At the Chamber, we have a mission to consistently cultivate a thriving Lancaster County by being at the forefront of initiatives at a local, statewide, and national level that move the needle on issues that matter most to you. Over the past month, we reflected on our advocacy efforts and are excited to share key points from the past year with you. Take a look below at the highlights!
Supporting the Business Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Hosted 2,066 participants at 15 briefings/town halls as vaccines were deployed throughout our community and employers sought answers on mandates and legal requirements.
- Provided resources – webinars, information hub, timely updates – to employers as masking, testing, vaccine, and OSHA requirements were regularly updated.
- Joined hundreds of organizations from across the US to call on Congress to include targeted and temporary liability protections that would safeguard businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and healthcare providers from unfair lawsuits.
Senate Policy Hearing
In April, the PA Senate Majority Policy Committee held a hearing regarding the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry. Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, testified with others on the workforce challenges, vaccine distribution, and business assistance, while calling for a cohesive, multi-faceted plan.
OSHA Vaccine/Testing Mandate for 100+ Employers
In November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that requires private sector employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that employees are vaccinated or be subject to weekly testing and masking. The Lancaster Chamber opposed the mandate. This one-size-fits-all mandate upended the hard work that employers have put in toward mitigation efforts that work best for them, their employees, and their customers. And further, it was a substantial overreach that would have caused disruption for businesses at a time when they least need it. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, we consistently shared feedback from members in the 100+ employee category with our federal elected officials and will continue to reach out as we hear more about the impacts of implementation.
Unemployment Compensation Fraud
In July, hundreds of employers and employees were adversely affected by fraudulent unemployment compensation claims across Pennsylvania. The Lancaster Chamber heard from nearly 70 companies locally who, combined, had over 730 fraudulent claims filed. We joined chamber partners in calling on Attorney General Shapiro, Auditor General DeFoor, Treasurer Garrity, Secretary Berrier and Secretary Hassell to implement antifraud technology and procedures, conduct an audit of the UC processes, and make every effort to hold cyber criminals accountable.
During this time, we regularly updated the business community with the most recent updates, provided employers with resources to deal with UC fraud for both the employer and the employee, directly connected them with contacts in the agency to deal with or escalate issues, and shared ongoing updates with our elected officials so they were aware of the breadth of the issue.
Ultimately, the called upon agencies met with chamber leaders and shared updates, while rapidly deploying response efforts and creating interagency processes and procedures to stop the perpetuation of the fraud.
In September, the Lancaster Chamber and a host of local CEOs called on Congressman Smucker to support H.R. 3684, the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” (IIJA). The legislation was signed by President Biden in November and makes the most significant investments in roads, bridges and rails, clean drinking water, access to high-speed internet, and investments in rural communities in decades.
Congressman Smucker did not support the legislation at the time stating, “the current infrastructure bill is not paid for and thus a substantial concern – it is just additional borrowing from future generations. In addition, Congressman Smucker has significant concerns that the Human Infrastructure proposal passed out of the House Budget Committee along party lines has a total price tag of $4.3 trillion. Both bills are inextricably linked together and will enable one of the most extensive and intrusive expansions of government in our nation’s history—raising costs and taxes on Americans and businesses.”
Energy Reliability & Resilience
In early 2021, the power failure in Texas caused many people to wonder how reliable the electric grid is in their area and the policies that impact it. To explore that, the Chamber hosted a forum featuring Stephen Bennett, Manager of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs at PJM (the regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in PA), Senator Ryan Aument, 36th Senatorial District and member of the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee and co-chair of the Bicameral Nuclear Energy Caucus, and Senator Gene Yaw, 23rd Senatorial District and chair of the Environmental Resources & Energy Committee. They discussed the reliability, resiliency, security, and policies that secure PA’s energy for businesses and consumers.
Local and State Government Policies
County Public Health Recommendation
Over the summer, a task force of six members met to explore the creation, structure, and resulting impacts of a County Public Health Department and, specifically, how such a department would affect businesses and their employees. The report looked at PA’s Local Health Administration Law, Community Comparisons, Health Needs, Data Access, Current Framework, and Impacts on Business. The report’s overall recommendation was that given how the PA law currently requires a health department to be structured, we would not recommend the creation of a county public health department, however, there are gaps that need to be addressed and local government has a responsibility to lead and coordinate a community health improvement planning process that would identify specific priorities, commit to the well-being of residents, provide greater access to real-time data, and provide infrastructure to track outcomes and impact.
City Financial Tools Position Statement
Supported efforts to provide Lancaster City, and others, with tools to address their structural deficit before they are forced to reach Act 47 status by providing City and local decision makers with the ability to reasonably, responsibly, and only as necessary, increase the local services tax and levy the earned income tax. Without local control of potential solutions to structural issues, they are forced to rely on antiquated systems and overburdened residents.
The 2021 primary election featured four ballot questions. Two were constitutional amendments related to a Governor’s authority to declare Emergency Declarations in the Commonwealth of PA, the third was a constitutional amendment related to individuals equal rights and aligning with the US Constitution, and the fourth related to expanding the state’s loan program for volunteer fire companies and ambulances. The Chamber provided issue education on the ballot questions and encouraged a ‘YES’ vote on all four. As it relates to the Governor’s authority for emergency declarations, the Chamber believes that the collaborative, bi-partisan approach that was outlined will create a productive dialogue and comprise as the state navigates disaster protocols in the future. Ultimately, the voters of Pennsylvania did vote to approve the constitutional amendments.
Changing Demographics in PA and the Impacts on the Workforce
The Chamber hosted a Wake Up to the Issues featuring featuring Matthew Knittel from the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) and Naomi Young from the Center for Regional Analysis (CRA). Matthew and Naomi shared insights and analysis on the changing demographics of Pennsylvania and the impacts on the Lancaster County workforce. At a time when we are experiencing labor shortages, the information from the IFO and CRA provided new perspectives, a deeper dive into the complexity of these topics, and a thoughtful discussion on how we can consider addressing needs in the future.
The Grow PA coalition, a group of stakeholders that convenes people and organizations throughout Pennsylvania to advance a modern growth agenda, held a virtual convening in Lancaster to discuss talent gaps, workforce shortages, and how communities are working to re-skill citizens of the future. Speakers included representatives from First National Bank Wealth Management, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, HACC, and the Chamber.
Elected Official Outreach
Wake Up to the Issues with US Senator Toomey
During this timely update, US Senator Pat Toomey provided an update on the latest from Washington, D.C. on issues like infrastructure, government spending, business taxes, and other items being debated. Businesspeople had the opportunity to share their perspectives and hear directly from their policymaker representing them in D.C.
PA Chamber Day
The Lancaster Chamber joined with more than 35 local chambers from across the state for the 2021 Chamber Day in Harrisburg. Over the course of two days, participants met with several state elected officials, including: Governor Tom Wolf; Senate Majority Whip John Gordner; House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander; Prioritize PA leader Senator Ryan Aument; and House Economic Recovery Task Force Leader Rep. Aaron Kaufer. The event featured policy discussions on the state budget, pandemic relief, transportation funding, and energy policy.
Legislative Issues Forum
In early 2021, the Lancaster Chamber held two Legislative Issues Forums providing an opportunity to hear from the elected officials representing Lancaster County. The forums allowed members to participate in a facilitated Q&A to share what policies were impacting them the most.
Anti-Business Tax Hikes Letter
A letter to Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation that was spearheaded by the PA Chamber and signed by local chambers, including the Lancaster Chamber, and business groups, was sent in October and urged rejection of the Biden administration’s plans to impose anti-business tax hikes on the Commonwealth’s private sector.