With the effective date of recent amendments to Pennsylvania’s open meetings law, commonly known as the Sunshine Act, rapidly approaching on August 29, 2021, Pennsylvania public agencies, including but not limited to School Boards, Counties, Townships, Boroughs, Cities, and the Governing Bodies of community colleges, must be prepared to ensure they are in compliance with Act 65’s changes.

As background, on June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed into law as Act 65 of 2021 Senate Bill 554, which amends the Sunshine Act to mandate that a public agency’s agenda include all issues where a deliberation is expected, even if there is no anticipated vote on the issue. Furthermore, Act 65 requires that this agenda must be available to the public at least 24 hours prior to the public meeting, with few exceptions.
Continue Reading Compliance with the Sunshine Act Amendments: What Pennsylvania Public Agencies Need to Know

A recent decision from the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Appeals Board (the “Board”), if affirmed, would have dramatic consequences for private, nonprofit colleges and universities that rely on bonds issued by public entities to finance their construction projects. The decision, In Re: Grievance filed by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 98, Docket No. PWAB-1G-2018, was recently appealed to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

In the case, the Board determined that the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act (the “Prevailing Wage Act”), applies to construction projects at Ursinus College (the “College”), a private, nonprofit college, because the projects were financed by bonds issued by the Montgomery County Higher Education and Health Authority (the “Authority”), a municipal authority and public instrumentality of the County of Montgomery organized under the Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act (the “Authorities Act”).
Continue Reading Private College and University Construction Projects Financed by Bonds Are Subject to Prevailing Wage Act, Appeals Board Finds

In a previous article, I discussed the enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), which provides for almost two trillion dollars of new federal spending to combat the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. ARPA provided approximately $350 Billion of new funding to tribal governments, states, territories, and local governments, $14 Billion of which was estimated to be received by Pennsylvania and its municipalities. Initial federal ARPA funding to the states and their political subdivisions was estimated to begin as early as May.

By now, Pennsylvania and its municipalities have received at least a portion of their ARPA funds. But what can they do with it? On May 17, 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury (the “Department”) published an interim final rule providing guidance to recipients on the use of ARPA funds. Consistent with ARPA, the Department in the interim final rule established four broad categories of authorized spending, (i) Public Health and Economic Impacts; (ii) Premium Pay; (iii) Revenue Loss; and (iv) Investments in Infrastructure. Each of these categories is discussed below.
Continue Reading ARPA Windfall: What May Pennsylvania and its Municipalities Do with this Money?

This post was authored by Timothy Horstmann and Frank Lavery, III.  Tim is a member of the Public Finance and Government Services Group at McNees.  Frank is a Law Clerk with McNees.  Frank is currently a student at the University of Notre Dame Law School and expects to earn his J.D. in May of 2022.

A bill recently introduced in the General Assembly would impose new requirements on Pennsylvania municipalities for holding governmental meetings. Senate Bill 554, which was recently passed on a unanimous 49-0 vote in the Pennsylvania Senate, would amend the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law to require political subdivisions to make available in advance to the public the proposed agenda for any governmental meeting. Senate Bill 554 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, and its strong bipartisan support indicates passage may be likely.
Continue Reading Proposed Legislation Would Impose New Requirements on Meetings Held by Pennsylvania Local Governments

This post was authored by Devin Chwastyk and Frank Lavery, II.  Devin is the Chair of the Privacy & Data Security group at McNees.  Frank is a Law Clerk with McNees.  Frank is currently a student at the University of Notre Dame Law School and expects to earn his J.D. in May of 2022.

On June 3, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important opinion in Van Buren v. United States, which provided important clarification of the scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).  The CFAA bars unauthorized access, or access that exceeds authorization, to any computer “used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication.”  As the Supreme Court aptly explains, this extends protection—at a minimum—to all information from computers that connect to the internet.  Thus, the implications of the CFAA are far reaching. The decision in Van Buren explored what constitutes “unauthorized access” and “access that exceeds authorization.”
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Emphasizes Need to Couple IT Safeguards with Written Policies to Safeguard Confidential Data

Recent legislation passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly offers a new short short-term borrowing option to local governments and school districts dealing with budget uncertainties related to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. House Bill 2536 was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on November 23, 2020, as Act 114 of 2020. Among other things, Act 114 created a special, limited emergency tax and revenue anticipation note program for the 2021 calendar year. The new program will provide greater financial flexibility to local governments and school districts as they await the results of tax collections in the coming months.
Continue Reading Short-Term Borrowing for Local Governments, School Districts in COVID Uncertainty

Many Pennsylvania municipalities in recent years have struggled to rein in their Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) liabilities. OPEB benefits are retirement benefits a public employer has promised to provide its retired employees, other than pension payments. Benefits might include life insurance premiums, post-retirement healthcare, dental and vision benefits and other types of benefits.

OPEB benefits are typically funded using one of two methods: (i) the pay-as-you-go method, which is generally paid each year from the municipality’s general fund; or (2) or an OPEB trust. A trust is typically established through an initial and then subsequent transfers of funds.   The trust funds are invested and the principal and interest are used to pay for the promised OPEB benefits.
Continue Reading Budgeting for OPEB Liabilities with an OPEB Trust

McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC today announced the launch of Keystone Municipal Solutions, a new subsidiary aimed at providing municipalities with interim management and professional consulting services.

Keystone Municipal Solutions is headquartered in Harrisburg and will serve municipalities across Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
Continue Reading McNees Launches Keystone Municipal Solutions

On January 8, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“DOH”) announced its COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan, Version 4.0 (the “Plan”).  The Plan follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”).  Categorized as “interim,” DOH intends to continuously make updates to the Plan to reflect the latest recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and other guidance available, as well as any feedback received.
Continue Reading Pennsylvania’s Latest COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Recognizes Local Governments