Apr. 30, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong#  The latest news from the State Capitol
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House Actions Help Guide State Toward Safe Reopening

With Pennsylvania employers, workers and families continuing to struggle in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the House was back in session this week continuing our push to reopen businesses safely so people can return to work and provide for their families.

From the moment the governor abruptly announced his statewide business closure order in mid-March, the House has been fighting for openness, transparency and logic in the process. When our offices were flooded with calls from employers who wanted to continue their operations and felt they could do so safely, the administration responded by launching a waiver process that allowed some businesses to remain open. Unfortunately, the waiver approval process and factors considered in those decisions remain a secret within the administration.

We joined our colleagues in the Senate to pass a bill that would have required the governor to develop a clear mitigation plan for businesses that would have been posted publicly, but he vetoed that measure.

We have subsequently taken action on bills to reopen construction (which is now slated to happen this Friday, May 1), golf courses (also slated to reopen May 1, along with privately owned campgrounds, marinas and guided fishing trips), as well as real estate, garden centers, pet groomers and more. In fact, while we were debating legislation in the House to reopen the real estate business safely, the governor’s office issued new guidance to allow certain transactions to proceed.  Read the updated guidance here. 

While this piecemeal approach is not ideal, it is helping to move us forward by bringing the governor’s attention to businesses that are clearly capable of operating in a manner that abides by guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep both workers and customers safe. Thank you for sharing your questions and concerns with us; we hear you, and it is making a difference.

Legislation passed by the House this week:

  •   To help our communities and first responders, House Bill 2413 would invest up to $40 million in grants for fire and emergency medical services companies.
  •   To help save taxpayer dollars, House Bill 2418 would require a comprehensive review of all Commonwealth debt to identify opportunities to take advantage of refinancing at lower interest rates. House Bill 2392 would require the Independent Fiscal Office to include critical risk factors in its assessment of the Commonwealth’s fiscal condition to help lawmakers better plan and budget within our means.
  •   To address regulations, House Bill 2415 would require the Office of the Governor to notify legislative leaders in writing by electronic means when a specific statute or regulation is suspended, modified or waived under the authority of the emergency order.
  •   To ensure intergovernmental cooperation throughout the disaster and recovery period, House Bill 2419 would establish the COVID-19 inter-branch Cost and Recovery Task Force.

Questions Abound Regarding State’s Reopening

Not unlike the governor’s business closure orders, his announcement last week of a phased plan to reopen the Commonwealth has generated more questions than answers. The initial explanation indicated decisions to reopen would be based on case counts and other data in long-established Department of Health regions. The governor has now indicated he is changing course and will be considering data on a county-by-county basis. The exact nature of the data is mostly unknown.

Openness and transparency are vital to building public trust in important decisions about our health, safety and the economy. I will continue to urge the governor to share this information as soon as possible.
Construction Industry Back to Work May 1

Six weeks after being ordered to shut down by the Wolf administration due to coronavirus concerns, all business in the Commonwealth’s construction industry is permitted to resume in-person operations Friday, May 1. This would not have happened without so many of you speaking up about the importance of going back to work and the ability to do so safely.

All businesses and employees in the construction industry must adhere to the secretary of Health’s order providing for business safety measures, which requires that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings unless they are unable for medical or safety reasons, and requires that businesses establish protocols upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. All construction projects also must maintain proper social distancing and provide handwashing and sanitizing stations for workers, as well as cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high-risk transmission areas

Read more about the guidelines for construction to resume here. 
Outdoor Recreation to Reopen May 1 

The governor also announced the reopening of golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately-owned campgrounds this Friday. Campgrounds in state parks will remain closed through Thursday, May 14. People who choose to participate in these activities will have to follow various guidelines to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Read more here.  
PennDOT Offering Limited CDL Services

With the construction industry back to work as of Friday, May 1, PennDOT is reopening a limited number of driver license centers to provide Commercial Driver Licensing (CDL) services by appointment only. Available services for commercial drivers at these locations will include CDL knowledge and skills testing, hazmat renewals and security threat assessments.

These locations will reopen for CDL services ONLY:
  •   Lehigh Valley: 1710 Hoover Ave., Allentown.
  •   Somerset: 5593 Glades Pike, Somerset.
  •   Lewistown: 13217 Ferguson Valley Road, Yeagertown.
  •   Selinsgrove: 1015 U.S. 522, Selinsgrove.

Please note that Lehigh Valley only tests Class B and C. All other sites listed test Class A, B and C. Appointments will be scheduled based on demand and schedule availability. Individuals -seeking CDL testing may call PennDOT’s Call Center at 717-412-5300 or email cdlappointmentrequest@pa.gov to request an appointment. When a request is received, PennDOT staff will contact you within one business day to schedule an appointment. New safety measures must be followed when arriving for a CDL appointment; details of the requirements will be supplied when the customer is scheduled. 
DOH Allows “Elective” Procedures to Resume

The Department of Health announced new guidance that will allow hospitals and surgical centers to resume non-emergent surgeries and procedures, as long as the facilities remain prepared should they need to respond to COVID-19 cases. Elective procedures had been put on hold to help reserve resources and space due to the pandemic. Click here for more information. 
Protecting Supply Chain Workers

Just over a week after House Republicans asked the Wolf administration to address a number of food supply chain concerns, the state Department of Agriculture announced last weekend it would provide priority testing for workers supporting that supply chain in areas of eastern Pennsylvania with higher rates of confirmed COVID-19. Testing will be available at the Montgomery County mass testing site or the federally funded testing site at Mohegan Sun in Luzerne County. This is an important step toward preventing food waste and ensuring food remains available in our grocery stores, though more needs to be done. Read more about the administration’s announcement here.
Game Commission Launches New Remote Learning Too

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is inviting educators and parents in search of remote learning resources to check out the new Wildlife on WiFi site, a hub of conservation and wildlife-themed educational resources, activities and content to support educators, students and parents with home-based learning through the remainder of Pennsylvania’s academic school year. Program themes include Wildlife Science, Discover Backyard Wildlife and Celebrate Pennsylvania Birds. Click here for access to resources. 
New Critical Supplies Donation Portal Available

The administration has launched an online portal for individuals, corporations and community organizations to outline any critical medical supplies available for donation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supplies needed most include surgical/procedure masks; form-fitting respirators (ex. N95/N99); face masks with integrated shield; medical grade alcohol-based hand sanitizer; aprons; protective gloves; protective goggles; isolation gowns; protective suits; and sanitizing wipes. Details and specifications required for any donated materials are available here from the Department of Health. 

To visit the new critical supply donation portal, click here. 
District Office Reminder

While my district offices are currently closed to in-person service, my staff and I remain available to serve you by phone. Should you need any assistance, please call my offices at the numbers listed below.

Coopersburg: 610-282-0160
Emmaus: 610-965-5830
Red Hill: 215-679-3152


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21 N. Main Street, Unit 9, Coopersburg, PA 18036 | Phone: (610) 282-0160
191 Main St., Suite 104, Emmaus, PA 18049 I Phone: (610) 965-5830
56 W. Fourth St., Second Floor, Red Hill, PA 18076 I Phone: (215) 679-3152
5 East Wing, PO Box 202131, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2131 | (717) 783-1673
Email: jsimmons@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614