Maintaining a voice in Harrisburg: The ACBA legislative program

December 6, 2019
President’s Message By Lori McMaster

The Allegheny County Bar Association has had an active legislative presence in Harrisburg since the early 2000’s. The ACBA’s legislative program is unique because a majority of metro bar associations across the country do not actively participate in the legislative process. In addition to reviewing, supporting and/or opposing legislation, the bar association provides our local legislative leaders with input on proposed legislation and how it might impact their constituents.

On June 10-11, 2019, I joined Bryan Neft, Hal Coffey, Devin Winklosky, Ron Hicks, Jr. and David Blaner for a series of meetings with State Senators and Representatives in Harrisburg to address our legislative priorities for 2019/2020. The bar association’s lobbyist, Charles (Chuck) Kolling, organized our meetings, as well as the dinner attended by several legislators.

We met individually with State Senators Lisa Baker, Jim Brewster, Jay Costa, Pam Iovino and Lawrence Farnese as well as House Speaker Mike Turzai, and Representatives Matt Bradford, Tim Briggs, Bob Brooks, Dan Deasy, Frank Dermody, Dan Frankel, Anita Kulik, Brandon Markosek, Natalie Mihalek, Dan Miller, and Mike Puskaric. The legislators were closely attentive and appreciated our ability to articulate the background on each of our priorities. With each meeting, we emphasized that the bar association:

• Opposes the broadening of the state sales tax by including professional services and legal services

• Supports adequate funding of civil legal service agencies in Allegheny County

• Seeks to preserve the “public notice” legislation that permits the publication of legal notices in county bar journals for the benefit of attorneys and their clients

• Supports the adequate funding of the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office

• Supports adequate funding for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas which will enable Allegheny County to improve court facilities and provide adequate security for judges, court support staff, attorneys and the general public

• Support the concept of Merit Selection of Appellate Court Judges in Pennsylvania, so long as the Nominating Commission is racially and ethnically diverse, and gender balanced, and ensures that local bar associations are provided input in the process of nominating candidates for judicial office.

• Supports legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

It is important to note that the ACBA legislative program does not exist exclusively to oppose taxation on legal services. It also advocates for issues such as adequate funding for our courts, appropriate expenditures for civil legal services and indigent defense, and the preservation of publication requirements in local legal journals. These topics may not be as important an issue as taxing legal services, but they do directly affect our profession and the practice of law, and, therefore, are important for us to address in Harrisburg.

We need a voice in Harrisburg, and we cannot expect to have one if our Political Action Committee is operating with a limited budget. Please consider supporting the ACBA PAC with a contribution so we can have a real impact. If you’d like to donate to the PAC or want to sign up for a monthly credit card contribution, please contact Assistant Executive Director Diane McMillen at