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Legislature Takes First of Many Steps to Address Disaster Emergency; Governor Reacts

May 25, 2021

The House State Government Committee today took preliminary steps to advance legislation that would extend portions of the COVID-19 disaster declaration until October but end other provisions related to unemployment, stay-at-home orders, and social distance mitigation measures.

House Resolution 106, sponsored by Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), moves to the full House for consideration after the State Government Committee approved it 15-10 along party lines.

The bill would reestablish work-search requirements waived by the Department of Labor and Industry and curtail the governor’s ability to use the disaster declaration to mandate occupancy limits, business closures, and stay-at-home orders, House Republican leaders said. Many of the state’s mitigation orders—except Pennsylvania’s masking rules—are set to expire on Memorial Day.

During today’s State Government Committee meeting, Chair Seth Grove (R-York) said that lawmakers would work with the Wolf administration to review the regulatory suspensions and waivers included in the state’s emergency declaration. As previously reported, House and Senate lawmakers are considering proposals that would retain the state’s COVID-19 health care administrative waivers after the disaster declaration officially ends.

House Resolution 106 comes a week after Pennsylvania voters approved two ballot questions giving the Legislature authority to extend or end the declaration through a majority vote and allowing the declaration to end automatically after 21 days, unless the General Assembly votes to extend it.

In a statement today, Governor Wolf expressed disappointment about House Resolution 106 and said state occupancy limits, stay-at-home orders, and business closures were separate from the COVID-19 disaster declaration.

HAP will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 disaster declaration and provide updates as the Legislature and the Wolf administration discuss their next steps.

For more information, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Warren Kampf, HAP’s senior vice president, advocacy and external affairs.