Not So Fast. The General Assembly sent a bill (Senate Bill 613) to Governor Wolf that would effectively rescind his Executive Order closing all “non-essential businesses” in the Commonwealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor, however, has already said he plans to veto the bill.
We reported last week that we’ve begun to see sharp divides on how the state should move forward following the pandemic. SB 613 passed both the House and Senate along party line votes and Republican legislators said the bill would open up more industries than allowed under the Governor’s order and get Pennsylvanians back to work in a safe manner that complies with guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Governor Wolf, however, responded via a spokesperson saying, “As the administration has stated many times, irresponsibly going against the direction of the Secretary of Health and reopening businesses too early will only extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic.”
So, as a result of this tug-o-war, nothing has changed thus far regarding the business closures throughout the state. Stay tuned as this situation changes daily and more legislation is being developed.
Budget Bills Moving Into Position. With the state’s economic outlook drastically looking different now, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees quietly moved ahead bills that could potentially lead to the FY 2020-21 state budget. The state constitution requires that the General Assembly adopt the annual budget by June 30. Committee staffs are frantically recalculating all the numbers and assumptions in response of the pandemic. The Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) reported last week that the budgetary shortfall could approach $4 billion over the next two years. It is anyone’s guess right now how legislators are going to deal with these alarming figures. APC will remain vigilant in monitoring impacts on the state’s Motor License Fund—the lifeblood of the highway construction program—as these bills move ahead in the capitol.
A “New Normal” in the Way We Vote? The General Assembly already moved the state’s Primary Election Day to June 2. But, will they—or should we say the state’s 67 counties—be able to pull it off? There is pressure coming from county governments on state legislators to allow for all mail-in voting for the upcoming primary. The talk within the halls of the capitol is that there are concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic could still be lingering when voters head to the polls, creating safety fears. This would make an all mail-in election necessary to protect the public and avoid another delay in the date. No formal bill has been proposed to allow for this but stay tuned as the pressure mounts on how to safety and responsibly conduct the election.