Govt. Affairs

On June 19, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1641, codifying the Employment First Policy that the governor established by executive order in March 2016 to increase competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“My executive order two years ago focused Pennsylvania on being a model state that is hospitable to workers with disabilities and I’m proud to sign this bill adding the weight of law,” said Governor Wolf. “This is a win-win for Pennsylvania. Our employers need smart and skilled workers and increasing employment opportunities ensures people with disabilities can achieve greater independence and inclusion in our communities.”

House Bill 1641, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Cutler, creates the Employment First Act requiring state, county, and other entities receiving public funding to first consider competitive integrated employment as the preferred outcome of publicly funded education, training, employment, and related services, and long-term services and support for individuals with a disability who are eligible to work under state law.

The statute also creates the Governor’s Cabinet for People with Disabilities and the Employment First Oversight Commission. The Governor’s Cabinet for People with Disabilities will review existing regulations and policies to recommend changes to laws, regulations, policies, and procedures that ensure implementation of Employment First. The Employment First Oversight Commission will establish measurable goals and objectives to guide agencies and report annual progress.

Following the governor’s Executive Order 2016-03, entitled Establishing ‘Employment First’ Policy and Increasing Competitive-Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability, the Departments of Labor and Industry, Human Services, and Education have been working to obtain stakeholder and business input to meet the administration’s goals. The agencies, which helped to develop HB 1641, released recommendations in September 2016.

The recommendations include:

  • Review, identify, and change policy to align with Executive Order 2016-03.
  • Raise the expectations of employment goals for children with a disability at an early age. Work with parents and publicly funded programs to shift expectations towards this goal.
  • Prepare young people with a disability to become working adults with a disability.
  • Transition students from secondary education to adult life. Assist adults with a disability in getting and keeping a job.
  • Improve access to reliable transportation to get to and from work, on time, every time.
  • Lead by example – improve state contracts and reduce barriers to commonwealth employment.
  • Expand private-public partnerships.
  • Increase public awareness.
  • Collect and coordinate data.
  • Implement, monitor, and provide accountability.

In support of the Employment First initiative, 20 Pennsylvania college students with disabilities are participating in a 12-week paid internship with the Wolf Administration this summer. The interns are working in positions at state agencies related to their academic backgrounds and gaining experience in their field of study and building connections with potential employers.

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Despite the positive attitude permeating much of the Capitol about the state budget, there are plenty of one-time sources of revenue being used to balance the budget, with hundreds of millions in General Appropriations spending reduced using those dollars making the budget’s total spend figure appear lower.

By Chris Comisac
Bureau Chief
Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (June 19) – What a difference an election year and an improving economy can make in Pennsylvania’s annual budget process.

For the past three years, the state House of Representatives and Senate, Legislative Republicans and Democrats, and Gov. Tom Wolf, have struggled mightily to pull together a balanced state spending plan.

Some years – like the 2015-16 budget’s nine-month impasse – have been more difficult than others … but not this year.

Projecting tax revenue growth for the coming year that’s at least 4 percent greater than the current year, legislative leaders – all of them – and Wolf have agreed to a state budget that will spend approximately $32.7 billion during Fiscal Year 2018-19.

According to House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, that’s roughly $560 million more than the current year’s final spend total, with that 1.7-percent rate of growth falling within the rate of inflation, which, Saylor said, is 2.13 percent. However, hundreds of millions of dollars of spending normally found in the General Appropriations (GA) bill (most of it in the Department of Human Services’ budget lines) is being paid down by one-time dollars (some of it off-budget), making the total spend figure for the budget appear to be far lower.

Saylor’s committee, without any debate – but a few comments by the committee’s two chairmen – voted unanimously for the GA bill, House Bill 2121 Tuesday. The bill is expected to get a final floor vote in that chamber on Wednesday.

In addition to the GA bill on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee reported out all of the preferred and non-preferred appropriations bills that accompany the state budget. Those bills could also get final votes by the House on Wednesday.

WHAT’S IN THE BILL?

According to legislative leaders, the spending plan has a little bit of everything, including additional money for both basic and higher education, new funding for school safety, additional dollars to help those with intellectual disabilities, funds to continue addressing the state’s opioid problem and even a bit left over to start rebuilding the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

With regard to education spending, Saylor told the Appropriations Committee the budget contains an additional $100 million for basic education, $20 million more for pre-K Counts, $5 million more for Head Start, $15 million more for special education, $25 million more for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) and a $30 million increase for the career and technical education appropriation in the Department of Education.

Another $70 million has been earmarked for school safety ($10 million of which will be allocated to an existing safe schools initiative), a declared priority for lawmakers since mass school shootings earlier this year in Florida and Texas.

Sixty million of those dollars will come from the money that has become available from the reversal of former Gov. Tom Corbett’s FY2014-15 veto of legislative spending. The House and Senate will each contribute $15 million, with another $15 million coming from the Wolf administration and $15 million from the state’s Judiciary.

The details of how this money will be spent remain to be spelled out in an accompanying school code bill, Said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana.

Reed views the setup as being similar to a new type of accountability block grant program under the education department. Schools would apply for state aid from a menu of specified options.

“For some schools it may be metal detectors, for some schools it may be resource officers, you know, it may be hardening the entrance way, that sort of thing, but we want to give schools some flexibility,” he said.

Asked if this would be a one-time revenue source rather than recurring revenue, Reed said the fund will be established with money from the legislative, executive and judicial branches and it will be up to future legislatures to provide more money.

He anticipates that every school district that applies for safe school funding would receive some money from the new pot.

Higher education will also see a funding increase, as the State System of Higher Education gets a 3.3-percent hike, while three-percent increases are coming for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities (Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, Lincoln University, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine), the state’s community colleges and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

Additionally, 965 more individuals with intellectual disabilities will come off of the state’s waiting lists for services, and 5,230 more senior citizens and those with physical disabilities will be able to get home- and community-based services. Another 1,600 children will also be able to get child care services thanks to additional funding.

With regard to opioids, 800 more families affected by opioids will be able to access evidence-based home visit services.

And 50 percent of the budget’s remaining surplus – which is projected to be $149 million, so half of that is $74.5 million – will go into the Rainy Day Fund, the first time money has been put into the fund since FY2006-07 budget (prior to the Great Recession). The contribution had been 25 percent of the available surplus, but budget negotiators agreed to increase the contribution to 50 percent.

REACTION TO THE BUDGET BILL

“This is a fiscally responsible budget that provides for the needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania without increasing taxes,” said Saylor.

House Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, echoed Saylor, commending the additional funding for many important items in this, his last budget, as he’s leaving the House at the end of his current term.

“If you want to find good things in it, you can; if you want to find things that aren’t so good, you can do that to,” said Markosek of the FY2018-19 budget. “This one – there are a lot of good things in it.”

Reed said it’s an accomplishment to have agreement on a budget that spends below the rate of inflation and boosts spending for education and puts money in the Rainy Day Fund for the first time in a decade.

“I think this puts us on a solid path to financial stability in the state,” he added.

“We are in full support of the General Appropriations bill that was moved out of the House Appropriations Committee today,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, later on Tuesday.

Senate Republican leaders indicated their intent to get the budget bill passed by the end of the week. If the House approves the bill on Wednesday, as is expected, the Senate could refer the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee and report it out later on Wednesday. Thursday would be a second day of consideration for the bill and the Senate could put up a final vote for the GA bill on Friday.

As for the code bills that will likely accompany the GA bill – a Fiscal Code, an Education Code and a Human Services Code – Senate leaders from both parties indicated there’s still a bit more work to be done to finalize them, which could require the General Assembly to finish up the budget process next week, although the indication was every attempt would be made to get them done this week.

“We’re excited about the budget – we think it’s fiscally responsible; it’s just a small increase in the spend; it meets a lot of priorities in the areas of education spending – which are important – school safety spending – which is important – so we’re proud to support it, and looking forward to getting it completed as well as, hopefully, some of the other budget related items – the code bills – by this Friday,” said Corman.

Following a late afternoon Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, reacted to the budget: “We’re very pleased, starting with continuing to make our annual investment in education, from pre-K all the way up to higher ed – the governor had not proposed an increase for higher ed, but a number of us fought for that, we thought it was appropriate. The early learning is not a high as we would like it to be – we’d like it to be up around $40 [million] – but $25 million again this year – a consistent increase year after year – is important. And with the career and technical education, the $30 million there, this has really been an education budget, and I think that’s important.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, added, “We did some positive things here,” noting the increased funding for basic, higher and career education, “… but there’s still some glaring holes in it.”

“We’ve got to figure out, after we get through this process – I think it’s also a good sign that it’s finished early … I shouldn’t speak too fast [he then knocked on the wall’s wood panel] – there was a lot more cooperation, a lot more willingness to dialogue – and that’s all good … I think it’s the foundation going forward for creating policy and a budget program that really gets at the anxiety for lots of people in Pennsylvania,” said Hughes, who said more needs to be done about educational and wealth inequities.

And for the man who has yet to sign a state budget during his time in office, this one sounds like it will get his signature despite it being roughly $300 million short of what he proposed spending in February.

“We have worked cooperatively over the past few months to find common ground and room for compromise,” said Wolf in a statement Tuesday. “This budget makes smart investments in education, safety and human services and continues the progress we’ve made to restore fiscal stability to the commonwealth’s finances.”

BALANCING THE BUDGET – THERE’S STILL PLENTY OF ONE-TIME FUNDING

On Monday, the Independent Fiscal Office issued its final official revenue estimate for both FY2017-18 and FY2018-19. The IFO’s estimate for FY2017-18 is $135 million less than the one used by the state budget and only $32 million less than the projected revenues upon which the FY2018-19 budget is built.

While much of the budget is funded with recurring tax revenue, it would appear that nearly $1 billion, maybe more, is one-time funding that won’t be available when the FY2019-20 budget is developed.

Of that, $200 million would again come from a transfer from the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), which provides liability insurance to physicians.

Even though the transfer was blocked by a federal judge in May, legislative leaders said they believe they have the ability to transfer the funding, as reported by Capitolwire on Monday.

This time around, if the transfer effort should come up short – as it has during the past few years – a supplemental request or budgetary adjustments will be necessary to account for the $200 million shortfall.

There are a few other one-time funding mechanisms that have been employed to balance the state budget, according to information supplied by the House Democratic Caucus’ Appropriations Committee.

Included in those budget-balancing devices are a decision to pay for the state’s PlanCon authority rentals and sinking fund requirements by incurring more debt, freeing up roughly $130 million; a cash-flow savings of $120 million in savings from a change in the timing of monthly payments to a subset of managed care organizations (MCOs); $66 million in additional federal funding to be used in place of state funding for child care services; funds in excess of initial estimates from an agreement made between the attorney general and tobacco manufacturers to settle disputed Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments that were withheld from Pennsylvania starting in 2004 (initial estimates already built in the budget are roughly $275 million, with Senate Republicans suggesting the excess could be in the area of $40 million); a reduction of Pennsylvania State Police cadet classes, from four to three, during the upcoming year; and a delay by some non-law enforcement agencies in purchasing P25 radio (saving some additional funds in government operations).

Also to be reconciled next year is a $351 million one-time windfall due to Pennsylvania’s switch from a Gross Receipts Tax upon Medicaid MCOs to an assessment. The GRT was a prospective payment that had to be reconciled at a later date; that’s not the case now with the assessment, and the $351 million was revenue received by the department after the GRT ended. It’s also $351 million that will be spent in FY2018-19 by the DHS but which won’t be available going forward.

Additionally, when the FY2019-20 budget is crafted, it will have to start including the annual repayment of the $1.5 billion debt incurred this past year to pay for the FY2016-17 budget shortfall. The state will need another $115 million to cover that annual payment.

When asked about the one-time funding included in this budget, Senate Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said: “In any $32 billion operation, there’s gonna be those components, since the vast majority of it is recurring revenue. Our projections for next year show that if we stay within current spending trends, even if we go a little higher than current spending trends, there won’t be a need for a conversation about revenue next year, even with some of the one-time revenues that are in here.”

“At our spending that we’re proposing, which is below the so-called TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) fiscal sustainability measures, we’re balancing at our current revenue capacity, and we’ll be able to do that in the subsequent year with spending at the same trends,” added Browne.

Costa wasn’t as confident about state revenues performing well enough to cover all the one-time components of the state budget, but he said they’ll “be able to cover most of that.”

PA HOSPITALS STILL SAY THEY’RE GETTING THE SHORT END OF THE STICK

Although plenty in the state Capitol were expressing happiness with the outcome of the budget process, Pennsylvania hospitals restated the concerns they initially offered when they objected to the 60-percent tax hike included in Wolf’s budget proposed in February.

Within the agreed-to budget, instead of a $130million increase of the Quality Care Assessment charged to hospitals, the increase now appears as though it will be $75 million … which still isn’t acceptable to the hospital community that already pays $220 million.

Said Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania president and CEO Andy Carter: “The hospital and health system community drove the creation of the Quality Care Assessment during the 2010 budget. The program is designed to leverage federal Medicaid funding for hospital payments and provide support for the state’s general fund. Since fiscal year 2011, hospitals and health systems have contributed more than $1 billion to address budget shortfalls, and this budget will mark the fourth time that hospitals have committed to help stabilize the state’s finances by providing new and flexible tax revenue.

“The hospital community understands the need for additional resources, but a $75 million increase in the amount of money going to the general fund is still unsustainable.

“As state policymakers continue their work, they need to understand what is at risk if such a jump remains in this budget plan. With a third of Pennsylvania hospitals operating with razor-thin margins, access to primary care and specialty services may be at risk, as hospital leaders may be forced to make difficult decisions about their futures.

“We cannot let the needs of the general fund rob the hospital community’s potential to invest in health care.”

Capitolwire Staff Writer Robert Swift contributed to this story.                      

Questions, contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips.

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Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has released their proposed rule making response to Governor Wolf’s proposal to modernize outdated overtime rules to strengthen middle class families and provide fairness to workers.

Members are asked to review the proposed regulations and are encouraged to provide comments to the Department. If members do submit comments, please send those comments to RCPA. Contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips with questions.

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Last week, Governor Wolf signed into law the Outpatient Psychiatric Oversight Act – now Act 25 of 2018. Below is the exact language contained in Act 25:

 

An Act

Providing for outpatient psychiatric oversight.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. Short title.

This act shall be known and may be cited as the Outpatient Psychiatric Oversight Act.

Section 2. Definitions.

The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

“Advanced practice professional.” A person who:

(1) (i) holds a current Pennsylvania license as a certified registered nurse practitioner with a mental health certification; or

(ii) obtains a mental health certification within two years of being hired by a psychiatric outpatient clinic or within two years of the effective date of this section, whichever is later; or

(2) (i) holds a current Pennsylvania license as a physician assistant with a mental health certification; or

(ii) obtains a mental health certification within two years of being hired by a psychiatric outpatient clinic or within two years of the effective date of this section, whichever is later.

“Department.” The Department of Human Services of the Commonwealth.

“Full-time equivalent.” Thirty-seven and one-half hours per week.

“Interactive audio and video.” Real-time two-way or multiple-way communication between a psychiatrist and an individual.

“Outpatient psychiatric clinic.” A nonresidential treatment setting in which psychiatric, psychological, social, educational and other related services are provided under medical supervision. It is designed for the evaluation and treatment of individuals of any age with mental illness or emotional distress. Outpatient services are provided on a planned and regularly scheduled basis.

“Psychiatrist.” A physician who has completed at least three years of a residency in psychiatry and is licensed to practice psychiatry in this Commonwealth.

Section 3. Requirements.

The following shall apply:

(1) Except as provided for in paragraph (2), an outpatient psychiatric clinic shall have a psychiatrist on site for two hours of psychiatric time per week for each full-time equivalent treatment staff member.

(2) Fifty percent of the required on-site psychiatric time under paragraph (1) may be provided by:

  • An advanced practice professional.

(ii) A psychiatrist off-site by the use of interactive audio and video using technology that conforms to industrywide compressed audio-video communication and protects confidentiality under Federal and State law in accordance with department-issued guidelines. Interactive audio without video, electronic mail message or facsimile transmission may not be used to meet the requirement under paragraph (1).

(iii) A combination of subparagraphs (i) and (ii).

Section 4. Regulations.

The department shall promulgate regulations as necessary to carry out the provisions of this act.

Section 5. Effective date.

This act shall take effect in 60 days.

Questions, contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips.

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Today, Governor Wolf signed into law HB 478 – the Outpatient Psychiatric Oversight Act – now Act 25 of 2018. The law will become effective in 60 days.

The law will require an outpatient psychiatric clinic to have a psychiatrist on site for two (2) hours of psychiatric time per week for each full-time equivalent treatment staff member employed by the outpatient psychiatric clinic. Act 25 of 2018 permits 50 percent of the required onsite psychiatric time to be provided by an advanced practice professional specializing in behavioral health with prescriptive authority in this Commonwealth. Telepsychiatry provided by a psychiatrist that is not on site with prescriptive authority in the Commonwealth may be utilized with a service description approved by the Department of Human Services (DHS) but shall not be included in the required psychiatric time. DHS is required to promulgate regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this act.

Act 25 of 2018 defines the following terms:

“Advanced practice professional.” A registered, licensed, or certified health care practitioner who has gained additional specialized knowledge, skills, and experience through a program of study in that specialty. A person who:

  • (I) holds a current Pennsylvania license as a certified registered nurse practitioner with a mental health certification; or

(II) obtains a mental health certification within two years of being hired by a psychiatric outpatient clinic or within two years of the effective date of this section, whichever is later; or

  • (I) holds a current Pennsylvania license as a physician assistant with a mental health certification; or

(II) obtains a mental health certification within two years of being hired by a psychiatric outpatient clinic or within two years of the effective date of this section, whichever is later.

“Full-time equivalent.” Thirty-seven and one-half hours per week.

“Interactive Audio and Video.” Real-time two-way or multiple-way communication between a psychiatrist and an individual.

“Outpatient psychiatric clinic.” A nonresidential treatment setting in which psychiatric, psychological, social, educational, and other related services are provided under medical supervision. It is designed for the evaluation and treatment of individuals of any age with mental illness or emotional distress. Outpatient services are provided on a planned and regularly scheduled basis.

“Psychiatrist.” A physician who has completed at least three years of a residency in psychiatry and is licensed to practice psychiatry in this Commonwealth.

Contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips with any questions.

This week, both the US Senate and US House introduced bipartisan legislation (HR 5912 in the House and S 2897 in the Senate) designed to delay implementation of the Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) provision of the 21st Century Cures Act and require public input from stakeholders. The bill was led by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and co-sponsored by a range of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House. The EVV delay bill gives states an additional year to implement EVV, having it take effect on January 1, 2020 instead of January 1, 2019.

In late 2016, Congress had ordered states to install EVV systems as a way of preventing fraud in Medicaid as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, but many challenges arose after the bill passed. This is partially due to CMS not releasing guidance on the EVV statute until May 2018, leaving states in the dark for a full 18 months following passage of the EVV law. Even despite CMS’ recent guidance, many concerns remain about which disability supports and services are required to comply with the rule. Additionally, because there has been little stakeholder input, questions abound about privacy, costs, and other aspects of compliance.

Please contact your legislators and ask them to support the EVV delay bill. The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) has been instrumental in advocating for this legislation; RCPA is proud to be a member of ANCOR and appreciates their initiative on this issue.

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Special elections produce no net change in state House political composition; four incumbents lose General Assembly primary contests.

By Chris Comisac
Bureau Chief
Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (May 16) – While most people were paying attention to the storylines from statewide and federal primary contests, the state General Assembly produced plenty of interesting primary outcomes, with a few incumbent lawmakers given their walking papers by their party’s voters.

First up, the special election to fill three currently vacant seats in the state House of Representatives.

Republicans had hoped they could go three-for-three, holding two GOP seats (the 68th and 178th legislative districts) and flipping a Democrat seat (the 48th District).

It appears as though they’ll have to be happy with breaking even – but they did it by flipping that Democratic seat and losing one of the GOP-held seats.

Prior to Tuesday, GOP sources had acknowledged the seat most at-risk is the 178th, which was vacated by Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks, to become the executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Based on unofficial election results, it appears Democrat Helen Tai, a business consultant and chair of the Solebury Township supervisors, is going to squeak out a victory – 51 percent to 49 percent – over and Republican Wendi Thomas, a business woman and former president of the Council Rock School Board. As of 12:15 a.m., the gap between the two was 257 votes out of 11,751 cast. The two will have a return match in the November general election.

The GOP was able to capture the 48th District seat, which was left vacant after Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, was appointed to the Washington County trial court.

Republican Timothy O’Neal, a human resources director for a Pittsburgh construction company and an U.S. Army veteran, got nearly 55 percent of the vote (5,441 votes) compared to Democrat Washington attorney Clark Mitchell Jr.’s nearly 44 percent of the vote (4,338 votes). Libertarian Demosthenes Agoris, a member of Houston borough council, got 158 votes, or 1.59 percent of the total vote. Looking ahead to the November general election, Mitchell, having defeated Democratic primary opponent Joe Zupancic on Tuesday, will get another shot at O’Neal.

And in the 68th District, vacated earlier this year by state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, for a job with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Republican Clint Owlett easily dispatched Democrat Carrie Heath, with the two also winning their respective primaries to set up a rematch in the November general election.

Tuesday was not a good day for a few incumbents.

On the Democratic side, bad election days were had by the Costa cousins – Dom and Paul, both from Allegheny County – and Rep. Emilio Vazquez, D-Philadelphia, in primaries that normally determine the winners of the general election.

On the Republican side, GOP voters gave a pink slip to Allegheny County state Sen. Randy Vulakovich – the only state Senate incumbent to face a primary challenge on Tuesday.

Dom, of the 21st Legislative District, and Paul, of the 34th, both handily lost to challengers who are members of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Dom was defeated 64 percent (5,905 votes) to 36 percent (3,920) by Sara Innamorato, who does marketing and outreach for environmental and other progressive causes. Paul lost by an even bigger margin, 68 percent (6,892 votes) to 32 percent (3,274 votes), to Summer Lee, who does political organizing.

Rep. Dom Costa did mount a campaign for GOP write-in votes that could potentially give him another shot at retaining the seat, but he would have needed at least 300 such votes to get on the GOP ballot in November. According to Allegheny County election data, only 291 GOP write-in votes were cast, and at this juncture, it’s unknown if all were cast for Costa. In the 34th District, only 129 GOP write-in votes were cast.

And in Philadelphia’s 197th District – which was the scene of a crazy special election last year that featured a candidate being tossed off the ballot and election fraud charges being filed against four poll workers (three of which have since entered guilty pleas) – Democratic Rep. Emilio Vazquez came in third in a three-way primary contest that included the candidate that was removed from the ballot in last year’s special election.

However, Frederick Ramirez did not win the primary either; instead Danilo Burgos, who had the endorsements of the 197th District’s Democratic ward leaders, won with 37.2 percent (1,292 votes) of the overall vote. Ramirez got 34.3 percent (1,193 votes), while Vazquez received 28.5 percent (990 votes).

As for the state Senate, many Republicans were quietly concerned about the challenge mounted against incumbent Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, in the 38th Senatorial District by Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer – those concerns turned out to be well-founded.

Shaffer made Vulakovich a state Senate short-timer by getting nearly 59 percent of the vote (10,430 votes), compared to Vulakovich’s 41 percent (7,343 votes).

Those same Republicans that were concerned about the Vulakovich primary have also expressed worry the 38th District could be in play for Democrats in November, since the district narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

That will be decided by a general election matchup between Shaffer and Democrat Lindsey Williams, the communications director for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, who defeated Stephanie Walsh in the Democratic primary.

Eighteen other incumbents in the state House faced primary opposition on Tuesday – including Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Philadelphia (whose government corruption case has been delayed for years) and Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks (who was the subject of a 2015 sexual harassment complaint that prompted a $248,000 settlement to be paid) – but none of them lost.

GOP Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York, was thought by some to be vulnerable – facing two GOP challengers in the 92nd Legislative District – but she easily defeated Joshua Hershey and Curtis Werner, garnering more than 62 percent of the total vote. Keefer will go up against Democrat Shanna Danielson, a former public school music teacher, in November.

Additionally, with several open seats in the offing, there were some fairly large fields of primary contenders for a few House and Senate districts.

The open-seat 82nd District GOP primary (due to the decision by Rep. Adam Harris, R-Juniata, to not seek re-election) featured nine candidates seeking the party’s nomination, with Johnathan Dean Hershey the top vote-getter at nearly 35 percent (2,602 votes) of the total vote; the next closest candidate received 15.2 percent of the vote. Hershey will face Democrat Kimberly Hart in November.

Five Democrats were vying for the open seat of the 112th District, with Kyle Mullins topping the quintet of candidates, garnering 43.3 percent (4,237 votes) of the vote. Mullins will face Ernest Lemoncelli for the seat from which Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-Lackawanna, is retiring. Lemoncelli lost to Haggerty in 2016.

Things weren’t nearly as crazy in the state Senate, and beyond the Vulakovich result – which featured contest primaries for both the Republicans and Democrats – the only other seat to have contested GOP and Democratic primaries was the 28th Senatorial District, which will be vacated by Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York (who will challenge Gov. Tom Wolf in November), at the end of the year.

The 28th District seat hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1994, and state Rep. Kristin Hill, R-York, hopes to continue the GOP’s streak. Hill defeated Julie Wheeler, with 65.4 percent (14,238 votes) of the total vote. Looking to put the district back in the Democrats’ column is Judith McCormick Higgins, a former adjunct instructor at Penn State York and a 17-year member of the Eastern York School Board of Directors, who defeated West York Mayor Shawn Mauck with 57.7 percent (5,601 votes) of the vote.

Further questions may be directed to Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

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Several female candidates, all Democrats, have good chances to win seats in Congress.

By Chris Comisac
Bureau Chief
Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (May 16) – When you’ve got 84 candidates and 21 contested primaries for 18 congressional seats, there are going to be lots of prospective candidates looking for other things to do with their time come today, a day after the primary election.

Seven of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats are open, and that generated plenty of interest from candidates of both major political parties, although more so by Democrats.

On the Democratic side of the ledger, there were eight primary contests with at least three candidates.

The most candidates (10) were found in the 5th Congressional District, which saw Mary Gay Scanlon win her party’s nomination with about 28.4 percent of the total vote, according to unofficial election results.

The 5th is one of those open seat districts (with much of it having been previously represented by GOP U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, who recently resigned following sexual misconduct allegations) and Scanlon will face off in November against Pearl Kim – the only Republican candidate in the 5th on Tuesday – for a seat many expect the Democrats to easily win.

The largest crowd of GOP candidates was in the very Republican 13th District (which, for the most part, is the old 9th District from which GOP Rep. Bill Shuster is retiring), and it appears physician John Joyce – with just shy of 22 percent of the vote – outlasted seven other candidates that featured a sitting state senator (Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair) and a sitting state representative (Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland). Joyce will face Democrat Brent Ottaway in November.

Unlike her GOP colleagues, state Rep. Madeline Dean, D-Montgomery, was successful with her congressional bid, easily dispatching – with 72.6 percent of the vote – former Congressman Joe Hoeffel and gun control activist Shira Goodman in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District. Dean will face Republican Daniel David in the general election for the open seat, which, like the 5th, Democrats are expected to win.

State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware – the only other sitting Democratic state legislator to have a go at Congress – was a non-factor in the aforementioned 5th District Democratic primary won by Scanlon.

A few more Republican state lawmakers went at it in the GOP primary for the fairly Republican 14th District, which contains a significant chunk of the old 18th District, which state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, lost to Democrat Conor Lamb in a recent special election to fill the short-term vacancy left by the resignation of GOP U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.

Saccone lost the district again, this time to primary opponent state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Allegheny, who received nearly 55.3 percent of the vote. Reschenthaler will face Democrat Bibiana Boerio, who got roughly 44.3 percent of the vote in a four-way primary.

Two other open seats featured somewhat unpredictable contests – well, at least three of the four primaries in the two districts had the potential for some volatility, what with a total of 14 candidates between the two parties .

In the Lehigh Valley 7th District, which contains portions of the old 15th District from which GOP U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent just resigned, Republicans have a nail-biter between Dean Browning and Marty Nothstein, with Nothstein appearing to have won with 50.5 percent of the vote (16,000 votes) to Browning’s 49.5 percent (15,696 votes).

If those figures hold, Nothstein would face in the general election Democrat Susan Ellis Wild, who emerged from a six-way contest with 33.3 percent of the vote (15,001 votes), with the next closest candidate being John Morganelli (13,565 votes, or 30.1 percent)

And the open 9th District, which has a decent chunk of the old 1tth District from which GOP U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is retiring (and maybe for a new job in the U.S. Senate), produced an easy primary win for former state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser, who got nearly 53 percent of the vote. It was only slightly closer on the Democratic side, with former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff pulling 40.7 percent of the overall Democratic primary vote. So, the 9th District general election will feature a matchup between two former state cabinet members (but for different governors).

Here are the rest of the apparent general election matchups:

1st District: GOP U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick v. Democrat Henry Scott Wallace

2nd District: Democratic U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle v. Republican David Torres

3rd District: Democratic U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans v. Republican Bryan Leib

6th District: Republican Greg McCauley v. Democrat Chrissy Houlahan

8th District: Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright v. Republican John Chrin

10th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Perry v. Democrat George Scott

11th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker v. Democrat Jessica King

12th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Marino v. Democrat Marc Friedenberg

15th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson v. Democrat Susan Boser

16th District: GOP U.S. Rep. George Kelly v. Democrat Ron DiNicola

17th District: GOP U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus v. Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb

18th District: Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, unopposed

Also noteworthy is that seven of the candidates in the 18 districts are women (all but one are Democrats), with at least one woman guaranteed to be elected to Congress (since the 5th District features a matchup of two women) and three others in districts that favor the Democratic candidate.

Further questions may be directed to Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has announced that effective July 1, 2018, the cost of child abuse clearances will increase from $8 to $13. Child abuse clearance fees for volunteers will continue to be waived one time within a five-year period.

The legislative passage of Act 40 of 2017 included the increase to assist in covering actual costs for processing child abuse clearances, after the previously amended Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) expanded who is required to receive clearances, and instituted a five-year renewal cycle. Beginning in December 2014, individuals who required clearances expanded to include: volunteers, youth camp employees, coaches, youth mentors, Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, work study programs, internships, family-living home employees, and community-home employees for individuals with disabilities.

In 2014 and 2015, legislation was passed amending the CPSL. These amendments expanded clearance and background check requirements for individuals working or volunteering with children. In 2016, DHS received 951,414 child abuse clearance applications and identified 2,272 substantiated or alleged perpetrators of child abuse.

For more information on clearance and background check requirements as required by the CPSL, please visit this website.