A 2020 Pennsylvania Legislative Update

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When the 2019-2020 legislative session began, no one could have predicted what challenges Pennsylvania and the General Assembly would encounter with the outbreak of COVID-19. The rules changed to permit remote voting, and the plan for the session shifted to a focus on the response to COVID-19.

The 12-month budget was replaced with a five-month budget to allow additional time to assess the financial damage. Responding to the administration's response to COVID-19 took precedence over the other issues that they had planned to address.

Below is a snapshot of the legislation passed in recent months:
 
Right to Know Law
Although the Governor did not sign Act 77 of 2020, he permitted the legislation to become law. It requires state agencies to respond to requests for public information during an emergency declaration.

Other COVID-19 Related Measures
Act 17 of 2020 ensures that law enforcement, first responders and active duty National Guard members who contract COVID-19 receive compensation while quarantined or receiving treatment for the virus.

Act 26 of 2020 appropriates $507 million from Pennsylvania's share of federal CARES funding to support a variety of programs and services for senior citizens.

Act 69 of 2020 creates a mental wellness and stress management program for emergency responders.

Health Care Legislation
Approved measures include Act 6 of 2020, which prohibits health plans covering treatments for Stage IV, metastatic cancers from excluding or limiting drugs for patients if the drugs are FDA-approved and consistent with best practices.

Act 15 of 2020 reauthorizes the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council, an independent agency that collects and reports health care cost data.

Act 52 of 2020 requires insurers to cover supplemental screenings for women at high risk for breast cancer, including women with extremely dense breast tissue.

Act 67 of 2020 prohibits gag clauses in pharmacy benefit managers' contracts.

Police Reform Measures
Act 57 of 2020 requires thorough background reporting and investigations for prospective law enforcement applicants. Law enforcement agencies must keep records of the reasons for a police officer's separation from service, including criminal records, civil suits and any other ethical complaints against the officer.

Act 59 of 2020 requires the Municipal Police Officer's Education and Training Commission to provide instruction on interacting with individuals of diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Vetoed Bills

  • A bill that would have permitted real estate transactions to proceed without a waiver
  • Legislation that would have required the Governor to develop and implement a mitigation plan in accordance with the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency ("CISA") requirements
  • Senate Bill 327, which created a COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force and contained certain notification provisions
  • House Resolution 836, which terminated the Governor's order regarding the declaration of the COVID-19-related emergency  

The Pennsylvania Legislature is scheduled to return in September. The primary focus will be on the budget and other measures that will generate additional sources of revenue.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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