Lebanon County Legislators uniformly supported a Senate Bill that would allow Pennsylvania businesses to reopen if they follow to-be-determined compliance guidelines for mitigating exposure to COVID-19.
The bill, which passed in the House on Tuesday in a 107-95 mostly party line vote, proceeded to the Senate Wednesday for consideration.
Prior to the Senate’s vote yesterday, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued a letter to Pennsylvania senators asking them not to support the legislation on the basis that it would lead to more COVID-19 cases and lengthen associated economic challenges.
After the bill’s passage by the Senate on Wednesday, in a completely party line vote, Gov. Tom Wolf, through a press secretary, signaled that he intended to veto the legislation. As did Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in a tweet.
Prior to the administration’s announcement that the bill would be vetoed, LebTown had reached out to Lebanon County’s state legislators for their thoughts on why it should be signed. We have included their responses in full below.
Additional outreach was made to the Lebanon County Democratic Committee at the same time and their response has been added below.
State Sen. Dave Arnold (R-48)
Today, I voted in support of SB-327 and SB-613, to safely open businesses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I believe in, and trust, the citizens of this great state and their ability to adapt to CDC guidelines in order to conduct their business.
We do not need to choose between lives and livelihoods, or a healthy community and a healthy economy. That narrative is false, and misleading. This is not an argument of profit over people. This is an argument of fairness, objectivity, trust and transparency.
Allow me to explain why this process of business closures has been flawed from the outset:
• Originally, there was no waiver process. This only came about after the list of allowable businesses was published and Members of the General Assembly complained;
• Businesses, in the 48th district, which are competitors and have the exact same business model, received conflicting guidance as one was granted a waiver and one was not;
• Businesses that applied for a waiver twice, received both a waiver and a denial;
• Businesses, such as Wolf Home Products (The Governor’s former business), is STILL OPEN, yet businesses like Colonial Craft Kitchens in Annville, PA were promptly denied;
• Car dealerships are closed, forcing individuals to go to other states to obtain their new vehicles, but the PA Department of General Services on April 10, 2020 requested bids for two brand-new vehicles that are oddly the exact same the Governor uses for his entourage ($60K/each). Currently, this can only be fulfilled by out-of-state dealers;
• Real-estate offices are closed, leaving individuals without the opportunity to obtain housing, which is a fundamental basic right;
• Construction, especially residential housing, has come to a screeching halt leaving many families out in the cold, as their new home was 80-90% complete, and their old home has already been sold.
These are just a few examples, as I could continue, but I believe you get the point.
Imagine working your whole life, acquiring the proper education and skills needed to perform that job and now one man is telling you that your job is non-essential, or non-life-sustaining. Unfortunately, you do not have to imagine this, because it is your reality.
I have faith in the business leaders of our Commonwealth, that they respect the health and welfare of their employees and their customers. I trust that they can operate in a manner compliant with CDC Guidelines.
According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain indefensible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, or acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.”
Pennsylvania is not a monarchy. We are not governed by a King, or royalty. For weeks, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have given Governor Wolf significant leeway as he pursued various mitigation plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, it should be apparent to everyone that the Wolf Administration has set forth policies that are clearly ill-considered and damaging to the Commonwealth. The system that Wolf has created is completely broken, and he has offered no indication about how he plans to fix it, or if he’s even capable of doing so.
That is why I supported SB-327 and SB-613, as it requires Governor Wolf to create a clear public mitigation plan that allows businesses to operate safely during the current emergency declaration, based on guidance from the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security, not the “just trust us” policy of Governor Wolf and his Administration.
State Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102)
I supported SB-613 because it provides a foundation for a common sense and safe plan to get people back to work so they can provide for their families.
SB-613 also scraps the ridiculous “life sustaining” and “non-life sustaining” bureaucratic industry classifications, and the very troubling and secretive business waiver system. Instead, we would move forward using a “safe” or “unsafe” metric based on federal standards, just like 42 other states have used.
Further, I view this legislation as the General Assembly’s attempt to work as a team with Governor Wolf during this crisis, despite his refusal to include us in the planning phase of any of his restrictions on business activity, or to even communicate his plans with us, his partners in the governance of this Commonwealth.
We still have the legitimate authority to terminate the disaster emergency via a concurrent resolution. My HR-836 has been introduced for that purpose in the House, and SB-323 has now been introduced in the Senate. This is not an option we’d prefer to use, but we can if the need arises.
We need to have a concrete plan to reopen business in Pennsylvania, and we can’t go about in the same haphazard way that businesses were closed down. SB-613 is the first step of that plan.
State Rep. Frank Ryan (R-101)
It is a mistake to say my House Republican colleagues and I are ignoring the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also a mistake to sit idly by while small business after small business either closes its doors or is forced to operate with the fear of closure hanging over its head.
I’m proud to say I voted Tuesday in favor of Senate Bill 613.
Dan Sidelnick, Chair, Lebanon County Democratic Committee
We all want America, and especially Pennsylvania and Lebanon County, to get back to normal as soon as possible. The return to normal must be done in a systematic, safe and well planned strategy that is in coordination with health professionals, scientists and medical experts who know and understand how to mitigate, contain and fight the COVID-19 virus. It cannot be done in a reckless hurried manner that puts people at risk of losing their lives and loved ones.
This week, Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans, including all of Lebanon County’s representatives, forced through Senate Bill 613 — a bill to re-open non-essential businesses. It sets up a timeline that Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Levine described as “reckless and irresponsible.”
Just yesterday Pennsylvania announced 60 new deaths due to COVID-19 and we know that it is spreading across our commonwealth each and every day. Instead of working with the Governor, medical professionals, and frontline works, Republicans are playing a dangerous political game that will inevitably lead to more deaths.
During the deliberations of Senate Bill 613, Democrats tried to incorporate provisions in the legislation that would protect our workers, but each provision was blocked by the Republican majority. Republican senators voted against sick leave for people with COVID-19. They voted against providing PPE for people required to go back to work. They voted against fines for businesses that don’t follow safety guidelines.
It is obvious that Republicans don’t care about workers on the front line. They are more concerned with big business profits than our most vulnerable citizens and the people who put their life on the line going to work.
Of even more concern is pending legislation that would give each county government the option to develop and implement its own plan to try and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under Senate Bill 327, counties would be given the authority to develop plans to allow other non-essential business to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill would lead to a patchwork of “hot spots” with the COVID-19 virus traveling from county to county way beyond any planned mitigation timeline.
Republicans must stop putting politics ahead of the health and safety of our citizens. Human lives are more valuable than profits. Our nation’s economy has the capacity to provide for the health and welfare of every human being in America and beyond if necessary. This pandemic will pass once we have controlled its spread and developed the vaccine needed to kill it. This will take time. We need to work together to fight this crisis and support the governor and his staff in coordinating a plan based on facts and realistic actions that will have long term positive results. This is a crisis affecting everyone and it’s time for our elected officials to become statesmen and work together to protect the safety and lives of all Pennsylvanians.
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Full Disclosure: The campaign of Dave Arnold was an advertiser on LebTown during the special election cycle. The campaign of Frank Ryan is an advertiser on LebTown at present. The Lebanon County Democratic Committee has been an advertiser on LebTown in the past. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.