PA Chambers of commerce, businesses urge permitting reform

Ed Gruver//May 10, 2023

On Jan. 31, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an Executive Order to improve Pennsylvania’s licensing, permitting, and certification process. PHOTO/PAcast

PA Chambers of commerce, businesses urge permitting reform

Ed Gruver//May 10, 2023

Chambers of commerce and business associations across Pennsylvania are urging the Shapiro Administration and the state’s House and Senate to undertake permitting reform. 

Representing many of Pennsylvania’s industries and professions, the chambers and businesses collectively sent a letter Monday to Gov. Josh Shapiro and the members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 

The letter urges them to “fix the commonwealth’s dysfunctional and unpredictable permitting system. Doing so will result in greater opportunity for our residents, a modernized system of infrastructure, and encourage more investment into our state.” 

State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, sponsored Senate Bill 350, calling for transparency in permitting. She said in a memorandum that the “permitting process should be a collaborative effort between the entity seeking the permit and government and not something that is overly burdensome or punitive.” 

Phillips-Hill said Senate Bill 28, introduced in the last session to reform the permitting process, will be reintroduced. The legislation will require agencies which issue permits to increase transparency by posting information on their websites about permits they grant.  The creation of an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications and the stating of the legal authority the agency relies on when rejecting a permit application are also parts of the legislation. 

Phillips-Hill noted that Shapiro on his campaign trail emphasized the need to provide Pennsylvania businesses with permitting transparency and dates when permits can be expected. 

In one of his first steps as governor, Shapiro signed an executive order on Jan. 31 to improve response times for licenses, permits, or certificates applied for through the state. He announced on May 5 that all agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction completed a review of their licensing, permitting, and certification process. 

The governor’s office stated in a press release that the review is a critical step in Shapiro’s mission to “make government work efficiently and effectively for Pennsylvania residents and businesses.” 

The review catalogued 750 licenses, 800 permits, and 360 certifications. The governor’s office reported that a catalogue of permits, licenses, and certifications in Pennsylvania had not been previously assembled. 

“Pennsylvanians work hard to keep our economy moving, and the commonwealth should work just as hard to process their applications,” Shapiro said in a statement. 

The collective of PA chambers of commerce and businesses stated that while Pennsylvania’s potential to lead the region and even the nation economically is “tremendous,” it has often trailed other states when it comes to investment. A key reason for this is a permitting system deemed “inadequate” by the collective. 

“The current process takes too long, lacks transparency, and costs businesses money and good-paying jobs for our state’s workers,” the letter stated. 

PA chambers and businesses supported the executive action taken regarding permitting and encouraged the Shapiro Administration and General Assembly to “work collectively, build on executive orders and improved management, and enact durable and lasting reforms to the state’s permitting process.” 

Phillips-Hill said the tracking system will include processing time, dates of each permit, completeness review, technical review, elevated review, an estimated time for incomplete phases of the permit approval process, and a contact person assigned to answer questions about the application process. 

“This will allow for greater transparency, which gives those individuals who are applying for permits, more peace of mind and assurance that they have not been forgotten in the process,” she said. “We must reform this process to help businesses and business owners throughout the Commonwealth.” 

PA chambers and businesses said this is the time to rally around reforms that allow Pennsylvania to compete and lead. 

“Doing so will build upon bipartisan momentum at the federal level to streamline permitting and unlock American investment,” they wrote. “We have a generational opportunity to meaningfully change the economic trajectory of our state and communities.”