Success of financially distressed municipalities may depend on additional reform

With the new legislative session quickly approaching it is easy to overlook what was accomplished during the 2013-14 legislative session, even if the paramount legislative issues remain on the legislature’s agenda.

One of the most notable pieces of legislation gained momentum in 2011 and passed in the closing days of the 2013-2014 session, when Governor Tom Corbett signed HB 1773, also known as Act 199, which amends the Financially Distressed Municipalities Act of 1987, also known as Act 47. 

Monday, December 8, 2014/Author: The PLS Reporter
Categories: News and Views
Tags: Act 47
Call For Systemic Municipal Reform Permeates Hearing on Act 47 Bill

Call For Systemic Municipal Reform Permeates Hearing on Act 47 Bill

The Senate Local Government Committee held a hearing Thursday on legislation reforming Act 47, which provides assistance to Pennsylvania municipalities who are fiscally distressed.

The focus of the hearing was on Sen. John Eichelberger’s (R-Blair) Senate Bill 1157, the unamended version of Rep. Chris Ross’s (R-Chester) House Bill 1773, the latter of which is poised for final consideration in the House when that chamber returns to voting session after the Easter break. 

According to Michael Gasbarre, Executive Director of the Local Government Commission, the entity whose concepts are articulated in the legislation, the bill the legislation would—among other things—provide a five year time limit for cities to exit distressed status under Act 47, would enhance the early intervention program, allows for new taxes and mandate relief for distressed cities, and provides for municipal disincorporation if (in extreme cases) the municipality cannot exit distressed status.

Thursday, April 10, 2014/Author: The PLS Reporter
Categories: News and Views

Act 47 Reform Legislation to Get House and Senate Action

Two bills reforming Act 47 will be subject of House and Senate action the second week of April.

Both House Bill 1773 by Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) and Senate Bill 1157 by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) were introduced following a Local Government Commission Task Force report detailing needed changes to the current law.

The bills were identical as introduced, but Rep. Ross’s bill has been amended as it moves through the legislative process.

Rep. Ross’s bill is ready for third consideration in the House as soon as Monday. Sen. Eichelberger’s bill will be the subject of a Senate Local Government Committee hearing on Thursday.

Rep. Ross noted the impetus behind the changes made in the bills is the fact that under Act 47 municipalities are not making the recommended difficult choices needed to get out of distressed status.

“They’re fiscally unstable, they continue to have problems with deterioration, the citizens really find they’re having trouble getting access to good services, and it really hampers economic growth,” Rep. Ross said. “It causes a series of problems.”

According to both Rep. Ross and Sen. Eichelberger, the biggest change both bills make is putting a five-year time limit on how long municipalities may stay under Act 47 distressed status. The status can be extended once for three years if certain criteria are met.

“This is going to force municipalities to make very difficult decisions up front,” Sen. Eichelberger said. “They’re going to have to come up with a plan and then execute it very quickly,” he explained of the effect of the changes.

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Friday, April 4, 2014/Author: The PLS Reporter
Categories: News and Views