HAP Message Points on Constitutional Amendment | HAP


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Key Message Points on Constitutional Amendment

Clarifying Qualifications of Institutions of Purely Public Charity   

A constitutional amendment will clarify that it is the exclusive role of the legislature to write laws providing for the qualifications of institutions of purely public charity. This will allow the legislature to maintain certainty and uniformity across the state in this area of the law, rather than allowing the standards to be built one court decision at a time.

A change to the constitution is necessary due to last year’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision (Mesivtah Eitz Chaim of Bobov, Inc. v. Pike County Board of Assessment Appeals) when the Court determined that it would place its own test for what a purely public charity is ABOVE the measurable and constitutional provisions of the Pennsylvania Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act (Act 55 of 1997). 

In other words, the Court said that charitable organizations cannot receive public charity status unless first satisfying a 1985 judicially created test. It is important to note that Act 55 uses the same five criteria established by the Court in 1985, but it elaborates more clearly how an entity must demonstrate satisfaction of each criterion.

The Mesivtah decision has set the commonwealth back decades in a key area of the law for Pennsylvania’s health care, educational, and other charitable organizations. 

In fact, its decision will return the state to a time of confusion, inefficiency, and conflicting decisions, and will likely result in a surge of costly litigation that we can ill afford. 

Because the Court has decided that their subjective test must continue to be applied, charitable organizations now will need to prove their tax-exempt status in different courtrooms facing different interpretations by different judges based upon a very vague judicial test created in the mid-1980s.  

A constitutional amendment is supported by the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania, LeadingAge PA, the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers, the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, The Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations, the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, the Pennsylvania Alliance of State YMCAs, The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, and the United Way of Pennsylvania.

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