Thank you to our friends at Capitol Buzz and the McNees Government Relations Group (MSSG) for a great update on bills working their way through the PA General Assembly, which affect public meetings and hearings, construction activities and more. A few highlights are below, but you should read the entire Capitol Buzz post.
On Tuesday, along strict party lines, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored proposal to allow many businesses impacted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown order to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House passed Senate Bill 613, which includes language introduced by House Republicans last week to reopen the state’s workforce while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts outlined by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The legislation was sent to the state Senate, which is expected to return to session tomorrow to address this, and other lingering bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House also positioned additional bills dealing with reopening specific industries amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. This includes House Bill 2400, introduced by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, that would allow for a blanket exemption to the governor’s order for all public and private construction activities if they adhere to mitigation measures set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and House Bill 2376, which would open all retail stores in the Commonwealth if they allow only one customer and one employee in the store, or of they operate contact-less or curbside business operations. These bills are ready for a full vote of the House when the chamber returns to session, which has not yet been determined.
Also on Tuesday, the House passed legislation that would allow for notary services and local government activities to continue during the pandemic. Senate Bill 841 would allow notaries to operate and conduct their operations remotely, and also provides municipalities with the ability to govern during “stay-at-home” orders, social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The legislation also reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, an independent agency tasked with collecting and disseminating health care cost data. The bill now goes to Gov. Wolf for his signature.
Leading up to this week’s legislative session, Republican members say they have been inundated with calls and emails about the negative impact that the governor’s closure order has had on businesses and communities across the state. Instead of forcing the governor’s office to reopen businesses and potentially put workers and the public at risk, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are calling for the General Assembly to address proposals that help working families by increasing paid sick leave, enhancing health care access and assisting workers on the front line of the pandemic.