facing teachers and school employees during the pandemic.

Specifically, the bill would eliminate the requirement that all schools must be open for at least 180 days and would allow the Department of Education to increase the number of flexible instruction days schools may offer. School districts would be required to make good faith efforts to develop a plan to offer continuing education during the closure of schools and post all continuing education plans on their school websites. The legislation also would provide flexibility for special education services.

From a financial perspective, the new legislation would ensure that teachers and school personnel would continue to be paid and that no school staff person would lose compensation during the closures. Contributions to pension plans would also stay intact under the legislation. In addition, the proposal would maintain all state subsidies and reimbursements owed to schools during the closures. All of the provisions of this new section would only apply to the 2019-2020 school year.

The bill now heads to the full House for approval.

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 assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG).

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit
Other News
Erie County issues stay-at-home order. Erie County becomes the eighth county in Pennsylvania to go under a “stay-at-home” order as local and county governments continue to deal with the spread and containment of COVID-19 across the Commonwealth. Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper issued the order on Tuesday, which will last for 14 days.

PSP reports high compliance with 'non-life-sustaining' business shutdown order. The Pennsylvania State Police issued only 27 warnings, and no citations, on the state’s first day of enforcement of an executive order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf to close the physical locations of non-life-sustaining businesses throughout the Commonwealth.

Wolf freezes hiring of state employees. In an effort to reign in state spending and prepare for the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Commonwealth, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a general hiring freeze of state employees. The hiring limitations also apply to any employment offer extended as of Thursday and postpones any scheduled employees transfer to other state agencies, as well as hiring for upcoming summer and seasonal programs.

State park and forest facilities closure expanded. The State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that facilities at all state-run Pennsylvania parks and forests will be closed until the end of April to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. DCNR said that the public would still be able to access trails, lakes, forests, and other areas for recreation.

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