Wrapping up loose ends. There was limited action within the halls of the capitol building this week as only the state Senate convened for two days of voting session. The most notable items that were voted on were outside of the transportation arena but, nonetheless, important to the livelihood of many small businesses and citizens alike.

The first was the passage of legislation aimed at providing relief to small fraternal and social clubs hit hardest by the COVID pandemic. A bill passed by the House earlier this year would amend the state Liquor Code and allow these small social clubs greater flexibility to sell 6-packs and other malt and brewed beverages off premises. The bill is seen as a way to help keep small social clubs afloat while COVID indoor dining restrictions remain in place. The bill still needs final approval by the full Senate before being sent to the governor’s desk.

The second bill passed by the Senate did send to the governor a repeal of an existing law requiring that an adoptive family be lined up in order to terminate the rights of a perpetrator of a rape or sexual assault that resulted in the birth of a child. The bill is seen as removing a loophole that undermines the safety and strips away the rights of victims and their children. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate.

Political winds. While not an event that occurred “in” the capitol this week but one that will undoubtably affect the capitol and the dominos that will fall was the announcement that current U.S. Senator Pat Toomey will not seek re-election when his term ends in 2022. More importantly was Mr. Toomey’s other announcement that he would not run for Governor in 2022 either. Many within the capitol placed Toomey at the top of their lists as republican hopefuls heading into the 2022 gubernatorial election. The announcement quickly sparked numerous names within the republican ranks as to who will jockey for the position to run for both the U.S. Senate seat and the Governorship in 2022.

Lifting limits. Probably not “news” by now, but starting tomorrow, Oct. 9, Governor Wolf announced new guidance for indoor and outdoor gathering limits. Gone will be the 25/250-person limit and the restrictions will move toward a venue capacity measure.
PA Legislative Services reported the following scale which is a useful guide to understanding the new limits.

  • Under the new guidelines, indoor events and gatherings will be subject to the following limitations:
    • Indoor gatherings at locations with a maximum occupancy of 0 to 2,000 people will be capped at 20 percent of the location’s total capacity
    • Indoor gatherings at locations with a maximum occupancy of 2,001 to 10,000 people will be capped at 15 percent of the location’s total capacity
    • Indoor gatherings at locations with a maximum occupancy of over 10,000 will be capped at 10 percent of the location’s total capacity, but only up to 3,750 people
  • Limits for Outdoor events will take a similar form:
    • Outdoor gatherings at locations with a maximum occupancy of 0 to 2,000 people will be capped at 25 percent of the location’s total capacity
    • Outdoor gatherings at locations with a maximum occupancy of 2,001 to 10,000 people will be capped at 20 percent of the location’s total capacity
    • Outdoor gatherings at locations with a maximum occupancy of over 10,000 will be capped at 15 percent of the location’s total capacity, but only up to 7,500 people

In a statement announcing the changes, Wolf said that masks, social distancing and other public health measures should still be followed.

“Pennsylvanians must continue to social distance and wear masks as we prepare to fight the virus through the fall and winter,” Wolf said. “Regardless of the size of an event or gathering, those things are still imperative to stopping the spread of COVID. We know everyone has sacrificed in many ways and today’s announcement reflects a gradual adjustment to our lives as we learn how we can do things safely until we have a cure, or an effective vaccine is widely available.”