Both houses of the Pennsylvania state legislature have passed a bill to reopen businesses across the state after Governor Tom Wolf required all non-essential businesses to close to limit the spread of the coronavirus — but Wolf plans to veto the measure.
The Republican-backed bill passed the state House of Representatives on Tuesday and passed the state Senate today. The bill would allow more businesses to open if they conform with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security regulations.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Wolf, a Democrat, said he would veto the bill. Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations on March 19.
“I think everybody including the folks who authored and passed that bill are looking to the next phase and we all want to get there as quickly as possible," Wolf told the Inquirer. "I have a concern about handing over the control for opening up, especially in places where we might not be perfectly ready.”
State House Minority Whip Jordan Harris, a Democrat from Philadelphia, echoed Wolf’s fears on Tuesday on the House floor.
“Our health-care system cannot handle the type of carnage we would see should our businesses be open,” Harris said, according to the Inquirer. “We can revive our economy but we cannot revive lives.”
More than 16% of Pennsylvania’s workforce has filed for unemployment, and Republican lawmakers say that the bill would provide a clear path for Pennsylvanians to re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican from central Pennsylvania, argued in favor of the bill. Corman said that Pennsylvania is not a “one-size-fits all state,” the Inquirer reported.
“If you’re in Crawford County, you’re in a completely different world than if you’re in Philadelphia today," Corman said on the Senate floor, according to the Inquirer.
The bill comes two days after President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump claimed he had “total” authority to reopen states after governors began uniting to create plans to re-open their respective states, The New York Times reported.
“Well, seeing as we had the responsibility for closing the state down, I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up,” Wolf told the Times.
Pennsylvania will coordinate with six other northeastern states to create plans to reopen their economies.
Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order began at 8 p.m. on April 1 and will be in effect until April 30.
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