Legislative Corner—Summer 2019

State Items

Budget update
By the time you read this issue, the state budget will have passed, and legislators will be back in the district for summer recess. As the clock ticks to the end of the month, it does seem that the minimum wage increase and tipped wage threat will be pushed off until fall. With a budget surplus this year, legislators want to pass a budget and go home.

Legislature make-up
A slew of special elections over the past few months has changed some of the make-up in the House and Senate. As of now, the House Republicans hold a majority of 109-93 with one special election still pending. The Senate Republicans hold a majority of 28-22.

Summer plans
PRLA will be assisting Rep. Kurt Masser (R—Northumberland) and Rep. Donna Oberlander (R—Clarion) in putting together a House Republican Policy Committee hearing on the “State of the Hospitality Industry” for August. PRLA also will be testifying at a hearing hosted by the House Liquor Control Committee, which will focus on PRLA’s legislation, HB 1617 (Staats, R—Bucks), which allows H licenses in existence before 1949 to convert to an R license. That hearing is expected to be held in July.

Brewers tax
PRLA has been working the last few months with the Brewers of Pennsylvania and the Administration to determine how much manufacturers and malt and brewed beverages should be paying in sales tax and where that tax should be assessed. It is expected that a compromise piece of legislation will be signed by the Governor by the time you read this article.

Tourism line item
While revenues are beginning to come in from Act 109 of 2018—which closed the online travel company loophole and dedicated the funds to tourism—not enough money has been received to make the tourism office solvent without the assistance of general fund revenue. Gov. Wolf did ask the legislature to maintain the $4 million line-item the office received last year to ensure that statewide promotion can continue while the restricted account continues to receive revenue. We will find out when the final budget is passed if the legislature will honor his request.

PLCB appointee
The Senate confirmed the appointment of Mary Isenhour to the PLCB by a vote of 45-5. The five negative votes were, Folmer (R—Lebanon), Langerholc (R—Cambria), Martin (R—Lancaster), Mastriano (R—Franklin) and Phillips-Hill (R—York).

Online home sharing registry
HB 787 (Heffley, R—Carbon) was reported out of the House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee with only a single negative vote. The House has signaled that it could come up for a vote as early as this fall, but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

State salary threshold
The state Department of Labor this summer is expected to release an updated salary threshold increase proposal. Originally, the department proposed increasing the exempt employees’ threshold to almost $49,000/year. We are hopeful that the department will include a more modest increase or, better yet, follow the federal proposal, which is proposed to be about $35,000/year.

Games of skill
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has issued a letter to licensees that operating a “game of skill” could lead to citations from the Bureau of Liquor Code Enforcement and impact their license. We urge licensees that operate games of skill to carefully consider if their game could lead to a citation because the “skill” is not really a “skill” at all.

GrubHub alert
If you have a partnership with GrubHub, please take a moment to review your statements from them. The New York Post published several stories about the platform charging restaurants fees even though orders had not been placed. Some fees were in excess of thousands of dollars per year.

Legislator spotlight
We will not be featuring a legislator spotlight in this issue of the magazine because we are still recovering and trying to figure out how to top our last video spotlight of Chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee Jeff Pyle (R—Armstrong). You can check it out for yourself at bit.ly/2LHo4IY.

Federal Items

Minimum wage
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is once again making a strong push to consider legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $15/hour and eliminate the tipped wage. Even though the bill faces strong opposition in the Senate, it is important the House members hear from businesses about how this impacts them to either reinforce a no vote or bring doubt to a potential yes vote on the bill.

Overtime rule
The Federal Department of Labor has released a re-write of the previous Obama Administration overtime rule proposal. The new proposal includes a much more reasonable salary threshold of $35,308/year and does not include the previous provision that would have allowed for yearly adjustments based on inflation.

Department of Labor joint employer regulation
The federal Department of Labor has announced its proposed rule to “revise and clarify the responsibilities of employers and joint employers to employees in joint employer arrangements” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The purpose is to clarify what has historically been different interpretations of the Act.

Local Items

Philadelphia—Healthy kids
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has introduced legislation that would require all foodservice establishments in the City of Philadelphia that offer a kids meal to offer one of the following as the default beverage to be served with the meal: water, milk, or fruit juice. PRLA has a number of concerns with the legislation.

Philadelphia—Plastic bag ban
Mark Squilla introduced legislation that would ban all plastic bags that are less than 2.25 millimeters thick and non-recyclable paper bags. Further, the legislation assesses a fee of 15 cents on all other bags that are thicker than 2.25 millimeters. Some bags, such as those for fruits and vegetables and used for meats and fish, are exempted from the bill. PRLA will be meeting with council members over the summer to further discuss the legislation, which is slated to move in the fall.

Pittsburgh—Mandated paid sick leave
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral arguments on our paid leave mandate lawsuit in October 2018. We continue to await their ruling. •