Bills to Reopen Counties, Businesses Pass Pa. House, Sent to Gov. Wolf
The standoff on how best to reopen Pennsylvania between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf continued on Thursday as the state House sent several measures to the governor challenging his administration's stay-at-home and business shutdown orders.

Once again along partisan, political lines, the House approved measures that were passed by the state Senate less than 24 hours ago. The House passed legislation that would primarily allow county governments to make COVID-19 mitigation plans and reopen certain businesses within their borders based on CDC guidelines. Last week, Gov. Wolf and several county elected officials sparred over the administration's slow pace and "inconsistencies" in allowing counties to reopen.

The state House also approved additional measures that would open certain businesses across the state, directly conflicting with the governor's three-phased plan to restart the economy. Specifically, the bills would require the administration to grant waivers to the governor's shutdown orders for real estate services, manufacturers, barbers and salons, lawn and garden centers, animal groomers, automobile dealers and messenger services, as long as they follow social distancing and other mitigation guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control.

It is expected that the governor will veto these proposals passed by the General Assembly this week.

The House Appropriations Committee also advanced legislation introduced by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai that establishes the Senior Protection Act. The bill, House Bill 2510, would create a framework to protect seniors and others living in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Turzai worked closely with UPMC health experts to develop the legislation.

Also on Thursday, the state House positioned additional budget-related bills as the General Assembly and Gov. Wolf continue to face the realization of a looming budget deficit. Last month, as tax collections plummeted below 7.4 percent its estimate, the administration projects that Pennsylvania's budget deficit could reach more than $5 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The talk around Harrisburg is that legislators are looking to pass a short-term, five-or-six month budget to address the deficit and fill the gap for the remainder of the year. The plan would be to then take a look at the complete financial picture after November's general election and then look to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 938 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 59,636. In addition, 4,218 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been nearly 252,000 negative cases across the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf is still asking all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus . An executive order was issued on April 15 requiring customers entering a place of business to wear a mask.

Daily COVID-19 update for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health reported 26,357 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 1,534 deaths, including probable cases, by Thursday afternoon. There have been 4,718 hospitalizations and 1,268 ICU admissions.
Other News...
Transportation funding woes expected to hit Pennsylvania agencies. As the fallout from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania's transportation system is bracing for a significant drop in revenue. PennDOT announced this week that it could see almost $1 billion in lost revenues as a result of the pandemic, leaving road projects and other programs vulnerable to cuts. In addition, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said that traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike has dropped nearly 50 percent since stay-at-home orders have been issued across the state. As a result, toll revenue has fallen by almost $150 million.

'Yellow' phase counties to see more state-run liquor stores opening. As 13 additional counties are set to enter the "yellow" phase of Gov. Tom Wolf's phased reopening plan, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) will open an additional 155 state-run liquor stores. According to the PLCB, a total of 232 state stores in 36 of 67 counties will be offering limited, in-store service by Friday.

R ep. Joanna McClinton: It shouldn’t take a pandemic to address societal inequality. Pa. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joanna McClinton discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic shines another light on inequalities and discrepancies that communities of color face . McClinton says in her editorial that the consequences of these inequalities, especially in regard to health care, have escalated because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Pittsburgh's financial picture bleak as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As revenues continue to come in way below estimates, Pittsburgh officials are bracing for a difficult path ahead. Tax revenues for Pittsburgh took a 25 percent hit compared to last year, city officials said Wednesday.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations and nonprofit consulting assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit .

The Senate stands in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore.

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The House stands adjourned until Monday, May 18 at 1:00 p.m.

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