State Senate Sends Gov. Wolf Republican-Backed Plan to Reopen Businesses
Fight over how to best open Pennsylvania's economy made its way to the state Senate on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senate, amid strong opposition from its Democratic members, sent legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk that would allow Pennsylvania businesses that have been shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic to rely on federal guidelines and begin to reopen.

The Senate sent the governor Senate Bill 613, which passed the House less than 24 hours earlier. The legislation would reopen the state's workforce while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts outlined by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The battle between Pennsylvania Republicans and Democrats, including Gov. Wolf, over the administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic reached a critical point this week. As Republican legislators spoke in support of the plan to reopen businesses who follow CDC standards and CISA guidelines, Gov. Wolf and Democratic members of the General Assembly argued the Republican plan is premature and does not provide necessary resources for workers. Democrats are concerned that reopening all businesses in the Commonwealth would only jeopardize mitigation efforts that seem to be flattening the curve of the pandemic in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this week, Gov. Wolf said he and his colleagues in the General Assembly have a similar goal of reopening the state's economy, but that goal should not come at the expense of new cases or cause a surge in those who contract the virus. The governor set forth a three-step plan to reopen Pennsylvania in what he said is a "new normal." The plan relies on the state continuing to bend the curve of new cases in Pennsylvania, as well as providing better access to testing. In addition, the governor is working with six other states in the northeastern region of the United States, including New York and New Jersey, to restart the economy with a focus on safety and security of the state's citizens and workers.

Also on Wednesday, Senate Republicans approved another COVID-19-related provision that was met with opposition from Democrats in that chamber. The bill, Senate Bill 327 , includes elements that Democrats claim reduce the governor's ability to act swiftly and limits the administration's flexibility during the crisis. This includes language that was added by the Senate on Wednesday that would allow county governments to make COVID-19 mitigation plans and reopen certain businesses within its borders based on CDC guidelines. Republicans have argued that bill would increase bipartisanship, address looming economic issues and provide a layer of transparency to the governor's decisions to waive or suspend certain laws and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Wednesday, Gov. Wolf announced that state Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, signed an order directing protections for critical workers who are employed at businesses that are authorized to be open during the COVID-19 disaster emergency. According to Dr. Levine, the order will ensure continuity across all businesses that remain open during the pandemic, and further protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.


Also this week, the Pa. House officially started the FY 2020-2021 budget process.

On Tuesday, amid the debate on how to best move Pennsylvania's economy forward and reopen businesses in the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, the House Appropriations Committee kicked out House Bill 2387, a General Fund appropriation bill that is expected to be used as the vehicle for the 2020-2021 State Budget.

Rep. Stan Saylor, the Majority Chairman of the committee, said the bill will eventually contain the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget after all parties negotiate the new funding plan. Democratic Chairman of the committee, Rep. Matt Bradford, opposed the bill, saying that Republicans and Democrats should be working together to find a solution to the "historic challenges" facing the state, especially with the "catastrophic" loss of revenue as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The state Department of Health reported 1,145 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 26,490. In addition, 647 Pennsylvanians have died directly from complications from the virus. To date, there have been more than 111,000 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 . The state Department of Health has provided guidance on how individuals can create homemade masks for their use in order to preserve high quality personal protection equipment for health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control also announced recommendations for people to wear face masks in public .

Also, talking to children about complicated issues, especially when we as adults may not fully understand its impacts, is a difficult thing to do. To help parents and guardians speak to children about the current COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania's Department of Health has provided a link to the National Association of School Psychologists' guide on helping children cope with the outbreak.
Other News...
Casey, other U.S. senators call for more funding for domestic violence programs. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, along with more than 30 other senators in the U.S. Congress, are calling for more than $300 million in funding for domestic violence programs across the country. Casey said the National Domestic Violence Hotline has reported abusers taking advantage of the social distancing guidelines to isolate victims from their friends and family.

Utilizing technology, addiction treatment continues across the Commonwealth. Thanks to advances in technology and the utilization of telemedicine opportunities, addiction treatment facilities throughout the state are still helping those in need of addiction services. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting in-person treatment options, counselors are offering telemedicine and teletherapy services for those suffering with addiction.

Pittsburgh-area Philips Respironics to begin production of new ventilator. Philips Respironics facilities in New Kensington and Murrysville will be producing a new model of ventilator that recently received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The facilities plan to produce 15,000 units of the new ventilator per week.

McNees provides overview of Federal Reserve Bank relief loans. Last week, the federal Treasury finalized plans to provide several layers of credit in response to the ongoing COVID-19 market disruptions. These offerings are in addition to, or as updates on, the several facilities put in place by the Federal Reserve Bank between March 21 and March 25. While guidance on these loans, and information on the process surrounding applying for them, is still forthcoming, attorneys at McNees provide a detailed summary of what is available to date.
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 www.health.pa.gov .
2020 SENATE SESSION SCHEDULE

Senate is in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore.

May
4, 5, 6, 18, 19, 20
June
1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30
2020 HOUSE SESSION SCHEDULE

House is in recess until the 12-hour call of the Chair.

May
4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18(NV)
June
1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30
September
15, 16, 17, 29, 30
October
1, 5, 6, 7, 19, 20, 21
November
10
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