Legislation gives county governments option to develop, implement COVID19 mitigation plans
HARRISBURG – As the number of positive COVID-19 cases decrease across Pennsylvania, the state Senate this week approved a four-bill package that would give county governments more discretion over reopening their local economies and provide a way for the reopening of some businesses — if they can operate in a manner that protects employees and customers, according to Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23).
The senator noted that the package of bills would bring back over 200,000 jobs across the Commonwealth. “The safe operation of big box stores across our state demonstrates that smaller businesses can also safely resume operations,” said Sen. Yaw. “After months of having no income, our local businesses want to reopen. We should support them, we should empower them.”
Yaw specifically highlighted House Bill 2388, which will require the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to issue waivers to the Governor’s Business Closure Order for vehicle dealers, lawn and garden centers, messenger and agent services, animal grooming services and manufacturing operations. He noted, however, that probably the most important part of the Senate’s addition to the bill for many family members was authorization for the opening of cosmetology salons and barber shops.
Additionally, House Bill 2412, which originally dealt with allowing residential and commercial real estate services to continue, was amended to also allow for legal services. The bill provides a general exemption allowing all lawyers and staff to resume work and access their offices, if it can be done in a safe manner as prescribed by the CDC and the Department of Health. Under the bill, realtors and any affiliated licensee and unlicensed employees would be able to uniformly conduct business across the state and perform settlement services.
During a Wednesday morning joint public hearing of the Senate Aging & Youth and Local Government Committees on the safety of vulnerable populations and counties’ ability to reopen safely, Dr. Steven Shapiro, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, and Dr. Donald Yealy, Chair of Emergency Medicine, from UPMC said reopening is feasible for many areas as long as mitigation efforts are maintained and appropriate steps are taken to protect vulnerable populations.
Senate Bill 327, which passed the Senate 28-20, gives county governments the authority to develop plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen their local economies. The bill also includes a COVID-19 emergency regulatory tolling provision that would require any regulation not finally approved or disapproved to be suspended in place until 90 days after the emergency order is lifted. Additionally, the bill creates a COVID-19 cost and recovery task force.
House Bill 327, also approved this week, would permit the sale of prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premise consumption during the COVID-19 disaster emergency by those possessing a valid restaurant or hotel liquor license. The measure is intended to provide relief for licensees that have lost more than 25 percent of their average monthly sales, including alcohol sales, as a result of the emergency.
The House of Representatives this afternoon concurred in Senate amendments to House Bill 2388 and House Bill 2412. These bills join House Bill 327 in moving to Governor Wolf’s desk for consideration. Senate Bill 327 remains under consideration by the House.
For more state-related news and information, visit Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff