Click here for updates on all of the bills the PaACC is following.
MARCH NOTABLE UPDATES
Democratic Governor Tom Wolf delivered his eighth and final state budget proposal to lawmakers. The proposed budget includes $43.7 billion in general fund expenditures with additional funding from the American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Find more out about Governor Wolf’s budget by clicking here.
If approved, the overall increase would be just shy of $4 billion over what lawmakers approved last summer, not including the more than $1 billion in emergency COVID-19 pandemic relief money. Wolf is calling for large increases in education and human services spending. While the state may be flush with cash right now, Republicans are more cautious and say the governor’s approach is not sustainable. They argue a big increase now could lock in bigger spending down the road. The Republican stance is based on projections from the state’s nonpartisan financial watchdog known as the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). The IFO projects revenues about $830 million lower than Wolf’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, 2022-23. Over five years, IFO forecasts $5 billion less cumulative revenue compared to the governor’s plan.
The state Senate and House Appropriations Committees are now holding budget hearings with the heads of state departments and agencies. After the hearings are over, it will be up to lawmakers to determine how much of Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal will remain intact. The Commonwealth’s budget deadline is June 30.
The state House returns to Harrisburg for session the week of March 21. The state Senate returns March 28. The Session Schedule could change once the window for collecting signatures to get on the May 17 primary ballot is announced. Legislative candidates’ petitioning is still suspended, pending legal arguments over the yet-to-be-finalized state House and Senate maps.
Here is a look at some of the noteworthy highlights over the past month:
Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) Commissioner Jessica Altman will resign her position with the commonwealth on February 25. Current PID Chief of Staff Mike Humphreys will serve as Acting Insurance Commissioner. Jessica Altman was named Chief Executive Officer of Covered California. Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin resigned his position with the commonwealth on February 11. The governor named DCED Executive Deputy Secretary Neil Weaver to serve as Acting Secretary. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is term-limited and cannot seek re-election to a third consecutive term. It is common for agency heads to leave in the final year of an administration.
In a 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has selected a new congressional map that was drawn by a Stanford professor and proposed by Democratic plaintiffs. It is unlikely to create a big shift in the makeup of the congressional delegation. Pennsylvania is losing one congressional seat this year due to lagging population growth, going from 18 to 17 districts. The state Supreme Court agreed to assume control of the process in early February, just weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a map sent to him by Republicans. The decision allows congressional and statewide candidates to start collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot starting Friday, Feb. 25 and running through March 15. The primary election will still be held on May 17.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also denied a preemptive request from Pennsylvania House Republicans seeking to block new legislative lines this year, and instead use the state’s current map in the upcoming midterm election. Legislative candidates’ petitioning is still suspended, pending legal arguments over the yet-to-be-finalized state House and Senate maps.
Pennsylvania’s new Broadband Development Authority met for the first time. Act 96 of 2021 established authority to coordinate and facilitate funds in order to bring high-speed internet service to rural and other underserved communities across the state. Pennsylvania is expected to receive at least $100 million in broadband funding under the federal infrastructure plan that was signed last fall. The authority is made up of five of the governor’s cabinet secretaries, four legislators, the chair of the state Public Utilities Commission and the executive director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency that studies rural issues. Under Act 96, the authority is required to become a single point of contact for all efforts, public and private, to expand internet access in Pennsylvania, and handle all applications for federal broadband expansion funding. It also must create a statewide plan to expand internet access and digital literacy within the next year.
Great news!….Governor Tom Wolf just signed much needed informed consent reform legislation (SB 425) into law. Our chapter has strongly supported this bill and communicated the importance of reform. Now known as "Act 61 of 2021” this important legislation corrects the misguided Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision from 2017.
The new law basically says that a physician may delegate another person, generally another physician or qualified practitioner (typically CRNP, PA, CRNA, resident/fellow doctor) to obtain consent but that person must have knowledge of the procedure and of the case, and be acting in concert with the doctor doing the procedure.
This will return our cardiology teams to our previous efficiency and will improve patient care when seconds count. The perfect example of why we supported this: the CCU cardiologist should absolutely be able to rapidly obtain witnessed informed consent from a patient with STEMI/ACS/CHB/shock, etc. on the way to Cath Lab.
Also, we are planning a PaACC Cardiology Advocacy Day in Harrisburg on Monday, September 27th to meet with key legislators and staff. We are working on the details but plan on coming in the evening before, discussing issues/strategies as a team over dinner (including our lobbyists) and then starting early the following morning. For those of you want to participate but would rather sleep in your own bed and come in early Monday morning, that is fine. Please let us know if you are considering or definitely want to join us by completing this form. You are not making a firm commitment, this just provides an idea of who is interested so we can target our communications.
Finally, there has been some other movement in bills that we support, including passage out of committee of these:
HB 1220 (to reform the terrible ACT 112 - notification of patients' tests)
These positive steps are victories of all of us (physicians, CVTeam, staff, and patients) and we need YOUR continued help to get these across the finish line. We will keep you updated as the process continues to unfold.
Andrew R. Waxler, MD, FACC
Immediate Past President, PaACC
ACC Governor, representing Eastern Pennsylvania
PA delegation at the U.S. Capitol during Legislative Conference
Pennsylvania Chapter, American College of Cardiology