Martin’s Local Government Emergency Bill Signed Into Law

HARRISBURG – A bill sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13) that includes emergency measures to help local governments respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency was signed into law today.

Act 15 of 2020 takes a number of steps to ensure local governments can continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would:

  • Allow local governments to provide greater flexibility on property tax deadlines.
  • Permit local governments to conduct remote meetings.
  • Give notaries emergency authorization to notarize documents remotely through the use of communications technology.

Martin noted that with the e-notary tool now in place, the Governor has indicated that business activity like auto sales can now take place online.  Martin is hopeful that the Governor includes online real estate sales as able to resume in the near future, too.  

Under the new law, local governments can now extend deadlines for property tax discount rates to any date up until August 31, and waive any fee or penalty for late payments of property taxes if paid in full by the end of the year. The law would give local taxing bodies more flexibility to help local taxpayers who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 crisis, Martin said.

The law also allows members of local governments to participate in meetings and conduct other business remotely during the governor’s disaster declaration. Additional requirements are included to ensure transparency of remote meetings, including provisions for public notice and posting minutes.

In addition to providing emergency provisions for local governments, the law also reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, which is responsible for collecting and analyzing data about the cost and quality of health care in the state and making recommendations to reduce the cost of care.

The panel will also prepare a report on the effect of the COVID-19 disaster emergency on healthcare facilities, including expenses and lost revenue during the crisis to determine additional financial assistance.

“Local governments need the flexibility to continue to conduct their business and help struggling community residents during these extraordinarily difficult times,” said Martin, who serves as Chair of the Senate Local Government Committee. “I am grateful that we have been able to address some of the biggest obstacles facing local governments during this crisis.”

The new law also extends the ability of notaries to conduct business remotely in order to meet the needs of local governments and individuals. A notary public would still be required to confirm an individual’s identity and reasonably identify records, and an audio/visual recording of the notarial act and all related interactions would be required.

Additional time would also be allowed for businesses to contribute to educational scholarship programs in order to earn tax credits.

CONTACT:   Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

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