The year 2020 is finally wrapping up and the Pennsylvania legislative session officially ended on November 30. This year has challenged everyone to alter their work and personal lives in ways no one could have imagined. Your CAI Pennsylvania Legislative Action Committee (PA LAC) has been hard at work in Harrisburg knowing that your legislators are preoccupied with a global pandemic and more recently, a tumultuous election season. As we all say goodbye to 2020, and welcome 2021, please read below for a summary of legislation on the table and the LAC’s position and efforts on each.
COVID Liability Protection
Since the onset of the pandemic and the issuance of a State of Emergency by Governor Wolf in March, PA LAC has had ongoing conversations with our lobbyist and legislators on the topic of COVID liability protections for community associations. Legislation was introduced by State Senator Lisa Baker in the Summer of 2020 and passed both houses of the legislature in late November. While the legislation was ultimately vetoed by the Governor, PA LAC determined that the language of the Bill was not sufficient in providing protections to Pennsylvania’s community associations.
Senator Baker has signaled her intention to re-introduce the legislation in the new session that begins in January of 2021. PA LAC is working on amended language to submit to the Senator’s office that would adequately encompass community associations.
Senate Bill 802 & House Bill 1892: Community Association Data Transparency
CAI supports this Bill, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) and in the House by Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe). This is the fourth or fifth consecutive legislative session where this legislation has been introduced, and it remains a top priority for the LAC in 2021. This legislation would amend the Municipalities Planning Code to require County Planning Commissions to include common interest ownership community (CIOC) data in their currently required annual report. Counties would be required to collect, maintain, and make available upon request, information identifying condominium associations, cooperative housing developments, and planned communities located within the boundaries of the County. While it is estimated that 2.8 million PA residents live in a CIOC and that roughly 80 percent of new housing starts since 2000 are CIOCs, the actual number and location of these communities is, by and large, unknown. This legislation would mandate the collection of data, including information such as name, physical location, land area, lot size, number of units and location and would aid the State in assessing the impact of legislation specific to CIOCs. To mitigate the impact on county governments, amendments to the original bill would permit the County to make the data available to the public at a cost not to exceed that allowed under the state Right to Know Law and would also permit the posting of the data in electronic form. The LAC has proposed various amendments during negotiations through 2020 to address the concerns of county governments and will continue to actively seek a vote on this legislation in 2021.
Senate Bill 539 / House Bill 1562: Homeowner Association Contributions Tax Deduction
CAI supports this Bill, which was introduced on April 10, 2019 by Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) in the Senate and on June 4, 2019 Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia) in the House. This legislation has also been introduced in several previous legislative sessions and has not been the subject of any hearings or votes. This legislation seeks to address what amounts to “double taxation” for residents living throughout our Commonwealth in condominium and homeowner associations. This occurs because homeowners in these communities pay assessments for the functional equivalent of local government services which are not provided by their local municipality, even though they pay local property taxes. Adding to this inequity, while local property taxes are deductible on federal tax filings, association assessments for local services are not. This legislation would remedy this inequity. Recognizing that this legislation has not moved in the legislature, PA LAC has authored a new proposed Bill that models the municipal services rebate program that exists in the State of New Jersey and is seeking a sponsor to introduce new legislation in 2021. However, even prior to the pandemic, Harrisburg faced budget issues that prevented a serious discussion on this legislation. As back and forth discussions played out in 2020, the concurring view seems to be that this can be more of a local municipality push and the LAC is hopeful that the new legislative language will spur new conversations and action on the Bill.
Stay tuned for further updates on the above and additional issues as they may arise in the legislature. Regular updates will be published on this blog, as well as in the chapter magazine.
PA LAC is supported primarily with donations from members. Fundraising was especially challenging in 2020 and the LAC faces a historic deficit. Please consider a donation to PA LAC to help the LAC continue its critical advocacy work in 2021.