Following up on the collective letter forwarded Monday by more than 60 Pennsylvania chambers of commers, employer associations, and labor groups, the Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday approved important permitting reforms aimed at streamlining and expediting the state’s much-criticized permitting process.
Sponsored by Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, and Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland/Dauphin/Perry, Senate Bill 350 requires state agencies to implement an accessible website so permit applicants can check the status of their application in real time.
The bill also requires permits to be publicly accessible and if turned down, the legal authority the agency relied on must be stated. In addition, the legislation requires that a permit, license, or certification is considered approved by the state if the agency reviewing the application misses its statutory deadline.
Greg Moreland, state director, NFIB-Pennsylvania, said Bill 350 would “provide certainty and clarity which is critical for small business owners.”
Robert Bair, president of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO, called the measure “an important step in streamlining the permitting process so that we can start the projects that will propel Pennsylvania into the future.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an Executive Order on Jan. 31 seeking to reduce permitting delays by creating the Office of Transportation and Opportunity and the Economic Development Strategy Group in the governor’s office.
Bill 350 looks to build on the governor’s actions by establishing a program for third-party review of permits and a resolution to delays in permit decisions.
A report from Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office released earlier this month revealed that wage-earning groups were leaving Pennsylvania for pro-business states, Florida and North Carolina among them.
“We are losing Pennsylvanians to other states at an alarming rate,” Phillips-Hill said in a statement. “This is not a Democratic or a Republican problem, this is a Pennsylvania problem that requires commonsense solutions that have been successful in other states.
“Regardless of partisan affiliation, I think this is an area we can all agree on: No one wants to lose residents and businesses because they are hitting dead ends within their own state government.”
Rothman said residents expect their state government to be efficient and responsive.
“With this bill, we send the message that Pennsylvania is serious about growing the economy, attracting job-creators, and reforming government for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians,” said Rothman.
Luke Bernstein, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said there is a generational opportunity to advance a significant permitting reform bill that would lead to an increase in jobs, transparency, and a more robust economy.
“Senate Bill 350 takes a giant step forward propelling our state to become more competitive,” said Bernstein. “By building on the governor’s efforts to improve permitting, this measure further helps to modernize, streamline, and add much needed transparency to the permitting process. The PA Chamber is proud to support Bill 350 and be part of the solution that will help Pennsylvania become more competitive.”
David Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association, urged the state’s regulators to “move at the speed of business and serve as partners in compliance” to improve the state’s economy.