Pennsylvania G0v. Tom Wolf (D) plans to veto a bill which could effectively reopen additional businesses across the state, as the governor’s office contends that reopening businesses “too early” would “only extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic.”
The Pennsylvania state senate passed Senate Bill 613 on Wednesday, which requires the governor to craft a plan, in alignment with federal guidelines laid out by the CDC and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, allowing “certain employers to reopen their businesses and get workers back to work within the next three weeks,” according to PennLive.
Wolf indicated he will veto the bill — an action Republicans do not have enough votes to override.
Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Wolf, stated:
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.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman also indicated Wolf’s plan to reject the measure:
A: Rhymes with ‘Veto.’ https://t.co/5g1YI3Hyxk
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) April 15, 2020
Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine adamantly opposed the idea, calling it “reckless and irresponsible” and warning such action could lead to a “tsunami of cases.”
“While the governor and I are as eager as anyone to begin getting people back to work, doing so prematurely will only increase the spread of the virus, further lengthening associated economic challenges, while also placing more lives at risk,” Levine wrote.
Republicans lack the two-thirds majority needed to override the imminent veto, as the Senate passed the measure 29-21 and the House passed it on Tuesday 107-95.
State Republicans contend the bill would not result in a rash reopening of businesses. Rather, only businesses that could meet federal guidelines could begin to reopen.
“We need a path forward that continues to protect the lives of vulnerable Pennsylvanians without sacrificing the livelihoods of more than a million workers,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R) said, according to PennLive.
“We need to create a process that is fair and transparent, that truly protects the health of state residents and mitigates the spread of this virus,” he added.
Sen. John DiSanto (R) took it a step further, contending that Wolf’s “extreme approach has forced more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians out of work so far, put businesses at risk of permanent closure, and imperiled the long-term health of Pennsylvania residents and our economy.”
Meanwhile, state Democrats say the bill is ill-timed.
“This is not the time to jeopardize the public health and safety,” Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D) said. “There is a better way to go about what we’re trying to do here and this is not it.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D) agreed, warning workers will “undoubtedly get sick” and all progress will be lost.
“Customers will get sick and the virus will spread to their families and we will lose progress, all of the progress that we have made over the past four-and-a-half or five weeks,” he said.
The partisan back and forth comes as frustrated residents plan shutdown protests within the state. Organizers, including ReOpen PA, End The Lockdown PA, and Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, are planning a protest, slated to take place in front of the the state Capitol on Monday, April 20.
“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine said in a statement, according to WHTM.
“Business owners are being forced to layoff employees while the unemployment system is failing those laid off as the economy free falls,” they added.
Pennsylvania had 26,490 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday morning.