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Legislative Update 5/14/2021
ARPA spending complicates budget conference
Negotiations over the FY 2022 state budget moved to conference committee on Monday, which hopes to reach agreement in time for the legislature to meet its appointed May 22 adjournment date.
The committee was immediately confronted with complications caused by the Treasury Department’s newly released Interim Final Rule for ARPA spending. Initial reviews indicated that some of the budget’s ARPA spending, including funding for housing, higher education and child care, might not be allowable. As of Friday, the conferees had not yet received final determinations from the legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office on what ARPA spending in the bill is allowable. Read more
Unemployment Trust Fund saga continues
The formula that determines the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund balance and the rates businesses pay to feed the fund is complicated and doesn’t autocorrect for anomalies, such as massive pandemic-induced unemployment. It will take legislation to reconfigure the calculation so more money isn’t raised by employers than is needed in the fund.
The formula to calculate the UI Fund balance uses a 10-year average of UI rates. Pre-Covid, there was $500 million in the Fund – a balance so healthy that employers were down to a Schedule 1 rate, which meant they were paying the lowest tax rate (Schedule 5 is the highest). Read more
House approves mandatory radon testing in schools
The House approved a school construction and facilities bill that requires all public and approved independent schools to test for radon by June 2023. The Senate tacked on the radon requirement, late in the game, during a third-reading floor amendment, and informed the House that unless the radon provision was kept in, the bill would die.
Schools will incur the costs associated with testing and remediation, but legislators have justified the timing of the unfunded mandate by saying that public schools will be flush in federal ESSER dollars. The Agency of Education has countered that radon testing and remediation may not be an allowable use for ESSER. Independent schools do not receive ESSER and will be fully responsible for the costs. Read more
- Contractor Registry – The Senate Commerce Committee voted 4-1 to approve H.157, the contractor registry bill. As passed by the House, any contractor who performs a residential building or renovation project that exceeds $3,500 in time and materials will be required to register with the Office of Professional Regulation.
- Low Alcohol Spirits – The House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee continues to work on H.313, a bill that would allow for the continued temporary sale of alcoholic beverages by delivery and curbside pickup, create a new “stand-alone” third class license for establishments that only sell spirits, and clarify requirements for festival permits which are needed for any event that is open to the public.
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For more information about this Legislative Update, please contact Kathleen Donnelly.