Pa. Legislature Continues to Work on COVID-19 Relief Measures, Ohio's Primary Election
Pa. General Assembly addresses several COVID-19 bills this week.

Both the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives convened session this week to continue to work on legislation to provide relief to citizens across the Commonwealth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some of the proposals still took aim at Gov. Tom Wolf's business closure order and plan to reopen the state's economy, the General Assembly voted in unison on other measures that would help first responders and volunteer emergency service organizations. The bills would create a safety net of information and funding for emergency responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

With bipartisan support, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1110, which would permit emergency dispatchers to relay the condition of a patient to fire, EMS or police officers that are responding to the home of someone with an infectious disease. Right now, that information is protected under privacy laws. In the House, the chamber passed House Bill 2413, which would redirect $40 million in total funding to help volunteer fire and EMS companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would require $10 million to be appropriated from special funds under the governor's jurisdiction and issued by the state's Budget Secretary, and another $30 million from the Volunteer Companies Loan Fund and issued by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

In addition, the House and Senate sent important legislation that would expand access to psychological services to Gov. Wolf for his signature. The General Assembly unanimously passed Senate Bill 67, which would allow Pennsylvania to join the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), permitting qualified licensed psychologists to provide tele-psychology services, as well as practice temporary in-person, face-to-face services, across state lines.

According to the Center for Disease Control, stress related to the Covid-19 outbreak has been linked to increases in sleep problems, mental health crises and anxiety. And last week, Gov. Wolf said he would relax certain restrictions on outdoor activities as a way to help Pennsylvanians manage stress and anxiety related to novel coronavirus mitigation efforts. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, 45 percent of U.S. adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to anxiety over COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the House also advanced legislation to allow struggling restaurants and taverns to serve "to-go cocktails" during the COVID-19 emergency declaration. The bill, House Bill 327, would allow certain liquor licensees that lost more than 25 percent of its average monthly total sales because of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 disaster emergency to sell prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premises consumption. The bill now goes to the state Senate for its consideration.

The General Assembly also passed additional measures related to the state's COVID-19 business closure shutdown that were met with some partisan disagreement. In the House, Republicans moved forward with legislation, House Bill 2412, to allow all real estate related activities that can adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Proponents of the bill said that Pennsylvania's closure of real estate services during the COVID-19 pandemic has created serious issues for many residents throughout the state. As governors in New Jersey and New York issued shelter in place orders, those states have included exemptions for real estate.

Last week, the governor announced plans to slowly reopen the Commonwealth and loosen stay-at-home orders beginning May 8 with communities located in the northwest and northcentral regions of the state. Gov. Wolf outlined a three-phased, color-coded plan that would move counties between phases depending on the number of new cases that exist over a two-week period and the availability of COVID-19 testing. Also, construction projects throughout the Commonwealth will resume operations this Friday.
Ohio's primary election amid COVID-19 sees confusion, low turnout.

Ohio’s 2020 presidential primary election, marred by mandated delays and switched to vote-by-mail, resulted in less than 23 percent voter turnout statewide.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden won Ohio’s Democratic Primary by a wide margin, as did a majority of incumbent congressional and state candidates running for reelection. Unofficial tallies show 1.76 million of Ohio’s 7.77 million registered voters cast ballots compared with 3.3 million ballots in the 2016, and 1.97 million ballots in 2012, presidential primaries. 
Secretary of State Frank LaRose congratulated boards of elections for shifting and securing the vote-by-mail only system in just over a month. He said he will provide a list of contingency options to lawmakers in the coming weeks to make a decision by late August if the state is required to conduct a vote-by-mail election in November.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported more than 1,100 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 44,366. In addition, 2,195 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been more than 170,000 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 17 ,303 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 937deaths, including probable cases, by Wednesday afternoon. There have been 3,421 hospitalizations and 1,014 ICU admissions.

As previously reported, Gov. Mike DeWine is requiring all employees and customers entering a place of business to wear a facial covering.
Other News...
Gov. Wolf vetoes tele-medicine bill over anti-abortion concerns. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 857, legislation that would expand telemedicine in Pennsylvania, which has been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was opposed by Democratic members of the General Assembly, and now the governor, because an amendment added to the bill last year, prior to when the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage, would prohibit physicians from providing abortion-inducting drugs via telemedicine.

Phila. to allow construction to resume Friday, but with conditions. With the state loosening restrictions and allowing construction projects to resume across the Commonwealth on Friday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will not stand in the way for the city of Brotherly Love. But, there will be conditions, as Kenney issued an executive order mandating authorized construction work to only occur between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and limiting the number of workers on a site based on its type and square footage.

Wolf Administration focuses on food security issues during COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday recommitted his administration's efforts in addressing Pennsylvania's food security issues during the novel coronavirus crisis. He said he is working to ensuring Pennsylvanians have equal access to food and that since the beginning of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts, agriculture and the entire food supply chain was deemed as life sustaining.

McNees attorney selected as Woman of Influence by CPBJ. McNees Attorney Kandice Kerwin Hull was recently selected as a Woman of Influence award winner by the Central Penn Business Journal. The Women of Influence Awards honors established business leaders with proven track records of community service and business accomplishments, and who influence others through their personal successes and achievements.
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 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 Thursday, April 30 at 11:00 a.m.

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