On May 7, 2019, the City of Baltimore discovered that its integral systems were the subject of a ransomware attack, breaching the City’s phone systems, emails, documents and critical operational databases, affecting roughly 10,000 City computers. The City notified the F.B.I. and took offline as many other systems as possible to prevent the spread of the cyberattack, but not before the malicious software locked and encrypted many of the City’s systems. The hackers responsible for the attack demanded thirteen bitcoins (approximately $100,000), as ransom, to release the City’s inaccessible databases and operational tools. In a move intended to disincentive future attacks, Baltimore rejected hackers’ demands and did not pay the ransom.
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A group of elected officials in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate have reintroduced a series of bills making significant changes to the process by which municipalities in Pennsylvania incur debt. The introduction of these bills has become a biennial occurrence; since the 2013-2014 legislative session, similar bills have been introduced, calling for such changes. None of the prior proposals have been enacted into law.

The bills that have been introduced in the 2019-2020 legislative session primarily consist of two packages – one in the House and one in the Senate. The package of reform proposals in the House can be found at House Bills 882-884. The package of reform proposals in the Senate can be found at Senate Bills 204-210. One proposal was introduced as House Bill 320, and is a standalone measure addressing interest rate swaps. We’ve included in this post links to each bill, so that you can monitor the status of the bills.
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On February 19, 2019, a bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate proposing to amend the Pennsylvania Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (the “Act”) to add new breach notification requirements for state agencies and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth.
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On February 12, 2019, Representative Tina Davis introduced a bill proposing to establish a new regulatory commission with oversight over municipal water and wastewater authorities.   H.B. 494 would establish a Municipal Water and Wastewater Authority Oversight Commission (“Authority Commission”).  Representative Davis previously sponsored H.B. 798, which would have amended the Public Utility Code to subject municipal water and wastewater authorities to regulation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”).  Introduced in 2017, H.B. 798 failed to move out of the Consumer Affairs Committee.
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“Oh, don’t go that way.  You want to avoid the Beltway.” It’s a common chorus in many American cities.  Harrisburg is no exception and backups on its Beltway encroach onto Front Street and other arterial and connector roads on a daily basis.  In recent years, the issues have been exasperated as we continue to see populations trending from rural to urban locations while, at the same time, continue to experience aging and weakening transportation infrastructure.  But plans to bring relief to Harrisburg’s Beltway have been in the works for 15 years.  In 2003, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) prepared an I-83 Master Plan, the purpose of which was to identify, plan, and program future transportation improvement projects for the I-83 Capital Beltway.  The Master Plan proposed numerous improvements to the Beltway to address: (1) worsening road conditions; (2) high-traffic volumes and congestion; and, (3) safety.  Obviously, the Master Plan will affect municipalities and businesses alike.
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With the Pennsylvania General Assembly officially starting its new legislative session this January, now is a good time to take stock of the legislative proposals affecting municipalities that were approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Governor Wolf during the 2017-2018 session. In the last two years close to 250 bills were signed into law by the Governor; this article will examine 13 of them.
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The Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act has been in effect since 1979 and must be carefully followed by state and local officials and employees.  Mainly, the Act requires that public officials file annual statements disclosing their financial interests, but it also prohibits activities that have been deemed a violation of the public’s trust.  The Act is enforced by the State Ethics Commission, which is comprised of seven politically appointed commissioners assisted by a staff of investigators and prosecutors.  Repercussions for violating the Act include administrative penalties, civil fines/restitution, and sometimes criminal prosecution.
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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeals court that has jurisdiction over federal cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U. S. Virgin Islands, recently held that a public employer violates the First Amendment of the United State Constitution when it retaliates against an employee based on the employee’s union membership.  In reaching its conclusion, the Court distinguished between First Amendment “free speech” claims and First Amendment “association” claims.


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