Feb. 29, 2024

Getting Government Out of the Way of Business Development

Like many Americans, I have a love for self-made success stories.

From fictional characters like Rocky Balboa to the stories of Steve Jobs building the first Apple computer in his parents’ garage, the American spirit drives dedication and will. This is especially true in the business world. 

Strengthening our economy and increasing our workforce by keeping our young people here in the Commonwealth is among my highest priorities. But our economy can only thrive when businesses, from small “Mom and Pop” retail stores to large corporations, believe they can thrive in Pennsylvania. 

In speaking with business officials, what they need from Harrisburg is a reasonable, fair and easy-to-understand tax system, and to reform the permitting process to be as user-friendly as possible. State agencies issue permits for matters such as construction and development projects, as well as professional licenses, alcohol sales permits and several others. It is well known that the permitting process in Pennsylvania takes too long and jeopardizes our ability to compete with surrounding states.  

Having secured a 100% score from both the National Federation for Independent Business as well as PA Chamber of Business and Industry for supporting pro-business growth legislation, I certainly take business development seriously and happily support legislation that can greatly improve the permitting process.

Senate Bill 350 will require all agencies that issue permits to increase transparency throughout the entire permitting process and establish a system that makes permit applications easy to track. In the House, there is a similar piece of legislation, House Bill 734.

I am supportive of these bills but we need to do more, especially regarding the timeliness of the permit review process. A fertile business environment is competitive and if businesses are going to expand, move or start in Pennsylvania, they need to know their permits will be handled expeditiously. To keep up, Harrisburg must move at the speed of business and not government, and therefore, I am preparing legislation that will expedite the permit process.

Both Senate Bill 350 and House Bill 734 focus on making the system easy to understand. When a business, nonprofit organization or any other entity submits an application to a state agency, what they are seeking must not be taken lightly.

The way Senate Bill 350 and House Bill 734 work is by requiring all permit-granting agencies to post permit information on their website. Then, the agencies would have to create an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications and should a permit application be rejected, the agency would be required to clearly state the legal reason why.

In speaking with local businesses, the tracking system is incredibly important. In the example of a new constriction project, contractors can follow the process, plan work and order materials accordingly. The system, as written in the bill, will include the permit processing time, dates of each review, and an estimated time remaining for each incomplete phase of the approval process.

Also really important is that the staff who review permits are readily accessible to answer questions. This will allow for greater transparency and give permit applicants more peace of mind and assurance they have not been forgotten in the process. Certainly, this needs to be done without increasing existing staff levels, but instead placing greater emphasis on service and responsiveness from existing staff.

Businesses, both large and small, are responsible for Pennsylvania’s economic growth. When they are expanding, they are hiring. This creates a more competitive job market and increases wages. These are all things government cannot do. What government can do is make certain our regulations and laws nurture business growth and economic development. 

Businesses work very hard to satisfy their customers, and this often means making certain customers are served efficiently and timely. Shouldn’t the state agencies issuing permits for businesses to start or expand adopt a similar customer service strategy? Currently, we can track a $15 pizza better than a permit for a $15 million facility.

Those who submit permit applications are customers of state government and should be considered as such. Doing so expands our ability to attract and retain business of all sizes and expand employment opportunities. This is something government can and must do.

You can review these and other proposals at the General Assembly website, legis.state.pa.us

Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Mobile License to Carry a Firearm Event Planned – Please join me on Thursday, March 14, at the Murrysville Community Center, 3091 Carson Ave. in Murrysville, from noon to 7 p.m., when staff from the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s office will be available to process new and renewal License to Carry Firearms applications. Also, from 2-3:30 p.m., ask questions and speak with Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli during a Meet and Greet.

Grants Aim to Fight Drug, Alcohol Abuse - The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General is inviting applications for its Community Drug Abuse Prevention (CDAP) grant program, which aims to cultivate parent, school and community groups leading grassroots efforts to prevent the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. 

These grants are specifically aimed at programs that help communities provide safe alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse, as well as fact-based education, prevention or intervention efforts. Nonprofit organizations, government entities, community groups and parent groups are eligible. Learn more about eligibility, process at attorneygeneral.gov/cdap

PHEAA Announces Financial Aid, Refinancing Webinars - The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is hosting webinars in March aimed at helping students and families understand financial aid and loan repayment.

The webinar entitled “Refinancing Education Debt – Is it Right for Me?” will be offered at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5. This one-hour session will be helpful to current or previous students of any age who have student loans and may be overwhelmed with their current repayment options or are moving closer to the repayment phase and wonder if refinance may be a better solution. 

The webinar entitled “Financial Aid Timeline – Know What to Do When” will be offered at noon on Thursday, March 7, and again at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26. This one-hour presentation will provide the starting points and web resources for effective research before, during and after your student makes post-secondary education decisions. 

Finally, the webinar titled “Understanding the Offer Letter and Balances” will be held at noon on Thursday, March 28, to help recipients understand what is being offered and to ultimately make knowledgeable and affordable decisions. 

Additional topics will be addressed during webinars planned for April. For a full schedule, and to register your participation, visit pheaa.org/virtual.

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
jillCooper.com / Facebook.com/RepJillCooper