In this issue:
Governor Wolf Agrees to Senate & House Plans to Reopen the State
Governor Wolf’s new plan to begin re-opening the state is very similar to the same bill he recently vetoed. Governor Wolf’s proposal would use a 3-tiered system and benchmarks based on Department of Health metrics to open up the state by region, as first suggested by the State Senate last week. Restrictions in rural regions of the state are expected to be relaxed throughout the month of May.
I want to thank the Governor for finally agreeing with us: It doesn’t make sense to continue applying the same restrictions to small towns like New Philadelphia as big cities like Philadelphia. As the COVID 19 virus subsides, we must allow our employees to safely return to work.
At a public hearing on this subject on Thursday, I directed a question to the Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development about the lack of transparency and accountability the Administration has shown during their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I specifically referenced the highly publicized waiver process for employers, which has been riddled with inconsistencies and left employees searching for an explanation on why they are not working. The Secretary declined to provide a timetable for when the full list of employers that were approved to reopen or rejected will be released, despite calls from many employees, employers, and the media to do so.
Senate Approves Telemedicine Bill
I supported passage of a bill this week that will help more patients overcome barriers to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting the use of telemedicine. The delivery of healthcare services through telecommunications technology will ensure these services are more accessible, reduce costs and limit in-person contact during the public health emergency.
Senate Passes Bill to Protect Law Enforcement, First Responders, and National Guard Members Facing COVID-19
This week, I supported a bill that would ensure law enforcement, first responders and active duty National Guard members who contract COVID-19 can still receive compensation while quarantined or receiving treatment for the virus.
House Bill 1869 would allow first responders who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or subject to quarantine resulting from exposure to the virus to receive disability benefits in accordance with the Enforcement Officer Disability Benefits Law, more commonly known as the “Heart & Lung Act.” The bill also ensures active duty National Guard members affected by COVID-19 would still continue to receive their average weekly wage.
More details about the bill are available here. The bill was approved by unanimous votes in the House and Senate—proof that, at least on some COVID-19 issues, Republicans and Democrats can work together in a bipartisan manner!
Construction Activities Set to Reopen on May 1
At the strong urging of lawmakers and employers, construction activities are set to resume in Pennsylvania on May 1 under new guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most states have allowed construction companies to continue to operate throughout the pandemic; Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation to completely halt all construction projects not deemed “essential” by the administration.
I am hopeful that the re-opening of the construction industry will demonstrate that many employers and employees can continue to operate safely during COVID-19 mitigation efforts with the proper guidance from national health and safety experts.
Option to Vote by Mail-in Ballot
Voters now have the option to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election on June 2nd.
As part of a broad election modernization package that was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2019, voters now have the option to request a ballot by mail. Previous law required a voter to request an absentee ballot only if he or she would be physically unable to go to the polls on Election Day.
Voters must complete an application for a mail-in ballot no later than seven days prior to the election.
Pennsylvanians can learn more about voting by mail and complete an application for a mail-in ballot at www.VotesPA.com/ApplyMailBallot.
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