Lobbying
lobbyists and their companies

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By Neal Lesher

 

Running a small business isn’t easy. Being your own boss might sound appealing, but it means putting in lots of hard work to make it happen. Among the many things an owner has to think about are balancing the books, hiring and keeping employees, and pleasing customers. Increasingly, something else weighs on the minds of owners: regulations.

Small business owners frequently cite regulations as one of the largest obstacles in operating their company. Every four years, the National Federation of Independent Business asks small business owners to evaluate 75 potential business problems. In 2016, they told us that their second biggest problem was “unreasonable government regulations.”

A new NFIB survey delves deeper into the red tape problems faced by small businesses. We asked small employers across the country a variety of questions about how regulations affect their business.

First, about one in two small employers say that regulations are a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem for them. Also, half of small employers tell us that in the last three years they’ve experienced an increase in the number of regulations they must comply with. By contrast, only two percent of respondents say they had seen a decline in regulations.

So how do regulations make it difficult to run a business? Twenty-eight percent of small employers say that the cost of compliance is the biggest problem. For others, 18 percent, the largest problem is the difficulty understanding what they are supposed to do to be in compliance. Close behind that, 17 percent of small business owners find the extra paperwork to be the biggest hassle. Other issues for employers include the time delays caused by regulations and the difficulty discovering new regulations.

We asked small employers about what level of government gives them the most regulatory headaches. Only 15 percent said local government is the biggest problem. Double that number, 30 percent, said state rules had the biggest impact. A full 50 percent said it was the federal government that caused them the most stress when it comes to rules and regulations.

Big companies hire a legion of lawyers, accountants, and compliance specialists to make sure they are following all the rules. At a typical small business, the owner has to wear all these hats alone. According to our survey, 69 percent of small employers check out compliance requirements themselves. Only 15 percent rely on an expert for information.

But there are some positive developments for small business owners on the regulations front. One of the first executive orders signed by President Donald Trump asked federal agencies to identify two regulations that can be rolled back for each new regulation proposed. To us, that sounds like a worthy idea, and we’ll be closely watching how that order is implemented. More recently, the president signed two executive orders putting the brakes on the EPA Waters of the U.S. rule and the EPA Power Plan rule. These massive regulations, which we are challenging in court, would cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars and trigger a flood of lawsuits against small businesses.

Also, the President nominated Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. In his previous opinions, Gorsuch has stated his distaste for court precedents that defer to regulators’ interpretations of the law. He could be a powerful voice defending small businesses from a continually creeping federal bureaucracy.

If legislators want to unleash small business growth, they must push forward regulatory reform. Most small businesses operate with thin margins. Every new requirement, every moment of their time spent on a new rule, means less time an owner can focus on their business. Reducing the time and expense of regulations and giving small business owners more freedom to innovate would pay off in solid economic growth and increased employment. Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers. They employ 58 million Americans. In Pennsylvania, small businesses employ 46.9 percent of the workforce. The ball-and-chain of regulations restrains the biggest and most important part of the economy. President Trump has made significant progress already, but there is much more to be done.

Neal Lesher is the Legislative Director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Pennsylvania (NFIB) which represents more than 14,000 small businesses in the state.

 

 

 

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By Chris Comisac, Capitolwire

 

The General Assembly made several changes to the state’s liquor laws during the past year, but many of the promised fiscal benefits from those changes have yet to be realized by the Commonwealth.

 

During House and Senate budget hearings for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, lawmaker were told by the PLCB that half-way through the current fiscal year, the state-run liquor monopoly’s expenses have exceeded sales. However, PLCB official said they don’t believe the through-December situation will exist when the fiscal year ends in about four months.

 

According to PLCB figures, the agency’s net ending financial position through the first six months of the current fiscal year was $5.3 million, or 7.3 percent, lower than through the same time period a year earlier.

 

Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, said to PLCB Board Member Mike Negra, “Obviously, there were supposed to be profit enhancement concepts that were implemented – you would think you would see the opposite occurring.”

 

Negra responded, “Sales were up 4.4 percent. Our cost of goods was up a little higher, and I think that’s a result of selling wine at a lower margin, so you’re seeing our cost of goods going up a little bit … we’re not getting the results of our flexible pricing negotiations yet because of the inventory issue … so our gross profit was up 3.1 percent through Dec. 31.”

 

“Are your operating costs outpacing sales growth?” asked Martin.

 

Negra responded, “Absolutely,” and explained pensions, benefits and payroll are the culprits, with pensions being the biggest cost driver – the agency’s net pension liability grew $17 million from FY2014-15 to FY2015-16.

 

He also noted that the agency expects some of the Act 39 and Act 166 changes to come into play by the end of the fiscal year, such as the $7.8 million they are awaiting from the first round of liquor license auctions.

 

Additionally, there have been costs incurred – for such things as computer systems, a new wholesale division and supply chain needs – during the ramp-up to some of the profit enhancements, said Negra, so costs have been “front-loaded.”

 

“I don’t expect that to show by June 30,” he said, but then cautioned, “However, it might take even longer to implement all the different facets of Act 39 so that it shows an overall improved profitability.”

 

Some of that is due to the agency having to work through its existing inventory before it can realize the benefits the PLCB says it and consumers will receive from what board member Michael Newsome described as “delicate negotiations with our suppliers,” as part of the flexible pricing – the ability to charge different markups on products – allowed by Act 39.

 

PLCB executive director Charles Mooney told legislators about 12 to 15 of the approximately 80-such meetings were difficult, but the board was able to work things out with those suppliers.

 

That prompted Newsome to tell House lawmakers savings from flexible pricing is “a moving target” dependent on the outcome of those negotiations.

 

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the savings, Negra assured the House Appropriations Committee Act 39’s removal of “the shackles” that had been on the PLCB with regard to product pricing would deliver better revenues for the Commonwealth and better product prices and availability for consumers.

 

Some lawmakers also expressed concern about the size of the transfer being made, as well as the source of a portion of the dollars, to the General Fund this year by the PLCB.

 

Negra said the agency will, when it’s all said and done, transfer $217.1 million to the General Fund this year, through several different payments. One such payment (actually two separate transfers in February), of $71.6 million, was received by the General Fund in February. Another $73 million was transferred in January, said Newsome.

 

The Wolf administration proposes transferring another $185 million next year, something Newsome said the PLCB is “comfortable” with doing both next year “and maybe the year after that,” although he noted “things can change over the next three to four years.”

 

This year’s $217.1 million transfer is a significant increase from the $100 million transferred to the General Fund during FY2015-16, and a significant portion of the FY2016-17 transfer appears as though it will come from the PLCB’s reserves.

 

Newsome said the PLCB for a few years had been building up its reserves, “So we were able to pay out of reserves – that’s what we’re doing this year [and] we’ll be doing it again next year.”

 

He indicated PLCB profits this year are expected to be approximately $90 million, while the agency’s cash flow is projected to be “slightly higher.” It’s from that “cash” that transfers are sent to the General Fund, along with money from the PLCB’s reserves, said Newsome.

 

But it’s not something the PLCB hopes it will have to do in the long-term.

 

“We’re hoping that as we move forward, we continue to build profits and we’ll not continue to reduce our reserves,” continued Newsome. “We have our staff telling us what they think the minimum reserve number should be – they’re telling us it’s about $150 million – we think it should be closer to $200 million.”

 

He said at the end of FY2015-16, the PLCB had a cash balance of $295 million, and the agency projects that will drop to $183 million.

 

“As we continue to pay down our reserves, we’ll have to keep an eye on that,” Newsome told one lawmaker.

 

Newsome later added, “The bottom line number is the one we’re most concerned about: where will we be after we’ve made those transfers.”

 

“And hopefully we won’t get to a point where the cash gets so low that it affects operations. And if that happens, well then we’ll have a conversation with you all and the Governor’s Budget Office. But it’s certainly something that we keep a close eye on,” said Negra.

 

“If your cash is dropping, you’ve got to make adjustments,” Negra later added.

 

While some on the House Appropriations Committee said they didn’t understand why former Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration chose to transfer only $80 million annually during his gubernatorial tenure, it’s clear from PLCB financial reports the agency’s reserves and its net asset position were of concern: the PLCB’s cash balance had dropped below $100 million (well below at one point), and it had negative net assets during FY2009-10, FY2010-11 and FY2011-12 – it wasn’t until FY2012-13 that PLCB net assets were greater than zero.

 

House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, cautioned new cash flow problems could be caused by continued use of PLCB reserves to pump up General Fund transfers from the agency.

 

“I am concerned that we’re trying to put expectations [on the PLCB] … to kinda make things look good that aren’t necessarily as good as they may appear, simply because of transfers,” said Saylor.

 

“I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves,” he continued. “It’s like anything else – if you pass a budget that’s not real, you end up in big trouble, so I hope we can work with you to make sure that we don’t expect more from you than is reasonable.”

The much-hyped down-ballot problems some suggested Republican Donald Trump would cause in Pennsylvania did not appear in the races for the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s available seats in 2016.

In fact, Trump’s historic win in Pennsylvania may have helped Republicans expand their majorities in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, with the latter chamber appearing to secure a veto-proof majority – a total of 34 seats.

All 203 seats in the state House of Representatives were up for grabs, although nearly half of the chamber’s incumbents ran unopposed, with many more in relatively safe districts. That presented a difficult scenario for Democrats hoping to slice into the Republican Party’s current 119-84 majority in the chamber. In the end, the GOP majority looks to have grown by as many as 3 seats.

If the Democrats’ path to denting the GOP’s majority in the House was difficult, their task was herculean in the Senate, where the GOP held a 31-19 majority going into the election. Twenty-five of the chamber’s 50 seats were on the ballot, but there were only a handful deemed by Republican and Democratic campaign insiders as having the ability to shift the chamber’s current political composition.

And shift it did, with Republicans winning three seats – thanks to a Trump wave in most areas of the state west of Harrisburg – and holding on to one GOP seat thought vulnerable to the Democrats.

Senate races                                                                                                                      

In a rematch of a special election earlier this year, incumbent GOP Sen. Tom Killion narrowly defeated Democrat Martin Molloy, 51.39 to 48.61 percent (a nearly 6,300-vote margin) to hold on to the 9th Senatorial District in Delaware County. The earlier special election was prompted by Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s election as a Delaware County judge.

Republicans had targeted incumbent Democratic Sen. Rob Teplitz in the 15th Senatorial District.

Teplitz’s 2012 election was in a district drawn in 2000, due to problems with the 2010 reapportionment maps. Since his election, the 15th District was redrawn to add all of heavily Republican (but not heavily populated) Perry County.

That tipped the scales for Republican challenger John DiSanto, who defeated Teplitz 51.42  to  48.58 percent (a 3,380-vote margin).

And the western Pennsylvania Trump wave crashed on incumbent Democratic Sen. Sean Wiley in his first reelection effort, following his win in 2012 with 60 percent of the vote.

Republican challenger Daniel Laughlin defeated Wiley 53.5 to46.5 percent for the Erie County seat.

Sen. John Wozniak’s decision to retire – some say due to rumors that started earlier this year that he would lose reelection – left an open seat in western Pennsylvania.

Republican Wayne Langerholc thumped Democrat Ed Cernic Jr., 62.54 to 37.46 percent, for the 35th Senatorial District, which includes Bedford, Cambria and part of Clearfield counties

House races                                                                                                                     .

Incumbent Democrat Jaret Gibbons lost his relection bid to Republican challenger Aaron Bernstine, 41.37 to 58.63 percent, in the 10th District, which includes Beaver and Lawrence counties.

Democrats look to have barely held on to the open Bucks County 31st District seat held by Rep. Steve Santarsiero, who lost his congressional bid on Nov. 8

Democrat Perry Warren defeated Republican Ryan Gallagher by 28 votes (50.04 to 49.96 percent).

Democrats did not retain the 49th District in Washington County, open due to the retirement of longtime Rep. Peter Daley, II. Republican Donald Cook defeated Democrat Alan Benyak 54.25 to 45.75 percent.

The GOP also picked up the currently Democrat-held 51st District in Fayette County, with Republican challenger Matthew Dowling besting incumbent Democrat Tim Mahoney 52.82 to 47.18 percent.

In the 58th District, open due to Democrat Ted Harhai, Republican Justin Walsh defeated  Democrat Mary Popovich, 62 to 38 percent.

In the east, the GOP thought they may have picked up another seat, but late returns appear to have given incumbent Democratic Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, from the 161st District in Delaware County, a 240-vote win (50.35 to49.65 percent) over Republican Patti Rodgers Morrisette.

Incumbent Republican Harry Lewis also appears to have survived against Democrat Joshua Maxwell in Chester County’s 74th District, 51.93 to48.07 percent (or an 880-vote margin).

However, for the 115th District, incumbent Republican David C. Parker looks to have lost to Democrat Maureen Madden, 51.94 to 48.06 percent (or by a margin of about 841 votes).

Republican incumbent Tom Quigley bested Democrat Joseph Ciresi, 51 to 49 percent (a margin of 544 votes) for Montgomery County’s 146th District.

Republican incumbent Rep. Dan Truitt, who both GOP and Democratic insiders thought might lose his reelection bid may have retained Chester County’s 156th District by a scant 78 votes ( 50.11 to 49.89 percent) over Democrat Carolyn Comitta.

And in a bit of a surprise to some, Republican incumbent Martina White appears to have won reelection to her Philadelphia-based 170th District seat. White – who was a surprise win for the GOP in Philadelphia in a 2015 special election (because then Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle was elected to Congress and vacated the seat), owing to political infighting by some of the city’s Democratic powerbrokers – defeated Democratic challenger Matthew Darragh, 54.27 to 45.73 percent.

In Montgomery County’s 150th District, Republican Michael Corr defeated Democrat Linda Weaver, 54.37 to 45.63 percent.

In Chester County’s 158th District, Republican Eric Roe defeated Democrat Susan Rzucidlo, 53.18 to 46.82 percent.

Iin Delaware County’s 165th District, Republican Alexander Charlton defeated Democrat Elaine Schaefer 56.54 to 43.46 percent.

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donatucci

By Angelique H. Caffrey

Bobby Rydell.  Frankie Avalon.  Fabian.  They were more than just household names for PA Representative Maria Donatucci.  They were literally friends of the family.  Growing up in the Philadelphia area, her father, whose given name was Phil Patelmo, but who entertained under the name of Phil Jaye, was one of the comedy/singing duo known as the Jaye Brothers.  They sang, they released an album, and they even toured America and Europe.  It was a unique life, and one Donatucci didn’t realize was quite out-of-the-ordinary.  “It was fun growing up,” she says with a laugh.  “I was an only child, and I had great parents.  All my friends loved my parents!”

Donatucci didn’t hear much talk about politics at home; however, she began to develop her own leanings and at 16 she became involved in local campaigns. “I either wanted to be in the arts or in politics,” she explains. Perhaps it’s no surprise that she married a State Representative, Robert Donatucci.  “We lived a block away from each other and went to same class at Temple,” she notes.  “I used to date him in between boyfriends… he was a perennial bachelor and much more introverted than I am!”

Together, they had two children, a boy and a girl.  She supported her husband’s political career, working alongside him and the same time fostering her own work life, which included being an adjudicator for the Philadelphia Bureau of Administrative Adjudication.  Then, everything changed when he suddenly died of complications of obstructive sleep apnea in November 2010.  “They didn’t know what it was,” she says in reference to his medical team.  “He had a [sleep apnea] attack three months earlier, and was testing different masks and CPAP machines.  In the meantime, he had a second attack.”

The shock of losing her husband was followed by something she couldn’t have expected: suggestions that she consider trying for his seat in the House.  “People asked me to run.  I took a deep breath… and won it [during a special election].”  Looking back, she’s sure that her colleagues weren’t expecting her to jump in with both feet.  She explains, “When I went in it, they thought, ‘We didn’t expect this out of you!’ Maybe it came naturally after living with a State Rep.”

Donatucci tends to follow her heart on all legislation, something about which she’s unapologetic.  “I serve three distinct districts that are very diverse.  When I’m voting, it can get hard.  I try to be as bipartisan as I can, and I’m always open to listen.  I may not agree, but I will listen.”  She has a passion for bringing women together to discuss issues, which she feels opens a tremendous amount of dialogue.  “I’m very pro-woman, especially on equal pay,” she says.  “I’m told I’m controversial, but I don’t think it’s controversial in 2016.”  At her office, she offers shadowing opportunities for two young women every year to expand her mentoring of the next generation.

Although she hasn’t followed in her father’s footsteps, she has a bit of the performing bug and loves to read to children in elementary schools, especially her favorite book, Green Eggs and Ham.  “I have a ball with that one!”  She uses another Dr. Seuss classic, Yertle the Turtle, to begin conversations with kids about government.  “I open the dialogue and ask them, ‘Would you want this person to be your mayor?  Is this the way a leader should be?’  These kids are going to be making decisions for us in our old age, and education is so important.”

Rep. Maria Donatucci, a Democrat, represents the 185th District.

 

 

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Rep. Steve Bloom

By Angelique H. Caffrey

 

Steve Bloom has faith in young people, so much faith that he entrusted his first House of Representatives run to two 19-year-olds from Messiah College in Grantville.  The result?  He was elected in 2010, and is grateful to them for their unwavering service as his campaign managers.  “They did a tremendous job,” Bloom avers.  “They impressed me.  We beat some candidates who were well-established in the public realm.”

Taking the path not traveled was a gamble that paid off, and it represents his grassroots, open-minded approach to politics.  To save money during his campaign, he asked his oldest daughter to design his posters and door hangers.  His youngest daughter accompanied him as he traveled around the district, lamenting when the election process was over because she found it so enjoyable.

Since entering the Pennsylvania legislature during his 2011 swear-in, Bloom has sought ways to give high school and college students an opportunity to see and experience politics.  In some cases, their schools offer credits for a practicum or unpaid internship with his office.  “They end up being excited about making a difference,” he explains.

Bloom’s own road to the House was anything but predictable.  A husband and father of three children, as well as an attorney living and working in the Carlisle area, he was always willing to volunteer to benefit his neighbors and friends.  Yet he never wanted to run for public office because he felt it would take time away from his familial responsibilities.  However, in 2009, he had an epiphany.

“I was concerned about the direction the country was taking… something more needed to happen.  The gentleman who was state rep for [the 199th] district announced that he wasn’t running for reelection.  I felt it was the right time.”  After talking to his wife, pastor and trusted friends, the lawyer who had his own practice and was an adjunct professor at Messiah College dove into an intense, seven-way primary.  He admits, “It wasn’t part of my life plan, but I always wanted to make a positive difference.  It’s the right thing for me now.”

Ironically, his children are fine with his incredibly busy schedule.  Each is an adult with his or her own interests, so he has time to focus on serving the public.  It’s as time-consuming as he expected… and more.  “I knew conceptually it would be a busy lifestyle, but until I lived it, I didn’t realize it,” he says.  He has especially been surprised at the importance of the ceremonial aspects of the job, such as showing up at an Eagle Scout ceremony or giving a public speech during a 9/11 event at the Army War College.  The latter made him feel “inadequate and blessed”, having never served in the military.  “I was so warmly received,” he recalls.  “It was such an encouragement.”

To counterbalance the tremendous pace of the job, Bloom tries to set aside Sundays as a source of “space, sanity and perspective”, although those plans don’t always come to fruition.  On the occasions when he’s not working, he reads, which has been his number one downtime pursuit since the first grade.   Books on Lyndon Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton and Ulysses S. Grant highlight his significant interest in politics and history.  A self-professed ideologically-driven individual, he describes how he reads to better understand those who are more driven by power than dogma.  “I’m trying to understand how to deal with those types of people.”

Bloom may have a passion for reading and writing, but he also carries a dark secret: he didn’t inherit his father’s mathematics gene.  Fortunately, Algebra is a little-needed requirement for legislators.

Rep Stephen Bloom, a Republican, represents the 199th District.

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By John Pippy

 

In November, Pennsylvania DEP closed out a round of statewide listening sessions and a comment period on how to comply with the EPA’s newest and most costly regulation; the Clean Power Plan.

 

Based on the complexity of the electric market and grid, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urged EPA to allow states more time to develop their State Implementation Plans in order to avoid potential blackouts and drastic price increases. As a result, EPA altered the final rule, allowing states to easily request a two-year extension and ultimately submit a final plan in 2018. Unfortunately, PA DEP still plans to draft a plan determining Pennsylvania’s energy future over the next few months and submit the final and federally enforceable plan by September 2016.

 

The EPA has recently been the recipient of a number of unfavorable legal decisions; including a June 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that remanded the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule back to the D.C. Courts citing EPA’s lack of consideration for the costs to utilities and consumers, and an October 2015 decision by the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals mandating a stay of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule (WOTUS) pending conclusive determination of the legality of the rule.

 

These rulings show how EPA continues to misinterpret its authority under Federal environmental laws, overreaching into matters that historically have fallen under the management of states.

 

Unfortunately, the MATS ruling came too late and nationally 400 power plants in 36 states were closed, shuttering several hundred jobs in Pennsylvania alone.

 

The EPA’s recent track record of circumventing Congress and sidestepping the democratic process has forced our elected representatives to spend time and resources reigning in this increasingly rogue agency.
While President Obama met with international leaders in Paris to push his climate agenda message, the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Clean Power Plan and curb the EPA’s power in further rulemakings.
According to the Energy Information Administration, global coal consumption grew 14 percent from 2008 to 2012, faster than any other fossil fuel.  During that same time, the U.S. reduced carbon emissions from coal consumption by 23 percent, while China simultaneously increased emissions by 30 percent and India by 29 percent.

 

These countries are not transitioning away from coal, they are building their economies and manufacturing bases on it. The U.S. is home to 28 percent of the world’s recoverable coal reserves and boasts the cleanest and most regulated process of electric generation.

 

The EPA has run a shrewd public relations campaign attempting to link carbon emissions to natural disasters and health impacts. However, climate modeling is widely variable and the EPA’s health claims are based on co-benefits; double counting previously realized benefits under other regulations and misleading reports.

 

While DEP points to its most recent commissioned climate impacts analysis as reasoning for early compliance, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association found that the report’s projections were based primarily on the RCP8.5 scenario, one of the most aggressive scenario models in use today to demonstrate worst-case scenarios.

 

Pennsylvania is blindly pushing ahead on compliance with a rule that has yet to be fully published. The Federal Implementation Plan and Clean Energy Incentive Program will not be published by the EPA until summer 2016; how can Pennsylvania craft a rule without knowing all the implications and tools available?

 

Gov. Wolf should direct DEP to take advantage of the available two-year extension. Pennsylvania’s energy future is too important an issue to rush into and get wrong.

 

John Pippy is CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.

 

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Rob Teplitz

 

Rob Teplitz may have been born in Miami, but he’s become a Pennsylvanian through-and-through.  His family moved to the Commonwealth when he was still a toddler, and made the midstate their home.  Today, Teplitz is following in his parents’ footsteps, working with his wife to raise their sons in what he feels is a great place to grow up.

Though politics wasn’t a mainstay of dinner conversation in his own household, he was still driven toward a career that would help him serve the public.  Thus, he attended Franklin & Marshall College, earning his undergraduate degree, and went on to graduate from Cornell Law School.  “It seemed that a law license would be an asset regardless of what I ultimately did,” he says.

His hunch proved correct.  A few years after he started practicing, he landed a job working for Bob Casey, Jr.  He advised Casey and his team for five years, and then went on to the position of chief counsel and policy director at the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General under Jack Wagner, for about a decade.  At the end of Wagner’s second term, Teplitz was faced with the reality that although he had never considered running for an elected position, he was in an excellent position.

“It was 2010,” he recalls.  “I realized I could be in the job where I could serve the community.  It was the right time.”

With the support of his wife, also an attorney, albeit in a non-traditional law career, he threw his hat into a ring that he was familiar with, having been through half-a-dozen other statewide campaigns and local races.  Still, having never served as the candidate before, he didn’t know what to expect from the eyes of the principle.  “Exciting is one word,” he notes when talking about his run for Senate.  “It’s exciting… but it’s also exhausting.  Campaigns are very challenging.  The dynamic is unique; some things you have control over, and some you don’t.  The personal stakes are higher.”

In November 2012, he was rewarded for his perseverance and determination by being elected to the 15th District.  It was the beginning of what he considers to be one of his greatest responsibilities.  His geographic territory, like many other Senators’, is incredibly diverse despite spanning only two counties.  “It’s been a great opportunity for me to see and do things, and meet people, I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” he explains.  “It’s urban and suburban; there are rural farmers and people who live in the urban city.  There are strong – and challenged – schools.  It’s a microcosm of the state.”

To serve such a varied constituency, Teplitz utilizes his ability to listen and communicate.  His main focal points are on schools, jobs, government reform and the Harrisburg financial crisis, and he’s been pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie he shares with elected officials on both sides of the aisle.  “Most of my colleagues are cordial behind the scenes.  I wasn’t privy to those kinds of interactions when I was a staff member.  The casual discussions before and after meetings, or on the floor, are really friendly.”

Of course, when he requires some downtime from his busy schedule, he only has to throw on his running shoes and hit the roads in and around his neighborhood, as well as along the scenic Susquehanna River route.  He can also be seen at one of his children’s activities, or indulging in a little TV after everyone else has called it a night.

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lobbyistThe Department of State is proposing a smaller increase to the biennial lobbying registration fee, backing off of the higher $700 fee proposed last summer after non-profits, advocacy groups and small businesses had concerns about the increase.

The department wants to increase its once per legislative session registration fee to $400 per individual lobbyist and principal to, as the Corbett administration has said, end the “taxpayer subsidy” of maintaining the state’s Lobbyist Disclosure Database.

An analysis of the final rule making says the department determined a $400 fee, or 100-percent increase, would be “more manageable for small businesses” than the $700 fee.

“Further, an increase to $400 accomplishes the department’s goal of the regulated community contributing more equally towards the costs associated with their regulation,” the analysis states.
The department estimates there will be about 1,796 principals, 143 lobbying firms and 1,482 lobbyists that will be impacted by the increased fee. To meet registration requirements, lobbyists must spend at least $2,500 in any quarter of a registration period.

The increase, if approved and applied to the 2015-16 registration period, would cover 72 percent of the department’s administrative expenses, with the remaining 28 percent supplemented by General Fund resources, according to the regulatory analysis.

For the 2013-14 registration period, the department is projected to spend approximately $1.7 million to administer the Lobbying Disclosure Act, while generating about $684,400 in revenue from the registration fees. The department is authorized to spend $800,000 from the Restricted Lobbying Disclosure Account, which will cover about 49 percent of the total costs of administration. The remaining 51 percent of the disclosure expenses will be funded by the General Fund, according to the analysis.

“While the costs of administering the act continue to increase, General Fund support remains flat, therefore, it is necessary to increase the registration fee. The increased biennial registration fee will allow the Department’s Lobbying Disclosure Division to maintain the same level of customer service and transparency currently offered by the Department,” the analysis says.

The increase shouldn’t pose much of a hardship to the corporate lobbyists working the state Capitol’s halls.

Twenty nine of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies, including Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Apple and General Electric, as well as 13 of the 20 Commonwealth-based companies on the Fortune 500 list like Comcast, Rite Aid and PPG Industries, are currently registered principals.

“The proposed fee increase is unlikely to adversely impact the many large corporate principals or the lobbyists and/or lobbying firms whom they employ to the extent that the company pays the individuals’ registration fee,” the analysis says.

Barry Kauffman, a lobbyist and director of watchdog group Common Cause PA, which pushed for the Lobbyist Disclosure Act in 2006, says small firms will still feel the sting. He filed a letter with IRRC opposing the new increase last year, and again opposed the $400 per lobbyist and principal fee increase, calling it “excessive.”

“In reality that means a small organization still must raise at least $800 just to cover its lobby registration fees ($400 to register the organization, and $400 to register each lobbyist). For organizations with total annual budgets in the range of $100,000 per year, or less, $800 remains an extreme price for registering to lobby,” Kauffman wrote in a letter to IRRC last week.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act set the fee at $100. The fee was increased to $200 at the start of the 2011-12 registration period, and the state saw an increase in the number of total registrations. Specifically, the number of lobbying firms increased by 17, lobbyist registrations increased by 114, and principal registrations increased by 78, for a total increase of 209 registrations from the 2009-10 biennial period, according to the analysis.

The department says a decrease in the registration of lobbyists may occur when the fee increase becomes effective, but any decrease is anticipated to be negligible.

The Independent Regulatory Review Commission is scheduled to vote on the final rule making at its Sept. 18 meeting.

–Kevin Zwick, Capitolwire