As the number of positive COVID-19 cases steadily decreases, the Senate
approved a four-bill package yesterday (May 13) that would give county
governments more discretion over reopening their local economies and
provide a way for the reopening of some businesses – if they can operate
in a manner that protects employees and customers, according to Senator
Bob Mensch (R-24). The package of bills would bring back over 200,000
jobs across the Commonwealth.
During a Wednesday morning joint public hearing of the Senate Aging
& Youth and Local Government committees on the safety of vulnerable
populations and counties’ ability to reopen safely, Dr. Steven Shapiro,
chief medical and scientific officer, and Dr. Donald Yealy, chair of
Emergency Medicine, from UPMC said reopening is feasible for many areas
as long as mitigation efforts are maintained and appropriate steps are
taken to protect vulnerable populations.
Senate Bill 327
gives county governments the authority to develop plans
to develop and implement individual plans to mitigate the spread of
COVID-19 and safely reopen their local economies. The bill gives
counties the authority to develop plans to reopen industries shuttered
by the Governor’s statewide closure order, only if they comply with CDC
and state Department of Health employee safety guidelines. The bill also
includes a COVID-19 emergency regulatory tolling provision that would
require any regulation not finally approved or disapproved to be
suspended in place until 90 days after the emergency order is lifted.
Additionally, the bill creates a COVID-19 cost and recovery task force.
While Senate Bill 327
addresses the Governor’s closure order on a
county-wide basis, two other bills focus on reopening specific markets
and services to meet the demands of consumers – provided that the
businesses can adhere to the social distancing practices and other
mitigation measures as outlined by the CDC and state Department of
Health employee safety guidelines.
House Bill 2388
would require the Department of Community and Economic
Development (DCED) to issue waivers to the Governor's Business Closure
Order to vehicle dealers, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salons,
barber shops, messenger and agent services, animal grooming services and
manufacturing operations. House Bill 2412
provides for waivers for
legal services and real estate sales activities.
The fourth bill in the package, House Bill 327
, would permit the sale of
prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premise consumption during
the COVID-19 disaster emergency by those possessing a valid restaurant
or hotel liquor license. The measure is intended to provide relief for
licensees that have lost more than 25 percent of their average monthly
sales, including alcohol sales, as a result of the emergency.
Senate Bill 327, House Bill 2388 and House Bill 2412 now return to the
House of Representatives for concurrence on Senate amendments. House
Bill 327 goes to the governor’s desk for enactment into law.