Legislative Corner—Summer 2018

Summer 2018

State Items

Primary Election Results
With primary elections complete, the legislature is gearing up for budget season and a short and sweet fall session before the general election in November. Some key primary wins of note are:

  • Lou Barletta won the nomination for U.S. Senate and will face Sen. Bob Casey in the fall.
  • Scott Wagner and Jeff Bartos won the Republican nomination for governor.
  • John Fetterman ousted Mike Stack to become Gov. Wolf’s running mate.
  • Four incumbents lost their primary election: Rep. Paul Costa (D—Allegheny), Rep. Dom Costa (D—Allegheny), Rep. Emilio Vazquez (D—Philadelphia), Senator Randy Vulakovich (R—Allegheny).

Budget predictions
With revenues meeting and potentially exceeding expectations, there should not be a budget deficit that needs to be filled this year. Therefore, all signs point to a budget that is complete by July 4—unless, politics get in the way in which case the rumor is that the legislature will leave town and let the next Governor deal with it.

Price gouging
A problem has been found in Pennsylvania’s current price gouging law relating to the declaration of a state of emergency in Pennsylvania. Under the current law, once a state of emergency is declared (for example, a snowstorm) the price gouging prohibition is in effect for at least 90 days—even if the “weather event” only lasts for two or three days. In addition, because of current law, price gouging is in effect every time the Governor extends the opioid state of emergency. There is a proposal that PRLA supports which would do the following:

  • Require a separate declaration to trigger price gouging when a state of emergency is declared.
  • Limit the price gouging declaration to 15 days and then allow an extension.
  • Put in some parameters that allow for fluctuating prices that naturally occur in the market.

Preemption of food and drink taxes
House Bill (HB) 2241 (Mustio—R, Allegheny) was moved out of committee, and will have potentially passed the House by the time you read this magazine. The legislation would preempt municipalities from assessing a tax on food, beverage, and food and beverage containers at the local level. The legislation, if passed and signed by the Governor would eliminate Philadelphia’s current beverage tax. PRLA supports the legislation.

Online home sharing bill on the move
With a vote of 177-14, the House passed HB 1810 (Heffley—R, Carbon) out of committee, which would require online home sharing platforms to share the information of those who list on their sites with the Department of Revenue to ensure tax compliance. The bill would also allow the Department of Revenue to share that information with county treasurers to ensure local compliance.

Restaurant license auction
The PLCB held its fifth auction of 30 expired licenses and 26 of the licenses received bids ranging from $31,500 to $350,000.

Online travel company loophole
HB 1511 (Quinn—R, Bucks) which would close the current online travel company loophole in Pennsylvania is currently in the House Finance Committee. We continue to work with our partners to ensure we have the votes to the move the bill in the House.

Federal Items

Federal tax reform hiccup
Congress will need to do a “clean-up” bill to amend the Tax Cuts and Job Act due to hiccups that commonly arise after the passage of such broad legislation. One of the biggest issues is that the bill changed the 15 year-depreciation schedule to 39 years. It is expected to be fixed in the clean-up bill.

Federal menu labeling took effect!
On May 7, federal menu-labeling officially took effect. The law requires restaurants that have 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on the food they sell. In addition, those restaurants must have the full nutritional information of items on the menu available upon request. This law ensures that all restaurants in the country are providing the same nutritional information, as opposed to the potential patchwork of various menu labeling laws that would have taken effect without a national model.

Local Items

Philadelphia—beverage tax
The State Supreme Court heard oral arguments May 15 on the legality of Philadelphia’s beverage tax. There is no set timeline as to when they will rule.

Pittsburgh—paid leave
PRLA filed our response to the City of Pittsburgh and SEIU’s appeal to the Supreme Court on the paid leave mandate in Pittsburgh. We expect oral argument to be scheduled in October.

Philadelphia—sodium warning label
Philadelphia City Council has passed Bill # 180001, which would require a sodium warning to be placed on the menus of chain restaurants for items that exceed 2,300 milligrams of sodium per serving. PRLA worked closely with the prime sponsor of the bill, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, and was successful in having a number of amendments made to the bill to make it easier for restaurants to comply. Restaurants will have one year to comply with the law.

Philadelphia—predictive scheduling
PRLA and members of the association participated in a roundtable with the labor community to discuss the need for predictive scheduling (in the eyes of the labor community) and the impact of predictive scheduling (from the business perspective). The roundtables went well and had lively dialogue. We hope to continue these conversations moving forward as Councilwoman Helen Gym considers potential legislation. •