Lindsay Powell’s victory in Tuesday’s special election allowed Pennsylvania Democrats to retain their razor-thin 102-101 majority in the state’s House of Representatives.
While the election was decided by voters in Pittsburgh, its impact will be felt far beyond the boundaries of Allegheny County.
Ryan Unger, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC, said there are pieces of legislation the chamber is hoping to see move forward here at the end of the year.
“One is the Clean Slate Expansion (House Bill 689) which is with the senate now so that’s a good sign,” he said. “That’s one I think we feel could move before the end of the year. It probably won’t be impacted by that (Pittsburgh) election but it’s one we’re keeping our eye on.
“The other big ones are corporate net income tax (Senate Bill 345) and net operating loss carryforward (Senate Bill 346), got somewhat wrapped up potentially in the budget. We’re hopeful with this election we’ll see movement potentially on some of those code bills and an opportunity to make some changes there. Most likely it will be in the fall for either one of those but there is hope that with strong revenues and with kind of a unique opportunity here we can get some movement before the end of the year.”
Unger noted that there’s also a bill on transparency in permitting (Senate Bill 350), which he said makes sense in many ways.
“You can see where your DoorDash is, but you don’t know where your permitting is,” said Unger. “So why don’t we bring that same philosophy to people’s work? It passed with bipartisan support in the senate and it’s now in the House State Government Committee. I’m not sure this election changes that but at least there’s more likelihood bills will move, now that (the special election) has been resolved.
“Those are the kind of big-ticket things we’re looking at right now. Certainly, the budget is the biggest. The budget could potentially have a resolution around some of those bigger issues because we’re going to start talking about the next budget in 2024.”
Unger said that while the Harrisburg Chamber hasn’t seen anything directly impact its work, any attention that is still being consumed by conversation about the budget impacts issues the chamber is focusing on.
“There’s only so much oxygen in the room, right? I think we’re hopeful there could be some bipartisan agreement,” he said. “In reality, when you look at the grand scope of the amount of money the state spends and where the disagreements are, it’s relatively small, and we hope we can resolve those and move forward with these issues that are critically important to the business community.”
Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, noted that in many communities in the Lehigh Valley, there’s a narrow edge for either Republicans or Democrats, and that the chamber takes those differences in stride.
“We try to work with both sides to the best of our ability and we’ve been able to do that,” he said. “We’ve been at this game for some time, and we realize we have to work with people on both sides of the aisle and come to some kind of compromise. That’s been our approach.
“As a regional chamber that’s a combination of many geographic as well as our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, I think we take all the changes in stride. Although it’s hard today, the goal is to find some kind of happy medium with legislation that we know has to have some flexibility to get to the finish line.”
Alex Halper, vice president, Government Affairs Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said state residents are fortunate that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to see a strong Pennsylvania economy.
“Many are passionate about supporting their local businesses,” he said. “We’re confident that lawmakers will think about the economy and jobs and their local employers when they’re considering public policy.”
Halper remarked that many of the Pennsylvania Chamber’s top priorities – improvements to Pennsylvania’s tax code, for instance – have broad bipartisan support.
“We’ve seen our top priorities get passed with unanimous support out of the Senate Finance Committee, for example,” he said. “We have a Democrat in the House who’s introduced important business tax reform legislation, permitting reform passed with bipartisan support in the senate.
“When we think about top priority issues for Pennsylvania employers, I think lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have embraced those as important steps to make Pennsylvania more competitive.”