Sen. DiSanto: Bills Create a Better Process for COVID-19 Mitigation

Harrisburg — The Senate approved two bills today that would provide much-needed clarity and common sense to the process of deciding which businesses can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry).

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. Senator DiSanto said, “While well-intentioned, the Governor’s business closure order and waiver process has been unfair and inconsistent from the beginning. He has rejected efforts by the legislature, business community and labor organizations over the past four weeks to allow reasonable and responsible operations to continue. His extreme approach has forced 1.4 million Pennsylvanians out of work so far, put businesses at risk of permanent closure, and imperiled the long-term health of Pennsylvania residents and our economy.”

The bills approved by the Senate today would create fair and consistent guidelines 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, based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 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. After today’s Senate vote, this bill goes to the governor.

Senator DiSanto said, “Other states have been able to maintain additional business activity and employment, and Pennsylvanians must be afforded the same freedom to take appropriate precautions about their lives and livelihood. This legislation is optional for business owners, employees and customers. If someone doesn’t want to follow applicable safety protocols and open their business, work or shop, they shouldn’t.”

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 safely.

Senate Bill 327 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 identify immediate and urgent issues relating to this emergency that require executive, legislative or judicial action and develop a recovery plan.

Instead of working with the Pennsylvania business community and state lawmakers to develop a recovery plan for Pennsylvania’s economy, Governor Wolf recently joined other northeastern governors in an agreement to coordinate their decisions. The governor’s plan would essentially give unelected bureaucrats in other states more power over Pennsylvania residents and businesses than state lawmakers and local elected leaders.

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801