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. Continue Reading A Look Back at the 2017-2018 Legislative Session
Republican Representative Garth Everett, in a cosponsorship memorandum posted on February 1st, announced plans to reintroduce a package of bills that would expand the ability of municipalities throughout Pennsylvania to assess stormwater management fees. These proposals, contained in former House Bills 913 through 916 (2017-2018 session), died in the Senate last term after being passed with bipartisan support by the House. Continue Reading Stormwater Fee Proposals Reintroduced in Pennsylvania General Assembly
The Internal Revenue Service celebrated New Year’s Eve this year by issuing two rule-making notices of interest to the tax-exempt bond community, on the topics of public approval of private activity bonds and reissuance.
The first notice contains final regulations on the public approval requirement of section 147(f) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. §147(f). You can access a copy of the final regulations here.
The final regulations on section 147(f) make several significant modifications to the proposed regulations, which were published by the Service on September 28, 2017 (read our prior analysis of the 2017 proposed regulations here). Some of the key highlights of the final regulations are as follows:
- 7-Day Notice Period: The current regulations, at 26 C.F.R. §5f.103-2, require that the public notice be given at least 14 days before the date of the public hearing. The IRS had previously issued proposed regulations in 2008, shortening this requirement to 7 days, but went back to 14 days in the 2017 proposed regulations. The stated reason for this decision was a reference in the legislative history to a 14-day notice period. However, in response to comments to the 2017 proposed regulations, the IRS has determined to restore the 7-day notice period, as the statutory text makes no mention of a 14-day notice period.
- Website Notices: The current regulations require that the notice must be published in a newspaper or announced by radio or television broadcast. The 2017 proposed regulations introduced website notices, but required that the issuer offer to residents without access to the Internet an alternative method for obtaining the information contained in the website notice. The final regulations drop this “alternative notice” requirement. Therefore, a notice that is published solely through the governmental unit’s website will satisfy the public notice requirement of section 147(f). The notice must appear in an area of the government’s website that is used to inform residents about events affecting the residents.
- Deviations and Ability to Cure: The 2017 proposed regulations introduced the concept of insubstantial deviations, that is, deviations from the notice and public approval that are so minor as to not cause the notice and public approval to fail to meet the requirements of section 147(f). Additionally, for deviations that were substantial, the 2017 proposed regulations afforded issuers the opportunity to cure the resulting violation through a supplemental notice and hearing that met the requirements of the regulations. The final regulations largely implement these concepts as originally proposed.
- Effective Date and Retroactive Use: The final regulations are generally effective April 1, 2019. However, the IRS in response to comments it received agreed to afford issuers the option of retroactively applying the “deviation” provisions (including the ability to cure) to any bond issued pursuant to a public approval that occurred prior to April 1, 2019. This presents an excellent opportunity for issuers of bonds with faulty public approvals to reduce their audit risk.
The second New Year’s Eve notice from the IRS contains proposed regulations on the reissuance of tax-exempt bonds, particularly qualified tender bonds. You can access a copy of the proposed regulations here. The proposed regulations follow the guidance previously provided by the IRS in Notices 88-130 and 2008-41, related to qualified tender bonds. Each of those Notices will be rendered obsolete once the regulations are finalized.
The proposed regulations are not intended as a departure from previous guidance. Thus, the proposed regulations, like the Notices before them, provide that the existence or exercise of a qualified tender right of a qualified tender bond will not, in and of itself, result in a reissuance for tax purposes. And, the terms “qualified tender bond” and “qualified tender right” carry meanings substantially similar to the definitions that were ascribed to these terms in the Notices.
The IRS is requesting that any comments to the proposed regulations or requests for a public hearing in connection with them be delivered by March 1, 2019.
As we prepare to say goodbye to 2018 and welcome a new year, we thought we’d take a moment and revisit a few of our favorite stories from the last twelve months that we’ve followed on the McNees Public Sector Blog. Continue Reading A Look Back at 2018
After months of deliberation, on August 20, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced its final approval of new amendments (the “2018 Amendments”) to Rule 15c2-12, 17 C.F.R. §240.15c2-12 (herein, “Rule 15c2-12” or the “Rule”). Rule 15c2-12 requires dealers, when underwriting certain types of municipal securities, to ensure that “obligated persons” enter into a written commitment (called a continuing disclosure agreement, or “CDA”) to make periodic disclosure filings to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (the “MSRB”). An “obligated person” means any person, including the issuer, that supports the payment of all or part of the obligations on municipal securities to be publicly offered for sale. Continue Reading What is Material? The SEC Says You Decide
As the executive and legislative branches of County government, the County Commissioners are responsible for most of the work of the County. However, County government is also served by a number of independently elected row officers, who are also vested with significant authority. That includes the authority to hire, fire and supervise employees within the office, even over the objections and direction of the County Commissioners. Continue Reading County Row Officers, 1620 Rights, and Arbitrating Arbitrability
Earlier this year, our colleague Claudia Shank blogged about the revival of the Environmental Rights Amendment (the “ERA”) after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (2017). The PEDF decision breathed new life into the 1972 amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, but also left many unanswered questions about the ERA. One such unanswered question of particular interest for municipalities and developers was the meaning of the revived ERA in the land use context.
Last week, the Commonwealth Court took a first step in answering this question, when it handed down a decision in the case of Frederick v. Allegheny Twp. Zoning Hearing Board, 2018 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 593 (Commw. Ct. Oct. 26, 2018). Head on over to the McNees Land Use Blog for an analysis of this decision by our colleague Jon Andrews.
On October 26, 2018, the IRS released a memorandum from its Office of Chief Counsel, confirming that issuers may issue tax-exempt bonds to advance refund taxable bonds without running afoul of the prohibition on tax-exempt advance refundings contained in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The release of the memorandum follows the request in March by the National Association of Bond Lawyers for guidance on this issue, following public statements earlier in the year by IRS and Treasury officials in favor of the approach. Continue Reading IRS Releases Guidance on Use of Advance Refunding Bonds Post-TCJA
On October 11, 2018, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (“Court”) vacated the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) Order approving the acquisition of the wastewater system assets of New Garden Township and New Garden Sewer Authority (collectively “New Garden”) by Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc. (“Aqua”). Aqua’s Application sought PUC approval of the acquisition, a Certificate of Public Convenience to furnish wastewater service to customers in and around the service territory of New Garden, and, approval of a rate base predicated on the acquisition price, rate commitments and transaction costs. Continue Reading Commonwealth Court Requires Reexamination of PA Monetization Deal
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. Continue Reading Criminalizing Politics: Ethical Obligations of Pennsylvania’s Public Officials