HARRISBURG – The Senate approved two bills today that would provide some much-needed clarity and common sense to the process of deciding which businesses can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34).
“We need a path forward that continues to protect the lives of vulnerable Pennsylvanians without sacrificing the livelihoods of more than a million workers,” Senator Corman said. “We need to create a process that is fair and transparent, that truly protects the health of state residents and mitigates the spread of this virus.”
Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all businesses not deemed “life-sustaining” on March 16 in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Although a haphazard waiver system was eventually created for businesses that wished to remain open, that process was riddled with inconsistencies and lacked any sense of transparency or accountability to the public, Senator Corman said.
“The governor’s waiver process for employers that wanted to stay open was an unmitigated disaster: no clarity, no consistency, no transparency and no accountability,” Senator Corman said. “The system is completely broken, and Governor Wolf has offered no indication about how he plans to fix it, or if he’s even capable of doing so. Today, the Senate took action to fix this broken system before many of these jobs disappear for good. We can do that by allowing local officials to assess their community and ensure the proper protections are in place.”
The bills approved by the Senate today would create a better process for determining which businesses can continue to remain open, provide clarity on mitigation strategies necessary to protect the health and safety of both customers and employees, and give county leaders a stronger voice in which mitigation measures should be implemented locally.
Senate Bill 613 would require the governor to create clear guidelines for businesses to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that are able to operate safely under the new guidelines would be permitted to re-open as long as they comply with mitigation strategies.
The bill would require COVID-19 mitigation plans to be developed by the Wolf Administration based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia follow CISA guidelines.
“The governor has said we are all in this together,” Senator Corman said. “This bill will allow all Pennsylvanians through their local elected officials to be involved in how we proceed. We put local communities in charge of when our neighbors can come back to work, not officials from other states. Adopting CDC standards will put health experts in charge – not DCED bureaucrats.”
To restore local control, Senate Bill 327 would give county governments the option to develop and implement their own plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, following CISA guidelines. Under the bill, businesses already identified as essential could continue to operate. However, counties would also be given the authority to develop plans to allow other industries to operate if it is safe to do so.
The bill also creates a COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force made up of representatives of all three branches of government to identify and address issues related to the COVID-19 public health emergency together. The panel would be responsible for developing a recovery plan to restore public services and economic activity when it is safe to do so.
Instead of working with Pennsylvania business owners and lawmakers to develop a recovery plan for Pennsylvania’s economy, Governor Wolf recently joined other northeastern governors in an agreement to open selected industries on a shared schedule. The plan would essentially give unelected bureaucrats in other states more power over Pennsylvania businesses than state lawmakers and local elected leaders.
CONTACT: Jenn Kocher – email@example.com