In this update:
Senate approves resolution to free Pennsylvania from governor’s COVID-19 shutdown
Governor Wolf’s extended lockdown of Pennsylvania is hurting families and doing irreparable harm to employers. This week, I voted in favor of a resolution that would end the governor’s executive order to shut down businesses statewide.
You can watch my speech from the Senate floor below.
House Resolution 836 would end the governor’s disaster declaration and allow all companies in Pennsylvania to operate safely and consumers to use their services without the need for a business waiver. The measure legally compels Governor Wolf to rescind his emergency order; he does not have the option to sign or veto it.
Because the governor has refused to carry out his mandatory duty to act, the Senate filed in the state’s Commonwealth Court urging the court to “command” the governor to terminate the declaration in accordance with the law. You can read more about that here.
Ending the disaster declaration will not jeopardize Pennsylvania’s ability to access federal funding or respond to any possible resurgence of COVID-19. It would only prevent the governor from continuing to suspend state laws, spend money indiscriminately, and keep businesses shut down indefinitely.
Although many of us supported Governor Wolf’s actions to slow the spread of the virus in March, his prolonged and arbitrary business shutdowns are clearly doing more harm than good today.
Unfortunately, as long as he continues to refuse to rescind his order, all of the existing executive orders, color codes, etc. from the governor remain in effect until the matter is settled by the courts. I will continue to do all I can to put an end to the shutdown and get Pennsylvania back to work safely in the days and weeks ahead.
You can read more about the latest on the Senate’s efforts to restore check-and-balances, including the lawsuit the Senate filed on the matter, here.
York County moved into the “green” phase today. Below is what that means for our community. Learn more here.
Proposed Constitutional amendment would require legislative approval of extended emergency declarations
During a prolonged period of emergency, cooperation between all branches of government is crucial. Governor Wolf’s unwillingness to work with the General Assembly is one of the biggest reasons why Pennsylvanians are suffering needlessly right now.
The Senate approved a bill with bipartisan support this week to limit the length of an emergency declaration to 30 days unless approved for a longer duration by the General Assembly. The bill would ensure collaboration during emergencies and restore the system of checks and balances that our government is founded upon.
The need for the legislation has been highlighted by Governor Wolf’s refusal to work with the General Assembly throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency. The governor has used the disaster declaration for nearly 100 days to suspend state statutes, spend taxpayer dollars without legislative approval, and keep millions of Pennsylvanians from earning a living through his business shutdown orders.
The bill also would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to prohibit the denial of equal rights based on race or ethnicity. The change would bring the state Constitution into line with the equal protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
Because Senate Bill 1166 would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the bill must be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters via referendum.
You can read more about this issue here.
Senate committee approves regulatory reform measures
The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee approved three reform measures I am sponsoring on Wednesday that would overhaul the state’s regulatory process to cut through red tape and bureaucracy in state government.
Senate Bill 251 would establish the Office of the Repealer tasked with performing an independent, regular and systematic review of existing statutes and regulations. Additionally, the bill would implement a one-in, two-out model for all new regulations. For every new regulation added, two must be repealed. If approved, the law would sunset after five years.
Senate Bill 252 would require all state agencies that issue permits to increase transparency by requiring agencies to post information about the permits that they grant on their website. State agencies would also be required to create an accessible tracking system for applicants to check the status of their applications and to clearly state the legal authority that the agency relies on when rejecting a permit application.
The tracking system shall include processing time, dates of each permit, completeness review, technical review, elevated review, and an estimated time remaining for each incomplete phase of the permit approval process, as well as a contact person assigned to answer questions about the application process.
Senate Bill 253 would require each state agency to designate an employee as the agency’s regulatory compliance officer. This officer would be tasked with being accessible to the regulated community and working with them to explain regulations and resolve noncompliance issues before imposing penalties.
You can learn more about this legislation here.
Senate advances legislation designating bridge in honor of local fallen Marine
The Senate unanimously approved legislation this week that would designate the bridge carrying Iron Stone Hill Road (State Route 2087) over Inners Creek near Lake Redman in York County as the Corporal Michael Cohen Memorial Bridge.
The family and friends of Cpl. Cohen asked me to introduce this legislation to forever remember this local fallen Marine who paid the ultimate sacrifice. You can watch the short video to learn more about Cpl. Cohen’s heroic acts and service to our country.
The bill is pending approval in the House of Representatives. Learn more here.
Taking a stand against racial inequities and supporting positive change
Earlier today, I joined District Attorney Dave Sunday, U.S. Attorney Dave Freed, and others to support the creation of his Diversity and Inclusion Policy within the York County District Attorney’s office. His goal is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community in which it serves.
I have given a lot of thought after listening to many local residents about the great need to address our racial inequities. Here are more of my thoughts on the current situation:
Unacceptable: COVID-19 testing for long-term care facilities not required to be completed until July 24
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been one of the hardest-hit populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a Senate hearing in April exposed gross inadequacies in how the Wolf Administration handled these facilities during the public health crisis, the administration pledged to require testing of all long-term care staff and residents.
However, new testing procedures and guidelines from the Department of Health do not require such testing until July 24. With more than 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 deaths occurring in these locations, such a delay is unacceptable.
I supported passage of a new law two weeks ago that dedicated more than $690 million of Pennsylvania’s share of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support long-term care facilities.
The administration must fix its irresponsible mishandling of our most vulnerable citizens immediately.
The new Department of Health’s requirements will include a baseline test of residents and staff at all facilities and weekly testing at facilities that have a positive test. More information this available in a FAQ.
Discussing issues with Gary Sutton on WSBA
On Thursday morning, I joined Gary Sutton on 910 WSBA. We had a discussion on the latest with the bipartisan legislative efforts to end the governor’s shutdown. You can listen to our discussion here.
Future PUA payments to be paid by debit card
Benefit payments from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program were temporarily switched to paper checks last week in order to identify and reduce numerous instances of fraud.
Beginning soon, all payments will be issued via US Bank ReliaCards. The special debit cards will be mailed this week to claimants who do not already have one.
Claimants can still receive a paper check in they specifically request one. These payments include the additional $600 a week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.
Despite the closure, you can take a virtual tour of the Capitol
I am pleased to present to you a virtual tour of our beautiful state Capitol building. This time of year is a great time to visit the Capitol, however, the governor has closed the building to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When our Capitol reopens, my office would be happy to assist you in scheduling a tour of our Capitol.
In the interim, below is a short video to give you and your family a tour from the comfort of your device.
Upcoming PennDOT projects
PennDOT will be performing scheduled maintenance on the following highways, roads and intersections next week.